Three people familiar with running for public office are on the ballot for the Area 2 seat on the Fresno Unified School Board.
Two of the candidates -- Luis Chavez and Daren Miller -- squared off two years ago in unsuccessful bids for a Fresno City Council post that ultimately was captured by Sal Quintero. The third school board candidate -- Esmeralda Diaz -- ran unsuccessfully for the Area 2 seat won by Larry Moore four years ago.
The winner in November will replace Moore, who decided not to seek re-election after one term.
The candidates say they've built upon their previous campaign experiences and gained supporters along the way in the highly diverse Roosevelt High attendance area.
Chavez, 33, is a Roosevelt graduate who said he decided to run for the school board to be a voice for the community. "I felt there was a disconnect between the community and the board."
Chavez has twin daughters at Edison Computech Middle School and serves on the board of Reading and Beyond, a nonprofit seeking to improve literacy rates in the San Joaquin Valley. He has the endorsement of business and labor organizations, he says in his candidate's statement, as well as the endorsement of Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Larry Powell and others.
From his City Council campaign two years ago, Chavez said he learned problems are best solved by people in the neighborhoods. After his loss, he became Quintero's chief of staff.
Chavez said he would propose several changes: He would hold meetings in Area 2 for parents who don't have transportation to attend school board meetings in downtown Fresno, and he would urge Fresno Unified to open schools in the summer to make more green space available to residents.
His priorities would include putting more resources into the classroom and addressing class size -- especially in struggling schools that have a lot of English learners.
Vocational education classes, such as construction and electronics, should be brought back to Roosevelt, he said. Voters have told him they want the option for students who are not going to college.
When she ran for the school board in 2008, Diaz came in third in a race that included four contenders and was won by Moore, who had the endorsement of the Fresno Teachers Association that he previously headed.
This time, Diaz, 45, is endorsed by both the teachers union and Moore. She decided to run this spring after being urged by a group of parents.
Diaz, who earned a medical degree in Mexico, said she put her career on hold to raise her children. She has a 13-year-old son at Edison Computech and a 6-year-old daughter at Leavenworth Elementary.
She wants the district to be more welcoming to parents, such as providing English translation for parents at back-to-school nights.
Fresno Unified also needs to put more resources into helping English learners, Diaz said. Many high school dropouts struggle with the language.
To solve the dropout problem, the district needs to take steps to identify and help younger students, she said, and that means putting more money into elementary classrooms to reduce class sizes. "Instead of 20 kids, now we're going to see 30, 35, even 40 kids," she said.
Voters in Area 2 are worried about gang activity and high school dropout rates, she said. Fresno Unified needs to offer more options to high school students, she said. "We have to face it: Not all of them are going to go to universities, to college. We have to have more vocational schools."
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