Five candidates are running for Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District board. There are two spots, being vacated by current board members Eileen Preston and Christine Burtness.
Every candidate has a personal connection to the district, whether by having kids in it or attending it themselves.
Here’s who’s on the ballot:
JOSÉ JUAN IBARRA
Longtime Los Olivos resident José Juan Ibarra moved to the valley after immigrating from Mexico when he was 12. His immediate and extended family call the Santa Ynez Valley — and its schools — home.
He has a 28-year career in education and currently serves as the dean of students and athletic director at Midland School, a private Santa Ynez high school.
“I am committed to disrupting the narrative of inequity in classrooms and holding the SYV community accountable to prioritize the socioemotional wellness of all students,” he said in his candidate statement.
If elected, he will aim to make the classroom environment more welcoming to provide an equitable experience.
“I have seen some students thrive, and I have also seen others fall through the cracks. It is for this reason that I am running for the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District School Board,” he said on his website, ibarraforschoolboard.com.
He is endorsed by the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School Faculty Association; U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, among others.
Stephen Luke is a substitute teacher and a local business owner. But his main connection to the district is as a parent of two children that attend Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.
He lists ambitions in his candidate statement. He’d like to implement a strict cell-phone policy in classrooms, hire teachers under stricter standards, expand course offerings, start a student exchange program, establish an online platform for parents and more.
“I am aware of the changes needed to do a better job of putting our children in a position to succeed in life,” he said in his candidate statement. “Regardless of which path they take, they all need to graduate and have more open doors available to them in their future.”
Janine Robitaille-Filippin is a mom of four alumni of the district. She is on the board of the Sports Outreach Institute, an international ministry program.
Her main platform point is drug prevention. After a friend’s young son died after an accidental overdose last year, she was disappointed in the district’s response, she said on her Facebook page.
“It’s evident we have a drug and alcohol problem in our high school and we are currently failing,” she said in a post.
She also wants to better support marginalized students and increase financial accountability in the district.
“At the heart of my desire to run for School Board is the belief that we must set an example and meet the standards we set for our kids/students,” she said in a Facebook post.
A daughter of immigrants from El Salvador and Mexico, Lucy Padilla was born in Santa Ynez Valley and graduated from Santa Ynez Valley Union High School. Her experiences motivate her to run for the board of the one-school district.
“Coming from a diverse background and language barrier, I understand the struggles of not only the students but also the parents of our students,” she told the News-Press in an email. “Although we may think our students all have the same opportunities, that is not always the truth.”
Her parents didn’t have the means to send her and her siblings to college, so she wants the school district to better support students to go onto college, the military or the workforce.
She is raising three sons in the district, and the oldest graduated in 2019.
Dr. Peter Wright, a Santa Ynez Valley Union High School alumnus, has held various roles in education and currently teaches in the School of Management at the University of San Francisco. He’s worked with school boards across California, consulting on best practices.
He lists two goals on his website: Prioritize academic excellence and improve the school environment by listening to the community.
“Rigorous academic work that is explicitly connected to future career possibilities will always be at the core of a thriving school district,” he says on his website, peterforsyv.com. “Combining that rigor with social-emotional support and health services will ensure that students feel welcome on campus and empowered to reach their full potential.”