League of Women’s Voters of San Luis Obispo County hosted the forum last week

PASO ROBLES — The League of Women’s Voters of San Luis Obispo County (LWV) hosted a candidate forum for the candidates running for a seat on the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) on Wednesday night, Sept. 28.

Each candidate provided a two-minute opening statement before answering the questions asked by moderator Ed Cabera.

Candidates running for PRJUSD trustee seats in the 2022 November election are:

District 1 

  • Jim Cogan 
  • Chris Arend 
  • Peter Byrne

District 2

  • Joel Peterson

District 4

  • Frank Triggs
  • Catherine Reimer 
  • Sondra Williams 

At Large

  • Adelita Hiteshew 
  • Laurene D. McCoy 
  • Jim Irving 

Irving and Reimer were unable to be present. Peterson, while uncontested, was present at the forum but did not participate.

Current PRJUSD Board President Chris Arend opened the forum with his opening statement.

“I decided to run, was elected and since that time I’ve accomplished I think quite a lot in this school district, having authored our resolution condeming racism; having authored our resolution banning critical race theory.” he said. “We did not seek out these issues, they sought us out. This country is in a very divided condition at the moment as we know and it is in the case of the school districts we cannot avoid these conflicts.”

Peter Byrne recalled his background with a degree in political science followed by his return to a trade school for marine biology which brought him to work in several countries around the world. He returned with his family to Paso Robles to raise his two children.

Jim Cogan’s shared reasons for running, “I’m running for school board because I love this district. I feel like this district in this community has given my family so much. my boys have been incredibly successful here … my experience of 20 years serving in public office and all of the work that I have done has definitely prepared me to be the best candidate to serve our students and to put them first.”

Frank Triggs is currently a school board trustee. He was appointed in December 2021 to fill a seat left vacant by Jim Reed.

“I found that being on the school board is a place for me to give back to this wonderful community which I deeply appreciate,” said Triggs. “I believe in the quality of education for our students and for me that means math, reading, hard sciences … history of America in a positive light with all the warts and all because with humans, there’s many mistakes that are made.”

Sondra Williams went to Templeton High School but feels she belongs in the Paso Robles district. 

“I came to Paso because that’s where the diversity was. Thats where I felt like I belonged,” said Williams. “I am sitting here because I fiercely believe that we are better, that we can be better and if we grow together we will be strong and we can get to those places that we have known and to love as our hometown.”

Adelita Hiteshew is a Paso Robles High School graduate.

“I have a long record of giving myself to the community and being there for the children in Paso Robles,” said Hiteshew, “I am deeply committed to our community and I make an effort to show up at every opportunity that I can and coming forward to run for school board I am prioritizing the school strewardship, maintaining and attracting quality staff, and parent engagement so that all of our students can receive a safe and fair education.”

Laurene McCoy is also a PRHS graduate. 

“I have a heart for people. I have a heart for children,” said McCoy, “I have a heart for parents first and foremost because I feel like parents definitely need a lot of assistance when it comes to their children and sometimes we just miss it and you need someone to help you along the way and that’s what I’ve done my whole life pretty much is help parents help their children.”

Questions asked during the forum were: 

  1. What changes do you want to see happen in your term of office?
  2. Please describe your plans to include teachers in the decision-making progress.
  3. How will you make certain the district stays fiscally healthy and what is the best way to do that?
  4. The COVID-19 learning and socialization losses are apparent. How will you implement policies to make up for these losses?
  5. What are your thoughts on Critical Race Theory?
  6. How as a trustee can you improve the sensitivity related to issues related to racism and LGBTQ on campus?
  7. Do you support Spanish translation at board meetings being mandatory?
  8. Will you support the aquatics complex on the highschool complex as planned?
  9. Should the district use Measure M funds to renovate Georgia Brown Elementary in North Paso Robles?
  10. What are your thoughts on requiring parent consent for students to participate in high school clubs?

The district has moved from an At-Large election to a By-Trustee Area. In 2022, By-Trustee Areas 1, 2, and 4 will elect one representative that lives within their boundary to a four-year term on the Board. Eligible citizens that live within those Areas may run for office.

For 2022 only, there will be one two-year At-Large term elected. Any eligible citizen may run for office. All areas will vote for this At-Large term.

In 2024, By-Trustee Areas 3, 5, 6, and 7 will elect a Trustee for a 4-year term.

The recorded forum can be viewed here youtube.com/watch?v=ifiQqXKgRaI

For more information on PRJUSD Trustee area Districts, visit pasoschools.org/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=230&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=10320&PageID=1

And for more information on the General Election or to become a candidate in San Luis Obispo County, visit slocounty.ca.gov/Departments/Clerk-Recorder/All-Services/Elections-and-Voting/Elections-Conducted-by-County-of-San-Luis-Obispo/November-8,-2022,-General-Election.aspx