Arlington school trustees have appointed Justin Chapa to fill the seat of Jamie Sullins, who tendered her formal resignation from the board earlier in the public meeting on Thursday.
The board’s decision came in the early hours of Friday morning, after a lengthy closed session that began Thursday night.
Chapa will serve until the May 2018 local election. Sullins’ term expires in 2019. She was re-elected in May 2016. She is relocating to Austin with her family.
Trustees had the option of filling the seat via special election, but they said in a district statement that calling an election in November would be expensive and would leave potential candidates only 12 working days to file for a November election, due to state election laws.
Chapa was valedictorian of his Sam Houston High School graduating class, and attended Crow and Atherton elementaries and Hutcheson Junior High.
He is an attorney in the Dallas office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. He has a bachelor’s in government from Harvard University, a master’s in education from Stanford University and a juris doctorate from Stanford Law School. He is an attorney in the Dallas office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Chapa formerly taught government and economics in Brownsville schools and later in East Palo Alto, Ca.
Earlier in the meeting, Alisa Simmons, president of Arlington’s NAACP chapter, spoke on the issue, saying “The lack of diversity on the board is evident” and does not reflect the diversity of the district itself.
“Our position is that a special election should be held,” she said before the board went into closed session. “You may appoint a replacement, but the citizens of Arlington should be a part of the process.”
“Justin is a dedicated servant with exceptional experience that will benefit the district and our students,” said board president Aaron Reich in a district statement.
Chapa is married to Anna, also a Sam Houston graduate, and they have three children, two of which attend Corey Fine Arts and Dual Language Academy. He has been active in PTA and served as the first chair of the Corey PTA Dads Club. Chapa has also served the district on the Financial Futures Committee, the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee and the Capital Needs Steering Committee. He is in his second term on the AISD Education Foundation board.
Aside from service directly related to the district, Chapa currently sits on the board of directors for United Way of Tarrant County and previously served on the board of directors of the Arlington Public Library Foundation and of Leadership Arlington, where he helped direct the Youth Leadership Arlington program for three years.
Sullins publicly announced her upcoming departure during a previous board meeting.
She addressed a rumor circulating that she ran for re-election in May 2016 with the knowledge that her husband would be taking a job in Austin, and to allow the trustees to appoint someone of their liking to the seat for a big portion of the term, which expires in 2019. Chapa was appointed to hold the seat until May 2018.
“Not true,” Sullins told the Star-Telegram on Thursday afternoon. “I’m disappointed to hear that rumor is going around. My husband worked with Luminant, and for those who follow the power industry, there was bankruptcy.
“My heart will always be in Arlington so keep the lights on, and I’ll be back,” she said.