VUSD trustees offer vote of confidence for president, clerk

Juan Guerrero will continue to serve as board president and Walta Gamoian as board clerk for another year

VISALIA – While voters have seemed unsatisfied with the decisions made by the Visalia Unified school board over the last year, the trustees themselves gave board leadership a vote of confidence last week.

The school board voted unanimously to reappoint Juan Guerrero as board president and Walta Gamoian as board clerk. Guerrero is the longest tenured trustee having served on the board for 20 years. Gamoian is one of two board members first elected in 2018 and one of three board members with more than 1 year of experience on the board.

One of the newest board trustees, Cataline Blair, who was appointed to board six weeks earlier, made the motion to keep Guerrero and Gamoian in their respective leadership roles. Trustee Joy Naylor, who was elected to board in 2018 with Gamoian, agreed.

“I think we have so many new members added that I think it would be nice to have that cohesiveness of having the same board president and clerk,” Naylor said. “I think the meetings have run so smoothly.”

The president’s duties include: Conducting meetings in an efficient, transparent and orderly manner; consulting with the superintendent on preparation of board agendas; signing all acts, orders and resolutions of the board; appointing and dissolving committees, subject to board approval; acting as spokesperson for the board in communications with the media; and leading the board’s advocacy efforts to build support within the local community on state and national issues.

Trustee Megan Casebeer Soleno said she would have also been comfortable with nominating Gamoian as president and Trustee Jacqui Gaebe as clerk.

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“I do hope that next year when this comes around, I think Mrs. Gaebe would also make an excellent selection to our executive team,” Soleno said. “But I think these two are very solid, so I am happy to nominate Walta Gamoian.”

The clerk’s duties include: Certifying actions taken by the board; maintaining records and report as required by law; signing minutes of board meetings; and serving as the presiding officer in the absence of the president.

“I’m perfectly fine keeping things the way they are,” Gamoian said. “I think President Guerrero has done a great job. I think the two of us make a good team.”

Earlier in the meeting, interim Superintendent Doug Cardoza presented both Guerrero and Gamoian with a certificate “in recognition of leadership and dedication of service to the Visalia Unified School District and community,” for their previous terms as board president and clerk, respectively.

The only public comments related to the organization of the board came from Melissa Brewer, a resident of Area 4. She said she was “incredibly disappointed” in the process by which Randy Villegas was appointed to the board earlier this month because she was not represented at the forum-style meeting on Dec. 9. Area 4 Trustee Cataline Blair had to recuse herself from the entire meeting because she is the niece of former Lucia Vazquez, one of four people who applied to fill the seat vacated by Christopher Pope’s resignation. Brewer said she appreciated Mrs. Blair’s transparency but thought Area 4 residents should have been given more opportunity to comment since their representative was not allowed to comment or vote.

“In your negligence as a board to include Mrs. Blair in the process, you denied Area 4 the right to representation and therefore engaged in an illegitimate selection process,” Brewer said. “This is unfortunate and ultimately furthers a feeling of division amongst the community and the board.”

Brewer also welcomed Villegas to the board and said she had no objections to his appointment just the process. In the future, Brewer suggested the entire board secure a formal, professional training in Robert’s Rules of Orders to ensure segments of the population are properly represented in all board appointments.

“At the very least, Area 4 deserves a sincere apology, but it would be prudent, ethical and correct to introduce a corrective action to remedy this slight to the voters of Area 4,” Brewer said.

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