Former union chief takes on trustees
The first person to sign up to run for one of the three open seats on the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees is someone who has been, albeit politely, somewhat of a thorn in the side of district administrators for years.
Eileen Robinson will go up against two incumbents and as-yet-unknown other opponents, as the filing period for the November election just opened July 15. Both Ann Sisco and Donna Aro confirmed this week that they’re running for re-election, while Scott Schofield, soured by the tone of teacher-contract negotiations, is bowing out.
A mother of four who has volunteered on many district committees, Robinson, who’s 55, this year retired after 29 years of employment with the CUSD, most recently as an attendance clerk at Pleasant Valley High School. She’s also the most-recent president of the Chico chapter of the California School Employees Association, which represents classified workers, including bus drivers, secretaries and custodians.
“I’ve been serving this district for nearly 30 years in one capacity or another, and this just seemed like a logical way to continue that service,” she said.
Robinson was quick to say that she’s not running because she thinks there’s unfinished business between the district and its classified employees’ union; rather, she believes that relationship is going well.
She did acknowledge that the current trustees seem to be on the same page about most issues, and she’d likely add some alternative views: “I expect that I might have some differences of opinion, but I haven’t predetermined an opinion on anything. [I’d] go in wanting to know all the facts.”
One of the biggest issues facing the district—securing a site for the new high school that was approved with a 1998 bond measure—is one Robinson is also committed to, but she’d hold off on actually opening the school “until the student population begins to increase again” and the CUSD can afford to staff it.
She’s also concerned, she said, about “whether we are meeting the remedial needs of our middle-school students.”
Schofield, who runs a Chico fitness club, said he has neither the time nor the inclination to continue such a thankless job as trustee. “I’ve never done anything as a volunteer that made me feel so unappreciated in all my life,” he said. Last fall, after teachers voted to strike if they didn’t get the contract they wanted, “I said, ‘I’m done.’
“I don’t see a future in it for me,” Schofield said. “I had to compromise too many of my personal values,” he added, referencing the personnel and services that had to be cut to fund teacher raises.
Aro said that while she, too, is disheartened at how antagonistic things got between teachers and trustees, she’s decided to try for a third term, largely because "there are so many things we’re kinda in the middle of." The biggest is Canyon View High School. "The whole community poured their heart and soul into that effort, and I just want to see it through."