Candidates vying for Hayward’s school board agreed at a forum last week that more effective leadership is needed to address the many problems facing the district, which has struggled through years of budget cuts to provide an education to more than 20,000 students.
Six candidates will challenge incumbent Luis Reynoso this November for three open seats on the Hayward Unified School District (HUSD) board of trustees. Reynoso’s current term will expire this year.
Two other seats were vacated after current board members Jesus Armas and Maribel Heredia declined to seek reelection after an alleged affair between the two was exposed by the East Bay Citizen late July.
Hosted by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs association (APAPA), the forum at Skywest Golf Course Restaurant on Wednesday 19 was attended by Annette Walker, John Taylor, Heather Reyes, Sara Lamnin, Peter Bufete and Luis Reynoso. Candidate Wandra Williams was not in attendance.
Moderator Hal Gin, a Chabot Las Positas Community College District trustee, said bickering among trustees on the Hayward school board has “seriously jeopardized” its “credibility, effectiveness and trust within the community.”
Gin asked the candidates how they would regain the public’s trust. Most candidates avoided publicly addressing the alleged affair between Armas and Heredia, instead focusing on the need for cooperation, teamwork and mutual respect between board members.
Reynoso, a fiscal conservative who describes himself as “battle tested,” said “the problem is not with the bickering, the problem is we have fraud and corruption of votes,” alluding to the alleged affair. Reynoso was the only candidate to publicly mention the affair.
“And if you’re so naive to think the board has to smile and rubber stamp everything then you shouldn’t be running for the school board,” said Reynoso. While there is compelling evidence showing an inappropriate relationship between two members of the board, there is currently no evidence that Armas and Heredia colluded their votes in violation of the law.
Annette Walker, college admissions specialist at CSU East Bay with 20 years of teaching experience, highlighted her doctorate in educational leadership as a positive and told the audience she would bring strong leadership focusing on creating a culture of excellence and high expectations. At other points in the night, Walker highlighted the need for better leadership.
“We don’t have a governing board,” Walker told The Pioneer after the debate. “We have individuals who are attacking each other, lack of civility, there’s no teamsmanship.”
John Taylor, a Hayward forensics science and criminal justice teacher with the number one classroom of its type in the country, commented on the alleged affair after the debate.
“We have to put the kids first, no matter what they’re doing in their personal life outside the board,” said Taylor. “It’s up to the community and the parents and it’s up to the board. They have to do that. They have to come forward and say this is unethical and we’re not gonna stand for it.”
Heather Reyes, a member of HUSD Financial Integrity Transparency Advisory Group with two children in HUSD, was visibly nervous throughout the night, said she would work to understand and work with fellow board members.
Sara Lamnin, a Democratic Planning Commissioner for Hayward and former member of Hayward Citizen’s Advisory Commission, highlighted her experience building trust between people as a community organizer.
Peter Bufete, a 22 year old Political Science graduate from the University of Santa Barbera who attended kindergarden through high school in the HUSD, said he had already reached out to candidates and current board members and in an effort to bring “team building and diplomacy” if he is elected. Bufete declined to comment on the alleged affair after the debate.
Gin asked the candidates what their guiding principles would be if they were forced to make difficult choices during budget cuts. This scenario could become a reality next year if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase, proposition 30, is not passed.
Bufete, Taylor, Reyes and Lamnin highlighted the need to prioritize spending in favor of the children.
Reynoso explained voters should elect a majority coalition on the board this November to increase effectiveness and reduce financial waste.
“From my best estimates we waste anywhere from $2 to 4 million a year by having the board make poor choices with finances,” said Reynoso.
Walker said it was important to “prioritize how we spend the money we do have,” and talked about instilling a “program review” to make sure all money is utilized effectively.
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, September 27th, 2012 at 5:34 pm.