Schools & Education

Election 2018: Hollister School District

Six compete for three seats on school board.
Brande Barrett.jpg
Jan.jpeg
Stephen Kain.jpeg
IMG_0681.jpg
Roxanne.jpg
IMG_9644.JPG

Six candidates are vying for three open seats in the race for the Hollister School District Board of Trustees on Nov. 6. The terms of incumbent trustees Elizabeth Martinez and Robert Bernosky will expire in 2020.

 

Brande Barrett moved to Hollister in April from San Jose, where she works as an art teacher for seventh and eighth grade students at Herman Intermediate in the Oak Grove School District in San Jose. She has also taught third, fourth and fifth grade.

Barrett is an artist who works with pastel, photography and mixed media. She is also a poet, performing at galleries and museums, and plans to publish a book of art and poetry. She also provides professional development at conferences given through San Jose State University and various offices of education in the Bay Area.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for this office?

BARRETT: I believe that a free public education is a crucial component of our democracy. It is the Jeffersonian ideal that “an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” I am committed to advancing education through real reform at the local level by organizing stakeholders and challenging the community to value educators’ authentic informed efforts to reform schools from within and demand funding and support for public education. Our goal should be a free, equitable education for all students, from preschool through career training or university. The infrastructure exists, the need is apparent and we have the funds but lack the will or the vision.

Funding in the State of California once was the highest per pupil, and no surprise, schools ranked No. 1 in the nation. Shortly before I graduated high school, Proposition 13 dealt a devastating blow to California schools. I saw firsthand how programs and opportunities for students disappeared, staff and support dwindled and schools stopped teaching drivers training, putting the costs onto families. California is among the top economies in the world. We can do better to invest in our future, not the failed policies that put priority on policing a war on drugs and filled our prisons over the last two decades. We all know that education is the key to locking up the school-to-prison pipeline.

What issues are most important to your district?

Early intervention and enrichment opportunities are a path to engaging students young and eager to become lifelong learners. I believe adverse conditions affecting students can be overcome through education; one crucial factor for success is someone who cares. Vital after-school scholastic support and enrichment opportunities engage students. All students deserve the best quality 21st-century education possible with the resources at the local level and through community and corporate partnerships to support through collaboration and commitment to every student’s success.  

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

I have experienced the obstacles and challenges in education as an ever-changing demographic placed demands on schools and financial support dwindled. A growing special education population comes with federal mandates and no financial consideration. Increasing numbers of language learners, state standards and testing stretch schools to try to perform, while balancing the needs of students facing the effects of poverty, lack of housing, medical and dental coverage brought on by unemployment. Families struggle to meet demands for technology as a tool to bridge the digital divide and allow equitable access for their child.

What is the role of local government?

As this rural community grows, its roots must be respected while working to meet the increasing demands of growing populations. All stakeholders should be committed to providing a quality 21st-century education for all learners. We must heed the call to all because united we can be the voice of change and be the change we want to see. Advocating for a strong democracy through respecting individual rights while instilling responsibility to others, we will have unity in our community.

 

Jan Grist moved to Hollister in 2002 and was a teacher in the Hollister School District since 1990, before retiring in June. Working primarily at Marguerite Maze Middle School, he was an instructor in language arts, world history and American history, and served in many elected and appointed roles in Hollister Elementary School Teachers Association. He also served as treasurer of his former Homeowners Association for 13 years.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for the Hollister School District?

GRIST: I am running for office for several reasons. The first is I have a special needs grandson and the special education department needs to be improved. I want to help change the climate of the district and improve staff morale, and to lower class sizes.

What issues are most important to the Hollister School District?

One of the largest problems that the district faces is the special education department. HSD must follow the laws of the federal and state government and begin to address the needs of these children. Another problem that the district needs to address is class size. We cannot have class sizes of 32 and 33 students in second grade or 100 students in elementary physical education classes. Lastly, we need to hire a superintendent with local connections. The last four superintendents did not live in our community or have any ties to Hollister. We need to hire a leader who cares about our community.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

I have already mentioned several challenges that face HSD, but there is one that will be difficult to forecast—growth. As we all know, many new homes have been built or are in development. How many of those new homes will either send their children to our local schools or will they have their children go to school near their work? This unknown will make it difficult to plan budgets.

What is the role of local government?

I firmly believe that the role of local government is to be available to your constituents. I will make it a point to meet, call, text and email with any parent, staff member, community member who wants to discuss district business.

 

Stephen Kain has been an educator for 30 years. He has taught history mainly at the middle school level. He was president of Hollister Elementary School Teacher Association and was a lead contract negotiator.

Kain has coached basketball, football, and baseball for both middle school and high school teams. Before starting his career in education, he ran the AAA claims office in Hollister, where he handled budgets.  

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for this office?

KAIN: Having worked for the district I haven’t been happy with what I’ve seen in the last couple of years, especially with what is going on in the schools. I’ve gone back for the last year and a half or so to substitute once or twice a week just to see what’s going on in the schools. When I did, I wasn’t extremely happy with what I saw.

Basically, what I’d like to do if I am elected is ask the people who are in power now some questions I’d like them to answer. And I have, but I don’t want to make those public right now since I’m not positive of what their positions are or where they were coming from when they made those decisions. I’m concerned and that’s why I'm running. I’m concerned because I worked for this district for 28 years and I want the best for the kids in the Hollister School District.

What issues are most important to your district?

