Bonnie Cassel has served Area 1 of the Lodi Unified School District as a trustee for six years, and was set to keep on serving until December 2014.
But a board policy concerning trustee absences could curtail her term, and district officials Thursday called for applicants who’d be interested in replacing Cassel.
Cassel missed several meetings in May and June due to training for her summer job as a seasonal interpretive park ranger at Yellowstone National Park. She was stationed at Old Faithful, teaching visitors about the geyser, bison, bears and more local wildlife. Cassel returned from the wilderness safe and sound, ready to resume her place on the board.
Her fellow board members knew ahead of time of her planned absences, and anticipated her return in the fall.
But there’s a technical rule here causing some trouble.
Trustees are not permitted to leave the state for more than 60 days at a time during their term. An extension can be filed to extend the period to 90 days, but was not in this case. After that, the trustee seat is considered vacant.
Cassel had planned to travel back and forth from Yellowstone Park to California during the summer. It’s not clear whether or not she has exhausted her 60-day limit while working in the park. Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer said she has definitely not gone over 90 days.
“It’s a potential technical issue. We just want to make sure there are no glitches,” said Nichols-Washer. “This is not a negative on Bonnie.”
The board voted to begin the provisional appointment process during a special board meeting on Tuesday. All the board members were present save for Cassel herself.
Joe Nava, Ralph Womack and Michael Abdallah agreed to form the committee to review applications. Applicants must live in Area 1, a large zone ranging east of Lodi to Amador County. A complete description is available online at www.lodiusd.net.
Interested applicants have until Monday at 4 p.m. to submit a letter of interest and a resume. The committee will meet on 3 p.m. Tuesday to review applications. The board will hold a special meeting on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. to interview the applicants. The necessary notifications have already been printed to move the process along as quickly as possible.
“We don’t want to get stuck in a tricky situation in the future. This is the right thing to do,” said Abdallah.
Cassel did not return requests for comment. It is not yet clear whether or not she plans to continue on the board.