Five of Patterson’s seven school board seats will be decided this year, with an incumbent seeking re-election in only one. Two seats had a single filer, and two candidates each filed for the remaining three.
Running uncontested are local firefighter Mike McLaughlin, 48, who will take the Area 1 seat, and student Carlos Gustavo Fierros, 30, assuming the Area 3 seat, on the Patterson Joint Unified School District board.
Board President Jose Reynoso is the lone incumbent running. Members Bruce Kelly, Amy Hussar, Kay Silva-Johnson and appointee Janie Quiroba decided against new terms.
It is the district’s first election with more filers than seats since 2011, when Reynoso was one of seven candidates vying for five at-large seats. Since then, the board has switched to by-area elections to align with the California Voting Rights Act.
The Area 4 race in the northeast section of town is for a two-year seat, filling out the term of a board member who moved. Quiroba was the interim appointee. Candidates Angelica Reyes, 35, and Alyssa Homen, 27, both said in questionnaires returned to The Modesto Bee that they hope to reduce classroom sizes.
Homen, mother of a preschooler, also said she would like to hire more support staff at schools, such as custodians and yard duties, build an indoor cafeteria at Creekside Middle School, and record board meetings so commuting parents can view them.
A third-generation Patterson High graduate, Homen said she became involved in a legislative drive in April. “It showed me that to make changes, one must get actively involved,” she said. She supports the Walnut Grove dual-language program and the switch to student laptops planned over the next few years.
Reyes has two children in district schools. She put attracting and retaining teachers as a top priority, along with raising test scores and addressing safety concerns at campuses. She would like to see United Patterson engage more of the community in setting school spending priorities and the creation of culinary and forensics-criminal justice career courses.
The lack of advanced math courses for her children while at Walnut Grove brought her into the race, Reyes said. She supports the No Excuses University program, she said. “I feel that speech and debate would be a great asset to our students as we are transitioning into a No Excuses University district, so that the graduating students have a better chance of getting into higher caliber universities,” she said.
The Area 5 race at the western edge of town is a face-off of Reynoso, 48, against challenger Jeffrey Nosek, 44.
Nosek did not return The Bee’s questionnaire, but in remarks to the Patterson Irrigator said he has a daughter at Apricot Valley Elementary and a preschooler. He is concerned about crowding in schools and wants to see advanced science, arts and math programs. He supports expanding community involvement through the United Patterson initiative, early education and career pathways.
Reynoso told The Bee he worked during his time on the board for efficient use of money in tight times. He laid out his top priorities if re-elected as equitable education for all students, a safe environment at schools and to continue to improve technology and train teachers to best use it. He would like to see more computer science courses in middle and high schools.
He also said more involvement is needed. “We need to find new ways to excite and engage our community to take part in our meetings,” Reynoso said. “Their participation is crucial if they want their voices to be heard.”
Area 7 extends west and south from the center of town. Vying to serve that area are Jeff Cross, 47, and James Leonard, 34, both parents with children at district schools.
Cross put his top priorities as increasing access to musical activities; better training staff to work with students with disabilities; and adding career training in computer science, automotive and machining courses. As Cub Scout leader and member of the Patterson Education Foundation music committee, Cross said he is running to encourage more volunteerism and community involvement.
“I would like the high school to establish a career office that serves seniors as well as recent graduates,” he said, to expand use of financial aid and scholarships to further education even after leaving high school. Cross supports building a rainy day fund as a buffer against layoffs in another downturn and would like to provide busing to extracurricular events and practices.
Leonard said his top priority is health and safety for students, including nutritious lunches, emergency training for staff and a proactive approach to combat bullying. Exploring new ways to use technology and enhancing use of art and music are goals, as is increased counseling staff to help low-income students and English learners better plan their educational path.
“The two things our schools need most are more people and more space,” Leonard said, to keep class sizes low. “And we do a disservice to our students when we neglect to fairly compensate our teachers and staff,” he said.
The Patterson board has just reached deals with teachers and staff for this school year. The board will hold a special meeting Monday to approve pacts retroactive to July 1 with all its employee groups and managers.
The 5.25 percent raise and increased health benefit package granted all groups will total $1.9 million, according to agenda reports. The amount will push the district’s $58 million budget slightly into the red, with $310,000 more in expected expenses than income, but it leaves a healthy $7.6 million reserve.
For the next few years, the board can expect the district’s income to continue to rise, primarily due to extra money from the state to serve its high numbers of low-income and English-learning students. Also coming up is Patterson’s shift to digital, with middle school students getting Chromebooks this year. High schoolers will get devices over the next two years.
Patterson school board candidates
Area 4 (short term)
ALYSSA HOMEN, 27
EDUCATION: Patterson High graduate, some college
OCCUPATION: Patient services representative in medical billing
FAMILY: Boyfriend Noel Eschavarriea, 2-year-old daughter
ANGELICA REYES, 35
EDUCATION: Associate’s degree, Medical Assistant Certificate
OCCUPATION: Medical assistant
FAMILY: Two children at Patterson High, son at Walnut Grove School
JOSE REYNOSO, 48
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree from California State University, Fresno
OCCUPATION: Business owner and bank computer applications engineer
FAMILY: Wife Palmira, two daughters at Patterson High, a son at Apricot Valley Elementary and a son attending California State University, Stanislaus
JEFFRY NOSEK, 44
OCCUPATION: Technology solution architect; Nosek did not return a Bee questionnaire asking for his education, family and positions
JEFF CROSS, 47
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree from California State University, East Bay; associate’s degree, California Culinary Academy
OCCUPATION: Salesman, trainer at Livermore tool company
FAMILY: Wife Mindy, daughter at Creekside Middle and son at Las Palmas Elementary
JAMES LEONARD, 36
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree from California State University, Stanislaus
OCCUPATION: Director of news and social media at the University of California, Merced
FAMILY: Wife Kelley Salomon, son at Creekside Middle, daughter at Las Palmas Elementary