The Stockton Unified School District Board of Education will begin its meeting this week with one set of trustees and then end with a vastly different composition.
Newly elected – or reelected – trustees will take their seats on the seven-person board during its meeting Tuesday. The old board consisted of five to six members generally voting together as a solid block for a majority of issues. However, two incumbents lost reelection last month, while an open seat also went to a candidate who is part of a group many call “the reformers.”
Area 2 Trustee AngelAnn Flores, who often voted as the board’s sole minority group member, was the only incumbent to earn another term, fending off several challengers and a series of personal attacks for the win. She said SUSD voters sent a clear message on Election Day.
“They are tired of the current chaos on our board,” Flores said. “They want us to do what’s right for the students.”
Trustees Scot McBrian (Area 6) and Zachary Ignacio Avelar (Area 7) lost their reelection bids, with health care industry leader Sofia Colon and SUSD parent empowerment coordinator Kennetha Stevens respectively ousting the incumbents. Community educator and advocate Donald Donaire won the Area 5 seat, replacing termed-out Trustee Maria Mendez.
Board President Cecilia Mendez (Area 1), Vice President Ray Zulueta (Area 4), who were not up for reelection this go around, we’re part of the board majority and often at odds with Flores. Contentious issues included financial issues, district hiring, board transparency, among myriad other issues, including the board’s handling of two scathing San Joaquin County Grand Jury reports in as many years criticizing the board and district management.
Flores believes she and the new trustees will work as a team.
“If the other three want to join in and start working as a team and become student centered again, they have an opportunity now to work for our kids,” Flores said of Cecilia Mendez, Rico and Zulueta.
Zulueta took issue with the characterization that he was part of a “voting block,” and said he made his decisions independently on an issue-by-issue basis. But he did note there will likely be changes in the dynamics of the board after the new trustees are sworn in.
“I believe the slate of candidates who ran together and won will take the opportunity to support each other and take up leadership positions on the board,” Zulueta said. “That’s something that is natural coming out of elections.”
But he also “(looks) forward to working with them to do what’s best for the children.”
“Hopefully, we can cut down on the negativity now that the political races are over,” Zulueta said.
Cecilia Mendez could not be reached for comment by time of publication. Rico declined to comment late Monday night.
Melinda Meza, SUSD’s director of communications, said the outgoing board will go through one final roll call before the new members are sworn in by interim Superintendent Traci Miller. Then the board will elect a new president, vice president and board clerk.
Stocktonia will be live streaming the meeting on its Facebook page. Session begins at 5 p.m. at SUSD’s Coleman Building.