The Lompoc Unified School District board of education opened Tuesday night’s meeting by paying respect to late board member Richard King, and then the four remaining members closed out the session by setting some parameters for the method they will use to fill King’s vacant seat.

The meeting was the first of 2018 for the board, as well as the first since King’s Dec. 18 death that was brought on by cancer. In addition to looking both back and forward on King’s impact, the board also formally decided to adopt a new district-based election process and gave unanimous approval for Lompoc High School to rename one of its athletic facilities after one of the school’s longtime trainers.

It didn’t take long for the board to recognize and remember King, who had missed several meetings late last year due to medical reasons. Shortly after calling the meeting to order, Board President Steve Straight asked everyone to take part in a moment of silence in memory of King, who was initially elected to the board in November 2016.

Not long after that, LUSD Superintendent Trevor McDonald offered his thoughts on King, whom he referred to as “a quiet man who cared deeply about our schools.”

“He was a really good man,” McDonald said of King. “His heart was in it for kids and, if any of you had an opportunity to talk to him, he really advocated for what was best for all kids. So I think it’s a good lesson for us to live by and it’s a good lesson for us as we move forward.”

In the final discussion before closing out the meeting, the board indicated that it was in favor of appointing a person to fill King’s seat up until this year’s November election. Though no formal vote was taken, the four members gave direction to district staff to advertise the vacant seat in an effort to find a candidate, or candidates, who would then be vetted in open session during a future meeting.

Another option that was available to the board, according to state education code, was to hold a special election. LUSD officials did not give an estimated cost for such an election, but staff members indicated that moving in that direction could be significantly more costly than an appointment.

Although King had three years remaining on his four-year term, the board is not able to appoint someone to fill out the remainder of the term, district leaders said Tuesday.

The board will decide at a later date what exact process it will utilize to whittle down any potential candidates and/or break any 2-2 ties that may arise during votes on potential appointments.

In separate action that will have a great impact on how future board members are selected, the board decided to move forward with a transition to district-based, or “by-trustee area,” elections.

The move has been made over the past couple years in about 70 cities and more than 150 school districts around the state in an effort to comply with the California Voting Rights Act. Lompoc, which made the transition last year, is among those municipalities.

Many of the jurisdictions who have made the change, or are in the process of making the transition, were spurred into action by threatened litigation. LUSD had reportedly not received any threats of a lawsuit, but district staff recommended the move so as to avoid any future litigation, which could cost the district more than $1 million to fight in court.

With a 4-0 vote, the board decided to adopt the new election process for the 2022 general election. It was too late for the change to go into effect for this year’s election, according to district staff, which noted that by waiting until 2022 the district will be able to utilize the 2020 census in its district mapping. If the board attempted to make the change ahead of the 2020 election, according to staff, then the district would have to utilize the 2010 census and may have to reconfigure districts shortly after the 2020 election.

The board seemed to be unanimous in a desire to apply the same district maps that are adopted by the Lompoc City Council.

In other action Tuesday, the board voted 4-0 to approve a request by Lompoc High Principal Paul Bommersbach to rename the school’s training room after Tom Blanco, who has worked as a trainer at the school for 36 years and as a PE teacher for 31 years.

The new on-campus facility will be called the Tom Blanco Sports Medicine Center. Blanco, according to district staff, was the first certified athletic trainer on the Central Coast and introduced the sports medicine curriculum at Lompoc High.

Blanco has also served as a trainer at numerous Olympic trials, according to staff, as well as at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Blanco was not at Tuesday’s meeting, but during the board member request period at the end of the meeting, member Dick Barrett suggested that the board hold a reception to honor Blanco at a future meeting.

The board also voted 4-0 on Tuesday to approve a request for allowance of attendance because of emergency conditions. The request was in response to the Thomas fire, which caused poor air quality in Lompoc last month and ultimately led to the district canceling the final week of the fall semester.

If the request is approved by the state, the district would not suffer any negative impacts from losing those five days of instruction, which would also not need to be made up.

The next regular meeting of the LUSD board of education is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 23.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.