HAYWARD -- Voters have three distinct choices in the race for a two-year seat on the school board: an appointed incumbent, an ally of the board firebrand and a proudly unaffiliated newcomer.

Trustee Jesus Armas said he brings a wealth of experience and leadership skills to the table, and would continue to do so.

He lists his priorities as giving kids a quality education through committed teachers and administrators, getting more parents involved with district schools, and preserving local control of the district, which is faced with the possibility of a state takeover.

"It is a formidable task in front of us," he said, adding that his campaign theme is "It's about the students."

"That's the most important part," he said. "To make sure children have access to a quality education."

Armas said to do that, it's vital to maintain control. He wants voters to take into account his history as Hayward's city manager for more than 14 years, during which time he was key in the construction of Stonebrae and Burbank elementary schools.

Armas said he has dealt with budget cuts and labor disputes and has demonstrated his dedication to the community.

"I'm not a Johnny-come-lately," he said, referring to his involvement with the YMCA, All Saints Church and other groups.

"I know how to run large, complex organizations," he said about his professional background. "My record shows someone who has worked with individuals in policymaking roles, and political roles. "... I know how to get things done and bring disparate parties together."

Challenger Lawrence M. Fitzpatrick has an all-but-sworn allegiance to Trustee Luis Reynoso, who has been raising questions about Armas' appointment to the board and his wife's employment with the district from the start.

Fitzpatrick, who has run for both the school board and the Hayward City Council in the past, states that his first priority is making the board start following the law, in particular regarding Armas. He added that while Armas may have a long history in Hayward, he disagrees that it's been a positive thing.

He also echoes Reynoso in demanding the district do more to solicit bids from contractors, and said he believes "sweetheart deals" for preferred developers "throw our children's money away."

Reynoso also has long said the board lacks transparency, and Fitzpatrick follows his lead for his third priority of making sure the board follows the Brown Act.

However, Fitzpatrick said his main reason for running is more personal than allegiance to his friend: He's the only candidate in the race who has children attending schools in the district, and that's what prompted him to run.

"No, a vote for me isn't a vote for Reynoso," he said. "It's a vote for me."

Annette Walker is a newcomer to politics who said she got involved because she sees the schools failing, and the board needs a shake-up to turn things around.

"Wipe the slate clean," she said. "Bring people like myself, who are interested in the students at Hayward schools."

She said she would bring transparency, accountability and enforcement to the board.

"I would not give any favors to unions or other interests," she said. "I don't owe anybody anything."

She said she would like to see a "serious" tracking of academic progress, and supports options such as charter schools, voucher programs and merit pay.

"The only way out is to create realistic options for Hayward schools," she said. "We need more options, and they are out there, but we need to put them into place."

Walker believes expanding options such as music and art after school would help curb the dropout rate, and added that working with nonprofit groups and community organizations would be the key to success.

"Our families, community and students deserve a school board representative that is passionate about learning, acts with a professional demeanor that models a community leader, and wants to be held accountable," she said. "No more excuses."

Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Contact him at 510-293-2473. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.

hAYWARD SCHOOL DISTRICT

JESUS ARMAS
Age: 57
Occupation: Land-use consultant and school board member
City of residence: Hayward, 25 years
Local businesses/properties you own: Homeowner
Family: Wife, son and daughter
Education: Master's in public administration, bachelor's in political science
Elected positions held: Appointed school board member
Other experience: 30 years in local government in four cities, including more than four years as city manager of South San Francisco and 14 years as city manager of Hayward.
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Car you drive: Lexus I250

LAWRENCE FITZPATRICK
Age: 52
Occupation: Security officer
City of residence: Hayward, 52 years
Local businesses/properties you own: Homeowner
Family: Wife, three daughters
Education: Hayward High, some college
Party Affiliation: Republican
Car you drive: Chevy Lumina

ANNETTE WALKER
Age: Did not state
Occupation: Director of graduate admissions, Cal State East Bay
City of residence: Hayward, 18 years
Local businesses/properties you own: Homeowner
Family: One daughter
Education: Doctorate in educational leadership, University of San Francisco; master's in educational psychology from Cal State Hayward; bachelor's in sociology, San Francisco State
Party Affiliation: Nonpartisan
Car you drive: 2002 Mercedes-Benz