School Board Forum Hints at Topsy-Turvey ETUSD Election

By Patric Hedlund

For less than a day there were four candidates for the two open seats on the El Tejon Unified School District Board of Governors. A write-in candidate belatedly jumped into the race. But then another candidate dropped out completely.

Three candidates originally registered by the August 5 deadline with the Kern County Board of Elections. Two were the incumbents: Catherine Wallace and Anita Anderson. The third candidate was Malinda Chadwick, who has served with Southwest Health Care District and the Frazier Park Public Utilities District.

On October 13 The Mountain Enterprise began our usual preparations for a candidates forum, exactly as we have for each of the past six years, with a hundred or so candidates for a variety of offices.

We hold print forums so voters have an opportunity to read about the candidates’ ideas, qualifications and priorities. Participating in the forum is a way candidates show respect for the right of the public to ask questions. It shows they are responsive to community concerns.

Chadwick called to say her computer was not functioning, so we agreed to wait for 24 hours until she was online. We resumed on Friday, Oct. 15, with the intent of publishing the forum in the October 22 issue of The Mountain Enterprise.

On October 17 we received notice that a family medical emergency had taken Chadwick to the midwest, but that she would be back on October 19. To show respect for her family situation, we postponed the forum and rescheduled for the following week (October 29).

We emailed the forum questions to all candidates on Thursday, Oct. 21 at 4:17 p.m. Five minutes later, at 4:22 p.m., Craig Stowell called our office. It appeared someone called to alert him that the forum was beginning. He called to say he had decided to run as a write-in candidate and wished to receive the questions. We sent them to him immediately.

Stowell ran for school board in 2006. He did not win. In September 2009 Stowell was hired to supervise maintenance, operations and transportation for the school district. He was dismissed by new ETUSD Superintendent Katie Kleier in August 2010, just before his employment probationary period was complete. His family and friends have been vocal in protesting his dismissal since. No reason for the dismissal or the basis for a dispute have been released to the public by either Stowell or ETUSD.

The deadline for the candidates to return their answers was Sunday, Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. At 4:54 p.m. we received a complete set of answers from Anita Anderson. Chadwick sent a note to say she withdraws from the race.

The other two candidates, Wallace and Stowell, did not submit answers by the deadline and so both had to be disqualified from the forum.

Read the Candidates’ Forum here.

This is part of the October 29, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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