As we enter the last weeks before the November 6 election, the race for the Santa Barbara school board has become more competitive and politicized. Amid a lack of widespread and sustained local news coverage, some of us, who are working to bring awareness of the importance of electing school board members we can hold accountable, have become concerned about misinformation we have heard in recent days about our group. These are the facts:
Save Our Schools is an ad hoc committee representing a wide range of concerned parents, educators, and community members in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. We came together as a result of the firing of Ed Behrens, the principal at San Marcos High School, an incident that was handled poorly and showed a lack of responsiveness, communication, and transparency from school board embers.
We came together, we mobilized, and we discovered that our schools had some serious problems well beyond what we had ever imagined. This incident helped illuminate issues inside the Santa Barbara Unified School District that affect students throughout the district. We are not a political organization. We are not a partisan group. We are not behind any lawsuits. We are parents, educators, and community stakeholders who are in the district. We want the best, not just for our children, but for every child in the district.
• We believe that the school board should be a transparent and responsive government body.
• We believe that every student should be given the opportunity to succeed.
• We believe that despite your economic status, you have a place in our public school system.
• We believe that the educational outcomes for students should be the lens through which we make our decisions.
• We believe that tax dollars should be spent effectively and efficiently with our students and teachers as our priority.
All of these, we were surprised to find, are actually part of the mission statement of the SBUSD board. These priorities have been neglected by the district.
At first we considered a recall, but after some discussion, we came to the conclusion that we wanted to work within the standard democratic process to elect board members who were strong and caring leaders. We wanted to encourage a dialogue in the community and raise the profile of the issues afflicting the district. The school board should not be partisan, and people should look beyond their party’s endorsement. This year there are more candidates for school board than in the last two elections combined and we are proud to have contributed to the democratic process.
We looked at a number of possible school board candidates, and we felt that Kate Ford and Mark Alvarado are the right choices for our district. Kate Ford has spent more than 40 years in education and is the most qualified person to run for school board in recent memory. Mark Alvarado is a tough-minded community leader who asks the hard questions and makes sure the people get the answers they deserve. With these two strong leaders on the board, we believe that the Santa Barbara Unified School District will be in a far better place and poised to make the tough decisions necessary to ensure a better future for our district and our students.
Tony Winterbauer is a former member of the Hope School Board and a Save Our Schools committee member.