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SUSD Board Appoints Zachary Avelar to Fill Vacant Trustee Seat

July 30, 2021 at 9:28 pm

By Miriam Waldvogel

The Stockton Unified Board of Trustees appointed Zachary Avelar to fill its vacant Area 7 seat in a 5-1 vote during a Friday special meeting. The position was left empty after the resignation of Candelaria Vargas in July.

Avelar volunteers for the Stockton Salvation Army and Dark to Light Food Ministry. He does not currently have any children in Stockton Unified schools.

Multiple board members cited Avelar’s “youthful energy” in making their decision. They discussed Avelar’s responses for roughly ten minutes before voting to appoint him.

“I was really impressed with the answers that were given and I’m really thankful for someone who, as he stated, is going to be seeking to bring some youthful energy to the board,” Trustee Raymond Zulueta Jr., currently the board’s youngest member, said. “I may not have the connection with our students and our families that maybe a little bit younger than me... I really appreciate what he would bring to the board.”

Only Trustee AngelAnn Flores, the lone dissenting vote, brought up the other three applicants.

“I think it’s a little early to suggest one candidate over the other without discussing all the candidates’ answers and responses,” Flores said during the meeting. "I think that we should include public and community because at the end of the day it is a community who elected us, not people on the board already with their opinions and their desires of what they wanted on the board," she later added.

Avelar will serve through 2022, filling out Vargas’ term. He will represent Adams Elementary, Hong Kingston Elementary, Kennedy Elementary, Kohl Open Elementary, Pulliam Elementary, Flora Arca Mata Elementary, Stagg High School, Pacific Law Academy, and Walton Center Special.

Read Avelar’s responses to the six questions trustees posed to him during the board meeting.

Cecilia Mendez: What do you see as the basic purpose of public education? What is the role of the board of trustees in the fulfillment of that purpose?

Avelar: Well, the basic purpose of public schools is to provide free, quality education that will prepare students for graduation and the skills they need to succeed in the real world. The board of trustees will support students and staff. We must implement the programs that promote student achievement.

Maria Mendez: Question number two: as a trustee, what do you see as your primary purpose or primary role? How would you fulfill that role, both as an individual and as a member of the board of trustees?

Avelar: Thank you for that question, Vice President Mendez. The primary role of the board is to create and update board policies, and to approve annual budgets. We also hire and evaluate the superintendent. As an individual, I must take the necessary time to read and understand the board agendas so I can completely understand what I am voting for or voting on. As a group, we need to attend corrections. We must also try to work together and listen to the community and our voice.

Scot McBrian: What would you do if you believed that district administrators had not provided you with accurate and complete information for making a decision?

Avelar: I’d like to say hello, Trustee McBrian. If the district didn’t provide me with complete information, then I think the best decision for Area 7 would be to respectfully email the superintendent and ask my question. Hopefully, I would receive the info that I need so I would feel good about my future vote. I wouldn’t pass a vote with missing or bad information. I wouldn’t open my mouth and talk to the community if I didn’t feel confident.

Alicia Rico: My question is: describe your response if a parent cornered you in a grocery store and asked for your support on a particularly hot district issue.

Avelar: Well, Trustee Rico, this is Stockton, so I’m sure parents and community groups will protest at the store, sporting events, school events, and church. I’m guessing they’ll also call with an email list. If they approach me, I will acknowledge them with respect, professionalism. I will briefly listen to them and then give them my district business card and encourage them to email me or set an appointment through the superintendent’s office.

Zulueta: Good afternoon, Mr. Avelar. Thank you for being here. Please summarize the strengths that you would bring as a member of the board.

Avelar: Good afternoon, Clerk Zulueta. I feel strongly that the board has both diversity and experience. The only thing we are missing is the infusion of youth. My strength is my youth. Motivation and passion for making Stockton a better place to live. My passion is to be a community volunteer. I love serving the local food ministries, Salvation Army, and homeless programs to help get kids off the streets.

And I’m not a rubber stamp. I’m not using this opportunity as a stepping stone. I’m not in retirement, sitting at home with an axe to grind with the district. I love Stockton. That is my strength.

Flores: Hi. Good afternoon, Zachary. Please identify a recent board decision that you felt strongly about, and describe how you would balance community concerns, student needs, state and federal law, staff considerations, and your personal values and beliefs to determine how to vote on the issue.

Avelar: Hello, Trustee Flores. I feel strongly that the fighting and bickering needs to stop. I don’t agree that we should withhold trustees’ paychecks. I don’t agree with any more trustee censures. I don’t agree that anyone should ever disrespect the board president. I don’t agree that any staff or trustee should ever shed the superintendent in a bad light.

I’m not working for a charter school, and I’m not on any person’s team. I’m on team SUSD and I’ll work closely with the unions, parents, and fellow board members. I love and respect SUSD teachers. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and work hard. If you select me, you will not be disappointed. Let’s make SUSD amazing. Thank you for your time.