The six HBUHSD candidates from left to right: (top row) Susan Henry, Michael Simons and Spencer Hagaman and (bottom row) Christine Hernandez, Saul Lankster and Claudia Ramos. (Image courtesy of Karen Phan)
Fountain Valley High School

Learn about the 2020 HBUHSD trustees candidates here

Six community members of the Huntington Beach Union High School District (HBUHSD) are vying to secure two seats on the Board of Trustees this Nov. 3.

The five-member HBUHSD Board is currently composed of trustees Susan Henry, Michael Simons, Bonnie Castrey, Diana Carey and Duane Dishno. Henry and Simons are the incumbents and face challengers Spencer Hagaman, Christine Hernandez, Saul Lankster and Claudia Ramos.

The Baron Banner sent each candidate a questionnaire about their background, planned policies and why they believe they are fit to be a trustee. Their responses are published below.

All photos are provided. 

Incumbents

Susan Henry
Susan Henry, HBUHSD Board President 

Occupation: Retired Registered Nurse/Governing Board Member HBUHSD

Education: Santa Ana College and Cal State Fullerton – Registered Nursing Degree Program; Cal State Long Beach – Bachelor of Fine Arts Cum Laude, Studio Arts/3 Dimensional Design

Did you graduate from an HBUHSD school? Which one? What year?

My three children graduated from FVHS in 2001, 2002 and 2005.

Besides serving on the HBUHSD Board, how else are you involved in the HBUHSD community?

My involvement in the HBUHSD community includes serving on the District’s Relationships by Objectives Committee, as well as the Booster Task Force, the LCAP Committee and Strategic Planning. I also represent the HBUHSD community at the county level through my involvement with the Orange County School Boards Association for which I have served many roles including that of President. Additionally, I have represented the HBUHSD at the state level as a Delegate, Director and President-elect, President and Past President of the California School Boards Association. Nationally I have served as the California Appointee and Elected Member of the National School Boards Association’s Policy and Resolutions Committee for 2017, 2018 and 2019 working to advocate on behalf of many issues including LGBTQIA and climate change.

Why are you running for re-election?

These are unprecedented times in public education. Between the global Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession, the District needs experienced, knowledgeable Trustees like myself. I not only understand the scope, size and the major enterprise that this District is, but have and will continue to provide balanced policy direction to support its students, staff, families and community.

What are some of the most notable things you’ve done to improve the HBUHSD in the past four years?

  • The Board’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and promoting a green school environment was maximized through our Solar Project earning 34 million dollars in energy savings over 26 years, providing shade to our parking lots, and a tangible reminder of our contribution to alternative energy.
  • Not all students want or need to attend college. The past four years have seen a major transition of our Career Technical Education program. CTE is now a multiyear sequence of courses that combine academic knowledge with technical and occupational knowledge to prepare students for the workplace or college if they choose. Our programs and pathways align with California’s CTE Model Curriculum Standards and most also meet the University of California’s A-G requirements.
  • Partnership with Golden West College to provide Dual Enrollment courses which allow the credits earned to apply both to high school diploma requirements and college graduation requisites. Also, during our “virtual-only” fall semester start, Golden West College is encouraging students to consider taking afternoon on-line GWC courses at no cost.
  • Hiring an excellent Superintendent who started with us in 2017. He has done every job on a school site from janitor and teacher to principal and director of alternative education. He has been a Superintendent at three other districts before us and has emerged as a leader among the other Orange County Superintendents during the Covid pandemic, meeting with the Orange County Department of Education Superintendent and the Director of the Orange County Health Care Agency on a weekly basis to provide input and recommendations.

What are two to four issues in the HBUHSD that matter most to you, and how do you plan to remedy them?

