With the Nov. 7 Consolidated District Election exactly one month away, three local races are heating up as candidates step forward to govern the area’s school districts.
The election will feature races for the Stanislaus County Board of Education Area 5, Chatom Union School District Area 2 and Denair Unified School District, which all have more candidates than seats.
Patterson resident Chinyere Nnodim Jack and Juan Pablo Vazquez of Ceres are both vying for a spot on the Stanislaus County Board of Education. Jack, a mother to a high school freshman, decided to run for a spot on the Board to inspire other parents to get involved with their children’s educations.
“Our schools lack parent participation, especially in this area because parents commute,” she said.
Jack, who runs a travel agency, has partnered with the City of Patterson in the past to host community Zumba lessons, and also joined forces with the local library to hold free juicing lessons. If elected, she would like to teach students how to live healthy lifestyles, as well as ensure students have access to mental health services.
Vazquez was inspired to join the race for the county school board during Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, when the Senator encouraged community members to run for public office. Vazquez formerly worked for the car company Tesla, but recently became a field organizer for a group focused on flipping California’s 14th Congressional District from red to blue.
If elected, he would like to implement more technology in schools throughout the county.
“We’re so close to Silicon Valley and have all this innovation,” said Vazquez. “Our school system needs to begin embracing that.”
In Area 2 of Chatom Unified, Turlock teacher Rodney Machado and dairyman Ryan Blount will face off during the election.
Machado, who works at Turlock High School, was inspired to run for the school district’s board after years of helping on his sons’ campuses, who all attended both Mountain View Middle School and Chatom Elementary School. Machado even helped build a haunted house that the school district uses to this day, he said.
“I wanted to do what I can to help the school district and be part of what’s going on in the area,” said Machado. “As we move forward, tech is something we can improve on, and I would like to work to improve test scores.”
In Denair, four candidates are in the race for two school board seats.
Crystal Sousa was named the Merced County Office of Education’s “Teacher of the Year” in 2015, and if elected to the school board hopes to improve the state of education in Denair by increasing student attendance, resulting in more state funding.
“I’ve always been interested in community and education,” said Sousa. “I’ve dedicated my life to my family and students.”
Sousa is competing against retired custodian Charles Asbill, self-employed businesswoman Tina Gresio and retired Turlock Unified School District employee Reggie Gomes.
Gomes, a resident of Denair for 42 years, has two grandchildren and a son who all attended or are attending Denair schools, she said. She retired from the TUSD technology department two years ago, and hopes to put what she learned working at one school district to use governing another.
Being involved in a school environment for the last 36 years made me aware of how things are run, how they’re done and the process,” said Gomes. “With the knowledge I have, I can try to help the situation in Denair.”