San Jose voters are facing a large pool of school board candidates on the November ballot, with contenders jostling for seats in crowded races.
Once elected, school board candidates will juggle a host of critical issues, including COVID-19 recovery, access to early education, chronic absenteeism and staff shortages. Board members will be responsible for millions in funding and housing projects to retain teachers. This after an election season rife with growing concerns over political polarization in down-ballot seats.
Here are the candidates from the Evergreen School District, Franklin-McKinley School District and Campbell Union High School District vying for school board positions this election season.
Evergreen School District
Evergreen School District serves more than 9,900 students across 16 elementary and middle schools. There are five board seats—four long-term seats and one short-term seat.
Five candidates are battling for three seats to serve one four-year term. The list includes incumbents Christopher Corpus, Marisa Hanson and Jim Zito, along with challengers Stan Rose and Mary Hiền Pollett.
Corpus, running for a second term, touted his more than 30 years as an educator, principal and administrator in the district. His priorities include addressing the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on student learning and working with staff to provide solutions.
“Choose me as your volunteer for four more years. I promise to use my past four years as a trustee, and 37 years as an Evergreen teacher and principal to give guidance to Evergreen’s future,” Corpus told San José Spotlight.
Hanson’s priorities are improving services and staffing for students with disabilities and special needs, as well as ensuring fiscal responsibility. Running for a second term, she emphasized her experience of nearly 30 years as a teacher in the district and board member.
“This is what I want to do, I want to just work with the community. I want to make sure that the needs are being met for the kids in Evergreen,” Hanson told San José Spotlight.
Pollett highlighted her experience as an educator, principal and community organizer in the county’s Vietnamese American community. The challenger’s priorities are school safety, student mental health, connections between the community and teachers, as well as education access and quality.
“I can bring a balanced and broad perspective to the board including detailed knowledge of education, an understanding of the budgeting process, an ability to be objective and fair and an appreciation of the diverse needs of the EESD… If elected for the Evergreen school board position, I will work tirelessly to improve education so that all students have more opportunities in their lives,” Pollett told San José Spotlight.
Rose’s priorities include improving communication between the district and the community, increasing revenue to retain programs and staff and addressing enrollment. The challenger emphasized his more than 40 years of working as an educator and superintendent for Santa Clara Unified School District.
“I have worked in schools on creating success for all students, worked to enhance inclusion, collaboration and equity in schools through a variety of means, and invested in creating a safe school environment for all students,” Rose told San José Spotlight.
Zito, who is running for a fourth term, referred San José Spotlight to his campaign website. He touts his experience as an educator and parent to children in the district, and his priorities include transparency and fiscal responsibility.
Additionally, two candidates are vying for a new two-year short-term seat, newcomers Jeremy Barousse and Alecia Kelley.
Barousse’s priorities are equitable resource allocation, parent engagement, student mental health and emotional learning. He emphasized his experience as a nonprofit director, president of the Evergreen Education Foundation and parent of a child in the district.
“I want to bring a parent voice to the school board to deliver top quality education for our students… My connection to Evergreen School District has been over two decades as a student, and then also as an advocate and now a parent,” Barousse told San José Spotlight.
Kelley highlighted her experience as a principal and educator of more than 20 years. Her priorities include COVID-19 funding and learning loss, declining enrollment, teacher hiring and retention, and mental health services for students.
“I expect to use my ability to build relationships, advocacy for students and families, and leadership experience in school funding, student achievement and school systems to meet the needs of the Evergreen students and families,” Kelley told San José Spotlight.
Franklin-McKinley School District
Franklin-McKinley School District represents 16 elementary and middle schools, with an enrollment of more than 9,200 students. There are five board seats. Six candidates are competing for three seats: incumbents Manuel F. Martinez and Rudy Rodriguez, as well as challengers Milan Balinton, Marc Cooper, Tammy Lariz and Steven Sanchez.
Cooper, Lariz and Sanchez did not respond to requests for comment.
Martinez, appointed in 2021, touts his experience as an education lawyer, district volunteer and parent of children attending Franklin-McKinley schools. His priorities include learning loss, fiscal responsibility and declining enrollment.
“As a current board member, I am very aware of the duties, commitments and obligations that come with the position… I am also aware of the specific challenges locally and I am committed to working hard on behalf of the community,” Martinez told San José Spotlight.
Rodriguez’s priorities include equitable policies in education, teacher recruitment and retention, and school safety. Rodriguez, elected in 2010, emphasized his experience as a three-term board member.
“I have a strong commitment to keep the momentum going on our 12 years of achievements… There still exists a disparity in funding and resources between school districts throughout the county, and the Franklin-McKinley School District is working hard to build equity,” Rodriguez told San José Spotlight.
Balinton touts his experience as the executive director for the African American Community Service Agency, and said one of his motivations for running is to increase Black representation on school boards. His priorities include addressing the digital divide, deepening relationships between community organizations and districts, and ensuring families have access to child care and basic needs.
“I just want to make sure that I do work for the people… It’s not an opportunity just for me to sit on the board, but I have to learn, I have to hear people,” Balinton told San José Spotlight.
Campbell Union High School District
Campbell Union High School District enrolls more than 8,600 students across eight high schools and community education programs. There is a total of five school board seats. Seven candidates are battling for three open seats.
Incumbent Robert Varich, elected in 2018, is running for a second term against challenger James Kim for the Area 1 seat, which includes Boynton, Westmont and Prospect High School. Varich did not respond to requests for comment.
Kim’s priorities include student mental health, teacher retention and better trust and communication between the community and district leaders. He touted his experience as a scholarship nonprofit co-founder, district volunteer and parent of children in the district.
“I am running because I love education, care deeply about all our students and have a calling to serve my community… Given that CUHSD’s student population is approximately two-thirds people of color, I believe that my perspective as an Asian American from an immigrant family would enable me to provide a valuable perspective during board deliberations,” Kim told San José Spotlight.
Challengers Elisabeth Halliday and David Lee Sabes are running against incumbent Michael Winter for the Area 2 seat. Winter, appointed last March, did not respond to requests for comment.
Halliday’s priorities include teacher retention, fiscal responsibility and student mental health. She highlighted her experience as a freelance writer, district volunteer and parent of children attending the district’s schools.
“This is my community and I feel strongly about our public schools, and wish for every child in our community to have access to the best educational opportunities on campuses where they feel safe and welcome,” Halliday told San José Spotlight.
Sabes emphasized his experience as a substitute teacher and parent. His priorities include expanding mental health services in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and reestablishing trust between district leaders, teachers and students.
“Everyone cares about their kids, students care about their education and I think we can build more of a real working community through all of these groups,” Sabes told San José Spotlight.
Challengers Jason Baker and Adam Rocha are vying for the open Area 3 seat as incumbent Stacey Brown is not running for reelection. The seat includes the Camden Post-Secondary Program. Rocha did not respond to requests for comment.
Baker touted his experience as Campbell mayor, city councilmember and parent of a child in the district. Baker’s priorities are teacher retention, pandemic learning loss and student mental health.
“I promise to listen to teachers, students and parents to make every school in the district shine. I am confident that the skills I have learned and relationships I have developed in my years of public service will help me be an effective school board member,” Baker told San José Spotlight.
Editor’s note: Jeremy Barousse, a candidate for Evergreen School District, is the brother of San José Spotlight co-founder Josh Barousse.
Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.