Four incumbents are up for reelection to the Corcoran Unified School District’s board of trustees in November. However, three are unopposed in the election and will be reappointed to their area seats. They include Karen Frey, Bob Toney and Patty Robertson. In Area 2, Trustee Mary Wadsworth is being challenged by newcomer Sam Ramirez. Those two candidates are highlighted this week.
In upcoming weeks, The Journal will report on the many ballot measures on the November ballot.
Sam Ramirez is making his first bid for public office. That doesn’t mean he’s not familiar with local schools: as a lifelong resident, he attended Corcoran schools and graduated from Corcoran High School.
His wife, Susan, is a teacher here and his six children all attended school in Corcoran. His youngest is currently enrolled at Corcoran High School.
After graduation, Ramirez entered the workforce. He has been an employee of the California Department of Corrections for 28 years. He started his career as a correctional officer and now works as a special agent for the office of internal affairs. As he looks forward to retirement, Ramirez said he wants to make time to serve the community and make a difference.
“When my kids were younger, I devoted my time and efforts to seeing to their well-being,” he said. “I coached when they were small, then focused on helping them with their higher education.”
Ramirez thinks the local school district has shown plenty of improvement over the last few years, notably with work at the sites, but there is always room for improvement. He said safety and security of students and staff would be a main priority for him, as well as emphasizing improvements in test scores. He would like to see just how effective the district’s technology programs have impacted those test scores.
He also wants to make sure the district keeps a healthy reserve in place as a sort of “rainy day” cushion for emergencies.
“We all know state funding is fickle and can change. Right now, education is a priority, but we always need to be vigilant; we don’t know what the economy will do,” he noted.
Ramirez said he would appreciate the opportunity to listen to teachers, parents and students in order to provide a voice for the community.
“I think we have a great administration in place and I would like to see more parent involvement,” said Ramirez.
A two-term incumbent, Mary Wadsworth can point to a record of accomplishment during her eight years on the school board.
She said the district is currently focused on reading success for all students, which provides a foundation for further learning. The Common Core program rounds out those efforts, with its emphasis on math and science curricula.
Students in grades kindergarten through their senior year in high school now possess a technical device, be it a tablet or a laptop computer, with which to work in a electronically-driven society. And Corcoran Unified has one of the most advanced technical infrastructures in place. That’s because the district took early advantage of the federal E-RATE program, which paid for approximately 90 percent of the cost that allows local students the luxury of access to valuable educational tools.
“We were early in recognizing the future,” she noted. “Now everyone is trying to get on board and the funding has dropped to about 50 percent and there is a fixed rate per student in the amount of financial help districts will receive.”
Wadsworth is also proud of the continued behavioral improvements at the local school sites. The district has embarked on programs that emphasize and reward good behavior at all grade levels, and those are paying benefits: less suspensions and expulsions are taking place than in years past.
“Even the Kings County Grand Jury commented on the positive atmosphere at our high school,” she stated.
The grand jury report praised the district’s Technology Learning Center, which was constructed under Wadsworth’s tenure, as well as the high school auditorium, which received a total renovation, well under budget, which she also took an active role in seeing to fruition. Students and staff were both praised for their positive outlooks and obvious pride in their campus.
The facility improvements have not stopped at the high school. The district has leveraged approximately $13 million in low interest loans to address improvements to all district sites.
“This is being done at no additional burden to local taxpayers,” Wadsworth pointed out.
Wadsworth has lived in Corcoran for 37 years, working in the fields and cotton gins for the J.G. Boswell Company to a position as manager of the company’s contract cottonseed production. She holds statewide leadership positions in business organizations associated with her career.
A founding member of CAST (Community and Schools together), she helps secure donations to fund local school field trips, purchase musical instruments, pay for student performance awards and help offset cost of athletic uniforms, among other items. She is also president of The Corcoran Community Foundation, dedicated to making Corcoran a better place to live.
She and husband Jim raised three sons, all attending local schools and graduating from Corcoran High School.