ONTARIO - The Ontario-Montclair School District Board of Trustees have decided to fill the vacancy left by former member Paul Vincent Avila through an application process.

Avila resigned his seat after being elected to the City Council last month.

At its next board meeting Jan. 17, the board will conduct interviews of applicants and consider a candidate to fill the opening.

"We should take an open application process to allow the public who have an interest, and that we have a transparent process where the public is invited in the deliberation of the process in choosing the person for that vacancy," school board member Steve Garcia said.

Avila was sworn in as a City Council member on Dec. 4Despite hearing from several parents who advocated for the return of former board member Sam Crowe, the board instead opted to fill the vacancy through the application process. Crowe lost his re-election bid to Steve Garcia.

At Thursday's meeting, the board was given three options to fill the vacancy: appoint a successor, hold a special election, or leave the decision up to the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools.

"One of the elements that is important for the board to consider is time and money," Hammond said.

If the board did not take any action in the first 60 days following the election, then the county would make the decision, Hammond said.

An election would take place on the next established election date, which can be no less than 130 days from the day of vacancy.

That would mean the special election would likely be held June 4. This move could have cost the district anywhere between $100,000 and $370,000, depending on how many entities would share the costs on that ballot, he said.

Lastly, and ultimately the popular option for the board members, was to appoint a successor to fill the post until the next election in 2014, Hammond said.

This option, Hammond said, "would allow the board to have five members to govern the district accordingly," at no extra cost.

But for more than 20 minutes, several parents, many who volunteer in the district, urged their support for Crowe.

Many praised the former board member for treating them fairly and with respect, as well as always doing what was in the best interest of the children.

"One example of who he is, I don't want to insult any Catholics, but to me he is more like the Pope - someone who is so humble," said parent Maribel Colin through a translator.

There were a handful of speakers who favored an appointment process.

Martina Ortega was one of those speakers who asked for an open process and felt it was a reasonable timeline.

"I want this district to choose a candidate that will represent all our kids," she told the board.

But Flora Martinez said the voters of Ontario spoke up at the last election.

"I want to remind you that Sam Crowe was not re-elected by the people," she added.

Edith Naranjo, a special-needs mother and longtime parent volunteer said Crowd's focus was always on the welfare of the children.

"At this moment we really need someone who is experienced...we need someone with the experience to finish this term. I'm asking to please listen to our voice, please listen to us, we are your partners," said Naranjo who was joined by at least a dozen parents from several schools within the district.

After the meeting, Naranjo said she was not disappointed by the board's decision and is hopeful that Crowe applies for the post.

At the meeting, the board:

  • Mendoza and Garcia were sworn in as members of the board. Mendoza was re-elected at the Nov. 6 election while Garcia unseated Crowe for a spot on the board.

  • Rivas was named president of the board, Kristen Brake was named vice president of the board while Garcia will serve as clerk.
    Reach Liset via email, call her at 909-483-8556, or find her on Twitter @DBOntarioNow.