Trustees in Elk Grove Unified, the area’s largest school district, appointed planning commissioner Nancy Chaires Espinoza to fill a vacancy on the school board.
Chaires Espinoza, 35, was chosen out of a field of 12 applicants. She will fill out the term of Steve Ly, who defeated her in a competitive Elk Grove City Council race last fall.
Among the other applicants were former councilwoman Sophia Scherman and Jacob Rambo, a former Elk Grove Unified trustee who was appointed to the Area 6 seat in 2012 but lost to Ly later that year.
Chaires Espinoza has served since 2008 on the Elk Grove Planning Commission and is currently chairwoman. She has a bachelor’s degree from Whittier College and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University.
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She said her priorities include early childhood education and the long-term fiscal stability of the school district. She said the achievement gap – the difference between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers – is evident as early as age 3 and that improving early education could change that.
“I’ve been involved in education throughout my entire career,” she said. “It’s been my passion since Day One.”
She said during her interview Monday that there had been “turnover and division on this board, and I’d like to be a force for stability.”
Board members spent three hours quizzing potential appointees about their commitment to the district, how they would contribute to a cohesive school board and their knowledge of school finance before opening the meeting to public comment.
Board President Bobbie Singh-Allen said trustees wanted to make the process as transparent as possible and that board members weighed public comments during their deliberations.
Elk Grove Unified serves more than 62,000 students and is the fifth-largest district in the state, according to state data. It stretches from areas south of Elk Grove to eastern Sacramento County communities such as Rancho Murieta and Sloughhouse.
The Area 6 seat is in the southwest region of the district, mostly west of Highway 99. It is bounded roughly by Elk Grove Boulevard on the north and extends just beyond Twin Cities Road to the south. The seat will next be up for election in November 2016.
Board members opted to use the appointment process to fill the remainder of Ly’s term rather than hold a special election that could have cost between $731,000 and $1 million. In Elk Grove Unified, candidates run for office to represent a specific area but are elected by voters across the entire district.
Editor’s note (Jan. 27): This story has been corrected to state that Rambo was appointed in 2012, not 2010.