The Twin Rivers Unified School District must hold an election to name its Area 5 trustee, reversing a December appointment by the school board.
Sacramento County schools chief David Gordon announced at a news conference Thursday afternoon that Democratic Party volunteers and community activists had collected the signatures necessary to force an election May 12. Candidates will have until Feb. 13 to file their paperwork.
Until Thursday, it had been an open question whether all Twin Rivers voters or only those in Area 5 would participate in the election. Gordon said it will only include voters in Area 5, which includes North Natomas and Robla.
Twin Rivers officials will decide if voters will mail in their votes or go to the polls. A poll-based Area 5 election would cost the school district an estimated $113,000, while a mail-in process could be less expensive.
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Local Democratic Party volunteers and community activists collected signatures over 12 days in an attempt to reverse the appointment of charter school administrator Sonja Cameron to the board. She was required to step down Thursday.
Twin Rivers trustees appointed Cameron to fill a vacancy created when Cortez Quinn resigned after pleading no contest to a felony in October. Activists said that board members illegally selected Cameron three days before they scheduled a meeting to make the appointment.
Andres Ramos of the Democratic Party of Sacramento on Thursday called the appointment process “flawed” and said the board should have taken extra care filling Quinn’s vacated seat to restore public confidence.
“I was very pleased with the outcome and I really applaud David Gordon for honoring the will of the voters, both in making sure all the valid signatures were counted and ensuring that the election would be by area,” Ramos said.
Liz Gray, a member of the Old Foothill Farms Community Task Force, said she never heard anyone from her neighborhood say they were unhappy with Cameron’s appointment. I’m “kind of at a loss to understand what all the rancor and energy and hostility is all about,” she said of the petition drive.
Gordon approved the election despite the fact that petition organizers were technically shy of the total valid signatures needed to force an election – 1.49 percent of voters rather than 1.5 percent necessary. Gordon gave leniency because he said another 40 to 50 signatures from early January were inadvertently dated 2014 instead of 2015.
Trustees Linda Fowler and Michelle Rivas said they are pleased that Area 5 voters will pick their representative. “Three members selected in 2014 were elected by area, so it seems appropriate that Area 5 would follow that precedent,” Fowler said.
Rivas is “less than thrilled that we will have to spend education dollars on a special election. I’d rather have that money go to programs.”
Twin Rivers Unified, which did not send a representative to the news conference, said in a statement Thursday, “We have faith in our democratic system of governance and full confidence in Sacramento County Superintendent Dave Gordon and the process he outlined today for a special election for Area 5. We will discuss the matter at the next regular school board meeting on Jan. 27, 2015.”
Editor’s note (10:00 a.m.): This story has been corrected to include the full statement from Twin Rivers Unified, part of which was omitted in a previous version.