  • A safe return to school during the Covid-19 pandemic: This issue is by far the most immediate and crucial that the Board and District has ever faced. That is why the 2020-2021 School Opening & Safety Plan involved over 90 individuals to gather data and strategize the best direction for our District, including [Baron News advisor Sean Ziebarth]. We have made sure through purchasing and prioritizing that our schools are prepared with PPE — from 259,722 masks to 2,820 gallons of hand sanitizer, a nurse on every campus and our classified staff to ready to keep us clean. It’s up to everyone to play their part to protect, prevent and prepare to keep our HBUHSD community healthy and safe against the spread.
  • The mental health of our students was already a growing concern before Covid and as we return to campus it will be more important than ever to address the anxiety, fear and uncertainty that the future holds. As a Multi-Tiered System of Supports model district HBUHSD has prioritized student wellness and mental health awareness by providing support through our Mental Health Services. During this pandemic the District will provide enhanced mental health services which include; six full-time school nurses, eight school counselors, five counseling interns, 26 school psychologists, two wellness specialists, a Director of Mental Health Services, three Compass Center psychologists, the Executive Director of Special Education as the coordinator of the HBUHSD Crisis Response Team and our contracted online service caresolace.com for student/family mental and behavioral health referrals to local counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

What makes you stand out from your fellow candidates? Why do you deserve to be a Trustee?

Experience, empathy and leadership. As a trustee for HBUHSD, I have worked to strengthen our financial position and have a greater understanding of both our District’s budget and the convoluted California state budget system. The District will need that experience as we navigate the looming budget shortfall that is the result of the Covid induced recession. As a nurse I know the importance of returning to campus safely, adhering to all of the requirements and recommendations from the California Department of Public Health and the Orange County Health Care Agency. Additionally, I understand the mental health needs that our students experienced prior to the shutdown, as well as those that are a result of it. As a leader of the county and statewide school board associations I have acquired skills and made contacts that enable me to advocate locally and in Sacramento for the students of HBUHSD.

How can voters learn more about you and your policies?

Visit www.VoteHBUHSD.com

Michael Simons
Michael Simons, HBUHSD Board Vice President

Occupation: Doctor of Podiatric Medicine; Member, Board of Trustees H.B.U.H.S.D.

Education: B.S.(Zoology) Michigan State University; D.P.M. California College of Podiatric Medicine; M.S.(Medical Education) California College of Podiatric Medicine

Did you graduate from an HBUHSD school? Which one? What year?

Did not graduate from an H.B.U.H.S.D. school. Had four children and wife graduate from H.B.U.H.S.D. schools.

Besides serving on the HBUHSD Board, how else are you involved in the HBUHSD community?

  • Local Medical Practice, H.B/F.V.
  • Fountain Valley Regional Hospital Wound Healing Center
  • District representative for County Committee on School District Organization
  • Member, Delegate Assembly California School Board Association
  • Past member Cong. B’nai Tzedek Board of Trustees
  • Past member H.B. Rotary
  • Past member Executive Board Robinwood Little League

Why are you running for re-election?

I am running for re-election to lend my experienced leadership for these unprecedented times. Previously, I was a Gubernatorial appointee to the Board of Medical Quality Assurance. I was on the H.B.U.H.S.D. Board during the severe recession in 2008 and we were able to avoid furloughs, layoffs or program reductions. I understand the complexities of school funding and finances. The District will be facing a severe budget shortfall over the next few years which necessitates someone that can see the “big picture.”

What are some of the most notable things you’ve done to improve the HBUHSD in the past four years?

The installation of solar energy generation will save the District many millions of dollars. Additionally, the associated lighting improves the safety and security of our school sites. Also, the concurrent installation of generators will allow sites to continue to function despite power outages.

We have been able to hire and retain the best and most qualified new teachers for the District.

The District has been able to plan for, have financing in place for and receive approval to replace the original pools at Edison, Fountain Valley and Marina High Schools.

Supported the creation of a robotics program and purchase of a portable arena in which to hold competitions.

What are two to four issues in the HBUHSD that matter most to you, and how do you plan to remedy them?

