Rene Ozuna, an analytics consultant for Wells Fargo Insurance and a mother with two children in the West Ada School District, was chosen to fill the school board’s vacancy Tuesday night.
Ozuna, who served on the district’s recent boundary committee, will replace Russell Joki, who resigned earlier this month, citing personal reasons. She will fill his unexpired term until 2019.
Ozuna will be sworn in as a trustee at the board’s meeting May 10.
The board voted to seat Ozuna with three votes in favor and one abstention by Mike Vuittonet, who supported another candidate.
“I want to make a difference for my kids,” Ozuna said. “I want to make a difference for all of our kids.”
Trustees interviewed four candidates Tuesday night before choosing Ozuna.
Vuittonet pushed for more time to make a decision, seeking to hold a special meeting in a few days to give him time to look more closely at applications and references.
The decision is “huge, huge,” he said.
But other board members weren’t persuaded and supported a motion by Trustee Carol Sayles to appoint Ozuna.
The other three candidates were Brian Sporleder, retired from the Idaho Department of Labor (Vuittonet’s choice); Heather Brundage, a part-time business data analyst for Merry Maids; and Stacey Knudsen, a homemaker.
Ozuna told board members she was not recruited by any present or past board members. Some critics have worried the board would use resignations in the face of pending recalls to try to appoint successors who could carry on their work. Four board members were facing recall including Joki, Julie Madsen, Carol Sayles and board chairwoman Tina Dean. Joki and Madsen have since resigned.
Ozuna said she opposes the recall election, which is May 17.
”I don’t feel the recall should be in play,” she said. “I think it’s a shame. I think that we lost two really great trustees.”
Ozuna said she met with Madsen and Joki: “I reached out when I decided to apply to find out the time commitment and what’s involved,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that I could do what the job required.”
During questioning from the board, Ozuna said:
▪ The district has great teachers, but could capitalize more on parental support. “Let us give time back to schools.”
▪ More art teachers are needed in West Ada schools. “If we can’t hire more teachers, maybe that is where we bring back our art moms.”
As a parent, Ozuna said she is concerned about the growth of student enrollment in West Ada School District, and how technology is used, she told the Idaho Statesman.
“I think we need to be able to handle technology and make sure we aren’t adding technology before we can actually handle it,” she said.