SANTA CRUZ -- Gina Locatelli was chosen unanimously as president of the Santa Cruz County Board of Education Thursday, minutes after she came under fire for opposing Pajaro Valley school bond in November.
Locatelli joined Vic Marani, who stepped down from the county board this month, in signing a ballot argument against the $150 million bond measure.
Without naming names, several county education leaders spoke to the board, asking members to refrain from opposing financial measures districts feel bound to take for the good of their students.
But Kim DeSerpa, recently named vice president of the Pajaro Valley school board, was more direct. She said she was "confused and saddened" by the action, particularly since Locatelli and Marani represented Pajaro Valley on the board.
Her own board, DeSerpa said, came together and compromised to unanimously support the bond, and the measure passed overwhelmingly thanks to voters who recognized the "desperate need."
"Did they not set foot in our schools," she asked.
This isn't the first time county board members have spoken out against school bonds. Several showed up at community meetings to oppose a bond Scotts Valley put on the ballot a few years ago.
Those who spoke Thursday said they didn't want to muzzle board members, but were asking them to consider how they used their official status for political advocacy.
Ken Wagman, past president of Santa Cruz City Schools, noted
"C'mon folks, we're all here to support kids," Wagman told the board. "Please don't make it more challenging than it is."
After the meeting, Locatelli said she "strongly supports" education in the Pajaro Valley and throughout the county, but that she had concerns about the bond measure and discussed them with Superintendent Dorma Baker before signing the ballot argument.
Locatelli said it was unfair that people who don't own property get to vote on a tax that falls only on property owners. The size of the bond, especially when interest is tacked on, along with the length of loan was too much, she said. Her son and her grandchildren potentially would be paying off the debt.
"I don't feel I have the right to make a decision of that magnitude on their behalf," Locatelli said. "Signing in opposition to a bond is an American's right, despite the profession or title."
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