Introducing the Eight Candidates for Lodi Unified’s Board of Education

August 11, 2020 at 4:12 pm

Updated August 21, 2020 at 8:34 am

Three of the seven Lodi Unified School District Board of Education seats are up for vote this November. All three incumbents are seeking reelection and have at least one challenger.

Lodi Unified School District's Board of Education has three contested seats in November.

Lodi Unified School District's Board of Education has three contested seats in November.

Image courtesy of Lodi Unified School District

Area 2, which is responsible for Bear Creek High School, Christa McAuliffe MIddle School, Elkhorn School, and Creekside, Julia Morgan, John Muir, and Manlio Silva Elementary Schools, has three candidates. Current board member Gary Knackstedt is running primarily on the strength of his past accomplishments, including advocacy for Career and Technical Education courses at Valley Robotics Academy, the completion of athletic construction projects at Lodi High School, and participation in employee contract negotiations.

In regards to COVID-19, he pledged to, “continue to keep campus safety a high priority and to successfully work with our district staff and teachers to produce a learning strategy that inclusively educates our students under all circumstances.” Knackstedt has served as president and vice president of the board over the past four years.

Running against him is former Delta College Board of Trustees President Richard Vasquez, who served in that position from 2014-2018. In an interview with 209 Politics, Vasquez highlighted his work on the Delta board in expanding dual enrollment with local high schools, bringing mental health facilities to campus, and expanding access to library services.

He also outlined his policy concerning reopening schools when it would be safe: “let’s try and get students back in the classroom, however, downsite it to… 10 students, make sure that the safety precautions are being met, having… plastic dividers on the tables.” If distance learning continues, Vasquez would like to emphasize improvements for students with learning disabilities or academically challenging courses.

Area 6 serves McNair High School and Clairmont, Ellerth Larson, George Lincoln Mosher, and Westword Elementary Schools. Incumbent Ron Freitas is current vice president and former president of the board. His campaign statement touted his accomplishments in lowering class sizes, limiting suspensions, increasing graduation rates, and implementing advanced academic programs.

Freitas has also addressed the coronavirus pandemic. “Government-mandated distance learning is keeping our students at home and away from the socialization and in-classroom learning they need. I vow to return students to school as soon as their safety, and our teachers and staff, can be assured.”

Christopher Pack, an information system analyst, is challenging Freitas. Another candidate, Tokay High School graduate Luke Joseph Price, also filed to run for the position but did not qualify.

The final area, Area 7, encompasses Plaza Robles High School, Delta Sierra Middle School, and Oakwood, Parkline, Sutherland, and Wagner-Holt Elementary Schools. Joe Nava, the current officeholder, is right now the president of the Lodi Unified School District Board. He has held the position since 2008.

Challenging him are healthcare executive Juan Troy and parent Jessica Mitchell. Mitchell, whose children currently attend Lodi Unified schools, told 209 Politics that, “It is my mission to uplift the voices of the disenfranchised in our community… along with ensuring cultural inclusion.”

Kelley Marable, who worked with the Lodi Unified Superintendents’ Advisory Committee for six years, is also seeking the seat. She has proposed introducing emotional intelligence and educational support training for staff members and students. While on the superintendent’s committee, she also worked with the Community Liaison Program of the Positive School Climate, which attempts to meet with students and their families.

“Lodi is not just black and white, there is a vast array of diversities in the Lodi Unified District that I want to create clear well rounded resources for. I am eager to go out and meet with everyone.”, she told 209 Politics.

This article will be updated as candidates respond to requests for comment.