SMMUSD HDQRTRS – There are four spots up for grabs on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education but fifth place might not be so bad after all.

Boardmember Ben Allen’s term doesn’t expire until 2016 but he’s in a tight race with Sandra Fluke for state Senate.

If Allen were to win that race, he’d have to vacate his seat before starting the gig in Sacramento, leaving an open, two-year slot on the board.

The remaining six board members would be left to decide what to do with his seat.

“When a vacancy occurs four or more months before the end of a Board member’s term, the Board shall, within 60 days of the date of the vacancy or the filing of the member’s deferred resignation, either order an election or make a provisional appointment, unless a special election is mandated,” the district’s bylaws state.

District officials have been in contact with the Los Angeles County Office of Education to ensure they follow the various legal requirements should the seat become vacant.

“The requirements associated with the board making an appointment are, in part, to ensure transparency throughout the entire process,” said Sarah Wahrenbrock, assistant to district Superintendent Sandra Lyon, in an e-mail. “If the vacancy were to occur, there would be press releases, timelines, applications, etc. Ultimately, when a board fills a vacancy, the applicant interview process, deliberation, and final appointment decision must all be done in open session at a public meeting.”

In 2007, a then-recently-elected Emily Bloomfield announced she would step down from the board because her family was moving to Washington, D.C.

Shane McCloud had been ousted from the board in the previous election, finishing fourth in a race for three spots.

The board opted to appoint current Boardmember Ralph Mechur, who had not previously sought election, to the seat.

Mechur was elected in 2010 and is seeking reelection this year.

This year’s campaign features three incumbents – Mechur and board members Laurie Lieberman and Oscar de la Torre – and four challengers: Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights co-Chair Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Malibu schools advocate Craig Foster, Dhun May, and Patricia Finer.

Board members could give weight to the fifth place candidate, especially if they are a challenger.

At the Daily Press’ candidates’ forum, “Squirm Night,” May expressed a desire to be appointed to the board.

The two board members who would almost definitely be a part of the decision-making process, Maria Leon-Vazquez and Jose Escarce, did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

“I think your question is premature,” Lieberman said. “I’m not prepared to comment on this at this time. Right now, I am focused on my own campaign.”

Foster and Tahvildaran-Jesswein responded similarly, noting that they are currently focused on winning the seat outright.

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