Jerry Walsh has been a fixture in Santa Maria public education for most of his life. So when it came time to decide whether to continue on the Santa Maria Joint Unified High School District Board of Education, it really wasn’t much of a decision at all.
“It doesn’t seem an appropriate time to not run, because we’re in the middle of an economic crisis. I’d like to see it through,” said Walsh, current board president.
Today is the deadline for candidates to file paperwork to serve on school boards throughout the county. If incumbents don’t file applications, the filing period is extended until Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Walsh, Dean Reece and Carol Karamitsos have all applied to remain on the Santa Maria high school board. If no other applications are filed in the Santa Barbara County Elections Office, the three will remain on the board, keeping it intact for two more years.
The terms of Jack Garvin and Victor Tognazzini run through 2012.
If more applications are filed, the candidates will be placed on the Nov. 2 General Election ballot. The top vote-getters will fill the open positions.
Walsh has been part of the high school district for nearly four decades. He began as a teacher at Righetti High School, served one year as athletic director, three years as assistant principal and 13 years as principal. He eventually moved to the district office where he was in charge of adult education.
His background is typical of many area school board trustees. Garvin served as superintendent of Orcutt Union School District and Reece was principal at both Santa Maria and Righetti high schools.
Santa Maria-Bonita School District board members Bruno Brunello and Jody Oliver, both up for re-election, are also long-time educators.
Brunello, a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent for curriculum in the district, is seeking his third term with the board. Oliver, on the board since 1998, taught in district elementary schools for 38 years.
On the Hancock College board of trustees, current president Carol Anders (Area 5 – Santa Ynez Valley, northern Lompoc Valley and Channel Islands) and Larry Lahr (Area 3 – Santa Maria Valley, Casmalia and Los Alamos) are up for re-election.
Lahr, first elected in 1994, has filed paperwork to remain on the board.
Anders, current board present, has chosen to not seek re-election.
“For me, 12 years was a really good run. I enjoyed every minute of it. I hope somebody will step up and represent the area,” said Anders, who in addition to her time on the Hancock board also has served on the Solvang Planning Commission, City Council (1990-94) and was the city’s mayor in 1992.
The opening of the Solvang Center and Lompoc Valley Center and new nursing lab at the Santa Maria campus were among the accomplishments Anders said highlighted her years on the board.
Anders said she was confident her position on the board would be filled, but no one had filed an application by Thursday.
Both Walsh and Anders said grappling with the economic challenges facing all of public education is the biggest obstacle for any school board or trustee.
In the Orcutt Union School District, the terms of Rob Buchanan, Bob Hatch and Jim Peterson are all ending. All three men and Lizabeth Phillips have filed papers to run.
Buchanan has served on the board since 1994, Hatch is completing his second term and Peterson is finishing his first term.
In Guadalupe, three positions currently held by David Rodriguez, Mary Lou Sabedra-Cuello and Diane Arriola are open. Sabedra-Cuello, Arriola and Eugene Costa Jr. have applied to fill those seats.
The Santa Ynez Valley High School District has attracted the most interest of any school board race with nine people seeking three positions. The terms of Jeffrey Little, Holly Lindberg and Jack Mochnick are expiring. As of Thursday, none had applied to remain on the board.
Katherine Anne Smith, Ray Kirchmaier, Kyle Abello, Sharon Steele, Mark Owens, Jerry Swanitz, Bill Gnekow, Henry Alvarado and Felix Fischer, who has served on the Solvang board, have applied for those positions.
Three spots are open on the Solvang School District board. Fischer, J.C. Avery and Peter Haws are incumbents. Only Echo Marie Molina has applied for the position so far.
If enough applications to fill vacant positions aren’t received by 5 p.m. today, the filing period is extended to Wednesday. If positions remain vacant, school district boards can appoint new members, according to the county elections office.
Other school boards with more openings than applicants include:
n Sisquoc (Blochman Union School District), where Thomas Gibbons is the only applicant for two four-year and one two-year terms. Shannon Clay and Diane Reasner are incumbents in the four-year positions;
n Buellton, where incumbents Marcilo Sarquilla, Joyce Ann Azevedo and Jon Macaluso have applied to keep their positions, but a two-year term remains vacant;
n Cuyama, where incumbents Kathleen Ricci and Richard Ray, have not filed to remain on the board.
n Lompoc Unified, where incumbent Eric Brown and Greg Doyle are the only applicants for two four-year terms and one two-year term.
Four positions are available in the Lucia Mar Unified School District in southern San Luis Obispo County and three of the four incumbents — Paul Teixeira, David Foster and Georgie O’Connor — are not seeking re-election.
Current board president Colleen Martin and Matthew Guerrero have filed to represent Trustee Area 2 (Arroyo Grande). O’Connor said she has decided to retire from the board after 49 years.
Teixeira, who was appointed to the board in 2006 to represent Area 1 (Nipomo), is campaigning to become San Luis Obispo County 4th District supervisor, vacant after Katcho Achadjian chose to run for state assembly.
Foster, who represents Area 3 (Oceano) has told the district he is moving out of the district.