School board member leaves zone

Schneeman - Record file photo
— image credit: Record file photo

Voters living in the Langley area no longer have anyone living among them to represent them on the South Whidbey Board of Education.

Barb Schneeman, who was elected board District 5 in November 1997, moved out of that election district six months ago without notifying the other board members or the public. The action violates board policy and should, based on that policy, force her to resign from the school board.

A South Whidbey Record investigation this week shows that Schneeman moved from her Langley residence to a home on Hillis Drive in the Useless Bay area in early September. She could not be reached to comment on the move despite several calls to her home and office.

According to school board policy, any director who moves out of his or her voting district must resign from the board immediately. There are five voting districts within the South Whidbey School District, running from Clinton to a line between Bush Point and Classic roads.

Although the policy seems to call for Schneeman's resignation, the other four board members have not asked for it. Board President Ray Gabelein said he was aware Schneeman had moved, but didn't think it was an issue.

"I knew she was renting another place because of work being done to her house (in Langley)," he said Friday.

Gabelein's interpretation of board policy differed from how it reads on the printed page. He said he does not believe Schneeman needs to resign until her term is up in November.

"My recollection of the policy is as long as you are living in the right district at the time of the election, moving later is not an issue," he said. "As I recall, the vacancy is handled the next time there is a regular election."

Board Policy 1112 leaves no room for such interpretation, reading "If a board member's permanent residence ceases to be in the school district and/or the director district, the director shall resign immediately."

Because Schneeman could not be reached this week, it could not be ascertained whether her move was permanent or temporary.

Should Schneeman resign, the school board board is required to consider the resignation at its next regular meeting and to declare the position vacant. It must then fill the position by appointment.

Superintendent Martin Laster, who is the board's parliamentarian, said this week that Schneeman did not tell him she moved. What happens now, he said, depends on how the board chooses to use its policies.

"It will be the board's responsibility to discuss the appropriate steps," he said.

The board's change-of-residence policy is is based on a legal reference from the Washington State Attorney General's office.

Schneeman's district is roughly defined as being north of Highway 525 and between Bayview Road and the eastern shore of Whidbey Island. She is now living in Gabelein's district, which is south of the highway and between Useless Bay and Cultus Bay roads.

Director Bob Riggs represents voters in the Freeland area south of the highway and to the northernmost border of the school district. Director Jim Adsley represents the northern portion of Freeland, while Helen Price-Johnson represents Clinton voters.

If the board determines that there is a vacancy, it must fill it within 90 days. If it does not, someone from Education Service District 189 in Mount Vernon will fill the vacancy until the next election.

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