San Juan Unified has come a long way after dramatic enrollment decline and financial difficulties. Since 2005, the district wisely built up a significant reserve as the economic downturn hit and negotiated conservative contracts with its unions. Enrollment has stabilized.
This district has had a stable board, a strong partnership with labor groups and community buy-in. Three seats are up on this five-member board, with incumbents Larry Miles and Dick Launey retiring. Lucinda Luttgen, who was elected with Miles and Launey in 2004, is the lone incumbent in the race.
This race has drawn three strong challengers Saul Hernandez, Pam Costa and Mike McKibbin who all deserve to be elected.
Luttgen, who has served eight years on the board and taught in the district 1967-2004, has done her duty for the district supporting the superintendent, developing a strategic plan and keeping budgets in line. But voters should give the talented new trio a chance to build a new era for San Juan Unified.
Saul Hernandez, well known as the Del Campo High School Boosters Club president, has been an active parent, serving on several committees finance, transportation and facilities; school closure; bond oversight. As owner of a small insurance agency, Hernandez would bring valuable business background to the board. He's a big supporter of extracurricular activities "as vital to students as math and science," he believes, and a way to boost parental involvement.
Pam Costa, a recently retired administrator, like Luttgen has spent her whole career in San Juan Unified as a teacher, principal and director of programs. She knows the schools intimately, including the district's most struggling schools on the west side, a big plus. She understands the importance of principals to school performance and has been involved in collective bargaining and school budgets.
Mike McKibbin, parent of a ninth-grader and a former well-respected head of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, has been involved in San Juan Unified site councils, as well as the districtwide curriculum and standards committee and steering team. He has worked on staff development in 26 states. He brings a districtwide, statewide and national perspective to issues. In addition, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in India and taught for years in tough schools. He brings a passion for drawing out the potential of the most struggling students.
Mark Lennon is on the ballot, and would be a strong candidate, but he is not campaigning. John Hawes is well-meaning, but sees running for office as something to check off on his bucket list of things to do in his lifetime.
Voters should give Hernandez, Costa and McKibbin four years to show what they can do.