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Exeter Unified School District is born

Exeter Unified School District is born

The Exeter Unified School District was born last week and has already taken its first steps toward becoming its own entity.

Newly elected members of the new district unifying the Exeter Union (Elementary) School District and the Exeter Union High School District held their first meeting on Dec. 12 at the Crespi Center Board Room. Exeter Public Schools Superintendent Tim Hire swore in six members of the seven-member board comprised of current EUSD incumbents Dewayne Faulkner (Area 1), Dean Sutton (Area 2) and Mark Hellwig (Area 3) and EUHSD incumbents Ray Stable (Area 6) and Larry Larson (Area 7) were all unopposed in the unification election. The only newcomer to the unified board of trustees was Virginia Padilla (Area 5), who defeated incumbent and write-in candidate Jack Elam 65% to 35%. Even Padilla is not really a newcomer having served on the Exeter Union High School District board from 1996-2000.

The seventh member was not absent or even unavailable, he/she was simply unknown. Because there were no candidates who filed nomination papers for the Trustee Area 4 nor any qualified write-in candidates there is still a vacancy on Exeter’s new unified board. Superintendent Hire explained the board must fill the vacancy with someone living within the district by Feb. 8. If the board fails to appoint someone, the Tulare County Superintendent of Schools will call a special election. On the seven member board, only four board members must be present to have a quorum.

“If the election fails, I believe we will move forward with six board members,” Hire said.

Trustee Area 4 encompasses a portion of downtown, new developments north of Visalia Road and the southside of Marinette/Walnut Avenue from Filbert Road to Anderson Road. Anyone living in the area who is interested in applying for the vacant seat should contact the Exeter Unified School District Office at 559-592-9421.

In order to stagger elections and to hold elections on even numbered years for greater voter turnout, four board members were selected to serve six-year terms while three were selected to serve the typical four-year terms just for the first election cycle. Faulkner, Hellwig and Larson will serve four-year terms through 2016 while Sutton, Padilla, Strable and the Area 4 seat will serve six-year terms through 2018.

Sutton was elected President of the new unified board, while Hellwig was elected vice president and Strable as clerk. Once the officers were elected, the board voted to name the new district the Exeter Unified School District. The board then voted to meet at 5 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Board Room, located at 215 N. Crespi Ave. in Exeter. Closed session will precede the meeting at 4 p.m.

During a brief recess, President Dean Sutton cut the first piece of a cake with the phrase “Third time’s the charm” commemorating Exeter’s most recent attempt and first successful attempt at passing unification measure on the ballot.

Measure G, the proposed formation of a new unified school district in Exeter, passed with more than 70% of the vote on election night. The new district is estimated to net an additional $1 million in per pupil funding through the unification process.

It was the third shot at passing a unification measure in Exeter. When the issue first arose in 1995, unification received mixed reviews from both school boards and the public. Both boards approved the unification in early 1995, but by mid-year the elementary board rescinded its support.

Both boards ultimately approved a resolution for unification in 1996 which included a seven-member board and, even though Outside Creek and Sequoia Union fell within the borders of the unified district, both feeder districts would retain their school boards. When it finally went to vote on Nov. 5, 1995, nearly two-thirds of voters (64.2%) in Exeter, Lemon Cove and Outside Creek voted against unification. Unification was brought up again in 2003, but a report of School Services of California calculated that it would only result in a net gain of $125,000 per year at that time.

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