By Rebecca Parr
Staff Writer, Bay Area News Group
HAYWARD -- Hayward school board incumbent Luis Reynoso will face off in the November election against six challengers, many of whom are sounding the same theme that he campaigned on four years ago: The board and district need change.
"The board doesn't seem to be focused on the achievements of our students. There seems to be a lot of divisiveness and factions," said candidate Sara Lamnin, who serves on the city's planning commission.
In addition to Lamnin and Reynoso, the other candidates running for the three open positions on the five-member board are Peter Bufete, Heather Reyes, John Taylor, Annette Walker and Wandra Williams. Incumbents Jesus Armas and Maribel Heredia are not seeking re-election.
Meetings of the Hayward school board been have plagued by bickering, name-calling and clashes between members. A recent meeting took a chaotic turn, with members talking over one another and interrupting each other. The meeting ended soon after it started.
The lone incumbent running in November, Reynoso was first elected to in 2008. He said in a statement he issued Wednesday, "I have worked tirelessly to improve fiscal and academic accountability in our schools so that every student may pursue higher education."
Walker ran for the board once before, narrowly losing to Armas. She said her 20-plus years as an educator will help make her a strong and knowledgeable trustee. As an admissions specialist at Cal State East Bay, she sees many Hayward students who are not prepared to enter college, and is disappointed by the schools' test scores.
"This fall, hopefully we have an opportunity to elect new trustees that can work more effectively together as a school board," Walker said.
Taylor, an instructor at Eden Area Regional Occupational Program, said he has strong organizational and leadership skills and is able to bring together those with different perspectives.
"As a board, we have to be more responsible, and we have to communicate better. We represent every student and parent in this community, and we have to do a better job at it," he said.
Williams, who worked for Peralta Community College for 20 years, including three as an instructor, before becoming a full-time parent, said, "The students should be first. Period. I really mean that."
In the upcoming election, "there's the possibility of changing 60 percent of the board's current composition. If you change the makeup of the board, you have a great chance of changing the tone and atmosphere," Williams said.
Lamnin said she's ready to be part of the solution. "I have the skills and experience that are underrepresented on the current board: bringing together people who have disparate viewpoints and may not have gotten along in past," she said.
Reyes said she wants to have a say in her children's education. "Not only do I feel that to fix a mess, you need to get in it, but also I have a willingness to take charge of the challenging issues that are present with the school district, with the mindset that the children do come first, she said.
Bufete, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in June, said ensuring that the district's budget is solvent and improving the quality of education are top priorities. He said he would help improve communication within the district.
"One of the problems I have with the current board is the way some individuals conduct themselves in public," Bufete said. "There needs to be a lot more respect."