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Candidates emerge to fill vacant school board seats

Just as the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees was contemplating extending the application deadline for Trustee Area 7 after no candidates filed to run, two residents stepped up in hopes of filling the seat until 2019. 

As the current Chief Business Officer of Gustine Unified School District, candidate Myra Lizett Aguilar said that she initially decided to apply for Trustee Area 7 in order to contribute to the community.

“I just want to give back to education,” said Aguilar. “I am a strong advocate for education and I have the knowledge and experience to bring to the table.”

Aguilar has two sons in seventh and ninth grade at Turlock Junior High School and Turlock High School and a daughter who is a Turlock High School alumna about to start her sophomore year at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

If appointed, Aguilar said that she hopes to bring both her perspective as a working professional and a first-generation Latina college graduate to the Board.

“The majority of TUSD students are Latino and I can relate to the experiences of these children growing up in a Latino household,” said Aguilar. “Also, as a former student at Crane Head Start, I can relate to the struggles of a first-generation college graduate.”

Retired teacher and rancher Anthony Silva is another candidate hoping to fill the Board vacancy in Trustee Area 7. Although Silva does not have any children currently attending TUSD, his grandchild is a second grader at Walnut Elementary School.

“I had a number of people ask me to apply and my first reaction was, ‘I’m retired, I don’t need an extra obligation,’” said Silva. “However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe I need to do my part.

“Being a former educator, I think I have something to offer,” continued Silva.

Silva served as a high school teacher for 38 years prior to his retirement in 2008. During his teaching career, he taught courses in agricultural education, government, economics and wildlife and forestry.

If appointed, Silva said that he would like to improve career education programs and provide a healthy environment for students to learn and grow during their school years.

“Another real passion of mine is helping teachers teach rather than just putting more obstacles in their way,” added Silva. “I want to help make it more efficient for them to do the job they need to do.”

Following the resignation of Deborah Martin earlier this month, the Board of Trustees also began the process to select a provisional appointee for Trustee Area 2 to carry out the rest of her term through 2017.

Tami Harrill-Muniz is hoping to add onto her previous experience on school site committees at Crane Elementary School and Turlock Junior High School, as well as the more than eight years she served on the TUSD Board.

 “I just feel like I have a lot of knowledge from the years I served on the Board and I am hoping to build on that knowledge and experience going forward,” said Harrill-Muniz. “I feel that my eight years of experience and knowledge on the TUSD Board will be helpful in continuing to keep TUSD fiscally responsible and a district that students and staff are proud to be a part of.”

If appointed, Harrill-Muniz said that she hopes to assist with the implementation of Common Core in the District and help increase the number of students that are able to read at grade level. She also said that she would like to see the construction of a third high school and at least one more elementary school in order to address heavily-impacted schools.

Another candidate for Trustee Area 2,  Lori Carlson, said that she decided to apply for the position to honor her mom and dad’s legacies as a high school Spanish teacher and school board member for more than 20 years, respectively. 

“I just have a heart for students and I would love to serve the community in this way,” said Carlson. “I love Turlock and I feel really great with the direction things are headed in the school district right now. I want to support and encourage the way things are headed right now.”

If appointed, Carlson said that she hopes to help the district advance more students toward grade-level performance and increase the percentage of students who are adequately prepared after graduation. She said that she also would bring a unique perspective to the Board that comes from having four children in elementary school, junior high school, high school and college.

“I have had the privilege of volunteering in classrooms and chaperoning field trips for 27 elementary classroom teachers, 16 of which have been in Turlock schools,” said Carlson.  

Kevin Blount is the third candidate hoping to represent Trustee Area 2. If appointed, this will be the first time that Blount has served on the TUSD Board, however, he has already served on the Chatom Unified School Board of Trustees for 20 years.

“I have a deep understanding of the knowledge, roles and responsibilities that are required of an effective board member,” said Blount.

Blount said that if he is appointed he hopes to promote and implement the use of technology to support students as 21st century learners, as well as promote a safe learning and work environment at all campuses for students and staff.

A screening committee of up to three Board members will meet to review each candidate for both Trustee areas and recommend candidates for consideration and appointment to the Board of Trustees.

The screening committee recommendations will be discussed during the Board meeting on Oct. 6 and a candidate will be selected by interview and/or appointment process during a special Board meeting on Oct. 13.

For Trustee Area 7, the appointee will serve a full four-year term from 2015 to 2019. The appointment to fill the Board of Trustee vacancy in Area 2 will be effective Oct. 13 until the remainder of the term through 2017.