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Open forum featuring superintendent hopefuls

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POSTED April 6, 2014 11:06 p.m.

An opportunity to quiz the three candidates vying for the position of San Joaquin County Office of Education superintendent will take place on Thursday, April 24.

The open forum with candidates and guest speakers Mike Gillespie, James Mousalimas, and Jeff Tilton on center stage will take place at the Central United Methodist Church Fireside Room, 3700 Pacific Ave. in Stockton. It will begin with a meet-and-greet at 6:15 p.m. followed by the presentation at 6:30 p.m.

Questions from the public for the three candidates will be presented at this event, said association spokesman David Renison. Those with questions are invited to e-mail them in advance to davidrenison@cs.com.

“Your question(s) will be held in strict confidence prior to this forum and will remain anonymous,” Renison explained.

Vying for the top post in the county Office of Education are:

• Jeff Tilton – An educator with nearly 30 years experience, Tilton has been a classroom teacher, coach, principal, and senior administrator at school districts as well as two county offices of education. He has been an adjunct faculty member at several universities in California and Oregon, and has worked for the Northwest Evaluation Association, an international educational research organization. According to his official election website, he is the only declared candidate to have earned his doctorate degree which he earned from the University of the Pacific, and to be a current superintendent of schools. He was recently appointed superintendent of charter schools for the New Jerusalem School District in Tracy. A graduate of Manteca High School, California State University at Stanislaus, and UOP in Stockton, Tilton lives with his wife Shalice in Stockton. They are the parents of four grown children.

• James Mousalimas – The Tracy resident has 28 years of experience in public and private education, 20 of them serving as assistant principal, principal, director, assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent, according to his official website. His experience includes managing and balancing multi-million dollar budget, supervising and evaluating employees, and overseeing curriculum development and implementation.

• Michael Gillespie – The Lodi resident is a longtime advocate for charter schools and is the founder of a dual-language program in Lodi. The assistant superintendent at Gateway Community Charters in Sacramento, Gillespie has 21 years experience as an educator starting as a fifth-grade teacher.

The primary elections on June 3 will be a three-way race, as of press time, among Jeff Tilton of Manteca, James Mousalimas of Tracy, and Michael Gillespie of Lodi. The two candidates garnering the highest votes will go on to face each other in a run-off race during the general elections in November. However, in the event one of the three captures 50 percent plus one of the votes in June, that candidate will be declared the winner and the election will not move on to November.

Superintendent Mick Founts announced late last year that he is retiring in June when the current school year ends. He has been at the helm since being elected to the post in 2008; however, his retirement will wrap up more than two decades of service in the administrative level at the county Office of Education, from director and other various positions to being deputy superintendent to his predecessor Fredrick Wentworth.

Founts is not endorsing any of the three candidates because, he said, he knows all three of them with the exception of Gillespie whom he does not know as well as Tilton and Mousalimas.

“They all have special qualities. The voters will decide who they think is the best,” Founts said.

He urged voters to “go out to vote” on Election Day.

“That’s the sad thing in today’s elections. People don’t vote,” he said, adding, he actually knows one who has not voted for so many years.

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