By Li Khan, Associate Editor
March 2, 2023
For the second time in one week, The Peralta Community College District (PCCD) Board of Trustees failed to appoint a new trustee for the Area 2 vacant seat at their regular Feb. 28 meeting. The board will hold a special meeting on Friday March 3 to fill the vacant seat before a March 9 deadline that will force the matter to be decided by special election.
If the board fails to make an appointment within 60 days of Jan. 9, the effective date of the vacancy, the seat will default to a special election per California Education Code § 5091. The board estimated that the cost of the election could be as much as $950,229.
The board held a special meeting on Feb. 24 to interview four candidates for the position. After the interviews were complete, the board discussed the candidates and attempted a motion to appoint Gonzalez-Brito, but the motion failed with a 3-3 tie. The board agreed to continue their deliberations at the next meeting.
During the public comments section of the Feb. 28 meeting, several people came forth to speak in favor of Abuyen for the position. Many used their time to highlight Abuyen’s strengths and background.
Former student trustee Aisha Jordan also spoke out in favor of Abuyen, but took much of her allotted two minutes to accuse Trustee Nicky González Yuen of using “tactics of intimidation” against Abuyen and requested him to “recuse himself” from voting on the appointment.
“Trustee Yuen used tactics of intimidation on Adrien in 2018 in efforts to get him […] to retract his support for Measure Bond E [sic], which myself and Adrien are the only students who signed off on that measure,” Jordan said.
The trustees discussed their stances on Abuyen and Gonzalez-Brito, which had not shifted since the Feb. 24 meeting. Many of the trustees referenced their earlier comments, and why their positions had not changed.
Trustee Louis Quindlen voiced his continued support of Gonzalez-Brito.
“I still favor Paulina Gonzalez-Brito,” Quindlen said. “I think she brings a very unique set of skills and population to our board.”
Board President and Trustee Dyana Delfín Polk spoke in favor of Abuyen, pointing to his former role as a student trustee.
“We should keep the student’s focus in every decision that we make on this dais,” Polk said. “I am still very much in support of Adrien Abuyen, because I believe he truly brings that perspective.”
Student Trustee Leesa Hogan echoed her comments from the Feb. 24 meeting regarding the appointment.
“If this vote comes down to Adrien not being appointed to Area 2, it’s going to send a horrible, horrible message to student trustees like myself,” Hogan said.
Later on in the discussion, Trustee Cindi Napoli-Abella Reiss, who responded to Hogan’s remarks on Friday, chose to “repeat” her comments in response to the “reframing of the discussion” as “saying no” to a student trustee.
“That’s something that I did have an issue with,” said Reiss. “The fact that we are comparing and voting and gridlocked between two individuals […] says that we are actually very much validating the incredible worth of the voice of our student trustee.”
While Yuen initially abstained from commenting, he eventually chose to ask his colleagues to refrain from attacks.
“I don’t see this body moving from where it is right now, but I want to urge us not to devolve into attacking the motives or the intelligence or the integrity of our colleagues,” Yuen said.
Faced with a standstill, the board chose to proceed with the remaining agenda items and postpone the appointment until the end of the meeting.
Upon returning to the appointment item, Trustee Bill Withrow moved to approve Abuyen for the appointment, but the motion failed with a 3-3 tie.
District legal counsel Nitasha Sawhney suggested that the board could use an alternative means to decide on a candidate, such as “flipping a coin,” and “affirm[ing] it through a motion and a vote.” Polk expressed discomfort with this idea.
“The gravity of this… the weight of this decision […] should not be a coin toss,” Polk said.
Interim Chancellor Jannett Jackson proposed that the board take some time to write down the strengths of each candidate before discussing further and trying to reach an agreement. Trustee Sheweet Yohannes considered Jackson’s remarks and suggested a way forward.
“I’m wondering if we should do this exercise on our own and we have a special meeting, therefore we can bring our well thought out ideas to the special meeting and really get it done at that moment, as it is ‘reaching double digits’,” Yohannes said.
Both Polk and Jackson voiced their approval of Yohannes’ suggestion and passed a motion to move the agenda item to a special meeting to be scheduled sometime during the next week. According to the Brown Act, the district is required to give 24 hours notice prior to holding the meeting.
On Thursday, March 2, the district announced that the special meeting would take place on March 3. According to the PCCD-wide email announcement, the meeting will take place at 4:30pm PST. The meeting will be open to the public. It will take place in person in the district board room at 333 E 8th St, Oakland, CA 94606 and will be broadcast live via zoom. Those interested in attending virtually can register here. According to Mark Johnson, PCCD’s Executive Director for Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations, the meeting will be uploaded to the district’s YouTube channel on March 6.