Fills vacancy due to passing of Margaret Benton; can be challenged and special election ordered
During a special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, the Los Banos Unified School District Board of Trustees voted to appoint Lori Gattuso to the District 6 seat to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Trustee Margaret Benton in September. However, the appointment is provisional and can be challenged, with a special election to fill the seat ordered. That would cost the district $32,500 according to Board President Anthony Parreira.
Two candidates were interviewed during the meeting. A third candidate decided the day before to withdraw, Parreira stated. A copy of their applications with their resume information in it and answers to 10 questions were provided to the trustees immediately before the meeting, according to District 7 Trustee Ray Martinez. The information was also not available for members of the public to review prior to the meeting, as it wasn’t included with the agenda packet on the district’s website.
Each applicant was allotted 20 minutes to answer the trustees’ questions. First up was Dr. Sarah Matouk, a podiatric physician and surgeon in Los Banos followed by Gattuso. Recently retired, she said she’s a Los Banos native where she’s lived all her life, has a master’s degree in Education, and worked for 20 years as a teacher.
“I’m ready to dive in and really give back to the community at this time,” Gattuso said during her introduction.
Following the interviews and board discussion, Parreira made a motion to appoint the new board member. It passed on a 5-1 vote with Area 4 Trustee Gary Muñoz opposed, followed by applause from those in attendance.
“Dr. Matouk, please don’t go away,” Parreira then said. “Lori, congratulations.”
Gattuso was then administered her oath of office to immediately take her position as the newly appointed trustee.
The following notice was issued by the Governing Board of the Los Banos Unified School District on Nov. 1, 2022:
Vacancy and Provisional Appointment
(Education Code Section 5092)
- A vacancy in the membership of the Governing Board of the Los Banos Unified School District has occurred by reason of the passing of Margaret Benton-Area 6 effective September 14, 2022.
- Lori Gattuso was appointed by the Governing Board on November 1, 2022, to fill the above named vacancy.
- To challenge the appointment and order a special election, the following must be filed in the office of the Merced County Superintendent of Schools within 30 days from the date of the provisional appointment:
- File a petition calling for a special election containing the valid signatures of at least 1 ½ percent of the number of registered voters of the district at the time of the last regular election for governing board members held within the Los Banos Unified School District, or 25 registered voters of the district, whichever is greater, or
- In districts with less than 2,000 registered voters, a petition shall be deemed to bear a sufficient number of signatures if signed by at least 5 percent of the number of registered voters of the district at the time of the last regular election for governing board members.
The notice was signed and dated by the Governing Board Secretary/Clerk.
The next school board meeting will be held this Thursday, Nov. 10 at 7:00 p.m. in the Los Banos City Council Chambers at 520 J Street. It can be viewed online via livestream on the district’s YouTube channel.