Assure that our students and staff have a safe and secure environment to learn and work in. This can be accomplished by collaboration between the District, school sites, the classified and certificated teacher employees, professional staff and administrative staff. We need to work collaboratively with the Orange County Health Agency and the Orange County Department of Education. The District needs to have adequate supplies of PPE, proper filtration systems and sufficient substitute teachers.

Provide for the social and emotional health and support of our students. To that end, we currently have six full-time school nurses, eight school counselors, five counseling interns, 26 school psychologists, two wellness specialists (one credentialed counselor and one credentialed school psychologist), a Director of mental Health Services with three additional Psychologists at the Compass Center, additional support through California Youth Services Mental Health Support Telehealth and a contract with caresolace for student/family mental and behavioral health referrals. The Executive Director of Special Education is a credentialed school psychologist.

Improve communication between staff and the District by holding open, frank discussions lead by neutral facilitators.

What makes you stand out from your fellow candidates? Why do you deserve to be a Trustee?

I have the most experience of any candidate. The financial problems that are facing the District are much too serious to have someone learn on the job. I’ve helped the District successfully make it through previous budget shortfalls with severe cuts seen in other school districts. My medical background will be very helpful in monitoring the Covid-19 situation and my connections in the local medical community will keep us at the forefront of forecasting any changes that may occur.

How can voters learn more about you and your policies?

The website is votehbuhsd.com.

Would you like to add anything else?

Being the father of four graduates of the H.B.U.H.S.D, one of whom has been a high school teacher for 16 years in addition to having been a varsity coach, I understand the challenges that our current students and teachers face on a daily basis. Our students, their families and our staff, both certificated and classified, deserve to work and learn in a safe, secure and supportive environment. I’ve encouraged and promoted this standard during my prior terms as a trustee and will continue to make this my highest priority.

Challengers

Spencer Hagaman
Spencer Hagaman

Occupation: Small Business Owner

Education: Ocean View High School, Yale University

Did you graduate from an HBUHSD school? Which one? What year? 

Yes, I graduated from the International Baccalaureate program at Ocean View High School (Go Seahawks!) in 2017.

How are you currently involved in the HBUHSD community?

I have previously served as Co-Chair on the School Site Council at Ocean View HS. I have worked on a number of policy initiatives with local councilmembers and school board members to improve the community. I am also a small business owner in the community.

What inspired you to run for the HBUHSD Board of Trustees?

I decided to run for the Huntington Beach Union High School District school board because we are at a critical juncture in education. Schools will face major decisions regarding student and staff safety, curriculum and budget in the next four years, and it is critical we as a community elect someone who will carefully consider the issues and make decisions that benefit students and teachers.

What are two to four issues in the HBUHSD that matter most to you, and how do you plan to remedy them? 

COVID-19: We need to bring students back to the classroom safely and responsibly so as to provide the highest quality education while protecting students, teachers, and the entire community. This includes investment in PPE, new protocols and listening to the science. COVID-19 will not be disappearing anytime soon and we will need to proactively think about what the next year or two will look like.

Mental Health: Healthy students, both physically and mentally, make for better education and, thus, a better society. We need to both work to bring in more mental health specialists on campus but to also eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health.

Vocational Learning: Education is more than just the classroom; it is about the future. We should be presenting all possible secondary options to students so they can make an informed, rational decision about their future. This includes bringing in, alongside four-year college opportunities, community college, apprenticeships and secondary vocational learning.

Improved Public Transparency and Communication: 95%+ of problems are produced from a lack of communication and information. All Board meetings should be broadcast online so that the community can be better aware of the state of the district. In addition, I will meet regularly with students, parents, and teachers to ensure everyone is heard.

What experience qualifies you to be a Trustee?

From my time on the Ocean View HS School Site Council as well as in numerous leadership positions of organizations both at Yale and in Huntington Beach, I know the importance of a balanced budget and high-quality education. As a recent HBUHSD graduate, I have a unique perspective of what it is like to be a student in this decade and in this specific district. Having studied political science at Yale, I possess the skill set required to analyze data, facts and science and to make tough decisions.

