[Updated: Jan. 13, 2023, 5:36 p.m.]
The vacant seat on the Santa Barbara Unified Board of Trustees has been filled. William Banning, a former superintendent for the Goleta Union School District before retiring in 2017, was sworn in Thursday night following the completion of all 12 candidate interviews over the last week.
The newly appointed trustee will take a seat on the board at the January 24 meeting.
“I’ve dedicated my life to public education, it’s been an important part of it, and I’ve been incredibly grateful for the opportunities it’s provided me,” Banning said at the school board’s special meeting on Thursday. “I am welcoming an opportunity to give back to that profession that served me so well.”
The board’s vote to appoint Banning was unanimous. Banning will take the place of recently elected county supervisor Laura Capps and will complete her remaining, at-large elected term on the school board until it ends in November 2024. After that point, the seat will go through an election process and will need to be filled by a candidate residing in Trustee Area 2.
Originally, it was reported that 13 candidates were to be interviewed for the provisional appointment, but applicant Brendan Tully withdrew his application before the beginning of the interview process on January 5.
The board’s vote to appoint Banning was eventually unanimous, following about 45 minutes of deliberations. Banning was the top pick for Board President Wendy Sims-Moten and Board Vice President Virginia Alvarez.
However, when each boardmember initially listed their top four candidates, Banning did not receive the most votes overall.
Krystle Farmer Sieghart, a local community organizer, was the top candidate in the first round of deliberations with four total votes and was Boardmember Rose Muñoz’s initial top pick. Boardmember Gabe Escobedo’s initial No. 1 selection was Monie de Wit, an advocate for literacy and dyslexia awareness.
Following discussion between boardmembers, Escobedo and Muñoz changed their votes. Sims-Moten and Alvarez had strongly and successfully advocated for Banning, highlighting his experience in public education and his knowledge and understanding of the role of the board.
Alvarez, in particular, noted the short term of the appointment and how it would be “very beneficial to have someone who can hit the ground running.”
“I look at myself and my colleagues, and we all have different strengths, different passions,” Alvarez said. “What I look at is something that will bring balance to our board, and is a little bit different than what we already have — and that has the commitment and the knowledge to help us move the district forward.”
Each member of the board stressed how difficult the decision was, considering the competitive and diverse interview pool. Other top picks were Jim Gribble, Jacqueline Inda, and Marcee Davis.
“I just have so much gratitude for the number of people who want to give back to our community and invest in our students, our teachers, and staff,” said Escobedo, who was elected to the board just last year. “I learned a lot in this process.”
Banning started his career in public education in 1978 and since then has worked as a music and computer science teacher, led yearbook programs, and has served in principal and assistant principal positions at middle schools and high schools before taking on the role of superintendent of the Goleta Union School District in 2012.
Since retiring, Banning said he has remained active in the realm of public education and in the Channel City Camera Club, where the lifelong hobbyist photographer currently serves as president.
“I have no other political agendas other than serving a strong government’s team in a time of transition,” Banning said during his interview with the board on Thursday.
As he responded to the board’s questions, Banning emphasized the importance of transparency and engagement in the board’s operations. He said the board should maintain a philosophy of inclusion of parent and community voices, as well as keep advocacy on behalf of students at the core of what the board does every day.
“It’s important to listen wherever you can and to listen and have dialogue and respectful communication,” Banning said. “It’s easier said than done these days, but that is critical.”
In terms of student learning, Banning noted the “critical challenge” of addressing the learning loss that was created during the COVID-19 pandemic, and said that for successful instruction, the school district needs to have “consistent, coherent, research-based curriculum,” as well as appropriately trained teachers and staff to provide consistent and equitable delivery across the district.
“This is what makes schools, districts, and learning successful: a vision of what is going to be taught and learned, how it’s going to be taught and learned, the data to back up whether it’s happening, and the knowledge of knowing how to correct the areas that are there,” Banning explained in his closing statement.