Thursday night's South San Francisco Unified School District board meeting was the first one in over a year that trustee Shirlee Hoch attended.
At the meeting, trustees decided to continue to excuse her absences during each meeting, rather than extend the excusal for another six months in one fell swoop.
Hoch was elected to the board in 1990, and began a leave of absence in May 2011 for illness. The board added a six-month extension to her leave earlier this year, and was revisiting the issue last night.
The board’s bylaws do not limit the amount of time a trustee can be excused for illness.
The trustees came to a consensus at the meeting that it was not necessary to excuse absences six months at a time, and that addressing the issue each meeting would allow for Hoch to more freely attend when she could.
"I continued on the board because I wanted to continue serving children," Hoch said. She explained to those present that she suffered several strokes last year and underwent brain surgery.
She attended Thursday's meeting in a wheelchair and continues to do physical therapy to regain movement capability she lost as a result of the strokes. Hoch said that her doctor recommends that attending board meetings is too stressful for her health.
After the meeting, trustees Liza Normandy and Judy Bush said that only once since Hoch's first absence has the board not had a quorum for a full meeting. On a night earlier this year, one trustee was working and another was ill, combined with Hoch's absence, leaving only two trustees to hear presentations.
South San Francisco resident Hector Camacho addressed the board at the end of Thursday's meeting.
"I know Shirlee Hoch and what she's done for the community," he said. "It was an honor to have her to hand me my high school diploma. But there's a missing trustee, and I don't know that the board has a long term plan."
Board members responded to say that the only way to remove a boardmember from his or her seat because of illness would be a recall from South San Francisco residents.
"Even in your diminished capacity, you are capable to serve on the board," trustee Maurice Goodman said to Hoch at the meeting. "We care about you, Shirlee. You and your family have a tough decision to make," he said, referring to whether she would continue to sit on the board.
At the meeting, the board also received updates on Measure J bond projects and discussed at length future plans for improving sports fields in the district.