LocationAlhambra , CA
In what could become a historic election for the Alhambra Board of Education, three newcomer candidates, all union-backed educators, defeated incumbents in district races, according to updated results from the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder and County Clerk.
Challengers Marcia Wilson, Kaysa Moreno and Ken Tang received $10,000 each in campaign contributions from the Alhambra Teachers Association’s political action committee and were endorsed as well by the California School Employees Association.
The school board has rarely seen so much competition in past elections. For the past 14 years, candidates have largely run unopposed. In 2018, district 5’s race was cancelled after the opponent failed to gather enough signatures for the ballot.
“It’s a sign that everyone’s deeply engaged – it’s a good sign,” district spokesperson Toby Gilbert said. “We had six candidates running for our kids… that is very fortunate for our community.”
The three new faces on the five-member board would bring their experience as educators, some at the college level. This could also end the tenures of two long-serving members — Patricia Rodriguez-Mackintosh and Jane C. Anderson.
In Alhambra’s third district, Moreno, a mathematics teacher at El Camino Community College, beat Rodriguez-Mackintoch with 59% of the vote. Rodriguez-Mackintosh has served on the board for 16 years and is the current school board president.
Tang, an elementary school teacher in the neighboring Garvey School District won with 58% of the vote in the second district, replacing Anderson, the board’s current vice president. Anderson has been on the board for 14 years.
The new group of board members will select a new president and vice president, as well as a clerk, in the annual December selection process.
Attention, however, remains on the first district race, where Wilson, a dean at the L.A. Trade Technical College, is inching past incumbent Wing Kim Ho by just over 1%, or about 478 votes, a result that could change as mail-in ballots are counted.
According to the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder and County Clerk’s office, the county had an estimate 791,200 ballots for outstanding. Counting will continue throughout this month if needed.
Ho, who was appointed to the board in January 2019, said in a phone interview Wednesday night that he is remaining patient. “I respect the system, and if it happens that I will not be able to serve for the next four years, then I will just do what any other AUSD parent does and contribute what I can to the community,” he said.
As a project construction manager and Chinese immigrant, Ho said he is glad to have been able to use his expertise and language skills to connect with district parents for the past two years. “Now I hope that the new school board can carry on and continue to bring everyone through the pandemic,” he said.
How the district will weather challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic will be the main focus for the board. Candidates brought up that the physical and mental well-being of the students is their top priority.
“No student is going to really be able to focus on academics when they are trying to figure out how they are going to get their next meal, you know,” Tang said.
Currently, the district has a meal program in which children under 18 can pick up breakfast, lunch and dinner at no cost. However, AUSD urges parents to fill out the application for free or reduced meals if they qualify, so that the district may be eligible to receive future grants that will go towards sustaining academic programs, which take into account the number of low-income students.
The bottom line issue for the board will be handling financial shortfalls compounded by the effects of the pandemic, and making sure vital programs for students can stay up-and-running.
“The budget has always been an issue, not only in our district, but across California,” Robert Gin, the longest-serving board member, said. “Now all of a sudden [the pandemic] hits, and you have to rethink everything.”
During the October Kids & Candidate forum, Wilson brought up different solutions including looking into public-private partnerships. She mentioned her experience working with SLATE-Z, a group that tackles economic inequality in South L.A. and strategizes on ways to fund public education. “We can’t just do public dollars, we need to think innovatively,” Wilson said during the Zoom forum.
Looking ahead, Moreno said she believes one of the biggest challenges will be transitioning back to the physical classroom. “Figuring out how and when we come back, that’s the decision that I see, that’s the big one,” she said.
She emphasized the importance of including everyone — students, parents, teachers and staff—as much as possible in the decision making.
Moreno, along with Wilson and Tang had all talked about increasing communication and transparency in their respective campaign platforms.
Tang said his plan to improve communication is to meet with parents and students outside of the regular school board meetings to hear their concerns more directly.
Anderson said she congratulated Tang in a phone call, but also gave him a piece of advice: “When you’re a teacher like I was, too, [and] you get on the other side and you go, ‘oh this is very different.’
“And the situation we’re in right now, it’s a whole new ballgame,” she said.
Ho said that in his view, “The new board members will have a huge challenge, no doubt.”
“There’s no set solution because everyone is going through this new thing so there will be a need for a lot of fine tuning,” he said.
But the new members are up for the challenge. “I take this as an opportunity to really help the community that made me who I am,” Tang said, “this is my opportunity to give back… and make sure AUSD is one of the best in the state.”