What makes you stand out from your fellow candidates? Why do you deserve to be a Trustee?

I strongly believe that my working relationships and desire to collaborate will make me a strong and effective Trustee. On issues such as mitigating the toxic effects of ASCON, improving vocational learning, and destigmatizing mental health, we will not be successful unless we have a comprehensive approach at all levels of public service. I am endorsed by a massive and growing bipartisan array of community members who all have the same goal in mind as you and me: to produce the highest quality education possible.

How can voters learn more about you and your policies?

Voters can visit my website at www.spencerhagaman.com, follow our campaign on Facebook, email me personally at spencerchagaman@gmail.com or even call/text me at (714) 293-3572.

Would you like to add anything else?

It is crucial we elect Trustees who care about the community and will listen to students, parents and teachers. I believe I am that person and humbly ask for your vote and the opportunity to serve our students and our community. Together, we can prepare the next generation for success.

Christine Hernandez
Christine Hernandez

Occupation: College Educator/Student Engagement Director

Education: B.A. from California State University, Fullerton; M.S.Ed., University of Pennsylvania; Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management, George Mason University; Wellness Coaching Certificate, Coastline Community College (in progress)

Did you graduate from an HBUHSD school? Which one? What year?

No, I graduated from nearby La Quinta High School in Westminster.

How are you currently involved in the HBUHSD community? 

I live in the district and am a parent to a child at a local public elementary school. I have been following along with the HBUHSD’s response to COVID-19 as a concerned citizen as someone who works for a local college.

What inspired you to run for the HBUHSD Board of Trustees? 

COVID-19 made it clear that stronger communication, an active collection of feedback and more empathetic and collaborative leadership was needed. My career has been built on building relationships and empowering communities. Further, the board hasn’t adequately represented the community it serves.

What are two to four issues in the HBUHSD that matter most to you, and how do you plan to remedy them? 

My key priorities are equity, health, safety and community engagement.

Community Engagement

Addressing the challenges that this year has created is not easy. Understandably, there are no easy answers about how to move forward. However, I see it as the board and the district’s responsibility to be transparent and to communicate as much as possible. Communicating more frequently and with clarity can strengthen our community engagement. We should be assessing who is at the table when decisions are made. Proactive community engagement can strengthen our district. As a member of the board, I commit to meeting with constituents, attending community meetings and requesting that we schedule more public presentations on district issues.

Health & Safety

Of course, health and safety are critical issues in this era of COVID-19. We know from local data that our community will need to continue to address the pandemic and our re-opening plans. I am committed to following public health guidelines for re-opening.

However, health and safety issues extend beyond the pandemic. The physical and mental well-being of our students contributes to their student success. The mental health of not only our students but our school communities (teachers, staff, parents) can play a role in how our students thrive. Additionally, we need to regularly address the environmental health and physical safety of our schools.

Equity

COVID-19 has made many pre-existing equity issues clearer. We need to continue to create equitable learning experiences for our students across the full district and give them every opportunity for success. As a member of the board, I will advocate for digital and physical accessibility for our students with disabilities.

Earlier this summer, Diversify our Narrative of HBUHSD spoke at a board meeting during public comment.  I applaud this group and other students for speaking up about representation in the curriculum. The time is now for a board that is equipped to address inequity, is willing to talk about anti-racism and understands the complexity of systemic issues.

What experience qualifies you to be a Trustee? 

I have spent over a decade as an educator focused on empowering communities through my work at colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations. I know what it takes to build relationships, even when we can’t meet in person. For several years, I worked with people across the country, representing a national nonprofit that focuses on gender equity and building relationships between local chapters and their nearby colleges.

