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Adams 12 dust-up over school board pick


How long does it take to fill a vacancy on a local school board? State statute requires a decision within 60 days, but Adams 12 Five Star Schools made theirs after no more than 20 minutes of interviews with three candidates—after those 60 days expired without agreement on a candidate.

But the ensuing mini-controversy has nothing to do with the fact that the board barely spent any time getting to know the candidates, but rather that, from one member’s view, the job went to a candidate who was comparatively better known than any of the others, at least to the board president.

Adams 12 needed to fill a seat vacated by Heidi Williams, who was elected mayor of Thornton in November. The board spent the two-month window to name her replacement deadlocked on who to choose; the rules required a majority vote, meaning at least three of the four remaining board members had to agree on Williams’ replacement.

Board members Mark Clark and Norman Jennings voted for Rico Figueroa; Frederick Shaefer voted for Ash Mahajan; and Max Willsey voted for Amy Speers. None had earned a majority vote. At the end of the 60-day period—which was Tuesday, Jan. 17—Clark, the board president, unilaterally chose his preferred candidate, Figueroa, as allowed by state law.

But observers who assume the gridlock was due to long hours of careful evaluation of the candidates would be wrong. Over the entire two-month period, during which they could learn as much as possible about the candidates, the board only heard from them for 20 minutes each.

“Yeah, that’s a little odd, isn’t it?” admitted Shaefer, who said he didn’t even know if his new fellow board member has a higher education degree.

In an article in the Northglenn-Thornton Sentinal, even Clark, who made the final decision, hinted that he knew less about the candidates than one might expect, despite having had ample time to learn more.

“It’s a tough decision to have to make after just 20 minutes with the candidates, so I made my selection based on the resumes,” he’s quoted as saying.

But Shaefer said the statement is “a little bit disingenuous,” claiming Clark made the decision because he knows Figueroa; he says the two are friends and Figueroa’s selection over other candidates has given Shaefer “heartburn.”

“We failed miserably at picking what I considered to be the best candidate,” he said.

Of course, it could be argued that his opinion of the best candidate is based on even less information than Clark had. Shaefer knew nothing of the candidates other than what was offered up on their resumes and during their single 20-minute interviews.

Figueroa will finish out Williams’ term, which runs until November, 2013.

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