Four candidates vying for a seat on the Board of Trustees for the San Juan Bautista/Aromas School District spoke at the Aromas Grange Hall on Oct. 9.
MaryEllen Dick of the League of Women Voters served as moderator for the panel. The district’s schools include Aromas (K-8), San Juan School (K-8) and Anzar High School.
Three seats are vacant for a four-year term, with incumbents Jennifer Colby and Monica Martinez-Guaracha seeking a second term, and Drew McAlister and Shary Greene as contenders.
Each panelist was allowed a two-minute opening statement and then took questions from the audience.
Colby, a California State University, Monterey Bay professor who trains teachers, said the school district has been moving forward, and the schools have a solid teaching staff. The finances were in the black, she stated, but she wants to see more accountability at the county level.
“Their decisions affects the smaller districts,” she said, also noting that she looks forward to the district implementing an after-school program.
McAlister, who said he has worked with school districts across the state, said that has allowed him to observe some outstanding accomplishments. The Aromas/San Juan District, he said, must get its financial house in order, and he said that as a board member, he would reach out and listen to the community, fellow trustees, teachers, and administrators to help unify the vision for students and the community.
Martinez-Guaracha said her experience lends itself another term as a board member. She said she is a community volunteer, a parent activist and has been involved with decision making while on the board. Other experience she would take to the board if re-elected were her years as a tax preparer.
“I can read budgets and have spent time working with the IRS,” said the current Aromas Library branch manager.
Greene, a resident of Aromas for 26 years, has served on numerous school committees, such as an oversight committee and a school site committee. She said that she has been active in various fund-raising drives, and has an accounting background.
“I would like to see improvements for children,” she noted as her main reason for pursuing a seat on the board.
On an audience question regarding dual language immersion, McAlister said he saw the value in it, and has seen studies that show the advantages, but at the same time, he wanted to learn how it is working.
Martinez-Guaracha said she has experienced her two children in dual immersion and has seen the program in its ups and downs, and questioned if there is enough budget to accommodate it.
Greene said she is in favor of dual immersion, and that she, too, would like to learn more about the program.
Colby said she has two daughters who were in a bilingual program in which consultants were utilized.
“It has to do with parent choice,” Colby said regarding dual immersion or bilingual classes.
Another question from the audience asked for whom should the school board should advocate.
“Our job as a trustee is to present a clear, transparent business to the community and to make sure parents feel they’re part of the school district,” said Martinez-Guaracha.
Greene answered that more unity is needed, noting, “We’re divided between three schools, and the board needs to bring them together.”
Colby answered by saying, “We have to support staff, administration and uphold the laws of the State of California. It’s complicated and we need to look at the specifics of the community and get the public to talk about what they want.”
McAlister stated that it’s critical for the school district to develop strategies. We need a vision for what we want the board to achieve and to keep that vision on track.
In the summary portion of the gathering, Colby said she has the qualifications to be elected to another term because of her experience as a professional development professor. “I’m aware of what’s going on in education,” she said.
McAlister summed up his bid for election by noting his 20 years of working with school districts in Northern California.
“It’s not just the kids, but the decisions of the board impacts the community, as well. That’s why I’m here,” he said.
Martinez-Guaracha said she has reached out to other board of directors in other school districts, to help the board on which she has served for four years.
“I’ve been networking and want to continue to reach out to groups,” including the dual immersion program in Seaside, she said.
Greene noted that her children are in the school district and said, “I’m familiar with the board.” She has served for nine years on the Home and School Committee and was the personal secretary for the site council. She has contact with friends on other district boards, as well, she said.