Who Will Sit on Santa Barbara Unified School Board?

Once Unopposed, Three Incumbents Face Unprecedented Competition from New Challengers

By: Delaney Smith | Published September 18, 2020
Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

The three incumbents running to keep their seats on the Santa Barbara Unified School Board are facing unprecedented competition from five emerging challengers. The race is a stark contrast to 2016, when all three incumbents walked onto the board unopposed.

It’s an eclectic bunch. Incumbents Laura Capps, Wendy Sims-Moten, and Jackie Reid are up against candidates with vastly different political views and criticisms of the district at one of its most turbulent periods in recent history.

Brian Campbell and Elrawd MacLearn are the most conservative-learning candidates — a major difference from the five boardmembers currently occupying the dais. After several high-profile controversies in recent years on issues such as sexual education, ethnic studies courses, and outrage over perceived lack of transparency between the district and parents, these candidates have garnered support from those who felt unheard by the board over those issues.

There is also candidate Monie de Wit, who, despite leaning left and holding views that align closer with those on the dais, has vehemently fought against the district over one issue — literacy. With low literacy and math scores across the district, de Wit has been a community advocate for literacy and students with dyslexia for years before her decision to run.

Candidate Virginia Alvarez is most closely aligned with the current elected board, but she brings with her practical experience other boardmembers don’t have, such as her two decades of experience working in the Montecito Union School District in various roles, including as its chief business official and human resources manager. Alvarez grew up in Santa Barbara Unified’s public schools after arriving here at the age of 7 from Mexico.

A fifth challenger, Sebastian Antonio Fernandez-Falcon, filed for candidacy, but the Independent hasn’t been able to reach him for an interview.

The race is a toss-up. With eight candidates vying for three seats, an incumbent or two may get the boot. The Independent interviewed each candidate to discuss their top issues.

4·1·1 | Join the Santa Barbara Independent for a discussion with the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education candidates on Thursday, September 24, at 5 p.m. live on Zoom. Register at independent.com/forum.