As a college educator, I work closely with students and families as they transition to college. Part of my work has involved planning orientation programs as students’ transition from high school to college. Over the summer, I directed my college’s first-ever online orientation program. I understand the challenges that students, families, educators, and staff face with the transition to remote learning.

What makes you stand out from your fellow candidates? Why do you deserve to be a Trustee? 

My leadership philosophy is simple — leave any place better than you’ve found it. As a leader, I am someone whose strength is in relationship building, advocacy, and empowering others to share their voice. I am consistent in all three areas and have had a proven track record. In 2016, I was recognized by the University of Pennsylvania with a Sustained Leadership in Education Award.

Up until recently, board meetings were not held online — despite the fact that other local district boards had been doing so. I have the unique experience of building a community using technology and communication. I did this while working for a national organization based in Washington, D.C. and I have done this while serving as a college leader during this time of COVID-19.

I have also coordinated a division-level assessment and see opportunities for the district to be more strategic in feedback collection and transparency. For example, if the district makes decisions based on survey data, the process for data collection and results should be clear. We can learn a lot more from more publicly accessible data related to the district.

As someone who works in higher education, I also recognize that the pathway after high school graduation could be made much clearer. Beyond a traditional college experience, I believe that students should be exposed to the many different opportunities available. This includes taking advantage of affordable education, such as community college programs, and vocational training.

How can voters learn more about you and your policies?

Voters can visit my website, campaign social media channels including Instagram and Facebook, or my personal Twitter. During my campaign, I have also hosted open office hours via Zoom and am available to connect with voters who have additional questions.

Would you like to add anything else?

I know that the educational impact is generational. The education students receive impacts them for a lifetime. That impact outstretches past individual experiences and shapes our communities. How our schools’ function has the potential to have ripple effects for generations. It is directly linked to how they’ll lead in their careers, colleges, communities, and families. I am running for office because I know that decisions made today can make an impact long into the future, and I am ready to serve my community.

Saul Lankster
Saul Lankster

Occupation: Criminal Justice Professor/High School Social Studies Teacher

Education: Masters Degree in Cross-Cultural Teaching and Juris Doctorate Degree in Law

Did you graduate from an HBUHSD school? Which one? What year?

No, I did not attend an HBUHSD school.

How are you currently involved in the HBUHSD community?

I have two daughters who attend HBHS and are a part of the APA Dance program and Model United Nations.

What inspired you to run for the HBUHSD Board of Trustees?

I firmly believe that the current board is out-of-touch with the issues of today; they have lost contact with students and teachers; and there is a lack of transparency in their governing. I know I can do a better job. I am experienced and committed.

What are two to four issues in the HBUHSD that matter most to you, and how do you plan to remedy them?

One issue is the lack of transparency on the current board. I will insist that we open the books, negotiate fairly with our employees and devote our budget to students and teachers. The second issue is the breakdown in communication and the top-down governing model on the current board. I will insist that we bring all stakeholders to the table regarding COVID-19 and other issues confronting the district.

What experience qualifies you to be a Trustee?

I have served as a community college trustee; three-terms as President of Education; three-terms as the President of the Police Officers Association; and I am currently a classroom high school teacher.

What makes you stand out from your fellow candidates? Why do you deserve to be a Trustee?

I have two daughters who are currently attending HBHS, which is a school in the district, and in two years, I will have a third daughter in high school. I believe I have a better understanding of today’s youth since I am a parent; I am a high school teacher; and I am a university professor.

How can voters learn more about you and your policies?

Every Wednesday night at 6 p.m., I host town hall meetings where students, parents and teachers can attend, ask questions, and express their viewpoints.

Would you like to add anything else?

I was a guest speaker at FVHS in 1974. I continued as a motivational guest speaker at other schools in the district for the next 30 years. Students, parents and teachers can learn more about me through my social media platforms.

