The Race is on for CUSD Board Election
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
The race for Coronado Unified School District Board is in full swing with all five candidates for the two open seats participating this week in the Democratic Club of Coronado’s public forum (the link is provided at the end of this post).
The two seats being vacated are those of Maria Simon and Julie Russell, the first a former president of the board and the latter the current board president. Those, who are elected to replace these two trustees will join current Trustees Helen Anderson-Cruz, Lee Pontes, and Esther Valdes Clayton in forming the CUSD Board of Trustees.
The candidates vying for these two seats, in a race more contested than school board races have been in recent years are: Whitney Antrim, Kenneth “Mike” Canada, Nick Kato, Stacy Keszei, and Alexia Palacios-Peters.
Canada and Keszei
Canada and Keszei stand out as they both publicly announced their intentions to run for the board just after signing the petition “which calls for district leaders to reject changing curriculum for the new school year ‘designed to reeducate students through a racial justice lens’.” (https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/educate-not-indoctrinate-anti-racism-push-in-coronado-schools-fuels-backlash/ ; Link to the petition can be found here: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/cusd-school-childrens-lives-matter#comments).
In his announcement of his candidacy, Canada went so far as to say: “I’m opposed to outside forces infiltrating and disrupting our classrooms.” And he also wrote about “indoctrination” in the schools. Presumably, he was referring to the district’s decision to pursue its “Equity Action Plan.”
Canada is also well known for fringe views on social media (most of which have been wiped clean). In social media posts, he mentions educators being, “parrots repeating what they think sounds smart and thoughtful. However, when you corner them with objective facts, they’re triggered and become emotional. It’s pathetic and, quite frankly, alarming that people like this are even allowed to teach our children.”
Canada also supported the illegal 2020 CHS graduation and, in so doing, belittled national protests against police violence, stating, “Dr. Wilma Wooten just cancelled our kids high school graduation - defining it as a 'non authorized [sic] gathering.' I suggest we re-classify it as a Graduation Protest. If protests could go on all last week - we should be able to have a peaceful graduation gathering under that pretense.”
Specifically, regarding protests against racism in June of this year, Canada wrote: “The ‘mob’ is not trying to take down ‘offensive’ symbols, they want the destruction of American culture. Someone needs to sort these spoiled little SJWs [social justice warrior] and we also need to insist that teachers start teaching subjects in our school, not the politics of said teacher.”
Keszei has also echoed similar views on social media. One social media response she made to a post from a parent complaining about an 11th grade English assignment requiring use of the New York Times 1619 project was: “These rogue teachers need to be addressed.” Elsewhere, Keszei suggested that masks are not healthy and that covid is not substantial: “If you want and need to breathe your re-cycled air, wear it. The virus numbers are not there …”
Canada and Keszei are both endorsed by the San Diego Republican Party and the conservative PAC, the Lincoln Club.
Both Canada and Keszei say they are university professors, which they say will help them on school board. Canada’s official statement shows that he has been employed as an instructor of aviation at Lewis University near Chicago, Illinois.
And Keszei, who has served as adjunct faculty at University of San Diego school of business, says: “[M]y teaching experience at the University of San Diego’s School of Business enables me to understand the evolution and growth that each student and parent must go through as they traverse the educational system from elementary school to college.”
Canada, who says he has had three children educated within CUSD (one graduated in 2020), is self-financing his campaign.
Keszei, also has 2 children in the district. She has raised funds for her campaign including a $1101 contribution to herself.
Antrim’s approach has been quite different on the racism issue instead highlighting the importance of addressing racial divisions and racial injustice in CUSD. On her official website, Antrim says: “Recent protests have laid bare racial divisions in our schools. We need to embrace each other in all of our differences as members of the same community, while at the same time providing the highest quality education.” Additionally, in a “40-Second Thursday” video clip for the Coronado Facebook group, “The 92118, Antrim said, “Yes, I do believe we should teach history accurately and have clear policies on racially motivated bullying.”
