With four seats up for election, the makeup of the seven-member Lucia Mar Unified School District board is set for a dramatic change in November’s election.
New board members will consider numerous issues at a time of financial instability caused by the state budget crisis, which has already led the board of San Luis Obispo County’s largest school district to cut millions from its budget, lay off and rehire 52 teachers and increase class sizes.
Chief among those issues, said Lucia Mar Superintendent Jim Hogeboom, is providing direction on how to allocate the district’s money to support its goals, including raising student achievement in core subject areas as well as giving them “21st century learning skills,” such as critical thinking, teamwork and self-direction.
The board has also started working on developing a strategic plan — including a mission, values and vision — that will guide the South County district for the next five to 10 years.
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The board may also grapple with future budget cuts, though Hogeboom said federal funds, including money from the Education Jobs Fund, should help the district weather any midyear cuts that come from the state.
District administrators have increased class sizes but have not had to take pay cuts and furloughs or cut the length of the school year.
Meanwhile, Lucia Mar faces declining enrollment, which eventually translates into less funding from the state. The district has 10,571 students; in the 2007-08 year, it had 10,820 students.
District administrators will also focus this year on pulling Lucia Mar out of “program improvement” — a probationlike status under the federal No Child Left Behind Act — and boosting test scores.
Hogeboom said he is “super concerned” about the district falling into program improvement, which happens when any of its schools fails to meet the growth targets for any student group.
To be removed from the list, schools must meet the federal standards for two consecutive years.
That means the district will need to focus more on its subgroups, including students whose native language isn’t English and students from low-income families, to ensure they meet growth targets.
Lucia Mar board members are elected from four areas, depending on where they live, but are voted on by South County residents at large.
Three members of the school board are not running for re-election.
Those include Georgie O’Connor, who has been on the board for nearly five decades; Paul Teixeira, who along with Arroyo Grande attorney Mike Zimmerman is in the November runoff for the county Board of Supervisors; and David Foster, who recently resigned to move temporarily out of the area for family obligations.
Colleen Martin, representing the Arroyo Grande trustee area, is the sole incumbent running for re-election.
Martin, 50, a career technician at San Luis Obispo High School, has served about 41⁄2 years on the board.
She said she’s proud of having spearheaded the idea of Saturday school for district students, which allows them to make up missed days and brings additional state money to the district. She said she’s also worked to bring the board together as a team.
Martin will face two candidates for two open seats Nov. 2: Mark Millis, a retired Arroyo Grande high school teacher, and Cathy Springford, a real estate agent who has also been active in local schools for the past six years.
Millis, 69, taught American government for 33 years and was the Lucia Mar teachers union president for 10 years. He spent 18 years on the Arroyo Grande City Council, some of the time as mayor.
Springford, 57, has served six years on individual school councils, was the president of the Grover Beach Elementary School PTA from 2005-07, and was on the district superintendent’s budget review committee for two years.
One seat is open in the Oceano trustee area, and two candidates are running: Vern Dahl, a member of the Oceano Community Services District board, and Adelina “Nina” Grabiel, a Five Cities resident for the past 20 years.
Dahl, 52, has also served on the Oceano Advisory Committee and the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District board, and is an alternate on the county Airport Land Use Commission.
Grabiel, 55, said she gathered signatures from residents to petition the county to install speed bumps near Fairgrove Elementary School so children could walk to school more safely. She also initiated and coordinated the first three years of the health fair portion of the annual Stone Soup Music Festival in Grover Beach.
Tiffany Alcantara, 28, a small-business owner, is unopposed for the seat representing Nipomo.
She took over ownership of a local franchise, Home Instead Senior Care, in October 2009 and has been working there since 2001. The business helps seniors stay in their homes as they age.