The Santa Barbara Unified school board voted Tuesday to provisionally appoint someone to Boardmember Laura Capps’s seat rather than hold a general election in November.
Capps was elected as the 2nd District supervisor of Santa Barbara County in the June 7 primary elections, but her term on the school board was not set to expire until 2024. Capps has not officially sent her resignation to the board, but once she does, the board will have 60 days to appoint someone to her seat.
The decision to appoint was mostly based on the high cost of holding a general election, which would come out of the district’s general fund. The cost of a general election is between $700,000 and $900,000, while the cost for a provisional appointment could be between $10,000 and $30,000. Chief Operations Officer for the district Steve Venz said this cost would primarily be for candidate training.
The special board meeting to interview potential candidates will be open to the public, though the date has not been decided yet.
Earlier Tuesday night, the board also passed a memorandum of understanding between the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Goleta, and the district, regarding the presence of law enforcement on campus.
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The memorandum would still need to be approved by the Goleta City Council and the Sheriff’s Office, but if implemented, the district would shift from Student Resource Deputies to a Community Resource Deputy (CRD).
A CRD, employed through the Sheriff’s Office, would coordinate with principals on how to respond day to day, depending on the particular needs of a school site. The deputy would respond to calls, patrol the Goleta Valley Junior High and Dos Pueblos High School areas, and dispose of confiscated items as needed, rather than each school site having an on-duty officer at all times.
This decision comes following years of community criticism of the presence of law enforcement on campus. In October 2018, the school board did not renew its contract with the Student Resource Deputy at San Marcos High School, in large part due to the work of the student group Cops Off Campus S.B., co-founded by student boardmember Kavya Suresh. Through social media, the group gathered testimonials from past and current students about their experiences with law enforcement, and several members spoke during school board meetings, asking for the officers to be removed.
“I think it’s time that we recognize signs of a mental health crisis as a behavior and not a crime,” Suresh said. “I would hope that adults would know how to talk to me when I’m having a bad day, and wouldn’t have to resort to calling law enforcement, which can lead to serious escalation and profiling.”