School district board to appoint new member in coming weeks

Five islanders have applied to fill the vacant board seat left by Bob Hennessey.

Five applicants have applied to fill the seat vacated by Bob Hennessey, who recently resigned from the board, saying his view of board oversight of the district differed from his fellow board members.

Hennessey had served for 14 years, cumulatively, on the school board.

The applicants include Joseph Leysath, Mike Barmonde, Richard Hazzard, Kali Aguilera and Steve Ellison. Another islander, Terra Schaller, also applied but has now withdrawn her application. This group has been invited to present themselves to the board and public at a school board meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14.

Hennessey’s resignation came shortly after a long and sometimes heated discussion following a motion made by Hennessey at the board’s Sept. 9 meeting. The motion, which failed on a 2-2 vote, called for VISD’s superintendent, Slade McSheehy, to invite the district’s director of teaching and learning, Stephanie Spencer, to brief the board on the way the high school’s curriculum addresses the effects of racism throughout American history.

While Hennessey said he thought it appropriate for Spencer to speak to the board in a public setting about the school’s curriculum, others on the board suggested a more broad workshop covering racial equity topics, perhaps also featuring presentations by consultants hired by VISD to address racial equity initiatives.

Hennessey was in the middle of his latest term as a board member, and set to serve until November of 2023. The person chosen by the board to fill his vacancy will also serve until November of 2023.

After Hennessey’s resignation, the district announced a call for interested community members to apply for the open board seat. The district’s process includes the introduction of applicants to the community at the Oct. 14 board meeting, during which they will be given a chance to speak.

Three of the applicants, chosen by the board, will be invited back to the board’s Oct. 28 meeting, where they will be interviewed in open session by the board. The board will then go into an executive session to take action on the vacancy, with their decision announced after coming back into public session.

The Beachcomber has attempted to contact all the applicants for the position by email or social media app, with only Hazzard and Aguilera responding thus far. This is a developing story — more about the candidates will be written after the Oct. 14 meeting.

The Thurday, Oct. 14 board meeting, held in the Chautauqua Elementary School multi-purpose room, will begin at 7 p.m., both in-person and broadcast on the school’s YouTube channel. The Thursday, Oct. 28 board meeting, held in the district conference room, will also begin at 7 p.m. and be broadcast on the district’s YouTube channel.

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