Update: The Christina School Board has rescheduled its public interview of the four applicants who are hoping to fill the open seat at the dais.
The meeting will likely be held the first Tuesday in October, but that is not final, said Board President Meredith Griffin.
“We really wanted to make sure that all of the applicants were available for an in-person interview with the board," he said. "We wanted to do that so that every applicant can feel as though they had equal access and hearing, and so that whoever from the community was able to attend and be able to see that everything we were doing was done in a manner of equal treatment."
During the meeting, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, the current board members will interview the four candidates who applied to fill the seat vacated after May’s election.
Though it is up to the discretion of the Christina School Board who will fill an open board seat, the public will get to hear from the applicants next week.
Board members had previously discussed interviewing the candidates behind closed doors, but they ultimately decided to do it in public.
“We chose to make these interviews public,” Board President Meredith Griffin said Wednesday. “They’ll be serving a public good as a board member. If any, or all, decide to run in the election for this seat, they would probably be taking part in a similar kind of public forum. We decided to go on and do it that way here.”
The applicants are Naveed Baqir, a software developer; Katie Gifford, an associate policy scientist at the University of Delaware; Tim Kim, assistant director of student life for UD’s English Language Institute; and Claire O’Neal, a visiting assistant professor at UD.
The interviews will occur during a general board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 6:30 p.m. at the district’s Eden Support Services Center, located at 925 Bear Corbitt Road in Bear.
Griffin said that all board applicants will be interviewed publicly, though all might not be available Sept. 4.
“If they aren’t available, we will extend the process,” he said.
The school board will appoint one of the applicants to serve until the next school board election in May 2020. Then, voters will select someone to serve the remaining four years of the vacant term.
The vacancy was caused by the resignation of Catherine Hegedus, who quit the board just minutes after being sworn in July 9.
Hegedus, who ousted two-term incumbent John Young in May, announced during her campaign that she would not be able to serve should she be elected, due to family health issues that arose after the filing deadline passed. However, Hegedus decided to leave her name on the ballot to give voters a choice. Had she dropped out, the election would have been canceled, and Young would have automatically received a third term.
Voters weren’t deterred by the unusual circumstances, electing Hegedus by a landslide. The election saw the highest turnout for a Christina board election in the last 10 years, with Hegedus earning the most votes of any single candidate in that time frame.
At the last board meeting, Griffin said there was “some uncertainty” about whether to hold the interviews publicly. Board members noted precedent for filling past vacancies and the model of other school districts as cause to potentially hold the interviews privately and vote publicly on who to appoint.
“We got counsel that the best way to do it would be to do it publicly,” Griffin said. “While we can do it in executive session, publicly is the way we’re going to proceed with this current vacancy.”
Griffin said that the board will be asking the same questions to all four applicants. There will be a public comment portion of the meeting to allow members of the public to weigh in.
“We as a board have received a lot of communication from the public regarding one applicant or another. A good number of applicants are serving in the community,” he noted.
Griffin added that the board is looking forward to hearing from the four applicants.
“We as a board do take seriously filling this vacancy. We are excited that we have four citizens that have desire to help Christina become the best school district in the state of Delaware,” he said.