UPDATE: The Ravenswood school board will hold a special meeting on Thursday, Oct. 29, to discuss whether to hold a special election or make a provisional appointment to replace Stephanie Fitch. The virtual meeting will begin at 5 p.m. on Zoom. To participate, go to https://zoom.us/j/96138238002 or on a phone, dial +1 669 900 9128 with Webinar ID: 961 3823 8002.
Trustee Stephanie Fitch, who was elected in 2018 on a campaign of reform and change, is resigning from the Ravenswood City School District Board of Education.
Fitch announced her resignation at the end of the board's virtual meeting last Thursday, Oct. 22.
"Due to unforeseen family circumstances, I will no longer be a resident of East Palo Alto and thereby be unable to serve on the board," she said. "It has been an absolute honor to work alongside such brilliant, passionate and dedicated people. I appreciate everyone's support and respect for the privacy of my family during this time."
Fitch did not respond to a request for further comment. Her resignation is effective immediately, according to board President Ana Maria Pulido.
Fitch, an English curriculum manager at Redwood City charter school organization Summit Public Schools, grew up in East Palo Alto but attended Palo Alto schools through the Voluntary Transfer Program. She graduated from Palo Alto High School.
Fitch's 2018 campaign focused on communication, data-driven decision making and transparency. She served as vice president during her first year on the board, which saw the forced resignation of former superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff and the interim (and later permanent) appointment of superintendent Gina Sudaria. She also served as the board made difficult budget decisions, including closing two schools, and the district's shift to distance learning during the pandemic shutdown.
Fitch's resignation announcement elicited an emotional outpouring from fellow board members who lauded her for being a dedicated public servant who brought a fresh perspective to the district at a challenging time and helped repair fissures on the board itself. Trustee Sharifa Wilson called her departure a "significant loss."
"You have really helped to bring this board together," Wilson said. "We now have a good reputation out there of working together and focusing on the children."
Trustee Tamara Sobomehin, who was also elected in 2018, said "it's been inspiring … to see someone grow up here, be a child in this community, be a student in the surrounding community and then come back and serve the community. That's why so many people here do the hard work every day. You're a product of that hard work."
Under board bylaw, the board must either order an election or make a provisional appointment to replace Fitch within 60 days. For a provisional appointment, the board must advertise the appointment in local media "to draw from the largest possible number of candidates," board bylaw states. A committee consisting of less than a quorum of the board must ensure that applicants are eligible for board membership and announce the names of the eligible candidates. The board must interview the candidates at a public meeting, take public input and select the provisional appointee by a majority vote.
Pulido said the board is scheduling a special meeting to determine next steps.
Fitch's announcement came less than two weeks before the Nov. 3 election, in which six candidates are running for two open seats on the Ravenswood board. Wilson and Marielena Gaona Mendoza's terms are ending in November. Wilson is not running for reelection while Gaona Mendoza is seeking a second term.