Carol Normandin, elected to the Laguna Beach Unified School District board last November, has been absent from meetings since April due to a family health emergency.
A parent this week called on the other school board members to publicly address whether the absence constitutes a vacancy of the position and to consider appointing a successor. A discussion is scheduled for the board’s next meeting, Tuesday, July 28.
David Flores, resident, parent and retired director of alternative education for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, pushed school board members to debate the matter openly.
“It is important that the public be allowed to address the issue and for the Board to explain whether (or) not a vacancy now exists,” Flores wrote in an email message to every board member except Normandin. He cited a government code section describing events regarded as vacating an office before a term expires.
“It’s not like Carol’s dead,” board president Ketta Brown said Tuesday morning. Brown was on her way to the emergency room with her daughter. “We’ve all had similar issues,” she said. “If it becomes a problem for the public, of course we will address it.”
If the board decides that the absences amount to a vacancy, Flores asked the board “to take steps to call an election or take steps to begin the process for making a provisional appointment of a new board member.” He also asked board members to disclose any plans regarding Normandin’s continued absence.
Brown said no board member has come to her complaining about Normandin’s absence or asking for any change.
“Waiting for weeks or months simply because the board has the authority to delay would not be putting students, parents and the community first,” stated Flores.
Normandin and Dee Namba Perry, along with incumbent Brown, were elected Nov. 4. A wide margin separated the campaign’s fourth candidate, Annette Gibson.
The code Flores referred to states that a vacancy occurs when a board member is absent from duties for three consecutive months, except if prevented by illness or out-of-state travel. Flores asked the board whether the illness applies to a family member rather than the board member.
In a phone call, Normandin asked that her privacy be respected. Normandin has missed every board meeting since April 21, seven in all, according to district records.
Flores sent several questions regarding Normandin’s absence to board members. Brown and board member Jan Vickers replied earlier this week, saying that education and government codes regarding fulfillment of duties are being researched. “Government codes are really vague on this issue,” said Brown said in a follow-up interview. “It falls on the side of whatever is less disruptive and costly.”
County education codes provide fiscal oversight and offer only support in other organizational matters, said spokesperson Ian Hanigan. “It’s really up to the school district’s board and board policy,” he said.
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