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Published August 23rd, 2017
Drama as LAFSD appoints trustee to fill vacant board seat
Lafayette School District Superintendent Rachel Zinn swears in newly appointed trustee Rob Sturm. Photo Nick Marnell

Overcoming the endorsement of a competing applicant by his predecessor and the conflicted feelings of sitting school board members, Rob Sturm was appointed trustee of the Lafayette School District at an Aug. 16 special meeting. Sturm, a labor-employment attorney, replaces recently elected trustee Mark Kindhouse, who took a job in Southern California and resigned from the board in June.
Eight candidates ranging from lawyers to accountants to educators appeared before the board at Stanley Middle School and were asked to explain their priorities, their role and purpose, and the district's biggest challenge. Public comment followed and supporters spoke up for Sturm, Darrick Martin and Kenny Tuckerman, endorsed by Kindhouse in a letter to the board.
Trustee Suzy Pak nominated Sturm for the seat, and two issues dominated the ensuing board discussion: That Sturm deserved credit for being the only applicant who ran for one of the two LAFSD seats during the 2016 general election but that Sturm, though highly qualified, would bring a personality unfit for the board.
Lafayette City Council Member Ivor Samson was in a similar position as Sturm in 2016 when the council selected Samson to fill a governing board vacancy. "I had previously run for a seat on the council. I had to campaign vigorously and was subject to public scrutiny," Samson told the board. "Rob Sturm has done that. He put himself out there during an election process." Sturm came in third behind Kindhouse and trustee Meredith Meade in the general election.
The election process was a difficult experience for Meade. "The campaign was horrible," she said to Sturm during the board discussion. "Things did not sit well with me. I wish you had reached out to me after the election."
Others shared trying experiences working with Sturm. "I've got reservations about his collaboration," said trustee Teresa Gerringer. "He seems to be more open, but I still have to work through that."
"I'm concerned about his approach," added Board President David Gerson. "Is he the right fit, and does he have the ability to work with the administration?" Gerson said he sometimes felt chastised by Sturm at board meetings. "We need to maintain respect for one another," Gerson said.
As tension built among the trustees, applicants and the two dozen spectators, Gerson called for a vote on Sturm. Gerson and Pak, who said she had not experienced the problems with Sturm that others had, voted yes immediately. After 15 seconds of strained, fidgety silence, Gerringer voted yes, followed by Meade who made the vote unanimous. Meade declined to comment afterward on the proceedings.
"I understand the board's reservations. I listened carefully," Sturm said after his swearing-in. "I share their view that collaboration is important."
Gerson said that he will work closely with Sturm to bring him up to speed. "Sometimes a campaign can create false impressions of people," Gerson said. "We had to air that out. Rob will take our comments to heart and there will be no problem."
Sturm's term ends in December 2018 along with all other trustees except for Meade, whose term ends in 2020.

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