Santa Barbara Unified School Board Interviewing 13 Candidates for Board Seat

Interviews Begin This Thursday to Fill Vacancy Left by Newly Elected Supervisor Laura Capps

Credit: Carl Perry (file)

The vacancy left on the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s (SBUSD) Board of Trustees will soon see a new, provisional appointee. Thirteen applicants will be interviewed in the next two weeks to fill newly elected supervisor Laura Capps’s old seat on the board, many of whom have notable reputations in the county. 

Two Special Board Meetings will be held on Thursday, January 5, at 5:30 p.m. and Thursday, January 12, at 3:15 p.m. to interview applicants for the vacancy. The meetings will be held in the boardroom at the District Office located at 720 Santa Barbara Street and will be open to the public. 

Following the scheduled conclusion of all interviews, the board plans to hold their discussion and make an appointment on the night of January 12. 

“The board, from the announcement of Ms. Capps to resign from her board seat, has taken an inclusive, proactive and transparent approach to filling the vacancy,” said board president Wendy Sims-Moten in an email to the Independent

“We thank the members of the community who submitted their application to fill the vacancy,” Sims-Moten said. “We look forward to the new member joining in the essential work of all involved (#weareunified) in the preparation of students for a world yet to be created.”

According to an SBUSD press release, interested applicants have to reside in the attendance boundaries of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, meet all requirements of the law, and comply with the district’s application submission requirement. They also had to submit their application before last month’s deadline.

Supervisor Capps resigned from her At-Large Trustee Area 2 position in November 2022. The provisional appointee will complete Capps’s remaining term and, at this time, is not required to live in Trustee Area 2. 

However, by November 2024, the seat must be filled by a candidate that resides in Trustee Area 2 map, in accordance with the district’s February 2022 decision to change from at-large to district elections to comply with the California Voting Rights Act. 

Interviewed candidates will be asked questions such as how the School Board can “ensure opportunities for parents and community members to express their diverse range of views to inform board deliberations on important policy issues,” and how they will, if selected, “contribute to make sure that the District continues its good fiscal standing.” 

Interviewees include candidates Julian Sarafian and Krystle Sieghart, whom the Independent interviewed in early December. Sieghart is the first candidate scheduled to be interviewed by the board on January 5, and Sarafian is scheduled to be the 10th overall candidate to be interviewed on January 12. The district used software to randomize the scheduling of each interview. 


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A number of other candidates have also been spotlighted by local news in recent years, and quite a few have attracted attention through the public comment sections of past school board and city council meetings across the county. 

One of them is Celeste Barber, a retired Santa Barbara City College English instructor and unsuccessful 2020 candidate for SBCC’s Board of Trustees, who attracted media attention after she was cut off while speaking at a 2019 SBCC public comment period by shouts from Chemistry professor Reanne Napoleon and others. Another is Caroline Abate, who is known for offering comments against COVID vaccines at Santa Barbara and Goleta city councils meetings, and who unsuccessfully ran as the Republican opponent to Richard Mayer for the Area 1 seat in the Goleta Union School Board race during last November’s election. 

Applicant Monie de Wit, an outspoken community advocate for literacy and dyslexia awareness, previously campaigned for a seat on the Santa Barbara school board in 2020, and applicant Jacqueline Inda, a community organizer and social advocate, was the subject of an Independent Q&A column in 2019 highlighting her work in a variety of different advocacy areas. 

Candidate Bill Banning, a hobbyist photographer and current president of the Channel City Camera Club, was the former superintendent of the Goleta Union School District before he retired in 2017. 

Some UC Santa Barbara community members have also applied for the position. Those include Anne Berry and Jim Gribble, graduate students in UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, as well as Marcee Davis, the VA Certifying Official and financial aid advisor at UCSB.

It was previously reported that 16 candidates were in the running for the vacancy; however, applicants Sunita Beall, Frank Sanitate, and Jennifer Williams were not scheduled to be interviewed. 

Those who are interested can see the full list of candidates and the agenda for the meetings on the district’s website


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