Disputed School Board officer plan dropped; controversy over?


The Mirror

It might be back to business for the School Board in Federal Way.

This week an attorney for the school district weighed in on a proposed policy to have board members rotate through officer positions based on seniority.

Jeff Ganson, of the Dionne and Rorick law firm, opined the policy would violate state law and existing district guidelines that call for board officers to be nominated and elected annually, according to Ed Barney, the board's current president.

Since the opinion was rendered, board member Evelyn Castellar, who made the proposal, has removed it, Barney said.

Ganson declined comment on the issue because he hadn't been told by the district whether he could speak on it.

Board member Bob Millen said now that the policy is off the board's agenda, he suspects a lot of the controversy on the board will end.

Citizens have criticized the board for not focusing on education issues and spending too much time on its own policies. Millen defended the board, saying it still worked on school-related matters but "just took longer to get there."

The basis for the decision was Revised Code of Washington 28A.330.010: "At the first meeting of the members of the board they shall elect a president and vice president from among their number who shall serve for a term of one year o until their successors are elected."

The next code, 28A.330.020, states the board will select officers using a roll call vote and the board member who has the majority of votes will hold the office.

Castellar proposed in September that since each board member has equal authority, all of them should be able to hold the offices of president, vice president and legislative liaison. The proposal had the support of Barney and Charles Hoff. Earl VanDorien Jr. and Millen were opposed.

Much of the board meetings of Sept. 14 and Sept. 28 were taken up with the debate, which often became heated. Castellar contended the board historically used an unofficial rotation policy. Until early 2002, the vice president had taken the presidency. When Ann Murphy, then-board president, resigned in February 2002, VanDorien was elected to fill her place. Hoff was the vice president when Murphy was president and remained in that position when VanDorien was elected.

Castellar said part of her reason for promoting the policy was because she thought Hoff should be the next president.

VanDorien and Millen opposed the policy for that reason. Both said they wouldn't support Hoff because of his previous comments and actions criticizing the district, students and educators.

Hoff has told the Mirror he felt qualified and would serve if asked, but he has not commented at board meetings on the rotation policy.

On Thursday, he said the decision to remove the item from the agenda was reasonable in light of the attorney's opinion. When asked if he's disappointed, Hoff replied wasn't that important to him that he be the board's president.

Castellar didn't return telephone calls from the Mirror seeking comment.

VanDorien asked for a legal opinion on the matter during the last board meeting after asking if the existing policies and state laws would conflict with the proposal. Castellar said at the meeting she had asked the attorney if there was a legal conflict and was told there wasn't.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565,

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