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ORANGE : Politicians to Give Trustees Oaths

Breaking with tradition, two of three newly elected board members of the Orange Unified School District will not be sworn in by the superintendent of schools but by politicians who backed them in their bids for office.

New trustee Maureen Aschoff recruited her political mentor, Assemblyman Mickey Conroy (R-Santa Ana), to do the honors in a private ceremony at his headquarters Thursday morning. Robert H. Viviano hopes state Sen. John Lewis (R-Orange) will swear him in sometime today.

New trustee Bill Lewis declined an invitation to join Viviano’s swearing-in ceremony, indicating he believed that the action could cause a stir. The new board member said he planned to have Supt. Norman C. Guith administer the oath of office.

School board officials called the decisions to involve Conroy and Lewis highly unusual.

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“In my 22 years of either covering school districts as a reporter or working as an administrator, I’ve never seen it done,” district spokeswomen Gayle Wayne said.

California School Board Assn. spokesman Michael Fallon said it is “usually the superintendent or someone in education who administers the oath of office to newly elected trustees.”

“I don’t see anything illegal in this,” Fallon added after examining the State Education Code, “but it’s unusual.”

The trustees must be sworn in before participating in a board study session scheduled for 2 p.m. today.

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Some incumbent board members said participation by Conroy and the state senator could cast a shadow of partisanship and conservatism over the proceedings. Board member Lila Beavans said that “anything that gives the impression that school board members have a political agenda is a mistake.”

“I don’t think they are trying to make it political,” Barry Resnick, board vice president, said. “But the perception is that it’s political and . . . perception is reality.”

But Viviano expressed surprise that Lewis’ participation would raise eyebrows. “This is not really a political statement,” Viviano said.

Aschoff could not be reached Thursday.

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