School board president to resign citing conflict of interest

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Berkeley Unified School Board President Leah Wilson announced Tuesday that she will resign her post, citing concerns about a potential conflict of interest with her new job as the court executive officer for the Alameda County Superior Court.

Wilson, who was elected board president in 2010, will be stepping down March 31. Wilson said her new position may be problematic if the Berkeley Unified School District were to undergo any lawsuits in Alameda County.

The last time a school board member resigned was in 1909, according to district spokesperson Mark Coplan.

Wilson, who is currently an analyst in the Alameda County Administrator’s Office, will soon take over as court executive officer, according to an Alameda County Court press release.

“(The position) is like being the city manager of the court,” said School Board Director Karen Hemphill. “She schedules court meetings and does all the paperwork. Her name will appear on a lot of documents of the court. If there is litigation involving the school district, her name would be on all of those, and it could be intimidating.”

The resignation of a school board member is rare and only happens during situations of conflict of interest and for pressing personal reasons, Hemphill said.

According to Hemphill, the president sets the tone for the rest of the board and represents it in conversations with the superintendent.

“It is hard to tell what is going to happen,” said Tom Killilea, president of the Berkeley PTA Council. “We don’t know how she will be replaced and who it will be.”

Wilson, who has been a large part of the board’s current search for a new superintendent, will have to be succeeded by someone whom the board can fill in on its process and progress, Killilea said.

Hemphill said, however, that the board president’s resignation will not delay the superintendent search in any way.

“This is a very good time to look for a superintendent,” she said. “We have got some dates set. We are scheduled to review applications next Wednesday and will hold interviews in the beginning of April.”

Wilson is scheduled to start her new position with Alameda County Superior Court on April 15. The school board will discuss replacing Wilson Wednesday night at a special board meeting at 6:25 p.m. in room 126 of the school district administration building at 2020 Bonar St., according to Hemphill.

Alyssa Neumann covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @AlyNeumann.