Cheryl Parks was sworn in at the March 28 meeting as the newest trustee member

TEMPLETON — The Templeton Unified School District held a special board meeting on Thursday, March 21, to hold interviews and fill the vacant spot on the board left by Trustee Mendi Swan, who resigned effective March 1 of this year. As of now, the reason for Swan’s resignation is unspecified.

At another special board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, the trustee board adopted a resolution to appoint a provisional trustee instead of holding an election for the open seat. The vacancy was announced, with the application period being Feb. 21 through March 8. Seven candidates applied and participated in the interviews. Those candidates were Matthew Allison, Sondra Jay, Cheryl Parks, Caroline Tomlinson, Brad Goodman, Gary Lehrer, and Jason Tesarz.

Each candidate had 90 seconds to answer each of their questions. Each candidate was asked the same five questions. The questions were:

  1. What do you feel is the role of the school board collectively and of a board member individually?
  2. As a board member, how would you foster a climate of trust, not only on the board but also throughout the community and the district?
  3. California school districts grapple with painful budget decisions and limited resources; what programs or areas of the budget do you feel should be our priority?
  4. What is your understanding of a board member’s role in picking a superintendent, and what qualities are you looking for in that perspective superintendent?
  5. What role do our schools play in supporting social, emotional, and learning for our students, and how should our district work toward protecting student’s mental well-being?

Tesarz stated that student education would be his main priority for the budget. Lehrer said he is looking for a new superintendent who can take the best of the past and apply it to the future. Jay said that collectively, the board’s main role is to listen to stakeholders, implement policies, and make decisions that best suit students and teachers. 

“I would encourage open and honest dialogue between all of the trustees. Transparency is key to having people understand and respect the board. I think as a trustee, you have to be willing to open yourself up to conversations with the public in terms of hearing what they have to say and their thoughts and appreciating them for who they are and the background that they are bringing to the community,” Parks said in response to question number two.

She also added that she feels that the TUSD needs to develop a better relationship between themselves and the Community Services District.

Goodman, who was a public school teacher for 35 years, said he would prioritize what goes on in THS classrooms. Allison said that the board’s role in picking a new superintendent is to work with the community, THS staff, and THS administration to determine what everyone wants to see in the new superintendent. Tomlinson stated that she wouldn’t want to lose the district’s FFA program or other things students enjoy due to budget cuts.

During public comment, 11 community members in the district came forward and asked that the board ensure that the person selected aligns with the district and the board.

Cheryl Parks was voted into the interim trustee position for the next seven months in a four-one vote. Trustee Yamagata voted no. Parks was sworn into her trustee position at the March 28 meeting the following week.

There will be three trustee board seats open during the Nov. 5 election later this year.