The Inglewood Unified School District board experienced new upheaval this week with Trustee Rosemary Benjamin's surprise announcement that she will resign within 60 days--a year before her term on the board expires.
In the six months before Benjamin's statement at the end of Tuesday's board meeting, Trustee Ernest Shaw died in September, former Police Chief Joseph Rouzan was appointed to Shaw's seat in November and citizens groups mounted a petition drive that vacated Rouzan's seat and forced a special election set for June 7.
After Benjamin resigns, the five-member board will function with only three elected members.
County Atty. Audrey Oliver said district officials contacted her Wednesday morning to discuss the board's options for replacing Benjamin, 53, who was an instructional aide in the Inglewood school system for 14 years before being elected to the board in 1981. In 1985, Benjamin won a second term, which would have expired in April, 1989.
Wished Her Well
Fellow trustees wished Benjamin well after her announcement but made no public comment about how they would fill her seat.
In her statement, Benjamin acknowledged that the often politically contentious board has had problems. "There have been trying times since September," she said.
Citing unspecified personal reasons and "long-range goals," Benjamin said: "I will not be able to complete my term."
Noting that "the district has been good to me," Benjamin said she will help the board ensure a "smooth transition" to her successor before she leaves.
Board members and others have said Benjamin plans to declare a new official residence outside Inglewood. Oliver said Wednesday that this would immediately create a vacancy.
Discussing how a three-member board would function, Oliver said it would take two members to hold a meeting or to provide a majority vote. In a case where a two-thirds vote is needed rather than a simple majority, the votes of all three board members would be required.
The prospect of a second vacant seat intensified a flurry of speculation and political maneuvering around the school board. Twenty people have applied for Shaw's seat, and several are planning to run against Rouzan in June.
Board member Caroline Coleman said would-be trustees have already begun asking her when Benjamin plans to resign and whether the board intends to fill her seat by appointment or election.
"There are so many ramifications to this," Coleman said. "We need to find out what it all means."
Former board member W. R. (Tony) Draper, who applied for Rouzan's seat and has been considering a June election bid, said that if two seats become vacant he will "think more seriously" about running for office.
The Education Code states that if an election is ordered, it can be held on the next regular election date "not less than 130 days after the occurrence of a vacancy." Benjamin's announcement comes 117 days before the June 7 election, and she has not yet officially resigned. But Oliver said it is possible that the county registrar-recorder could use his discretion and allow the district to place a second election on the June 7 ballot.
If the district chooses to fill Benjamin's seat by appointment, it might risk opposition from the community groups that forced the special election.