Antrim is truly the hometown candidate in many ways. She grew up and was educated in CUSD. Her mother lives here and she and her family reside in the Cays. She is currently a Deputy Public Defender for the County of San Diego and she describes herself as a lifelong community servant.
Aside from her focus on racial issues, Antrim is focused on the pandemic, according to her official website. And, in a recent video clip for The 92118 Facebook group, she says her focus is on getting children back into the schools, but in a safe manner, guided by public health directives.
She has law and business degrees from Vanderbilt University.
Antrim is endorsed by the Democratic Party of San Diego and by the Coronado Democratic Club. She has raised the most funds thus far of all of the candidates - $8440 with $4480 spent as of the September filing deadline.
Palacios-Peters is a standout in the race, in many ways. She has the distinction of being the first candidate to announce that she was running for the board – she did this in January of 2020 before the pandemic and before the racial controversy in the district. Additionally, she is the candidate with the most extensive background experience and knowledge of K-12 education. Her undergraduate education is in elementary education. After serving as an elementary teacher in Texas, she attended law school, specializing in Child, Family and Elder Law.
Palacios-Peters appears to be in synch with Antrim in the same “40-Second Thursday” video clip (there, she says, “It is our jobs as educators to ensure that our students understand the totality of our nation’s history from Paul Revere’s ride to Valley Forge to slavery and segregation . . .”).
Palacios-Peters is also a standout in another way. She has no partisan and no PAC endorsements. On this, she has said: “I am the only school board candidate that did not seek a partisan endorsement. I firmly believe that national politics have no place in our public school system and our non-partisan office holders should not accept money and other resources from the local political parties. I have chosen the high road and the hard road, but I am resolute in my convictions. I will tirelessly represent, advocate for, and serve all the children of Coronado, regardless of political beliefs.”
According to her campaign website, Palacios-Peters has spent a number of years living in Coronado over a long period. As a military spouse, she says she lived in Coronado for three years some fifteen years ago and moved back two years ago with her three school-aged children.
Palacios-Peters highlights her experience as a military spouse in her campaign. Her top issues revolve around focusing on the students for quality education, collaboration with the teachers, transparency to the community and dealing with distance learning and the schools reopening. On the latter, she focuses on safety and reliance on the scientific and medical communities to drive the when and how of reopening.
In contrast to Palacios-Peters disavowal of party support, Kato said he had sought the Republican endorsement but was turned down.
Kato is a recent resident of Coronado, having moved here with his family, which includes two preschool aged children, sometime last year after vacationing here with his wife over a number of years. Notably, he only registered to vote here on July 1, just prior to announcing his run in August. Like Canada, Kato says he intends to self-finance his campaign, having loaned himself $11,724 as of the filing deadline in September.
Kato’s campaign has focused heavily on his background as a Certified Public Accountant and a former partner of KPMG. Two of the three big issues that he highlights on his page are financial related – funding for the district and teacher pay. The third is diversity.
Kato has mentioned many times that the CUSD is in financial trouble insofar as it is deficit spending, hoping to reach basic aid funding prior to going broke. Kato suggests that his background is the perfect one for this sort of situation and that he will be a good “out of the box” thinker for how to manage the budget.
Thus far, Kato has tried to stimulate conversation on social media about how to solve some of the financial problems, even floating some specific ideas about renegotiating the Shared Use Agreement between the CUSD and the City of Coronado and querying the public about its thoughts on merit pay for teachers.
With regard to the racial issues in the district, Kato has walked a line that puts him squarely in synch with the district’s planned two-year process for implementing its Equity Action Plan.
In a strange twist, Kato appeared to have difficulty filing his financial disclosure forms electronically (which is not required by law) but has a professional treasurer despite his own background at KPMG.
Opportunity to Learn More
Voters who would like to hear the candidates answer questions on pressing CUSD issues, the Coronado Democratic Club will be hosting a free and open Zoom forum on Wednesday, October 7 from 7 -8:30 pm at the following link:
Meeting ID: 943 1113 6118
Resident letters submitted to Coronado Electorate News & Commentary (CEN&C) are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CEN&C. Submit letters to CoronadoElectorate@gmail.com