Kate Parker, the longest serving board member of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, confirmed to Newsmakers this week that she will not seek another term in November.
Ismael Paredes Ulloa, who holds the second seat to be on the fall ballot, meanwhile said he intends to run, seeking for the first time to be elected to the position to which he was appointed last year.
At a time when the landscape of local education politics has been shaken up by the controversial dismissal of the popular principal of San Marcos High School, this means that parents organizing a campaign to replace four members of the board now have a wide-open opportunity to claim at least one of those seats.
In email interviews, both Parker and Ulloa defended their recent votes on to dismiss longtime principal Ed Behrens. However, both also acknowledged the frustration of hundreds of parents who support Behrens and were angered at receiving no public explanation for the board’s 4-to-1 action removing him on March 13, because of confidentiality requirements over personnel matters.
Tough decisions and wild speculation. Parker said the required secrecy of the vote has created a vacuum into which “wildly speculative timelines and proposed hidden agendas” had been inserted by those upset by Matsuoka’s move against Behrens,. She decried efforts by the ad hoc “Save Our Schools” group to recall fellow board members Jackie Reid and Wendy Sims-Moten, who also voted to affirm the superintendent’s recommendation.
“In this particular case, none of us took our vote lightly,” said Parker, who was elected to the board in 2010 and won a second term four years later without opposition.
“Normally when a board makes a tough decision, we have the opportunity to explain out in the open exactly why we voted the way we did,” she said. “In this case we can't, and into this void, some parents have created wildly speculative timelines and proposed hidden agendas that are simply not true.
“It's been surprising to listen to their misunderstanding of school district personnel matters, given that at least a couple of the parents have previous school board experience,” Parker added. “But they really like Ed, some have personal connections with him, and I completely understand that they are looking for a place to vent their anger.”
Ulloa, who was appointed by other board members to fill out the term of Monique Limon after she was elected to the state Assembly in 2016, shrugged off criticism that the anti-Behrens vote was “an abomination of public service,” a characterization made by a leader of the SOS group at a community meeting this week.
“I stand by my vote,” he said. “I made my decision to vote the way I did because I believe it is the best move for San Marcos High School and the Santa Barbara Unified School District as a whole.”
The March 13 vote against Behrens has generated a political firestorm which unexpectedly has placed the normally low-key board under a bright spotlight of attention. The Save Our Schools group, sources said, already has received pledges of more than $80,000 towards financing the campaign to revamp the board.
Here is the text of the questions and answers with Kate Parker and Ismael Ulloa.
Q: Can you confirm or deny reports that you do not intend to run for another term?
A: I can confirm that I do not plan to run for a fourth term. It's been an honor and a joy to serve local students and work to better public education over the past twelve years, but it's time to pass the torch to a new generation of caring, committed board members.
Q: What is your reaction to the formation of a campaign to recall two of your colleagues, and what is your response to the charge by its organizers that your vote on Mr. Behrens was "an abomination of public service" ?
A: I think organizing a recall is a mistake. Jackie (Reid) and Wendy (Sims-Moten) have worked extremely hard and shown an impressive ability to independently and critically analyze the wide range of issues and challenges that Santa Barbara Unified faces. Our kids are lucky to have them.
In this particular case, none of us took our vote lightly. Normally when a board makes a tough decision, we have the opportunity to explain out in the open exactly why we voted the way we did.
In this case we can't, and into this void, some parents have created wildly speculative timelines and proposed hidden agendas that are simply not true. It's been surprising to listen to their misunderstanding of school district personnel matters, given that at least a couple of the parents have previous school board experience.
But they really like Ed, some have personal connections with him, and I completely understand that they are looking for a place to vent their anger. T
To be honest, we've had people excoriate us for the vote, and we've had people thank us. For my part, I hope that the school and district can move forward positively, but I also know that Jackie and Wendy are tough and determined--they're certainly ready to talk to the community about the work they've done and are doing for students across the district.
Ismael Paredes Ulloa
Q: What is your reaction to the formation of a campaign to challenge your election, and to recall several of your colleagues, and what is your response to the charge by its organizers that your vote on Mr. Behrens was "an abomination of public service" ?
A: I understand how it feels to have something decided and then not be given any concrete reasons as to why. I also understand that as a board member, that I am barred from disclosing closed session and personnel issues.
As far as my vote being "an abomination of public service", I disagree. I stand by my vote. I made my decision to vote the way I did because I believe it is the best move for San Marcos High School and the Santa Barbara Unified School District as a whole.
Q: If the organizers put up a candidate to challenge you in November, is it your intention to seek election to office?
A:. Yes, I was already planning on seeking election to office regardless of who else is running.
Q: How do you respond to the allegation that you are not responsive to community concerns because you took your seat by default, and without facing any challengers?
A: There were 10 other people who were interviewed to fill the seat left vacant by Assembly Member Limon. Out of everyone who was interviewed, I was unanimously appointed by the current board (Ms. Capps, Ms. Parker, Dr. Reid and Ms. Sims-Moten). It might not have been an open election, but there were definitely other candidates.
As far as being responsive to community concerns, I would hope that my track record of service (professional and volunteer) to our community would show otherwise.
I have worked for or with the Santa Barbara Unified School District by serving our youth and families for almost 10 years in various capacities (substitute teacher, Literacy Coach, Youth Program staff for the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services, Cal-SOAP Project Director and SBCC Advisor).
I have sat on boards and committees that directly serve not just SBUSD, but the entirety of Santa Barbara County and California with such organizations as the South Coast Taskforce on Youth Safety, the California Academic Partnership Program, the Santa Barbara Teen Coalition, Future Leaders of America, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara and the Fund for Santa Barbara.
In all of these capacities, I have prided myself on not only doing the research, but also reaching out to people in the community and listening to their first-hand knowledge and experiences. At the end of the day, I have to find the balance between all of these sources of information and make a decision.
Images: Kate Parker; Ismael Paredes Ulloa (SB Independent).