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Laguna Beach school board changes bylaw that member claims should have made her board president

Dee Perry is running for the Laguna Beach Unified School District board of trustees.
Laguna Beach Unified School District board member Dee Perry believes she should have rotated into the president’s role at the board’s annual organizational meeting in December.
(File Photo)

After some consternation among board members and the public, the Laguna Beach Unified School District board changed a bylaw that was at the heart of one member’s argument for becoming board president.

Dee Perry, a teacher in Laguna Beach for more than 20 years before her retirement, said she had expected to become president at the board’s annual organizational meeting in December. Instead, the board — in a 3-1 vote with Perry dissenting — approved reinstalling Jan Vickers as president. Vickers has served in the role since 2016.

The video recording of the Dec. 11 meeting is not available. The minutes show that Supt. Jason Viloria announced at the beginning of the meeting that the streaming service was “experiencing technical difficulties.”

At a special board meeting a month ago, Viloria recommended changing several bylaws, including one that outlines the rules of the annual organizational meeting.

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Perry has cited that bylaw as her reason for believing she should have become president: “After serving one year as clerk, the elected member may serve one year as president of the board. It is the intent of the board that all board members will rotate through the sequence of clerk and president.”

The change passed Tuesday night, with Perry dissenting, deleted that part of the bylaw.

“I think that not following our own bylaws is taking away confidence in the community, confidence in the board, confidence in the administration,” Perry said.

Perry had served for two years as clerk alongside Vickers, whom she nominated for president in 2017.

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Perry has said she wanted to be president because of the authority to put items on the agenda, which she has tried and failed to do in the past.

“So being able to have a say in what goes on the agenda and represent my constituents I thought was really important,” Perry said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

More importantly, she said, she wanted to follow the group’s bylaws.

Steve McIntosh, the father of a junior at Laguna Beach High School, said he thought the vote Tuesday would cause a loss of confidence in the board’s transparency and the way it conducts business. He said he supported Perry because she has been a strong advocate for children in the school system for years.

“My sense is that the board doesn’t like a particular member and they’re basically putting her under the thumb,” McIntosh said. “Her voice doesn’t count, which for the people who voted for her, their voice doesn’t count. And I think that’s inappropriate and not part of the democratic process.”

Board member Carol Normandin, who was unanimously selected clerk in December, said Perry had expressed that she wanted to be co-president with Normandin, a role that does not exist in the bylaws. She said Perry should have nominated herself for president at the organizational meeting.

“You have caused this ruckus because you wanted to be president and you said you wanted to be co-president,” Normandin said.

“If you want to be president, you have to understand how meetings work. … You’re unaware of ... how meetings work and how we’re supposed to hold them. You weren’t voted on by your peers.”

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Perry said she didn’t nominate herself because, as clerk, she thought she didn’t have to.

Board member James Kelly interrupted Perry and Normandin’s discussion to call the vote.

“You are about … to take a vote that’s going to deny due process and the handling of the presidency for this board because you don’t like someone,” said Emil Monda, president of the Laguna Beach Republicans. “When you do this, you realize that if there’s a future board and one of you becomes the contrarian … you won’t be president.”

Board member Peggy Wolff pointed out that clerks have not always rotated into the role of president. She advised that the board hire an outside consultant to help with discussions on protocol.

“To insinuate that our votes are mean or bullying … is unprofessional and disrespectful of each of us with a differing opinion,” Wolff said. “I do respect each board member’s right to have their own vote on each and every issue. My goal is to treat these people as professional colleagues and be respectful, but I also have a right to my own vote.”


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