Several signs point to an impending resignation of Humble ISD Trustee Position 6, currently held by Heath Rushing, who officially left the CEO job at Memorial Hermann Northeast on Feb. 6 and took responsibility as CEO of Memorial Hermann Cypress and Memorial Hermann Katy hospitals.
The Rushings’ Kingwood home was officially listed for sale in MLS on Feb. 21, four days after Feb. 17, the last date for candidates to file for the upcoming trustee election. They received an offer on the same day, Feb. 21, with the offer finally negotiated and accepted on March 3. Contrary to rumors on social media, Sara Rushing stated that she has not resigned her volunteer position as Deerwood Elementary PTA president and will finish out her 2016-2017 term.
Texas election code states that a candidate must reside in the district they represent. There was no mention of a board vacancy at the most recent March 21 school board meeting. The Tribune first ran this story on March 3, with a follow-up on March 13; both articles discussed scenarios for filling a vacant board seat.
The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) and the Texas Election Code dictate what happens in cases of school board vacancies. Sam Taylor, Texas Secretary of State Communications Director, and Barbara Williams, TASB Communications Director, were both consulted regarding possible vacancy scenarios, and stated that the board has three options: elect, appoint, or leave vacant.
Using a hypothetical Position 6 resignation as an example, here is a timeline of important dates:
Jan. 18-Feb. 17: This was the candidate filing period for the May 6 regular election. Since Rushing resigned on Feb. 6 from his current job, he could have submitted a resignation during this period, early enough for his seat to be included on the May 6 ballot. This would have created a situation in which five of the seven board seats would be up for re-election.
March 21: One option the board has is to call a special election if Position 6 were vacated. In Texas, special elections can only be held on the uniform election days in May and November. A second opportunity to have Position 6 on the May 6 ballot would have required a resignation and a board-ordered special election by March 21. Coincidentally, March 21 was also the date of the last public school board meeting. Per the Texas Open Meetings Act, the board can accept a resignation in writing and meet in closed session to discuss the vacancy. The vote regarding how to fill the vacancy must be in an open session, such as the March 21 meeting.
Sept. 8 and 26: There is a scenario in which an open Position 6 could be included on the Nov. 7 ballot, the next uniform election date in Texas. The next regular trustee election is in 2019 when Rushing, Morrison and Lapeze’s seats are up for re-election, therefore Nov. 7 would be considered a special election date, and there would be a candidate filing period just like in May. Depending on the date the board orders the special election, the last day for candidates to file for Position 6 would be either Sept. 8 or Sept. 26, according to Taylor. Prior to these September dates, there would have to be sufficient time for a resignation and for the board to officially order the November special election.
The second scenario allows the board to outright appoint someone if Position 6 were to become vacant. An appointee would serve out the term until the 2019 regular election date.
The final option is that the board can leave the seat vacant for six months since more than a year remains on the term. The start date for the six month vacancy of course depends on the resignation date. For example, if Rushing were to resign effective June 1, the six month period would extend past Nov. 7, thereby negating the opportunity to put Position 6 on that ballot. The only remaining choice would then be an appointee to serve out the term until 2019.
Historically over the last 20 years, Humble ISD has had several board vacancies that have been filled in various ways.
1997: Scott Spradlin resigned and the board appointed Dr. Aaron B. Clevenson to fill the seat.
2003: Bob Strader resigned and the board appointed Dr. J. Alford Moore.
2007: James D. Eggers passed away during his term, and the seat was left vacant until the regular election on May 10, 2008. Brent Engelage was elected.
2010: Dan Huberty vacated his board seat because he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. The board appointed Lynn Fields to fill the vacancy.
2012: Dave Martin vacated his seat after being elected to Houston City Council. The board left the seat vacant until the regular election on May 11, 2013. Heath Rushing was elected.
On a related note, the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) was also asked about rules governing both at-large districts and single-member districts. The request was prompted by comments on social media regarding dissatisfaction that the majority of the current board members live in one area of the district. Humble ISD is an at-large district, meaning that each trustee is elected to represent the entire school district. By contrast, a single-member district is one in which the district is subdivided into regions, and a trustee is elected from and must reside in that region (e.g. Atasocita, Kingwood, Humble, Fall Creek, etc.)
According to TASB Director of Legal Services, Joy Baskin, all Texas ISDs used to be at-large, but larger cities are transitioning to single-member districts as positions become open, to provide voters with strong geographic and constituency representation. Drawbacks of the approach are difficulty creating boundaries to clearly represent neighborhoods and frequent redrawing of those boundaries as the district grows. Baskin says the decision to switch to single-member status is made entirely at the discretion of the school board, but the decision cannot be reversed, so once a district goes to single-member status, it must remain that way.