Get to know the candidates running for school board in Paso Robles

Paso Robles residents in November will elect a new group of trustees to represent them on the school board.

Seven candidates are competing for four seats. Four of the candidates are incumbents who were previously appointed or elected: Tim Gearhart, Field Gibson, Matthew McClish and Kathleen Hall.

Three of the candidates are newcomers: Christopher Arend, Lance Gannon and Stephanie Ulibarri. One candidate, Ryan Ward, will appear on the ballot but told The Tribune he’s withdrawn from the race and wants residents to vote for someone else.

The Tribune sent the candidates questionnaires asking for basic biographical information and a brief explanation of what motivated them to run for office. Get to know them better by checking out their profiles below. Candidates’ responses have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

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Christopher Arend

Age: 66

Biographical information: Married (second) in 1999. Two children from first marriage. I have one son from my second marriage; he is a sophomore at Paso Robles High School. I live in Heritage Ranch with my wife and son, six horses, two goats, four dogs, four cats, two ducks and a goose. I am a veteran (U.S. Army 1971-74).

Occupation: Retired lawyer; German-English translator

Volunteer work: I have been a member of the Central Committee of the Republican Party of San Luis Obispo Country since 2005 or 2006. I am still an alternate member. I am also a member of the Heritage Ranch Owners Association board of directors (elected in August 2018).

Why do you want to run for school board? After being asked by a retired teacher to run, I started looking at the situation in the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD). The financial condition and the low morale documented in a survey last school year are particularly concerning. I also noticed that the Board of Trustees has not exercised proper oversight over the district administration, despite the remonstrations of one member, Chris Bausch. Instead, the board has acquiesced to the excessive spending that has almost exhausted the reserve the PRJUSD is required to maintain by law. This has placed local control of our school district at risk.

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Lance Gannon

Age: 57

Biographical information: I am married and the father of two adult sons. I currently live in Paso Robles and have been a resident of the Central Coast all my life. Attended elementary/middle school in San Miguel, then Paso Robles for High School, graduating in 1979. Worked for 35 years for a large company, retiring in 2016.

Occupation: Semi-retired purchasing agent, working part time for a local company.

Volunteer work: Volunteer at the Mission in San Miguel and collect recyclables for local veterans.

Why do you want to run for school board? I felt the current school board needed change. I hope to add diversity with a blue-collar common-sense approach to decision-making. Restore board transparency and rebuild trust with the public. Assure budget responsibility and continue to strengthen student and teacher security. Work hard to build teacher morale and review the current discipline policy. My prior employment required logistics and problem-solving in a team environment. This experience will be helpful as a board member.

Tim Gearhart

Age: 71

Biographical information: I’m a retired teacher after 36 years in public schools, three years as lecturer and university supervisor, and five years working with teachers in Cayucos. I was elected to the Paso Robles school board in 2008, after my retirement, and again in 2014. My family and I live in this wonderful community on Rosemary Drive. Our three children all graduated from our high school and went on to successful careers.

Occupation: Retired teacher

Volunteer work: I volunteer at Paso Cares, a group formed to help the homeless survive and slowly re-enter the job market. Also, I’m a member of Kiwanis, CaRetired Teachers Association (VP), Pifer PTA and the Lewis Middle School PTO, Chess Club organizer/coach, soccer coach, FFA supporter, 4H project coordinator, past Neighborhood Council chair, and Sunday school teacher.

Why do you want to run for school board? Jefferson was vocal about his belief that an educated electorate was the foundation of democracy. Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that “the real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” I’ve dedicated my adult life to defending democracy, its Constitution and this country by developing a well-rounded and unbiased education for our kids in the classroom, and now outside of it as a trustee. I would like to continue. As you vote in this election, please ask yourself how and if any changes will improve our students’ education. Have no doubt, the district WILL repair and improve our fiscal challenges while continuing our students’ excellent educational programs.

Field Gibson

Age: 62

Biographical information: I live in Paso Robles and have lived here the past 38 years. Engaged, with four children and two grandsons.

Occupation: Business insurance broker and risk manager

Volunteer work: Board member for the Kayla Peach Memorial Foundation, the Paso Robles Youth Sports Council, the 4A Foundation and the Independent Grape Growers of the Paso Robles Area. Active in the California School Board Association adn the Tri-County Education Coalition.

Why do you want to run for school board? The education of our children should be our primary objective. Having a belief that all students can achieve success, I have supported a vision that every student will be prepared for success in college and career readiness. We need to set high academic expectations and continue to develop comprehensive and effective programs designed to improve student performance. Innovative programs such as our elementary athletics, our two magnet schools, and infusing the arts and music back into our schools need to be continued. My goals include improving community outreach, with more transparency and accountability. I am running for re-election to continue these initiatives we have started.

Matthew McClish

Age: 47

Biographical information: Wife Karisha; two kids Eli (almost 5) and Hazel (11 months). Paso Robles resident and Cal Poly grad with a master’s degree in public administration.

Occupation: General manager, Kennedy Club Fitness

Volunteer work: Chamber of Commerce board chairman; city of Paso Robles Tax Oversight Committee; Rotary member

Why do you want to run for school board? I believe in the spirit of Paso Robles and know the amazing things we can do when we work together. There should be no bigger rallying cry for our town than “Go Bearcats!” A great education experience and a great district can be the spark that keeps our standard of living high, our economic engine humming, our history remembered and our future secure. This does not happen easily, and there will be bumps along the way, but we can do it because we are all Bearcats and we are all Roblans!

Kathleen Hall

Age: Not provided

Biographical information: Married with two sons and five grandchildren. My background is education, science and business. In education, I graduated from Bradley University with degrees in science and education. I have a Ph.D in molecular biology from Ohio State University and a post-doctorate from UCLA. I have taught science at high schools and universities.

Occupation: Former teacher, scientist, businesswoman

Volunteer work: National Alzheimer’s Association

Why do you want to run for school board? Four years ago, we set out to make Paso School District the “Hilton” of school districts. We are achieving this, and some of our schools now have long lines early in the morning trying to register their students. We have come a long way in this district, and I don’t want it destroyed by candidates who don’t believe in science, know little about education or who teach in homeschooling/charter schools.

Stephanie Ulibarri

Age: 36

Biographical information: My husband, Zach, and I live in Paso Robles, and we raise our two small kids there.

Occupation: Public school teacher

Volunteer work: Currently, I am my daughter’s AYSO soccer coach, and I am looking forward to serving our community if elected to the school board.

Why do you want to run for school board? I want to run for school board because the community and many of the teachers in the PRJUSD have voiced a need for change on our school board. The following are a few of the many concerns: a budget reserve that has fallen well below the required 3 percent; upcoming collective bargaining in the midst of a budget crisis; teachers and community members who are hoping to find the board members more accessible in the future. The school district has some positive programs running, and I hope to be instrumental in maintaining and expanding just some of the following district successes: the district’s VAPA program; vocational arts that lead to certification; the expanding A-G courses at PRHS; and alternative education options within the district.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseymholden
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