Education / Schools

Election 2020: San Benito County Office of Education District 1

Three candidates compete for single seat on Nov. 3.

Watch candidates for SBC Office of Education District 1 answer questions from the BenitoLink 2020 Virtual Election Forum.

Three candidates are running on Nov. 3 to represent San Benito County Office of Education’s District 1: incumbent Mary Anne Filice, and challengers Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez and Shawn Herrera.

Mary Anne Filice has held the District 1 seat for six consecutive terms. Her tenure on the board has gone uncontested until this year.

She has lived in Hollister all her life and describes herself as “indigenous to San Benito County.” Born in Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, she spent summers in her youth cutting apricots, picking walnuts in the fall and working at the Hollister cannery while in high school.

She began her career as a teacher after receiving her elementary teaching credential from San Jose State University, and taught at North County schools for 20 years. This hands-on experience gave her what she said is “an appreciation for students, insight into effective teaching techniques and most importantly experiences you only get by investing time and energy into each individual student.”

Filice actively owns an independent realty office. Married to her husband for 47 years before his death in 2010, she is also a mother of two adult children—one who has worked in schools and another who’s been a teacher for over 20 years. She participated in Hollister Recreation softball until the age of 62, when she officially hung up her glove. Still an avid sports fan, Filice said she enjoys being a spectator and cheering on her favorite teams. 

BENITOLINK: Why are you running to represent District 1?

FILICE: I can contribute the lessons I learned during my years in the classroom and on the county board. 

What issues are most important to your district?

All the school districts are experiencing financial hardships. The task of meeting students’ needs related to distance learning are also universal issues. What do I do and how do I do it? How do we guarantee that students have the necessary tools to meet the challenges of learning when you don’t have access to computers for everyone? How about meals? Who has been exposed to the coronavirus and do we have access to the necessities for living in these trying times? There are many more issues each minute, hour and day for the entire community.

Are there issues you feel are important to your district that the public may not know about?

I believe the district is always finding new issues while attempting to resolve others that are overwhelming. I do know that there are a lot of dedicated people working to resolve the needs of our community.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

Back to financing, always issues! We need to address facilities, personnel, supplies, equipment and student services as soon as they become issues.

How do you plan to address those issues?

Cooperation and communication are the best techniques. 

How do you intend to communicate and stay in touch with the constituents you’d represent?

I have the benefit of knowing many of the people in our community. The county board has monthly meetings open to the public. A simple phone call will usually get my attention also. As the saying goes, “I am only a phone call away.”

 

Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez described her life in politics as advocacy for the community in education, health, immigration at the state and federal levels. This is her first time running for an elected position.

She has lived all her life in Hollister and even though she left to explore opportunities and attend college, she came back after four years and has always considered Hollister her home. She works for a nonprofit that she said “empowers the community to ensure human dignity.” She is involved in several community efforts as a volunteer for food drives, on scholarship committees, as well as assisting families who are facing challenges from COVID-19.

She currently serves as the director of a disaster relief program. When she has time to spare, she enjoys camping, hiking, fishing, home decor, and reading.

Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez is one of three candidates seeking to fill the District 1 seat. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez.
Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez is one of three candidates seeking to fill the District 1 seat. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez.

BENITOLINK: What issues are most important to your district?

ZEPEDA GONZALEZ: Safety during pandemic, education, resources, and digital divide among others.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

COVID-19, fires, access to education, access to resources are only a few of the challenges that our community faces. 

How do you plan to address those issues?

First and foremost, I believe that our solutions must be based on science and data provided by experts in their field. According to the Pan American Health Organization, COVID-19 has infected some 570,000 health workers and killed 2,500 in the Americas. California has taken much necessary social distancing measures dealing with our COVID-19 pandemic as a health precaution. Many of our students are not physically attending schools at this time, which I support.

In my opinion, criteria that should be used for evaluating whether to re-open schools should include:

  1. Taking into account safety, including the level of community transmission.
  2. Establishing a system that implements clear guidance for all schools to comprehend and follow a straightforward plan guided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health organizations, and experts.
  3. Providing students, staff and parents with necessary tools to continue education and succeed.

How do you intend to communicate and stay in touch with the constituents you’d represent?

 Communication with constituents is essential. Via email and cellphone. 

 

Shawn Herrera has lived in San Benito county for two-and-a-half years. An entrepreneur and multi-business owner, he points to leadership roles in corporate, academic and philanthropic arenas as qualifying experience for his political aspirations, combined with what he said is “simply a desire to help and inspire the children and families I represent. In short, all children need mentors and examples of the life options they will encounter.”

This is his first time entering a political race for what he refers to as a “community position.” His hobbies include music, automobiles, motorcycles, athletics, science and technology, and spending time with his dogs.

Shawn Herrera is one of three candidates running to represent SBCOE District 1. Photo courtesy of Shawn Herrera.
Shawn Herrera is one of three candidates running to represent SBCOE District 1. Photo courtesy of Shawn Herrera.

BENITOLINK Why are you running to represent District 1?

HERRERA: As a dedicated education philanthropist, I have always felt the need to promote excellence in education. Moreover, with my experience as a board member of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley and graduate of their leadership academy, as well as director of the Shawn P. Herrera Foundation, I felt it time to extend my abilities and experience to my community.

What issues are most important to your district?

As with all communities, assuring all children receive the best education and guidance is paramount.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

As I gain a better understanding of District 1’s challenges, I look forward to being part of the force that addresses and overcomes those challenges.

How do you plan to address those issues?

With years of business know-how and a problem-solving mindset, I will help address the challenges put forth to the board with team spirit and dedication.

How do you intend to communicate and stay in touch with the constituents you’d represent?

Communication is critical in maintaining all relations. From the input of my constituents on how they best communicate, I will accommodate.

 

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Patty Lopez Day

Patty Lopez Day,  has been a reporter for Benitolink since August of 2019.  A journalist and writer by trade she's had work published in print and online media throughout the Bay Area most notably La Oferta, the longest running Bi-lingual, Latino owned media outlet based in San Jose California where she started her journalism career after  graduating from UC Santa Barbara in 2005.  Born and raised in San Jose, she is now a transplant to Hollister establishing roots alongside her husband and 2 school aged children in San Benito County. Lopez Day covers mostly education, local news and  features for Benitolink and remains open to new story ideas, sources and tips on any subject matter of interest to the community at large.