LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Union High School District Board member Victoria Ruffin’s first meeting as acting president ended when Ruffin and Clerk Amanda Parrell left the meeting after a split vote to approve the agenda.
That left trustees Jill McGrady and John Rush without a quorum to conduct the District’s business.
Ruffin took over as the Board’s acting president following the sudden resignation of former Board President Robert “Bob” Davis on Nov. 4.
Ruffin wanted to table a presentation by attorney Jay Fernow of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost detailing options for filling the Board vacancy until the Board’s next meeting in December.
“This will be a lengthy discussion that will take over an hour,” Ruffin said. “We have important matters with all of the hard work that Brett Neal has done with the negotiating team talking about our teacher contracts. And I would like to ask that we spend adequate time there, so I’m asking that this item be taken off for today and moved to the next Board meeting.”
Trustee Jill McGrady pointed out that the Board faces important deadlines in regard to filling the vacancy.
“If we are going to call for a special election it has to be done by Dec. 6, and that happens before our next Board meeting,” McGrady said. “So we pretty much need to hear this presentation tonight in order to make a decision or try to come to a consensus of what we’re going to do from here.”
Ruffin said the Board needs to have a discussion on the vacancy before Dec. 6, and that it could call for a special meeting to have the discussion.
“But we need to have the presentation publicly, so why wouldn’t we do that tonight?” McGrady said.
“I’m asking you to move it to the next Board meeting so that we’ll get adequate time to discuss teacher contracts,” Ruffin said.
McGrady countered that if the Board did not hear the presentation until the Dec. 12 meeting, it would no longer be able to call for a special election.
Ruffin did not respond. She then moved to amend McGrady’s motion to accept the agenda and table the presentation on filling the Board vacancy to the next Board meeting.
“Can I get a first, and a second?” Ruffin asked, apparently unaware that she could motion for the amendment.
“First,” Parrell said.
The motion died when no one seconded Parrell’s motion. That left McGrady’s original motion on the table. The Board voted 2-2 with Ruffin and Parrell dissenting.
Superintendent David Vierra recommended the Board move forward with the meeting as it exists.
“We didn’t adopt the agenda,” Ruffin said.
Fernow said there is no legal requirement to adopt the agenda because it is not in the Board’s bylaws.
“But it’s your meeting, Madam President,” Fernow said.
“There’s no meeting if there’s no adopted agenda,” Ruffin said.
Vierra said there is no legal requirement to adopt the agenda.
“You can choose to move through the agenda, or otherwise,” Vierra said.
“I’m choosing not to move with the agenda as it is,” Ruffin said.
McGrady suggested they vote on it.
“We just voted,” Ruffin responded.
At that point, Vierra suggested the Board take a quick recess. Ruffin got up to leave with her tote bag on her shoulder. She grabbed her coat and walked to the back. Parrell paused briefly, and then followed. McGrady and trustee John Rush remained in the boardroom. After about 10 to 15 minutes, Vierra and Fernow came out from the back, but Ruffin and Parrell weren’t there. They reportedly left the building.
At that point, McGrady suggested that students from Littlerock High School and Palmdale High School’s Health Careers Academy go ahead and give the presentations they had prepared for the meeting.
It is not clear why Ruffin did not suggest the Board move the tentative agreement with the Antelope Valley Teachers Association, and the memorandum of understanding with the California School Employees Association, to the top of the agenda if she was concerned about there being enough time for discussing them.
Ruffin and Parrell did not respond to emails seeking comments by press time.
Fernow also gave the Board vacancy presentation to the overflow crowd. That turned into a brief question-and-answer session.
Fernow addressed concerns from the audience.
“This is uncharted,” Fernow said. “I just haven’t had this experience. I want to say work has to be able to get done. It’s not as if the work is not going to get done.”
The Board has to take action by Dec. 6 to order a special election. If it does, the only established election date the Board may order is April 14. If the Board does not call a special election by Dec. 6, and it cannot agree on a provisional appointee by Jan. 3, the Los Angeles County Office of Education will get involved.
If the District does not appoint within 60 days of Davis’ Nov. 4 resignation, the vacancy election would have to take place later in the year — more specifically, on the next available established election day more than 130 days from the order of the election, effectively making it Nov. 3, according to the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder’s Office/City Clerk.
McGrady sought to reassure concerned District employees who remained after Ruffin and Parrell left.
“We have a responsibility to our constituents to be here to do the Board business. It may feel like that we are broken, and we as a Board may be fractured, but you are not, so keep doing the work that you’re doing,” McGrady said, adding she is proud of the District’s employees.