During a Jan. 14 meeting the SMMUSD Board of Education will appoint a new member to fill City Councilmember Oscar de la Torre’s vacant seat.

Twenty-three candidates met the application criteria and will each be given five minutes to make a speech on why they are the best person for the position, which will be followed by public comments.

Board members will then nominate and vote on candidates until one candidate receives four or more votes. Superintendent Ben Drati will administer the Oath of Office for the appointee.

As per Education Code, registered voters of the district may, within 30 days from the date of the appointment, petition for the conduct of a special election to fill the vacancy. If no petition is submitted the appointed member will serve until November 2022, which is when de la Torre’s term would have expired.

SMMUSD has said that de la Torre forfeited his School Board position when he assumed his City Council seat on Dec. 8, 2020, as under Government Code Section 1099 elected members of a governmental board cannot simultaneously hold incompatible offices. De la Torre disagrees and has voiced a desire to hold both seats but no court cases have been filed yet.

Several members of the public, including de la Torre, have voiced their support for the appointment of Jason Feldman as he was the first runner-up for a School Board seat in the November elections.

On Jan 9. parents in the special education community sent a letter to the Board signed by 110 community members advocating for Feldman’s appointment.

Feldman is a civil rights lawyer with two elementary children enrolled in the District, including a student in the special education program. He has served on the Franklin and John Muir PTAs and seeks to be an advocate for the 13 percent of district families with special needs students.

In his application, Feldman identified social justice, layoffs, and inter-community division as the three areas most in need of improvement in the District.

The application of candidate Keith Coleman has also gained community recognition. Coleman was the second runner-up in the November election and received 396 fewer votes than Feldman.

Coleman is the Co-founder of Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs of Southern California and has served as the co-chair of the SMMUSD Intercultural Equity & Excellence Advisory Committee and the Parent Connection Group.

He is currently part of the “Progresssive Slate” of candidates running as Democratic Party delegates for Assembly District 50, alongside Mayor Sue Himmelrich and Rent Control Commissioners Anastasia Foster and Caroline Torosis.

During the November election cycle, Coleman was endorsed by the L.A. County Democratic Party, Community for Excellent Public Schools, Mayor Sue Himmelrich, Councilmember Kristin McCowan, and School Board member Craig Foster.

In his application Coleman cited parent engagement and social justice as the main areas in need of improvement in the District.

According to the agenda, 160 minutes have been designated for the appointment process, which is time stamped to begin at 4:45 p.m.

The Board meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Zoom on Jan. 14. Members of the public who wish to make a public comment can do so by completing a Google survey sign up at tinyurl.com/y4hl9r6g, which will open 30 minutes prior to the meeting.

Clara@smdp.com