Saugus Union School District governing board President Katherine Cooper said during Tuesday’s special meeting that choosing a new board member for Trustee Area No. 1 was among the most important decisions she and her colleagues could make.
After a little more than an hour of interviews and discussion, it didn’t seem like a tough choice for them at all.
After one round of questions and voting, Patricia Garibay, who was recognized for her involvement in the Bridgeport Elementary PTA and praised for her answers during the board’s interview process, was named as the unanimous top choice.
After her appointment, she said as a parent of two young children in the district, it was always important for her to be involved in local schools.
“But I also think it’s important to be a part of the community,” said Garibay, who works in community development for nearby Lancaster, “and this is one way to do that.”
The board had originally scheduled two rounds of interviews, but after one round, Garibay was ranked No. 1 on every board member’s ballot, and Cooper asked the district’s counsel if the board could proceed to a vote based on the result, or if the previously announced second round was required.
William Tunick, of Dannis Woliver Kelley, confirmed via Zoom it was the board’s prerogative to bypass the second round with a motion.
Cooper then made the motion to forgo the second round, which Anna Griese seconded. Trunkey moved to appoint Garibay and the vote was unanimous.
“It feels like an honor for people to think highly of me,” Garibay said, following her brief and emotional swearing-in as her husband stood by filming. “I look forward to working with everybody and doing some really good things for all the students here.”
All of the candidates were asked the same questions, which they weren’t given ahead of time. The topics included the role of a governing board member, their understanding of a school district’s budget, what the district’s focus should be and where the district has the most room for improvement.
Cooper went on to praise all of the candidates for their participation, with a couple of the board members commenting how the mix of residents — who, along with Garibay, included: an attorney (Kevin Kim), a speech pathologist (Katherine Walker), a psychiatrist (Aakash Ahuja), a school behavioral specialist (Cody Jacobs) and a former business owner (Jacqueline Stroh) — made for a particularly strong field.
SUSD is a 9,100-student elementary school district with its main offices on Avenue Stanford. Trustee Area No. 1 includes the western-most portion of SUSD, bordering Tesoro del Valle in the north and West Creek Park/McBean Parkway on the eastern side, and the southern tip of the trustee area hitting Valencia Boulevard.
Cassie Love announced her campaign for the board seat in Trustee Area 1 in August 2022 and was elected three months later.
The vacancy was created after she announced Sept. 19 she was planning to step down, and the district’s governing board decided to make an appointment instead of a special election the following day. The saving of approximately $16,000 was cited as a factor.
Love said she could no longer continue to fulfill her obligations as a board member as her son had become ill. Her resignation became effective Oct. 2.
According to Education Code, the district has 60 days from the time of an announcement to either appoint or call for an election.
Garibay’s Trustee Area No. 1 seat goes back on the ballot in the November 2024 election, when it would be up for a two-year term ending in 2026, which would have been the end of Love’s original term.