HAYWARD -- Five challengers for the Hayward school board talked on Wednesday about how they would bring together a deeply divided board, while the lone incumbent running for re-election said board members' bickering was not the problem.
The current board's frequent clashes came up during questions at a candidates forum Wednesday at Skywest Golf Course Restaurant, but it was only one of several subjects participants were asked to address.
Three seats on the five-member board will be decided in the November election. Incumbent Luis Reynoso is facing Peter Bufete, Sara Lamnin, Heather Reyes, John Taylor, Annette Walker and Wandra Williams.
Wednesday's forum was sponsored by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association, Bay Area Chapter. Williams did not attend Wednesday's forum, which was moderated by Hal Gin, Chabot Las Positas Community College District trustee.
In response to a question about how they would change the board's divisive culture, Reyes called the infighting on the board a serious issue. "I would work with my fellow board members to focus on the needs of the students," she said.
Walker, an educator, said her leadership skills would be useful to create a common vision for the board. "I can help us work together more effectively and act with dignity," she said. "The authority of the board rests with the board as a whole, not the individual."
Hayward Planning Commissioner Sara Lamnin said that in her work with a nonprofit agency, "I have spent a lot of time building trust between people who have had long feuds. I have spent 15 years building coalitions." She added that there are rules and regulations in place that the board should follow.
Hayward Education Foundation member Bufete said he has reached out to every candidate and school board member so that the new board could set off on a good foot. "If elected, I will bring that team building and diplomacy to the board. What's needed on the board is respect."
Taylor, a teacher at the Eden Area Regional Occupation Center, agreed there is a need for respect, plus integrity and compassion, on the board. "I have experience in bringing people together. It takes two to argue, but it takes a whole board to work together."
Reynoso, who has clashed repeatedly with trustee Jesus Armas during meetings, countered that "the problem is not with the bickering; the problem is corruption. We need a competent board."
Answering a question about what makes them more qualified than the other candidates, Walker said she earned a doctorate in education and has 20 years experience in the field. She first worked as a bilingual teacher and is now admissions specialist at Cal State East Bay. "More importantly, I'm a parent of a child who attended Hayward schools."
Reynoso, who also has a doctorate in education and a teaching credential, said, "I have a record of making the tough calls. I am battle tested; the lone voice."
Lamnin is program director for the nonprofit Hayward Community Action Network, which has a goal of ending homelessness in the city. She began a program that has provided 11,000 backpacks with school supplies to low-income students.
"I know how to include people in the decision-making process," she said.
Legal analyst Reyes said she is the only candidate who has children attending Hayward schools, and she has been active in the district.
Taylor, who teaches criminal justice and forensics, said that he brings the experience of a teacher with administrative duties. "I have found success in my classroom," he said, adding that he has received teacher of the year and outstanding teacher awards.
Bufete, who graduated from Hayward High in 2007, said he brings the unique experience of being a recent student and the only Asian-American candidate. "It's time we had new ways of thinking."