By Robin N. Kendall
Photo: GUHSD Area 2 candidates Elva Salinas, Jim Stieringer, and Justin Slagle
October 8, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Voters in East County’s Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) Area No. 2 will need to study the candidates carefully to choose their next trustee. Three candidates with divergent views will help chart the course for the area’s teens and next generation of workers and college students.
Trustee areas in this district were adopted in 2016. Although the trustees represent the entire district, they are now elected from their own geographic area and serve a term of four years. Area 2 includes Helix Charter High School and portions of La Mesa and El Cajon. (In Area 1, the southernmost area in the district, Chris Fite is running unopposed. Area 1 includes Mount Miguel and Monte Vista High Schools.)
GUHSD operates 13 high schools in addition to a regional occupation program (ROP), special education and adult education programs. Five K-8 school districts feed in, including: Cajon Valley Union, La Mesa-Spring Valley, Lakeside Union, Lemon Grove and Santee. More information is available at www.guhsd.net/Board/.
Residents of Area 2 may vote for one of the three candidates: Elva Salinas, Jim Stieringer or Justin Slagle.
Elva Salinas, incumbent GUHSD Trustee, Area No. 2
Elva Salinas, the incumbent, was first elected in 2016 and currently holds the position of clerk. In her ballot statement Salinas says, “I am not a politician. I am a career teacher seeking to ensure our students receive the college transfer preparation and workforce training they need to be successful members of our community.” Her ballot statement indicates that she is the only candidate endorsed by the American Federations of Teachers and all GUHSD teacher and employee unions. She adds, “My ability to collaborate with all board members has insured decisions focused on health and safety, teacher and staff job security, and teaching practices that meet the needs of ALL students.”
According to her biography on the GUHSD website, Salinas has won numerous educator awards including the California Community College Board of Governors Exemplary Award, the Golden Apple Faculty of the Year Award, and the Latina Leadership Award from KPBS & Union Bank for her work with homeless youth. Her work as an educator has been chronicled in Chicana Tributes: Activist Women of the Civil Rights Movement - Stories for the New Generation. SDSU houses her work in Chicana de Conciencia: Past, Present and Future.
Salinas did not respond to ECM’s email invitation to answer our prepared questions.
Jim Stieringer, challenger, GUHSD Trustee Area No. 2
Jim Stieringer has previously served on the GUHSD board. He is a retired director of the Grossmont Healthcare District (1992-2010) and served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. He is a Grossmont High graduate with a bachelor of science degree from California Western University. He states he contributes to Habitat for Humanity, Food Bank, Humane Society, Father Joe’s Villages, Grossmont Hospital, and the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Stieringer replied to our email with previously written statements and a monograph about reopening the schools. He did not respond directly to ECM’s prepared questions.
[Editors Note: Stieringer submitted this information on Sept. 10, 2020, but publication of this story was delayed while awaiting responses from other candidates.]
Stieringer wrote, “Online learning is clearly ineffective. As an early advocate for the safe reopening of our schools I have taken criticism for supporting five day in-person instruction. I appreciate the legitimate concerns of some teachers who prefer an extended paid summer vacation, but science suggests that young people tend to have greater immunity to illness. Our heroic healthcare workers at Grossmont Hospital, worked tirelessly to overcome the worst of the pandemic. Should we expect fewer sacrifices from the academic community? Teachers’ unions are influential and well-funded. Their negative mailings can be expected during the next couple of weeks. My goal is to assure that taxpayers are represented at the negotiation table. I will defend our campus police officers when they are right. Suing the schools has become the equivalent of winning the lottery. As a former USAF squadron commander, I learned the folly of placing important decisions in the hands of those who pay no price for being wrong.”
In Stieringer’s monograph, entitled “The Case for In-Class Learning in the Grossmont Union High School District," he suggests there be open air classrooms, staggered start times, a statewide homeschool stipend, in-class assistants and a “temporary moratorium on the mandates of CA AB 5 for contract work related to childcare and education until all regulations regarding the pandemic are repealed.”
Justin Slagle, challenger for GUHSD Trustee, Area No. 2
Justin Slagle is the third candidate on the ballot. Slagle states he is a teacher and educator, a service-connected disabled veteran, and a parent of students in the GUHSD. Slagle currently works for the Del Mar Union School District and previously served as the Board President of the Cajon Valley School District. According to the Tri City Christian School in Vista, he is also a theater instructor there. Slagle earned a bachelor’s degree from San Diego Christian College, a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University and is currently a doctoral candidate in Organizational Change and Leadership at USC.
Here are Slagle’s answers to ECM’s questions:
1. What are the most significant current challenges facing education in this community? How can the school board address these challenges?
Education as a whole faces significant challenges due to these unprecedented times. It is the school board's responsibility to represent the interests of the community when leading conversations with the district. Not only does this apply to the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic where the district has failed to provide services to all students while other districts in the county are open, but also to student safety in general. Parents need to be given information and choice so that they can be active partners in the education of their students. The district must create opportunities that will keep all students and staff members safe while still providing for their educational and social-emotional needs.
2. What motivates you to want to serve on the school board? Were there experiences in your education or career that sparked you to do this?
First and foremost, I am a parent of students in the district. I am also an educator and currently work for the Del Mar School District. When my children we younger, I served as the Board President of the Cajon Valley School District where we were able to move that district from a compliance model to being on the frontlines of educational change and being recognized nationally for the work they are doing for students.
3. For incumbents, what accomplishments on the board are you most proud of? For challengers, what do you most hope to change?
Districts should serve their students and families. Throughout my time on Cajon Valley School Board, we were able to transform that district. I hope to use my knowledge of education and board service to bring about the same transformational change that will put our students and families first.
4. Who has endorsed your candidacy?
I am endorsed by the Republican Party of San Diego County and by teachers and educators, community members, and politicians with bi-partisan support. When we are talking about our children and their future we come together.
5. What is your vision for education in this community?
It is pretty simple. We must 1) Prioritize student safety, if kids are not safe how can they learn 2) Not let the district avoid providing educational services to all students. There are ways to safely provide services during COVID. Our families and students are relying on us and should have a voice in the matter and choice.
3) Equity in services to all campuses those in the affluent areas and those in lower-income areas. All students should have opportunities to be college and career ready.
6. Please discuss your views on how you, if elected, could address the issue of racial inequities in the school district. For example, do you think there is a need for more diversity training?
I would assure that all district staff yearly underwent DEI training.
Robin Norris Kendall is from La Mesa and graduated from Helix High School and San Diego State University. She has worked as a writer and editor in a variety of fields including health communications, science education, public relations and marketing. Her experiences are in STEM education, higher education PR, recreation marketing, military life and outdoor education. She volunteers for the San Diego Natural History Museum and San Diego Zoo/Safari Park. She is currently working on two books for children. Her passions include natural history, bird watching, dogs and nature travel. She is the mother of two and grandmother of three.
East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the Facebook Journalism Project for its COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to support our local news reporting including impacts on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and our coverage of the 2020 local campaigns. Learn more: #FacebookJournalismProject and https://www.facebook.com/fbjournalismproject/.