In a few short weeks, South Bay voters get a shot at a clean school board slate.

After a years-long pay-to play scandal involving members of the Sweetwater Union High School District board, administrators and contractors, residents will choose five new school board members to represent more than 41,000 kids.

Once elected, those officials have a hefty to-do list: hire a new superintendent, make sense of district property deals gone awry, move to a new district office and regain the trust and support of a community disenchanted with school leadership.

At public meetings with Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox this summer, residents said one of their top priorities is getting to know the candidates. They’ll get an opportunity this Thursday at our forum with the candidates vying to represent students in Castle Park and San Ysirdo.

This election marks the first time voters will elect a trustee to represent their respective areas after the district was diced up. Check out a map of the newly drawn geographic areas here. With more than 20 candidates running for these seats, we thought we’d help you get to know them better. Below is a sampling of their answers from a questionnaire we sent them. Check out the rest of their answers here.

What Transparency Means to Them

Jerome O. Torres, Area 1 (Chula Vista High School, Sweetwater High School, Granger Junior High, National City Middle School)

“It means that, except for those board decisions that are legally required to be conducted in closed session, all other decisions will be conducted in public and not clandestinely. The board meetings will be webcast with translation services in Spanish and Tagalog provided in real time. All current and past policy and financial-related documents will: one, be made available to the general public free of charge; and two, be posted on the websites of the district and respective schools.”

Kevin O’ Neill, Area 2 (Bonita Vista High School and Middle School, Hilltop High School and Middle School)

“The response to a [Public Records Act request] will meet the spirit as well as the actual requirement under the law insofar as district staff will help the requester formulate and define the information that is being sought.”

Defining the District’s Biggest Problem

Nicholas Segura, Area 4 (Castle Park High School and Middle School, San Ysidro High School)

“I believe the biggest problem is education inequality. I would like to ensure that resources are more fairly distributed throughout the district. Every student should have access to strong opportunities and a chance to shoot for the stars and receive a high-quality education, regardless of their community’s socioeconomic environment.”

Frank A. Taramtino, Area 3 (Eastlake Middle School and High School, Rancho Del Rey Middle School, Otay Ranch High School, Olympian High School)

“The decisions made regarding support of independent charter schools, the elimination of neighborhood school boundaries, the use of [state] Mello-Roos funds to buy iPads without a workable implementation plan, the disposal of district property and the lease option to buy a new district office in the Eastlake Business Park are short-sighted and will impact the district (and the new district leadership) for many years.”

Jim Cartmill, Area 3

“The public perception of the district. I will commit to solving it by getting the message out that the Sweetwater district continues to be true to its mission:  maximizing student achievement.  I will build on the quantifiable academic progress to work with our employee groups to get the message out to the broader community that the Sweetwater district is moving in the right direction.”

What Background or Experience Makes Them a Qualified Candidate

Paula Hall, Area 5 (Mar Vista Middle School and High School, Southwest Middle and High School)

“My children have been in the SUHSD schools. I am a parent who has been trying to be the voice from our area (west of I-805) for the past few years because our schools have been neglected. I have also been active involving other parents from different schools so they understand the decisions tied to programs and finances, and what they must question and what they must provide input on.”

On Working with Families from Other Areas

Felipe Nuno, Area 4

“First I would like to find out why their child is going to a different area than where they belong.  If it is because the parents believe that the other schools are better than the one in their communities, then I would challenge them to help me change that. I want parents to become part of the solution in improving their own schools in their own communities.”

Bertha Lopez, Area 2

“Students have always been my No. 1 priority. If there an issue, I will guide the parents in the right direction so they can resolve their concern. Geographic areas should not be a barrier for our students or parents. My role as a board member will be to represent all students and the public regardless of their geographical area.”

Bianca Bruno

Bianca Bruno is Voice of San Diego's News Literacy program manager. She works with Chula Vista residents, promoting equal access to news through civic...

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