Calaveras school board races draw crush of candidates
Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat /
Mother Lode voters will decide the makeup of their local public school boards on Nov. 6, with a total of seven seats on the ballot in Calaveras County.
Those elected will confront the challenge of school budgets in a time of declining enrollment and tight spending. A pair of proposed state tax increases, propositions 30 and 38, could provide some financial relief for schools, but remain controversial.
Members of public school boards approve budgets, vote on staff hirings or reductions, and guide policies for school districts. The`y are elected to four-year terms, but board elections are staggered every two years.
For all but the smallest school districts, each board has five members. Typically, two seats are up one year and three in the next election.
Filing for the Nov. 6 election ended Aug. 15. Twelve candidates are running for seats on the boards of K-12 schools in Calaveras County.
Additionally, two candidates are running for a seat on the Board of Trustees for the San Joaquin Delta Community College District, part of which extends to Calaveras County.
When asked about the biggest challenges facing their districts, most candidates identified funding shortfalls as the most daunting, while a few called for changes such as greater transparency and better communication.
A number of local school boards had members reach the end of their terms, but no contested races for those seats. In those instances, candidates who filed papers will simply join each board without appearing on the ballot.
Calaveras County districts with uncontested board seats were the Calaveras County Office of Education, Vallecito Union School District and Mark Twain Union Elementary School District.
Seats on the Calaveras County Board of Education were filled by Marilyn Krause, Louis "Lou" Boitano and Marti Crane.
On Mark Twain Union Elementary School District's Board of Trustees, they were filled by Jennifer Eltringham, Diane Bateman and Maggie Rollings.
One two-year term on the Vallecito Union School District board was filled by Alison Nilsen.
The following are Calaveras County school boards with seats on the ballot this November:
Bret Harte Union
High School District
Issues facing Bret Harte include unstable property tax revenues, which provides most of its funding. Trustees may be forced to decide on more staff reductions later this year.
Three of the district's five board seats are up for grabs. Incumbents Rodger Orman, Jeff Rasmussen and Tony Tyrrell are running again, challenged by Copperopolis resident Albert Segalla.
Orman, 56, of Murphys, is an anesthesiologist at Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital and has a chronic pain management practice in San Andreas.
Rasmussen, a 48-year-old Angels Camp businessman, has served on Bret Harte High facilities and athletic committees.
Tyrrell, 83, of Angels Camp, has been on the Bret Harte High School board for 17 years and served in various other community and state organizations.
Segalla, 71, worked as an engineer and building inspector. He has been a real estate broker for more than 35 years.
Calaveras board members will face tough decisions in the coming year, with the district's deficit threatening a range of programs such as music and athletics. They may even vote on shortening the school year.
Two board seats will be decided Nov. 6. They are currently held by Sherri Reusche, of Valley Springs and John Yerman, of Burson, both of whom are running again.
Reusche, 47, has been on the California School Boards Association Board of Directors since 2010 and served with a variety of other educational organizations.
Reusche's seat, representing the district's Trustee Area 1, is being challenged by Allen Lujan, of Valley Springs.
Lujan, 53, writes about Calaveras Unified School District on the Internet and is also an assistant soccer coach.
Yerman, 67, has been a Calaveras Unified board member for 16 years and coached youth sports.
Gustafson, 62, is challenging him for a seat representing the district's Trustee Area 3. He has been a planning commissioner for Calaveras County and attends school board meetings, in addition to volunteering with school organizations.
Like Bret Harte Union School District, Vallecito gets the bulk of its revenue from local property tax revenues unlike other districts, making it vulnerable to fluctuations in the local economy. Board candidates all identified financial challenges as a pressing issue for the district.
A two-year seat on theboard opened earlier this year and was filled by appointee Alison Nilsen. One other seat will be decided in November, matching incumbent Wayne Harrison with three challengers.
Harrison, a 65-year-old Arnold resident, has been on the board since 2008 and is currently president.
Carol Gordon, 66, of Murphys, is a volunteer at the Old Timer's Museum in Murphys, Murphys Creek Theatre, and Albert Michelson Elementary School.
Tom Manning, a 59-year-old Murphys resident, previously served on the Vallecito Union School District board, from 1988-95.
Tom Pratt, 52, also of Murphys, has served on school boards in southern California and volunteered with various community organizations.
Like other community colleges in California, Delta College has seen its funding slashed and is struggling to serve students with tight resources.
A representative for part of the district that extends into Calaveras County will be decided in the election, with incumbent Stephan Castellanos matched against Valley Springs resident David Tanner.
Castellanos, 63, is from Jenny Lind. He is an architect and member of the California Community College Board of Trustees.
Tanner, 54, is a businessman who has served on the board of trustees at Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital, various Calaveras Unified School District committees and other organizations.