SAN LORENZO -- Even as test scores improve in the San Lorenzo Unified School District and the state budget situation becomes slightly less bleak for schools, four challengers are seeking to unseat two incumbents in the Nov. 2 school board election.

The incumbents are Helen Randall and Isabel Polvorosa. The challengers are Stacy Santos Blom, Gene Judson, Rebecca Olivera and Elliot Schneider.

Despite double-digit increases through the last two years on the district's Annual Performance Index test scores, four schools in the district -- Colonial Acres Elementary, Hillside Elementary, Lorenzo Manor Elementary and Edendale Middle School -- still remain on the probationary status known as "program improvement" after not meeting federal goals.

In recent years, the district also has faced harsh budget cuts and even teacher layoffs, but seems to have staved off a worst-case scenario as the newly passed state budget promises to restore some funding that was not in the governor's May budget proposal.

However, all four challengers say the board needs to be more transparent and communicate better with students, parents and teachers in order to keep the district moving forward.

"Communication is essential to any successful relationship and we must improve this aspect of the board's culture to provide transparency," Santos Blom said.

Olivera, who has worked for the district for 10 years, said if elected she would like to see more collaboration among students, parents and teachers and the school board.


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"The most effective school boards are those that listen and value all opinions and ideas brought before them," Olivera said. "They recognize that concerns, particularly those of parents, reflect the feeling of the community they serve."

As expected, money and budgets also have come up in this election. Both Judson and Schneider say the district and current board could and should be doing more with its funds.

Judson, who lost his seat on the board two years ago -- "I did not finish what I started six years ago," he said -- added the time is right for the district to start to spend more of its Measure O money. Voters approved that measure in 2008 to generate $83 million in local funds to renovate facilities and classrooms throughout the district.

Judson said the current slow-recovering economy means those dollars likely would go farther if used now.

Schneider, a former teacher in the district, said some of the district's funds should be reallocated away from administrative pay and put back into the classrooms, as well as into protecting the district's music, arts and sports programs.

"A well-rounded educated student is a successful one," Schneider said.

Both Polvorosa and Randall point to the recent strides the district's students seem to have made -- illustrated most strongly in improved test scores -- as to why they believe they should remain on the board.

"In spite of the financial crisis, our students have scored well on the (Standardized Testing And Reporting test) in the past two years," Randall said.

She added the district also has seen increased attendance numbers, decreased suspension rates and increased accountability.

Polvorosa said keeping the district fiscally solid is her top priority.

"We have been able to remain fiscally sound during this budget crisis, and I'm very proud of our district for being able to do so," Polvorosa said. "We have been able to hire back all our permanent teachers that were laid off, and half of our laid-off staff has returned."

San Lorenzo School Board

Stacy Santos Blom
Age: 44
Occupation: Sales representative
City of residence: San Lorenzo, 23 years
Local businesses/properties owned: A home
Family: Married with two daughters
Education: Certificate in personnel administration from UC Berkeley Extension.
Elected positions held: None
Other experience: PTA secretary/treasurer; San Lorenzo Girls' Softball League secretary.
Party affiliation: Democrat

Gene Judson
Age: 51
Occupation: Founder and CEO of FirstDegree
City of residence: San Leandro, 48 years
Local businesses/properties owned: A business and home in San Lorenzo
Family: Married with daughter and three sons
Education: A.A. degree in business from Chabot College, 1989; bachelor's in business from Cal State, East Bay, 1993.
Elected positions held: San Lorenzo Unified School District board, 2004-08
Other experience: 2009 graduate of Leadership San Leandro; youth baseball coach, Floresta Little League; past member of San Leandro Chamber of Commerce.
Party affiliation: Republican


Rebecca Olivera
Age: 41
Occupation: Office and project manager
City of residence: Unincorporated Hayward, 18 years
Local businesses/properties owned: None
Family: Married with four sons
Education: Current student at Chabot College
Elected positions held: None
Other experience: High school registrar in San Lorenzo Unified School District for 10 years.
Party affiliation: Democrat

Isabel Polvorosa
Age: 71
Occupation: Retired information technology worker at Chabot College
City of residence: San Leandro, 60 years
Local businesses/properties owned: Two homes in San Leandro
Family: Married with two adult daughters
Education: Attended Chabot College
Elected positions held: San Lorenzo Unified School District Board, 2002 to present
Other experience: Served on the San Leandro Human Resources Commission, 1976-84; president of the California School Employees Association, 1988-90.
Party affiliation: Democrat


Helen Randall
Age: 85
Occupation: Retired
City of residence/how long: San Lorenzo/51 years
Local businesses/properties owned:Two homes
Family: Two adult children
Education: High school graduate
Elected positions held: San Lorenzo Unified School District Board, 1994 to present
Other experience: Worked 35 years for the school district
Party affiliation: Democrat

Elliot Schneider
Age: 63
Occupation: Retired San Lorenzo schoolteacher
City of residence/how long: San Lorenzo, two years
Local businesses/properties owned: A home in San Lorenzo
Family: Married with two sons
Education: Bachelor's in humanities from Hofstra University; master's in secondary education from San Francisco State.
Elected positions held: Elected to the executive board of the San Lorenzo Education Association
Other experience: None
Party affiliation: Democratic