DEL MAR — The Del Mar Union School District is moving forward with an appointment process to fill a vacant seat on the board of trustees following the resignation of Scott Wooden, with applications open until April 6.
A longtime trustee on the board since 2010, Wooden announced his resignation in mid-February after news surfaced that he was one of over 200 people arrested in Florida as part of a sting operation for soliciting a sex worker.
Wooden was most recently re-elected to the board in November, leaving nearly four years remaining in his term. The district had 60 days to call a special election or commence a community appointment process.
The now four-person board discussed both options at their March 15 meeting and unanimously opted for the latter, noting that a special election would cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars and be delayed until at least November.
“In my opinion, the most democratic thing to do is to let the voters decide and hear their opinion on that. However, I think that given the cost amounts … it doesn’t make sense to me to have a special election,” said Board President Gee Wah Mok. “This board has been elected and re-elected multiple times, so I think we are capable of making good decisions and making decisions on behalf of the community.”
Applications are due by 4 p.m. on April 6, and the board plans to interview applicants and vote on an appointment at a special board meeting on April 11.
While the term of Wooden’s former seat technically runs through 2026, the California election code states that the appointee would only serve until the next regularly scheduled election in 2024, at which time an election would be held to fill the remaining two years of the term.
In the case of a special election, the elected candidate would serve for the entirety of the remaining term.
The Del Mar Union board is no stranger to the appointment process; Mok was appointed provisional trustee in 2019 before being elected to a full term in 2020. Provisional trustee Darren Gretler was also appointed in 2015.
“We’ve done an appointment two times before, and I’m looking at people sitting next to me, and I think that process has worked well in the past,” said trustee Doug Rafner.
Dozens of community members have shared their preference for one appointee in particular — district parent Danielle Roybal, who has been outspoken about including alleged shortcomings in Del Mar Union’s special education program, among other issues, and the top vote-getting challenger in the 2022 school board race.
“Now that Scott Wooden has resigned, I ask that you honor the community’s vote and assign me,” she told trustees, bringing along 80 letters of support from the community. “I represent the community that wants the board to work with them. Please allow me to be the bridge and show goodwill toward our voters.”
Roybal warned that if she was not appointed, she would begin the process of forcing a “recall,” more technically called a special election. California election code states that community members have the right to petition for such an election within 30 days of the district appointing someone to the vacant seat.
According to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, the number of signatures needed to force a special election equals 1.5% of the total registered voters as of the last regular election. With just over 31,000 registered voters, that equals around 465 signatures.
“If a trustee is assigned that is not of the community’s choice, they would hate to start a recall. But with only approximately 500 signatures necessary for a recall of an appointed trustee, they would do so in order to honor the community’s choice,” Roybal said.
This process played out in the neighboring San Dieguito Union School District in 2021 when the faculty association forced a special election after Ty Humes was appointed to the then-vacant Area 5 seat. Julie Bronstein ended up being elected and serving as trustee until 2022.
Information about the Del Mar Union board vacancy and application materials are available at dmusd.org. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, a United States citizen, a registered voter and must live within the boundaries of the Del Mar Union School District.
Applications can be submitted via email, Google Form, mail, fax or hand delivery to the superintendent’s office.