Prior to Friday’s election filing deadline, seven Santa Clarita Valley residents have tossed their hats into the race to represent the children of the Saugus Union School District as a trustee of the governing board.
Incumbent Paul De La Cerda said he will not file his papers and declare his candidacy this year, but three local challengers — David Barlavi, Jesus Henao and Evan Patlian — have.
Accompanying the trio running for area No. 1 are Laura Arrowsmith and Sharlene Duzick, who will challenge board members Judy Umeck of area No. 2 and Christopher Trunkey of area No. 5, respectively.
Area No. 1 of the Saugus Union district encompasses the housing communities slightly north of Tesoro Del Valle down to the area of Magic Mountain Parkway, with McBean Parkway serving as the eastern border.
The area is home to one of the first candidates to receive an endorsement in the race, as Santa Clarita Councilman Bob Kellar is one of multiple community stakeholders who declared their support of Henao, a longtime businessman and veteran.
Henao said he will focus on seven specific goals if elected, which include: a strong stand on school safety, teacher empowerment, preventative drug and alcohol education, continued advancements in technology, cybersafety, upgrading the district’s learning facilities, and better teamwork and accountability in the district.
Henao works as a commercial real estate investment broker and lives in Valencia with his wife, Carolina, and three children, who are all products of Santa Clarita public schools.
Henao said the local school system is already stellar but, “I believe I can raise the bar even further with my experience and leadership.”
Like Henao, Patlian hopes to use his experience as a parent to impact the district’s future.
“I am a father in this district with a second grader starting at West Creek Academy,” Patlian said. “As a father, I have exposure to what’s being communicated in children’s video game chats,” and after a career in digital marketing, Patlian feels he can help the district bolster its preventative bullying techniques and continue its work upgrading technology and classrooms through Measure EE.
The lessons and values that students learn at the elementary level have a correlation to the types of adults they’ll become in the future, Patlian said. “I want to do whatever I can to provide a positive guiding hand that’ll allow the students to be the best they can be.”
Not every child is the same, though, Patlian added, which is why he feels a responsibility to ensure children are receiving the resources needed to succeed in the classroom.
While every candidate has dreams and aspirations of changing the district, Patlian said he recognizes that he would be one of five board members.
“I hope to be a team player and listen honestly,” he said. “I also want to put biases aside and work tirelessly to meet the needs of every child and teacher.”
“Healthy and energized employees create happy and successful work, which is children in this case,” Patlian said. “The more options and creative solutions we can provide to the children, then the better off we’ll be and the better off our country’s future will be.”
The boundaries for area No. 2 of the Saugus Union School District stretch just below Pamplico Park over to North Park Elementary School and up past Clearwater Canyon on San Francisquito Canyon Road.
Umeck has represented the area on the governing board since October 1996 and has been quite active in the community during that span, she said.
Whether it’s the time spent at various community meetings or her work on passing Measure EE, the longtime board member said she has enjoyed advocating for all of the school sites in the district and hopes to be able to finish her work overseeing the expenditure of the district’s latest bond.
“I would like to continue on the board because I feel my institutional memory in light of so many new personnel is invaluable,” Umeck said.
Because of the new election laws, the district has shifted the areas represented by members of the board, “but I am very aware that when I make decisions, it is for all 15 of our schools,” Umeck said. “When we make decisions, we have to be aware of what’s happening at all of the school sites, just as we are with what’s happening in our boundaries.”
Similar to Henao, Umeck has had fellow board members and SCV political figures offer their endorsement, including City Council members Cameron Smyth and Marsha McLean, and the Saugus Teachers Association, which endorsed Umeck on Tuesday via Facebook.
“I’m very humbled that so many people would support me,” Umeck said. “It’s really cool.”
Like Umeck, Arrowsmith believes, “All of the adult stakeholders in a child’s education must collaborate to ensure that each child receives effective instruction, assessment and feedback related to a high-quality and well-rounded curriculum,” according to her website.
If elected, Arrowsmith hopes to use her experience as a classroom teacher and instructional leader to ask the right questions about programs, equity, classroom environment and student achievement, the website states. “Asking the right questions will allow the board to hear the voices and perspectives of the entire community to ensure that the decisions by the school board will make a positive difference.”
Similar to Saugus’ Area 4, Area 5 begins up on Bouquet Canyon Road near the Bouquet Reservoir and stretches down to the Santa Clara River near Discovery Park. The Haskell Open Space serves as the western boundary and the eastern border stretches to the end of the district.
Area No. 5 is represented by Christopher Trunkey, who was appointed to the board in 2014 and elected in 2016.
“I joined the governing board in 2014 out of a passion to see our district excel, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished for our students,” Trunkey said when he announced his bid for re-election in May.
“We’ve successfully completed many facilities improvements, and standardized and enhanced instructional technology throughout the district, but there’s still more work to be done,” Trunkey said. “My highest priority is to continue to fight and lobby for more funding for our district,” because additional funding is needed to provide our teachers with better wages and to continue to provide high-quality special education services.
“It is an honor to have the support of my colleagues. We work well together as a team because we focus on what’s best for the children in our community,” said Trunkey. “That’s our commitment and that’s what we do.”
Saugus is one of the lesser funded districts in the entire state, but Trunkey’s challenger believes she has the skills and ability to change that.
With fundraising and professional experience at organizations such as Single Mothers Outreach, the Chamber of Commerce, YMCA and Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, Duzick has had years of experience working with at-risk students in the SCV.
“As a parent of two children, my attention is focused on those whom I can impact with my efforts in our community,” Duzick said. “My goal is to serve those that live in this community with the same love, passion and desire I apply to everything I do.”
This is why she said she promises to: collaborate with teachers, parents and stakeholders, promote a challenging academic curriculum that highlights the areas of math, science, art, technology and physical education, support special education families’ push for lower classroom ratios and support the new Positive Behavior Interventions & Support.
Duzick said she has received verbal endorsements from multiple SCV political figures and a Saugus board member, who will be announced in the near future.
As the daughter of an educator and past school board member of the Acton-Agua Dulce School District, Duzick said the development of the area’s youth has always been a focal point for her.
“I will value the input of our community, to ensure the best educational opportunities are afforded to our children,” she said. “Our district must provide the best for our children, and to make that happen you have to jump in, collaborate and be part of a team.”