HAYWARD — With the departure of Hayward Unified School District trustee Sergio Saenz, a two-year term on the board is guaranteed to go to a newcomer on Nov. 4.
That proved to be grounds for a popular race — six contestants with varied backgrounds are in the running.
These candidate profiles are based on a Daily Review questionnaire sent to all hopefuls, as well as two well-attended candidate forums.
Willie Lee Anderson
Anderson said his skills as a coalition builder and communicator would serve the board well.
"We all need to sit down at the table and determine how we can all work to meet the needs of our students," he said.
Those needs include raising test scores and curbing the violence at schools. Anderson said one of his main goals is to form a partnership with police and the community to help quell a "perceived rise in school violence," possibly involving a Big Brothers and Sisters program on campus.
Anderson said that his work as a consultant puts him in a position to "think outside the box" about ways to meet student needs with a very limited budget, and that his background coming from an underserved community also gives him a different perspective that would bring new ideas to the table.
Anderson said the district is distracted by "issues and drama," and needs to get back to the basics of teaching "reading, writing, arithmetic and critical thinking."
James P. Farley
Farley said he is running out of frustration: "The same problems that were there when I went to school are still there today," such as a lack of communication with the community and bullying. For bullying, he said he would enforce a "zero-tolerance policy."
He said his immediate concern is the budget, and he would seek "innovative ways to meet academic achievement within the budget we have," with input from parent and teacher groups.
Farley said all groups of students — disabled, remedial, gifted, English learners, those in vocational classes as well as college prep — must be taken into account when making decisions, and stresses equity among the schools in the district.
"I would like to go to each individual school and learn their needs, and work as a board to address (those needs)," he said. "They're not all the same."
Lawrence M. Fitzpatrick
Out of the two-year candidates, Fitzpatrick is the least pleased with the status quo.
"The board has done nothing to improve (communications problems) as they do not listen or care about Hayward students or parents," he said.
He said informed, proactive parents are the best advocates for schools and he wants to make parental involvement the board's top priority. School officials from the superintendent to teachers should be trained on how to form "meaningful working relationships with parents."
"How they do that should be just as important as test scores and attendance," he said.
Fitzpatrick said gang problems must be addressed when the children are "young, really young — in the third and fourth grades" through youth-oriented programs, and suggested Army ROTC programs for later grades.
Hake said he decided to run after being asked to by teachers and parents because of his "unique position to work with people on many sides of issues to create solutions."
Hake said he led a powerful parents group in a fight regarding block schedules, and also has worked with the administration on a number of successful projects.
He added that he is an ideal go-between for the teacher's union and the administration.
Regarding teachers, he said it's important to recruit teachers sooner than "August and September — we're scooping up the bottom of the barrel each year" and a district priority should be teacher retention.
"We need to keep them, and help them," he said. "An enthusiastic teacher is a healthy teacher."
Hake said the district needs to stop micromanaging schools, and called for principals to step up and be "the decision-makers at their schools, leaders of their schools."
There's a disconnect between parents and the administration "resulting in a lack of trust and faith in the Hayward school system," Rocchio said. She said rebuilding those connections is key to seeing improvements in schools.
"We need to engage families, and stabilize the staff in schools," she said.
She said that API scores and enrollment are inextricably linked.
"Parents are chasing those scores," and a "revolving door" of teachers does not help keep those scores up.
She said that schools need to work with each other to find out what is working, and that redirecting children among various facilities is unacceptable.
"To expect a success out of that is out of the question," she said.
Rocchio called for help from the community. "The Bay Area is surrounded by arts and technology. Let's ask them to help ... (they are) just waiting for us to extend our hand."
Sheila R. Sims
Sims said she has two passions — kids and education — and she "wants to see education return to what it was when my daughter first started, with a healthy, safe environment that promotes respect and trust."
She said kids and parents need to know that the district will not tolerate violence at schools: "If you do x, y or z, this is what will happen."
Sims said she grew up with disparity and would work so that all students get the materials they need, "not just those in Stonebrae."
She emphasized teacher retention, saying they need to be paid "a living wage" to stay around.
"Students are a product of their classrooms and their teachers," she said. "How can we expect kids to advance when their teachers are new every six months," she said.
Sims said that regarding the budget, "Cuts should be made as far from the classroom as possible."
Monday, the Daily Review will have a synopsis of the 10 candidates seeking a four-year term on the school board.
Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Reach him at email@example.com or 510-293-2473.
Education: North High School, Denver; Chabot College; Cal State hayward; San Jose State University; UC Berkeley
Background: Retired teacher