Modesto -- Cathy Flores Hallinan resigned Monday night after less than a year on the Modesto City Schools board, saying her job in Sacramento and ill parents keep her from fulfilling her duties.
"This is not an easy decision, but it is a responsible one," Hallinan said in announcing her decision. "This is a serious job. It's very complicated running the district, and you need to have board members who are very engaged."
Her resignation, announced at the beginning of Monday evening's board meeting, was effective as of its end. Board President Rubén Villalobos said the board would decide in a special meeting how to fill her seat.
The choices are to appoint a provisional trustee until the next regular election in November 2013 or to hold a special election, which was estimated to cost about $50,000 when Gary Lopez resigned slightly more than a year ago.
Hallinan worked as a child advocacy attorney, but in January left her local practice for a position in Sacramento that recently has added travel duties. In addition, her parents' health problems have meant spending weekends at the family home near Bakersfield.
She said the number of extra activities board members are expected to attend came as a surprise, and many occur during her commuter workday. "It's just the time. I just can't be here for the activities," Hallinan said, listing ribbon cuttings, back-to-school nights and school visits as events she misses.
Hallinan served nine months of her four-year term. She won election in November, pledging to promote early childhood education and help for at-risk students. Modesto City Schools unions and the Stanislaus County Democratic Club backed her candidacy.
Hers was the lone vote against laying off all the district's preschool employees in a restructuring this May. In June, she again stood alone against the district reorganization plan, saying she disagreed with raises for a handful of employees when so many had given concessions. In February, Hallinan and Villalobos were the only votes against retaining extra tax dollars to one day build a pool at Enochs High.
Hallinan said she always has spoken her mind on the board and felt no animosity toward her differing views. "It's been a wonderful experience, and I'm heartbroken," she said before the meeting began. "But at this point, any reason to stay is selfish."
Modesto City Schools is not the only board coping with a resignation.
Knights Ferry School District board President Mark Schlegel resigned effective in August, saying work and family commitments were too much, said district office employee Beverly Noe. Schlegel took office in December 2001 and his current term would have ended next November. The Knights Ferry board is accepting applications through 2 p.m. next Monday and will interview candidates at a special meeting Sept. 24.
In other business, Modesto trustees voted unanimously to approve borrowing up to $15 million from Stanislaus County. Chief Business Official Julie Chapin told trustees that at this point, she does not expect to need to seek a county loan but asked for "precautionary" authority.
The district's first choice always is to borrow within its own funds, she said. A sturdier reserve carry-over from last year also will help.
Savings kept the district from pulling from its undesignated general fund reserves last year, Chapin said. With the latest numbers, the district ended the year with a $5.5 million surplus in that fund.
Still weighing on its financial picture is the unknown of midyear state funding cuts. She said the district would lose $13.2 million if the state pulls the so-called trigger, and the district has set aside that amount in its budget.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339.