The San Juan Unified School District is challenging by any measure. It sprawls over 75 square miles, from the Arden Fair mall to Folsom Lake.
It has the best of schools; it has the worst of schools. Demographics and recession have created pockets of need and risk in even traditionally affluent quarters. Yet the state’s new school funding formula will slash millions next year from the budget, even as the district struggles to serve some 49,000 students while battling declining enrollment.
These challenges were being addressed last year when the district lost its superintendent amid multimillion-dollar claims that his harsh management style had created a hostile workplace.
By the time a $3.4 million legal settlement and a new superintendent settled the matter, the district was scarred and distracted. Now, though, voters will have a chance to reboot, refocus and get back to the business of educating kids.
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With the retirement of veteran trustee Larry Masuoka, the five-member board has two openings. Five candidates are on the ballot, including an incumbent.
All are smart and dedicated. We believe challenger Michael McKibbin and incumbent Greg Paulo bring the strong educational background and continuity the district needs.
McKibbin is a district parent and a former head of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. He has put in long hours on district site councils and curriculum committees, and he has wide-ranging support.
As a resident of Orangevale, he would bring geographic diversity to the board, whose other members are more concentrated in suburban Carmichael and Fair Oaks. But most importantly, his deep education background will be crucial for the implementation of new statewide Common Core standards and the replacement of nearly 1,000 teachers who are nearing retirement.
Retired teacher Paulo has served two terms on the board, and he knows the district. He also knows where the board was heading before it was tripped up by the superintendent mess.
This matters because the new superintendent is young and only one of the other three incumbent trustees has served for more than two years.
Paulo helped land the bond measure that is now helping the district refresh its aging infrastructure, and though he was too late to prevent legal action, he did recognize the complaints about the former superintendent as a looming personnel disaster, and tried to help.
Legislative advisor Paula Marie Villescaz is such a dynamo that we wish there were three slots. She has made herself indispensable on district committees and would bring much-needed diversity as the product of one of the district’s working-class families. But she is 25, and though she has dealt with educational issues in the Assembly, a few more years can only improve her résumé for next time.
District parent and communications executive Michael Alcalay innately understands the need for better marketing to stave off declining enrollment; so does real estate agent and former teacher Michael Miller. Both have kids in the district, pragmatic ideas and strong records of community service. We hope that they, too, show up on the ballot next time.