School board race heats up

The race for Chico’s school board, which is usually a rather tame affair with polite platforms and little money spent, might come off differently this time around. The high school voters OK’d with a 1998 bond seems ever-farther out of reach, and the relationship between the administration and the teachers’ union is still far from warm and fuzzy. Meanwhile, the governor is cutting local districts’ budgets like there’s no tomorrow.

Nine people have filed to run for three open seats on the board. While incumbents Donna Aro and Ann Sisco are trying for re-election, Scott Schofield is not, which extended the deadline to Aug. 14.

The slate for November’s school board race includes such recognizable Chico names as real estate agent Scott Huber and TV meteorologist Anthony Watts. Also running are Rick Rees, the widower of longtime Trustee Jackie Faris-Rees; Eileen Robinson, the most recent president of a school employees’ union; Dave Donnan, who narrowly lost in the last CUSD election; and political newcomers Janet Walther, a parent, and David Haynes, a retired teacher.

Walther has served on Shasta’s Site Council for three years, volunteered with community nonprofits and served on the Chico Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors. She works in community and government relations for PG&E and would like to see more partnerships between the CUSD and the business community.

Watts said the delay in building a new high school is what made him decide to run, and, if elected, “I would work for a faster resolution.” He’s also interested in more efficient school bus service to alleviate congestion. “I’m just a regular guy trying to do some good,” said Watts, whose 14-year-old daughter studies in the CUSD.

Huber said he doesn’t plan “to spend any money on promoting myself really,” leaving it up to the voters to hear about him and decide if they want him in office. It might help that he’s already got a huge billboard for his real estate persona. Huber has lived in Chico for 22 years and has children ages 3, 5 and 13. “I have an interest in improving test scores and issues involved with class size—just the standard concerns that most involved parents have.” Most important to foster, he said, is “the teacher-student relationship.”

Donnan had considered running for Chico City Council, but the recurrence of a health problem relating to colon cancer made him decide to go for the less time consuming campaign of school board. Donnan, who has a son who is a sophomore at Chico High School, said he’s been following CUSD meetings during the past couple of years and would like to see the district include vocational training aimed toward students who don’t plan on going on to college. With the exception of Trustee Steve O’Bryan, Donnan said, "the current board has been very ineffective. Just look at the high school."