Nov. 3 board race brings diversity of candidates
This is part of a News-Press series on local candidates in the Nov. 3 election.
Two spots are open on the board of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.
Incumbents Amy Lopez and Dr. Jack Garvin are joined by four challengers: David Baskett, Angie Marie Bolden, Jennifer Melena and Gabriel Morales.
Mr. Baskett is a businessman in the airline industry and the Division Five director of the Santa Maria Public Airport District. He is running for re-election in that role Nov. 3 as well.
Mr. Baskett is endorsed by the Santa Barbara County Republican Party.
“I believe it’s very important that the most critical thing facing Santa Maria and much of our culture is that we standardize in teaching of language skills, and that should be English,” he said in a candidate forum led by the Future Leaders of America and the League of Women Voters of Santa Maria Valley. “It’s not going to be popular, but I believe for the best future of the kids, we should focus on English.”
He also noted in the forum that he is not a supporter of Proposition 15, saying it would tax businesses who already pay plenty of money.
“I’m for more money in the classroom and for the teachers, but I’m against Proposition 15,” Mr. Baskett said.
ANGIE MARIE BOLDEN
Ms. Bolden is running with a focus on education equity. This is her first time running for any office.
“I have been an advocate for students since 1992,” she said in the FLA candidate forum. “My passion is working with youth.”
She often attends school board meetings and said she is at each school approximately two times a week.
“Whatever the students need, that’s where I am,” Ms. Bolden said.
She values ethnic and gender studies programs.
“We need to teach our kids about one another’s cultures and let them learn about their culture,” she said.
Ms. Bolden is endorsed by the Democratic Club of Santa Maria Valley.
Ms. Lopez is currently the president of the board, a role she was appointed to after a member retired. Then voters reinstated her in 2016.
She was born and raised in Santa Maria and was a first-generation college student.
“I am a public student by profession and by heart,” Ms. Lopez said.
She began her work in the district in 1999, assisting Santa Maria High School students who are pregnant or are parents.
Ms. Lopez is an advocate for ethnic and gender studies programs and recently helped make a board plan to make those studies a requirement within the next five years.
She also hopes to better equip students to attend college and increase test scores in courses required for college entrance.
Dr. Garvin has been serving on the board since 2004 after a 41-year career in public education. For 19 of those years, he served as superintendent of the Orcutt Union School District.
“We need to have continuity now as never before,” he said, arguing for the success of the current board.
On his Facebook page, he expressed support for re-election alongside Amy Lopez.
“I’m running again to support the idea of REACH, which was Michelle Obama’s focus in the White House, preparing youngsters for a college education or a two-year degree from a community college or technical school,” he said in his opening statement at the candidate forum.
He recently posted photos of new career technical education facilities on his Facebook page saying, “I believe an interest will be awakened in many of our students, an interest in some form of technical education that was unknown until they experienced a class in either Culinary Arts, Animal Husbandry, Diesel Mechanics or Viniculture, just to name a few.”
Dr. Melena grew up in Santa Maria, and after receiving a doctorate in clinical athletic training from the University of Idaho, she returned. She is involved with students as a coach and trainer of various teams.
“My education has allowed me as a community to return to my roots and be able to give back,” she said in the candidate forum.
Dr. Melena expressed a desire “to be able to give back to the community in a way (with) my experiences and diversity not only as a female of color and a born-and-raised Santa Maria (native) but also my diversity from an academic standpoint, having been through this hybrid world.”
She currently is an instructor at Allan Hancock College in psychology.
“I believe I can offer a huge help in addition to what’s already on the board,” she said.
Mr. Morales is the father of two kids who have graduated from Santa Maria schools, and he has a background in education.
“My main purpose for running is to model for some of the younger generation about getting involved in civic affairs,” he said.
He added that more community members should impact boards.
Mr. Morales ran for the board in 2006 and 2016 but was not elected.
Early in his social services career, he worked in the Department of Education, covering 15 school districts throughout Southern California.
“It allowed me to learn that demographics from each community were unique and each district had special needs,” Mr. Morales said.
For 10 years, he developed programs for high-risk populations and did national research for best practices to bring back to Santa Maria.
“Part of this was not only to address the vulnerable students but to provide solutions to them,” he said.
Mr. Morales helped establish a program to help students exposed to gang violence that served more than 500 students per year.
Candidates in race in Santa Ynez-based College School District. A2.
News-Press adds more local races to its endorsements. A2.
Here’s where to drop your ballots. A6.