Two candidates enter early race for Santa Clara County education seat
The Santa Clara County Office of Education has received failing grades in a report card put together by a group of parents, teachers and residents. File photo.

Two candidates have jumped in early to run for a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education.

Jorge Pacheco Jr., a teacher and Oak Grove School District board member, and Tomara Hall, a middle school special education teacher and San Jose Unified Equity Coalition member, have announced their run to replace Trustee Joseph Di Salvo in Area 4 when his term ends in December 2024.

Area 4 includes the majority of San Jose Unified and portions of Oak Grove and East Side Union High school districts. Di Salvo, who is retiring after 16 years, expressed surprise with the early candidacy announcements. 

“I think it’s going to be competitive,” he told San José Spotlight.

Di Salvo, a lifelong educator, has been a passionate advocate for vulnerable children. He taught at juvenile hall, in group homes, at a children’s shelter and community school, in addition to being a principal.

“I was always advocating… for the least advantaged and how we could do more for them,” he said, “and how they can achieve at the same level of those with more advantages and resources.”

On the county school board, Di Salvo fought for high quality public charter schools, teacher recruitment and civic education. He said equity in education is about closing race achievement gaps and ensuring children read on grade level by third grade.

“The way you demolish the school to prison pipeline… is through reading,” he said.

Pacheco Jr., an elementary and middle school teacher, is indigenous and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. He has also been endorsed by Di Salvo.

“I want to make sure that local districts, teachers and our most vulnerable students have a voice at the table,” he told San José Spotlight, adding he was almost a high school dropout. “I got lucky. I made it out, but there are so many others that don’t… kids who continue to struggle by the thousands in our county who need someone that understands what they are going through.”

Jorge Pacheco Jr., a teacher, Oak Grove School District board member and president/CEO of the California Latino School Boards Association, wants to become a trustee for the Santa Clara County Board of Education. Photo courtesy of Jorge Pacheco Jr.

Although he received a bachelor’s degree in legal studies and anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley and a master’s degree in urban education from Loyola Marymount University, Pacheco Jr. never forgot his struggle in high school.

“The pace of change has been far too slow because people like me… an English learner and special education student, we almost never make it to school boards,” he said. “It’s more common we make it to jail cells. I’m here to change that narrative.”

Hall, an Afro-Latina from the Central Valley raised in poverty, found purpose and success through academics and athletics. 

She has been a special education teacher since 2014, when she joined Teach for America. Hall earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from California State University, Stanislaus and an education specialist credential and master’s degree in special education from Loyola Marymount University.

“Education changed my life,” she told San José Spotlight. “It’s something that not everybody has the opportunity to achieve.”

Special education teacher Tomara Hall is running for a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education. Photo courtesy of Tomara Hall.

Hall, who teaches in the Union School District, is an advocate for students with disabilities. As a member of the San Jose Unified Equity Coalition, a grassroots coalition of parents, educators, students and residents committed to racial equity and school safety, she fights for additional funding in public schools. 

“There are a lot of needs,” she said. “We just need to be able to meet those needs.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].

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