San Lorenzo Express News

Crowded Field of Candidates for San Lorenzo School Board

OCTOBER 16, 2010

Incumbent trustees Helen Randall and Isabel Polvorosa want four more years on the board of trustees of the San Lorenzo Unified School District. If they want to remain on the board, they will have to fight off an energetic challenge by four candidates.

Randall was first elected to the board in 1994. Polvorosa was elected in 2002. Terms on the school board are four years, and elections are held every two years for vacances. The board has five members. In the previous election in 2008, three incumbents sought reelection, but only two were returned to office.

The largest number of board candidates in recent times was in 2002, when 10 candidates competed for three seats.

Neither Randall nor Polvorosa responded to the Express's request for information. Likewise, challenger Gene Judson did not respond. Judson is a former one-term trustee who lost his bid for reelection in 2008, when he was defeated by Jim Sherman. Randall and Judson have not appeared at various candidate forums in recent weeks.

The other three challengers are Stacy Santos Blom, Elliot Schneider, and Rebecca Olivera.

Stacy Santos Blom is active as a parent and volunteer in the district's schools. She says she has regularly attended school board meetings over the past two years and participated in a number of committees. For these reasons she believes she is well informed about the "many issues involving our district and community." She emphasizes that "good communication is essential to maintaining a successful district" and that board members should be visible at school and community events.

Elliot Schneider is a former history teacher at San Lorenzo High School and was head of that school's history department. Schneider's campaign statements are visionary in tone, emphasizing the fundamental role of public schools in developing a democratic culture. "Every voice must be heard," he says. "This is the nature of democracy." He is in favor of protecting art, music, and sports programs from "the cutting block," and reducing administrative salaries to make money available for instructional programs. For more information, see Schneider's own website

Rebecca Olivera is a parent of children in the district's schools and a district employee from 1998 to 2008, when she was the registrar at Arroyo High School. She emphasizes the role of the school board as a reflection of the community served by the district. "The most effective school boards are those that listen and value all opinions and ideas brought before them," she says. "I believe I can bring the fresh, contemporary perspective that is needed to this board."

All three of these candidates stress that the district needs better communication between the board, superintendent, teachers, individual schools, parents, and the community at large. Likewise, they emphasize inclusiveness and collaboration in shaping the district's practices and policies. In recent years the board and district officials have been criticized for not providing timely or complete information about pending decisions with the community, individual schools, or teachers.

Schneider and Olivera are supported by the San Lorenzo Education Association, an organization of teachers in the district.

The San Lorenzo Unified School District is the oldest school district in the state. It covers the unincorporated communities of Eden Township except Castro Valley and Fairview, and includes San Lorenzo, Ashland, Cherryland, and hillside areas. It also embraces a portion of the City of San Leandro, the Washington Manor subdivision, which has been part of the school district since its foundation. Washington Manor was annexed by the City of San Leandro in the 1960s.

Polvorosa and Judson reside in Washington Manor, while Olivera resides in the Cherryland district. All other candidates live in San Lorenzo.

In addition to multiple elementary schools, the district includes three high schools, each of which comprises several "small learning communities," and three middle schools, one each in Ashland, Washington Manor, and San Lorenzo.

School board members are paid $400 each month for attending meetings. They are also eligible to join the school district's group medical plan, and the premiums are paid in part by the school district. Plan coverage extends to trustees' families.