Three seats will be contested on the Santa Barbara Unified School Board in this November’s election.
Longtime incumbent Kate Ford, who represents the downtown area, announced she will not seek reelection when her term expires at the end of this year. Three candidates are competing to replace her. Rose Muñoz, who currently represents Goleta and Isla Vista, will face an opponent to keep her seat. Laura Capps, who has been a trustee on the board for six years, is leaving to become the 2nd District Supervisor for Santa Barbara County in January. The current school board decided at its Tuesday, August 23, meeting to appoint Capps’s replacement rather than hold a general election this November, which would be much costlier. The special board meeting to interview potential candidates for Capps’s seat will be open to the public, though the date has not been decided yet.
Ford, the incumbent for Trustee Area One, said she reached her decision to not run for reelection because of the toxic environment that has dominated local politics, and she would like to finally experience the pleasures of retirement. She has endorsed City Planning Commissioner Gabe Escobedo for her seat.
Escobedo has been chair of the Santa Barbara Planning Commission since 2020 and has also served as chair of the Community Formation Commission since March 2021. He briefly attempted to run for a new Assembly district early this year but dropped out soon after current county supervisor Gregg Hart announced he would run for the seat.
Two other candidates have also filed for Ford’s seat: Efigenia Banales, a retired educator; and Dan La Berge, executive director of Mothers’ Helpers, a nonprofit that provides resources for families with infants.
La Berge said his campaign for school board is based on community service and a desire to provide resources to students. Inspired by his mother, who was a 1st-grade teacher, and his three young children, La Berge said providing material or financial support for children and families makes an immeasurable impact on a student’s education. “Every student needs their own time, but they need resources to find their way,” he said.
The Independent attempted to contact Banales for a comment on her campaign, but she did not respond in time for print.
Trustee Muñoz from Area Four will face off with Phebe Mansur, owner of CopyRight Printing, a print shop in Goleta. Mansur has owned her business for more than 20 years and said she has trained “hundreds of youths” in her business on skills such as customer service, operating some computer software, and cash handling.
Mansur said her top issues facing the school board now are improving school safety, increasing math and literacy skills, and investing in career technical education.
Correction: It was a run for an Assembly district, not a county supervisor seat, that Gabe Escobedo had announced in January 2022.