San Jose voters who live in some of the largest school districts will be voting for trustees with various levels of experience come November.
These school board candidates are addressing a host of issues, including affordable teacher housing, police officers on school campuses and education disparity. Their oversight will be needed in how millions in funding is used for infrastructure improvements, educational programs and addressing the digital divide.
Here are some of the contenders fighting for seats in the city’s largest school districts.
San Jose Unified School District
San Jose Unified School District is the city’s largest district, with an enrollment of more than 30,000 students from elementary through high school. The district has more than 41 campuses. Two of the five school board seats are up for grabs, while the remaining seats do not term out until December 2024.
Incumbent Brian Wheatley is running unopposed for a second term in Area 4, which covers nine schools and encompasses parts of South and Central San Jose.
Incumbent Jose Magana is running for a second term, with Andres Macias challenging him for the Area 2 seat that covers five schools across North San Jose, downtown, The Alameda, Rose Garden, Airport and Newhall neighborhoods.
Magana, elected in 2018, boasts of his experience as a teacher, nonprofit administrator and city commissioner on San Jose’s library and education commission. His priorities include addressing declining enrollment, staff hiring and retention and student mental health.
“As the only educator in this race, I have the relevant professional experience that is needed to be a champion for our children,” Magana told San José Spotlight.
Macias said his priorities include tackling the district’s below-standard academic performance and ensuring parents and staff are heard. Macias emphasized his role as a father and is a construction manager, according to election documents.
“We need to take action and ensure safe, productive learning environments for students and staff. Parents deserve proper representation and that’s what I will provide once I’m elected to the governing board of SJUSD,” Macias told San José Spotlight.
Alum Rock Union School District
Alum Rock Union School District represents more than 20 elementary and middle schools with an enrollment of more than 8,500 students. Five candidates are vying for three board seats with four-year terms. They are incumbents Linda Chavez, Minh Pham and Andres Quintero, along with challengers Joseph R. Corona and Ricardo Garcia.
Chavez is running for a second term and Quintero is running for a third term. They could not be reached for comment, along with Corona.
Minh Pham was appointed to the school board in 2021 after newly elected trustee Scott Hung Pham resigned. Pham emphasizes his experience on the district’s Citizens Bond Oversight Committee and work as a legislative aide for former Assemblymember Nora Campos. Pham’s priorities include school renovations, teacher housing and the expansion of the district’s Vietnamese and Spanish language dual immersion programs.
“I am running for election to a full term to finish the job of helping Alum Rock recover fully from the pandemic and to secure its future,” Pham told San José Spotlight.
This is Garcia’s first time running in a crowded field for a school board seat. He said addressing the region’s high cost of living and teacher retention are his priorities. Garcia, who teaches at Carlmont High School in Belmont, touted his 25 years of experience as an educator, while also stating his concerns about charter school encroachment that competes for students in the district.
“I would like to develop initiatives that will highlight the good work our teachers and students are doing… I want the promise of the American Dream to continue to be a reality for our next generation of students,” Garcia said.
Three candidates are fighting for one, two-year short-term seat that is vacant—Ernesto Bejerano, Minh Nguyen and Omar Vasquez. Nguyen could not be reached for comment.
Bejerano said the district’s solar energy program, affordable teacher housing and other infrastructure improvements like air conditioning in classrooms are his priorities. Bejerano, elected to the board in 2018, is running for the two-year seat. He touts his experience on the board and as a youth program coordinator for the Santa Clara County School Linked Services Program, which coordinates resources among schools and community organizations.
“I am the only candidate who has demonstrated commitment to the district over the course of decades, and I have the knowledge and experience necessary to manage the dynamic situations currently active in ARUSD,” Bejerano told San José Spotlight.
Vasquez said access to higher education and job readiness, especially for Latino students, is his priority. The challenger touted his experience as a community organizer of Latinos United for a New America (LUNA), an East San Jose organization that supports immigrant, low-income and Latino families.
“I am an active person who is always working to improve the lives of San Jose residents, and improving education is the best way to improve people’s lives,” Vasquez, a first-time school board candidate, told San José Spotlight.
East Side Union High School District
East Side Union High School District serves more than 21,000 students across 19 high schools and adult education programs. Four candidates—Lorena Chavez, J. Manuel Herrera, Van Le and Peter Pham—are hoping to fill three board seats, each with four-year terms. Pham, who is running for the first time, could not be reached for comment.
Incumbent Chavez’s priorities include addressing college and career readiness, the digital divide and staff hiring and retention. Chavez, elected in 2018, also aims for transparency and communication with parents. She is a director at Teach for America and former principal and educator, according to her LinkedIn profile.
“I have made it my life’s mission that kids in San Jose are sent off into the world fully prepared to succeed in college and beyond. This is why I have decided to run for reelection,” Chavez told San José Spotlight.
Le, who joined the school board in 2010, touted her experience as a longtime school board member and small business owner. Her priorities include teacher retention and fiscal accountability. Le ran for the District 7 San Jose City Council seat in the June primary but didn’t make the cut. Le has been a longtime leader in the Vietnamese community for more than three decades.
“As a small and local business owner, I have brought my business experience to balance the ESUHSD budget that has resulted in saving the district money,” Le told San José Spotlight.
Herrera’s priorities include tackling the impacts of distance learning leftover from the COVID-19 pandemic and raising more funds for the district’s students. Herrera joined the school board in 1990 and emphasized his experience as a former adjunct San Jose State professor, nonprofit director and city official for San Jose and East Palo Alto.
“I’m running for reelection to continue speaking up for and supporting our kids and families,” Herrera told San José Spotlight.
Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.