The three candidates vying for two seats on the Soulsbyville Elementary School District Board of Trustees in the Nov. 3 general election all share an affection for the school, which was one of the first to open to in-person schooling this fall.
Two of the candidates are incumbents — Heather Spangler and Patrick Corocoran — and they are facing a challenge by local business owner, Tim Morton. Each of them have children enrolled at the school, which they said enforces their dedication to the goals of the school district.
And the primary goal of the 2020-21 school year thus far has been overcoming the ongoing COVID-19 crisis to provide in-person education as constituents had largely requested, the incumbents said.
Soulsbyville Elementary School District Superintendent Jeff Winfield said there are approximately 475 students at Soulsbyville Elementary School this year, with about 70 of them opting for virtual attendance.
He said there was an "overall good response" to the in-person teaching and noted strategies such as grade-level cohorts staying together in designated spaces, protocols for hand washing, regularly cleaning work areas and reducing the sharing of items.
There are five seats on the Soulsbyville Elementary School Board. The other three seats have elections in 2022.
Having only served approximately nine months on the board as an appointed replacement for a vacated seat, Corocoran said he is hopeful to serve out a full term on his own merits.
"A vote for Patrick Corcoran means putting the children first. Providing an in-school learning environment where they can thrive and achieve whatever dreams they may have," he said in a phone interview. "An environment where students, parents and faculty are a school family that has one goal, the future of our children."
Corcoran, 51, described himself as a self-employed real estate developer and semi-retired. He said his platform was largely about "putting students first" and facilitating a cooperative environment where teachers, parents and district administration worked for their betterment.
"It's been an amazing experience learning and listening to existing school board members, faculty and parents," he said.
Corcoran said he supported the return to in-school learning as both a parent and a board member, characterizing it as a "bold step."
"Being a good board member means being a good listener and communicator. Taking into account all the information from parents and teachers and voting accordingly, while keeping our students and teachers safe and healthy."
Morton said he was seeking to be more involved in Soulsbyville Elementary School as a parent of two boys who attend there.
"I would love to bring my experience with public schools as well as my wife and I advocating for our two sons within the special education in our local community," Morton said in an email.
Morton described himself as the owner/operator of Greg's Barbershop, which is located in Sonora, and a citizen of Tuolumne County since he was 3 years old.
"I also have over 15 years of business experience and administration that I would hope would benefit our school board. I am looking forward to adding to the already great people that are on the board, and I hope that I will help not only maintain but keep going the standards of success that we have at Soulsbyville Elementary," Morton said.
Morton said he hoped to contribute some of his own knowledge to the current board regarding public school education, as well as with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Morton said he was unavailable for a phone interview due to his busy schedule and submitted a candidate statement in writing via email.
Experience counts, said Spangler, who described herself as the longest running current Soulsbyville Elementary School District board member since her election in 2007.
"I think our board needs experienced people in it," Spangler, 55, said in a phone interview. "Soulsbyville has quite a good reputation in the county for being a quality school. It's right up there as one of the best schools in the county, for elementary schools."
Spangler described her candidacy and her tenure as a board member with a sense of maintenance. Her relationship, as well as the entire current board, had sustained a collaborative relationship with stakeholders from parents, staff and students, she said.
"We have a sense of community where people feel just like they belong. I think a kind of positive, non-adversarial relationship translates into the school being more successful," she said.
Spangler said the decision to bring students back for in-person education during the COVID-19 crisis was based on an "overwhelming" appeal from parents
"I want to continue to have a good reputation, to listen to the constituents, take their views into account and help their vision for what they want for their children, and have that come realized at Soulsbyville School," Spangler said.
Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at email@example.com or (209) 588-4526.