The first problem I see, I’m not really happy with the way special ed is being handled right now. Not that I was a special ed teacher, but I had kids who were in special ed that were in my history class over the years, so I’m very familiar with how special ed programs are supposed to be run and I have some questions about the way ours is run right now. I’m concerned with how discipline has been handled at the schools, especially in the last two years. Again those are some of the questions I need to ask the school board before I really come out with my own opinion because I don’t know where they are coming from. I have some serious questions for them.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

Some of the challenges I see is that we have a new school on the agenda. I’m concerned that the school district, at least for the last three years with all the houses that are being built, have projected no increase in student population. I don’t understand that. Zero increase? With all the homes being built, is that  being prepared? I don’t know.

I noticed the class sizes have gone up this year. At the elementary level, anywhere from 32 to 33 kids in a classroom, where there is a memo of understanding in the contract that said class size at the elementary level should be 27-to-1. It’s certainly not.

We have 10 to 12 literacy coaches who are technically teachers in the Hollister School District without kids. They basically—again these are questions I need to ask before I can say more—but they are designed to be literacy coaches teaching new teachers who have already been through the teaching credential program giving them, in my opinion, more of what they already have. Which takes more of their time and when these teachers are out of the classroom guess what’s going to happen to class size? It’s got to go up. And thats what happened.

Supposedly we are getting reimbursed from the state for these coaches but I have some serious questions about how much we are getting reimbursed. Are they reimbursing us for their benefits as well, besides just the salary? How much is the actual cost to the school district, if any? I don’t know until I see the numbers, the paperwork. Those are just some of the examples of questions I have.

What is the role of local government?

I believe the city and the county need to give as much support as possible to education. That’s part of their job. Let’s face it, students right now are our future in San Benito County. We need to give them as much respect and concern as we do anybody else. I would expect their support in that area.

My slogan is students first. My main goal is to create academic atmospheres in all our schools. An academic atmosphere is a place or classroom where learning takes place. Anything that interferes with the acquisition of knowledge or learning, I want to know about it. To me that’s the No. 1 priority. All those kids have an equal right to an academic atmosphere.  

 

Patricia Moore is the current president of the Hollister School District. Moore declined to be interviewed by BenitoLink.

“If [voters] care, they already made a decision in the way it has gone the last six years,” Moore said.

She also cited her candidate statement, which can be found on the Registrars of Voters website.

 

 

Roxanne Stephen has lived in San Benito County for 17 years. She retired in 2017 after more than 30 years in the public sector in the human services field, mostly as a social worker, in the area of child protection.

For the second half of her career, she worked in management and administration, overseeing various various divisions and programs in child protection for Santa Clara County.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for this office?

STEPHEN: I am running for Hollister School Board because now that I am not working outside my home, I have more time to devote to my community. I believe in strongly public service, and I think that with my background in social work, working directly with children and families and running government based programs, I possess the values and skills that can help Hollister's schools better ensure all our children have access to the best education possible.

I also want have a vested interest in our school system, as I have a granddaughter who just started kindergarten and another who will be starting school in four short years. I want to be sure that my granddaughters and all of Hollister's children experience an education is not only a place that is academically rigorous but one that is engaging and offers a well-rounded education. This includes experiences outside the classroom such as exposure to the arts, sports, student government, etc.

What issues are most important to your district?

My greatest concern at present is overcrowded conditions in the classroom and educators’ ability to support such large groups. With the huge growth in Hollister’s general population occurring so quickly, schools have yet to catch up. In the meantime, classrooms are larger, making it more difficult for teachers and other school officials. I look forward to working with parents, educators and other key stakeholders in finding way to overcome the overcrowded conditions and ensure that the workload for teachers is manageable, and with that, ensuring a positive learning environment for children.

Another issue of concern is supporting children with challenging behaviors and/or learning difficulties. Ensuring that these students have what they need to learn is important not only so that they have an opportunity to thrive in school but also so that no student's education is disrupted. Securing resources to support these students is not easy, but I will do whatever I can to support proper training for all educators so they are equipped to work with all children, as well as bringing in specialized staff to help.

School safety is another priority of mine. This includes the safety of individual students and the overall safety of entire school. It's paramount that each school have robust programs and training to prevent and address bullying and children with high risk behaviors. In addition, all schools should have a plan and receive training on dealing with larger school safety issues, such as active shooter, drugs, gang violence, etc.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?  

As mentioned previously, I believe overcrowdedness and problems that come with it are the greatest challenges facing the district currently. This includes not enough classrooms, teaching staff, extra curricular activities etc. Until the districts catch up with the growth in Hollister's population, this will continue to be a challenge.

What is the role of local government?  

The primary role of local government is to ensure its residents’ safety and to provide economic and educational opportunities. This includes being fiscally responsible, prioritizing and planning carefully, and being accountable and transparent to its constituents.

 

Carla Torres-DeLuna was raised in Hollister and attended its elementary schools and San Benito High School. She has over 20 years in social work, including 17 at her current job for Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children’s Services.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for this office?

TORRES-DELUNA: I decided to run for Hollister School District School Board because I believe we need a fresh perspective and new ideas. I was raised in Hollister and attended schools in Hollister through High School. I know what it’s like to work hard and was lucky enough to have good teachers and mentors along the way. I want to give back to the community and impact and make positive changes.

What issues are most important to your district?

Our city and district are growing and we need to make sure that we are investing in our children so that all can meet their full potential. We also need to invest in our teachers as they work hard everyday for our children.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

I would like to see how the Board of Supervisors and the City Council along with Hollister School District work together to invest in our children during school hours and after school. I have some ideas, if elected, to provide more resources for children and families. I also believe in equity of services and resources to all.

What is the role of local government?

I believe that elected officials should be informed, speak to the community about their needs and make decisions that will impact the community in a positive way.  

 

Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.