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Harrigan Stepping Down After 12 Years; New LASD Board Member Sought

Applications now being accepted through Nov. 4 for a new board member to serve out the unexpired term.

Los Altos School District board member Margot Harrigan tearfully announced her resignation at the board's Monday night meeting, effective Dec. 5.

“Without a doubt, the twelve years that I have had the privilege and honor of serving the parents, children and staff of our community have been educational, challenging and, above all, inspiring,” Harrigan read from her resignation letter.

She said she had served on the board with three different superintendents, four assistant superintendents, 26 different school principals and 10 different board members.

“The only stable people have been (assistant superintendent of business services) and Brenda Dyckman (principal at ),” Harrigan joked.

Her own daughter went through the district and graduated from Blach Intermediate School in 2002.

Harrigan's decision was spurred by a unanimous , she said.

“I had not intended to serve beyond a third term, which would have ended on December 2011,” Harrigan said. “When the board voted to extend our terms, I made the decision to not serve a 13th year.”

The five-member school board will be empty by one seat, so a temporary board member will be appointed to fill out the unexpired term, said district Superintendent Jeff Baier.

The interim board member can, of course, run for an elected four-year term next November, Baier added.

On Tuesday night at the Los Altos City Council meeting, Councilmember David Casas encouraged whoever applies for the unexpired term to pledge not to run for the seat in 2012.

"It essentially takes the votes out of the community's hands," Casas said.

Applicants must be registered voters living within the school district. An application form, cover letter, resume, and response to questions in the public interview process is required. The application is due November 4; interviews will be held at a special meeting on November 14, Baier said.

The new member will be sworn in Dec. 5, the same day Harrigan steps off the board.

Fellow board member Doug Smith posted a message to Harrigan on Patch Tuesday praising her service.

“Margot, we will miss your service to our community, your thoughtful consideration, and your passion for putting our children first. You will be missed, and you leave big shoes to fill.”

Doug Smith, LASD Trustee October 13, 2011 at 07:23 PM
I disagree with the suggestion that a new appointee shouldn't run for election when the appointment expires. To the contrary, I hope that anyone who throws their hat in now would be interested in serving a longer term. Public Education is a tough job, and someone joining now has a learning curve to go through. To suggest that they serve a year and walk away means that the community loses the benefit of the experience they gain. I hope that whomever joins the board enjoys the epxerience and is willing to continue to serve, provided that the community sees fit to re-elect him/her.
Courtenay C. Corrigan October 13, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Handpicking the incumbent in next year's race certainly gives your pick a leg up and thus, an advantage unfair to others who may choose to run. I hope whoever you pick is as open and available as yourself, Mr. Smith and like you, makes smoothing out relations between BCS and the LASD his or her highest priority. As I BCS parent, I beg for it...
Ron Haley October 14, 2011 at 02:27 AM
Why do you think she left early! It'll be another LASD lapdog. Let's see - Susan Stark, Jay Gill or Bart Carey.
Doug Smith, LASD Trustee October 14, 2011 at 07:33 PM
In light of the SCCBOE's criticism of your "hand picked board", I feel compelled to point out the irony of BCS supporters criticizing the election process for LASD trustees. Whether or not someone with 1 year of experience on the board will have a "leg up" in an open election is for the community to decide. My desire for any potential candidate to be willing to serve a longer term is driven by the complexities of running a school dsitrcit that serves a diverse population of >4400 students. It is my personal hope that the acrimony arising from the BCS camp does not discourage applictions from otherwise well-qualified candidates.
Ron Haley October 15, 2011 at 12:15 AM
As an LASD and BCS parent, I'd like the district to take their time and find a qualified candidate. It's a thankless job, and it's tough to get good candidates. Hopefully they can find a candidate that can help heal the community. In my opinion, the current board members have had lots of opportunities to do so, and failed miserably. Unless something is done soon, I can see things getting a lot worse before they get better.
David Casas October 16, 2011 at 12:17 AM
Margot will be missed on the LASD Board. She has served twelve years, and has shown dedication, perseverance, and stamina. Her shoes will be hard to fill. While I have confidence that the LASD Board will go through a comprehensive interview process, nothing compares to months of public dialog during a competitive local election. It is important to note that the last truly competitive LASD election occurred in 2005. Anyone appointed will have an automatic advantage, come 2012. At the end of the day, it's my hope that the individual selected to serve embodies the following: 1) good listener; 2) educationally driven; 3) financial acumen; 4) bridge builder; 5) willingness to explore; and, 6) achievement through collaboration. The Board should proceed with care, however, as the next twelve months may foretell the next twelve years. I wish them well.
Val Carpenter October 31, 2011 at 06:04 PM
When the Los Altos City Council faced a similar situation in 2006 due to the resignation of Kurt Colehower, we appointed former Mayor and Councilman Lou Becker to fill Colehower's unexpired term, with Lou's commitment not to seek re-election when the term expired. This win-win solution returned an experienced councilmember to office, thus avoiding the learning curve concern raised by Trustee Doug Smith, while at the same time didn't circumvent the election process. I encourage the Board of Trustees to recruit a recent former Trustee such as David Luskin or David Pefley, with their commitment not to run for re-election at the end of their appointed term.
Serge Bonte November 01, 2011 at 03:33 AM
Unfortunately with experience often comes baggage. I command both David Luskin and David Pefley for their past public service (as one poster wrote, it's a thankless job). However, they were both on the Board pretty recently and the choices they made were not without controversy. Regardless of anyone's views on their legacy, I personally think they carry too much baggage as the LASD Board might soon have to revisit a lot of the decisions they were part of. I also don't have any problem with the one-year appointee running in the 2012 election. In any good democracy, we ought to trust the people.
Ron Haley November 01, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Luskin and Pefley - weren't they on the board when LASD perpetrated the fraud regarding BCS facilities?

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