Editorial: Diversity for school board

Three incumbents are seeking re-election to the Atascadero Unified School District board, and we found every one of the three to be highly knowledgeable and committed to doing what’s best for students — within the unfortunate confines of the current budget.

We were also impressed with the active role they are playing, as individuals, to promote passage of Measure I-10, the Atascadero school bond.

Beyond that, each brings a particular set of strengths to the board:

Donn Clickard was athletic director and resource specialist at Atascadero High for more than 30 years, and contributes a wealth of institutional knowledge to the board. On top of that, he is articulate, energetic and gracious, and we’ve been impressed with his efforts to broaden the curriculum to serve all students. In the past, he’s spoken up for vocational programming, and he is equally committed to advanced-level academics. For example, he told The Tribune Editorial Board that if he had the opportunity to restore a program that had to be cut on account of declining revenue, his top choice would be advanced-level foreign language classes.

George Dodge is particularly savvy about school budgets and facility planning. He had a long, successful career in school finance, first with a K-12 district and later as assistant chancellor of business at Kern Community College District, which included three community colleges serving five different counties in the San Joaquin Valley.

He’s also been active in nonprofit organizations; he was executive director of LINK, a family resource center, for 11 years until his recent retirement. He brings a combination of strong business sense, coupled with a keen awareness of what local families are facing in these tough economic times.

Tami Gunther is seeking her second term on the school board. She became involved in the schools when her daughter entered kindergarten and her participation grew from there.

Gunther served on an array of school committees and councils, and she is able to bring a parent’s perspective to the board. We’re also impressed with her regional involvement in education; she’s been on the executive board of the Tri-County Education Coalition, which represents San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and is one of two SLO County delegates to the California School Board Association.

For the remaining seat, we are taking the unusual step of endorsing a write-in candidate, 18-year-old Cal Poly student Kenneth Block.

Block, who only recently turned 18, wasn’t old enough to qualify for the ballot during the regular filing period, which meant his only option was to file as a write-in.

That will be a major stumbling block in terms of gaining voter recognition. We believe, however, that Block would be a valuable addition to the board. Of the remaining candidates, he was easily one of the most knowledgeable and articulate.

Another plus: As a recent graduate of Atascadero High, he would be in an excellent position to provide a firsthand perspective of the strengths and weaknesses of the school system.

He also has experience on a governing board, having served on the Mid-State Fair Junior Fair Board for two years, in addition to a wealth of other school and community activities and job experience that includes work as an NCAA compliance officer for Cal Poly athletics.

Also, in a county where the majority of local elected officials are older than 50, Block’s presence on the board would add some needed diversity to local government, and it could inspire more young people to get involved in politics.

The Tribune is proud to endorse Kenneth Block as a write-in candidate for Atascadero school board. We also strongly urge the re-election of incumbents Donn Clickard, George Dodge and Tami Gunther.

The tribune’s endorsement

Race: Atascadero Unified School District

Term: Four years

Number of seats: Four

Salary: $240 per month; eligible for health benefits

Candidates: Student Kenneth Block; income tax adviser Ray Buban; incumbent Donn Clickard; incumbent George Dodge; incumbent Tami Gunther; businessman/writer Bret Heinemann; retired drywall contractor Gordon West

The Tribune endorses: Kenneth Block; Donn Clickard; George Dodge; Tami Gunther