For the next two years, Bobbie Singh-Allen will fill a seat on the Board of Education, even though she didn't run for election.
Singh-Allen was appointed Thursday night by the board to the Area 4 seat vacated by Polyanna Cooper-LeVangie, who resigned in June because she's moving to Fair Oaks.
"I am so humbled," she told the board as she fought back tears. She said the appointment was especially meaningful because of the relatively small number of Indian, Sikh women in public office.
She was immediately sworn in by Superintendent Steven Ladd, and said she wished her family could have been present; her husband was at their sons' back-to-school night.
The other applicants were Matthew Hoyt, Jose Reynoso and Brad Strong. They entered the board chambers individually, gave opening and closing statements, and answered questions from the board.
Hoyt is an graduate who worked as a diplomat for the U.S. Department of State and as an analyst for the Kaiser Foundation. Reynoso, a "semi-retired" longtime broadcaster, is married to a woman who works for the Healthy Start Program. Singh-Allen, a longtime board member of the , is executive director of the Independent Lodging Industry Association. Strong has served on the district's finance committee, and works for the education advocacy group Children Now.
Trustees debated the merits and weaknesses of each applicant and their interviews, saying that Reynoso would be able to reach out to the district's Spanish-speaking community, and that Singh-Allen and Strong both processed strong knowledge of the legislative process.
"I'm looking for someone who's not going to use this as a stepping stone," Trustee Jeanette Amavisca said.
The trustees eventually narrowed the field down to Singh-Allen and Strong. A motion was made to nominate Singh-Allen to the board, but failed with a 3-3 vote. A motion for Strong failed with only two yes votes. Singh-Allen was nominated again and was appointed to the board by a 4-2 vote, with Trustee Priscilla Cox breaking the tie.
Trustee Bill Lugg wondered how Singh-Allen would be able to make time to commit to a board position, while Amavisca preferred Strong for his knowledge of the district and its finances.
Trustee Jake Rambo, who served on Elk Grove's Charter Commission with Singh-Allen's husband, said both candidates had strong knowledge of the legislative process, but said it's better that Singh-Allen isn't affiliated with an education-advocacy organization.
Cooper-LeVangie sat at the back of the room taking notes during the candidates' presentations.
"This is like the worst time to come into being a board member," she said. "In the last couple years, all we talk about is how we can rip apart education. That's not why we're here."
Cooper-LeVangie, who said she didn't know any of the candidates except Strong, said it "felt a little weird" being in the audience instead of on the board. She said all four candidates were well-qualified, but warned that the new trustee will likely have to devote a lot more time to the job than she is expecting.