Instagram: saul.lankster

Facebook: @saullankster2

Twitter: @SaulLankster

Phone Number: 310-528-2585

Email: saullankster2@aol.com

Claudia Ramos
Claudia Ramos

Occupation: Community Volunteer

Education: Graduate from the University of California, Riverside with two degrees in Psychology and Ethnic Studies

Did you graduate from an HBUHSD school? Which one? What year? 

Marina High School, Class of 2016.

How are you currently involved in the HBUHSD community? 

I am currently involved with a student-led organization called Education Organizers for Racial Equity. E.O.R.E. is a group of HBUHSD students, alumni, parents, teachers and community members who are working towards creating a more inclusive and diverse school environment. We are a group of activists who are fighting for Ethnic Studies courses, implementing transformative justice police and having police/military free schools in HBUHSD.

What inspired you to run for the HBUHSD Board of Trustees? 

I am running for Huntington Beach Union High School District Board of Trustees to help create a more inclusive environment where students, parents, teachers, and staff can voice their concerns and questions about new policies and regulations being written. I want to uplift the voices of those who are underrepresented, marginalized members of the community, such as the Latinx, Asian American and African American Communities.

What are two to four issues in the HBUHSD that matter most to you, and how do you plan to remedy them? 

Equity — I want to uplift the voices of students, teachers, parents and community members who are often not represented in the decision-making process at the district level. At the school level, I believe there must be an increase in assistance programs for students to broaden their opportunities for their post-secondary education. For example, there is a great need for resources that help support students facing housing insecurity, fill out FAFSA Application, DACA/Dreamers and undocumented and families.

Community Engagement — In order to create effective changes that would benefit our schools, the needs of teachers, staff and students must be taken into account. Teachers must be able to voice their thoughts and opinions in order to shape policies in order for them to attain the necessary resources they need. It’s important to take their needs into account instead of allocating resources to them that the Board believes. The top-down process has been used in allocating resources to schools when it should be bottom-up, meaning starting with the teachers and staff to then the Board. For example, creating community forums in which community members are able to voice their questions and concerns while remaining anonymous and be able to be heard during Board meetings if they are unable to attend them in person.

Well-being — One of the biggest concerns has been both the mental and physical health of teachers, staff and students. Due to the virus, the concern for these has increased. From my experience in high school, there are too many students for the very few resources available, such as psychologists, career/college advisers and academic advisors to state a few. There must be more funding allocated to increasing the number of resources both teachers and students have access to. An increase in these resources would help improve schools’ environments to help better the learning of students.

What experience qualifies you to be a Trustee? 

As a former HBUHSD student and as a Latina/Chicana, I will act as a bridge for the community. With my background in Psychology and Ethnic Studies, I understand the importance of representation for constituents in positions that hold great power. It is important to take into account the diversity within our community and work to help improve the environment for all. Working with students and teachers in Education Organizers for Racial Equity (EORE) has helped broaden my understanding of the needs of community members. There is a need for more representation on the Board as well as people on the Board and in other positions in HBUHSD who must cater to the needs of our community. Through my work with EORE, I have been able to meet current students, alumni, teachers, and staff who have voiced their concerns on the progress HBUHSD has made. As an HBUHSD Board Member, I will rely on teachers, students, staff and parent help and collaboration in the Board’s policymaking and approval of policies.

What makes you stand out from your fellow candidates? Why do you deserve to be a Trustee? 

What makes me stand out from my fellow candidates is that I am not only an HBUHSD Alumna but also part of the Latinx community. In the history of the HBUHSD Board, there is yet to be a Board Member who represents the Latinx/Hispanic community. As a Board Member, I want to empower the voices of my Latinx/Hispanic community as well as be a stepping stone for others to join in on the conversation to create a better environment for our HBUHSD community.

How can voters learn more about you and your policies?

Campaign Page: https://ramosforhbuhsd.wixsite.com/campaign

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ramosforhbuhsd/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ramosforhbuhsd

Would you like to add anything else?

Whether as a Board Member or as a constituent of HBUHSD, I will continue to work in order to create a better community for all our residents.