It’s the end of an era on the Manteca Unified School District Board of Education.
Last week, two members that served on the board for the last four years – Board President Deborah Romero and Board Clerk Sam Fant – said goodbye in their last formal meeting before the new board members who will replace them will take the helm next month.
For Romero, it will be Bob Wallace taking over her seat for the next four years after nobody else opted to run to replace her. Fant’s successor won’t be formally announced until the end of the month – maybe even later – since only 89 votes currently separate Eric Duncan Sr. and West Walker to be the next representative for Weston Ranch.
But last week, and just for a moment, it wasn’t about who was coming in but simply thanking the outgoing members for their service amidst times that were occasionally tumultuous.
“I came onto this board with an open mind and I wasn’t going to pass any judgment on him before we met,” said trustee Stephen Schluer of Fant – referring to the political battles he was involved in and to an extent still is. “I’m not going to tell you what judgment I have passed on him, but he is definitely a fighter for his community and I think that we can all say, hands down – whether it’s Mr. Duncan or Mr. Walker or Mrs. Ordner, whoever it is when it all shakes out – that we hope who comes after you is able to represent your community like you have.”
Schluer, who was appointed to serve the remainder of the first-half of the term that was vacated when Alexander Bronson resigned amidst an election fraud case that eventually ensnared Fant, ran unopposed for the unexpired term and will get to serve for another two years on the board before he has to worry about another election.
But during that time, Schluer said that he turned to the more senior members among the board – those like Romero – to get a better understanding of what he was supposed to do as a board member.
“I’d like to say that she’s an inspiration, a confidant, a true leader and a genuine, God-fearing woman and her presence will be greatly missed,” Schluer said. “I think of her as a colleague and a friend and I knew that when I got on the board I knew that to be a good leader you needed to surround yourself with intelligent people so she was a big part of that for me and I thank her for that.”
Both Romero and Fant were involved in the district’s decision to incorporate a technology-based platform that drastically altered the way that students in Manteca Unified are educated in order to prepare them for a technologically shifting world upon graduation. They also weathered storms like assertions of racism and bias amongst the district and the board and a scathing Grand Jury report that detailed how the district came up short when dealing with some of those issues.
But Romero, who never shied away from controversy, kept her comments about her tenure relatively brief and instead chose to focus on the East Union High School football play in which special education student Vinny Torrice finally got to fulfill a dream by scoring a touchdown.
“Thank you for my four years of getting to be a part of this board. It was the will of the people, and a couple of times I was threatened to be removed but I’m glad that you guys didn’t,” Romero said with a laugh. “I do hope that I brought a level head and a middle ground to the board and the district. And I want to congratulate East Union – not just because the football team made it to the playoffs, but also because in the last minute of the game a young man got to score a touchdown.
“And these boys – the boys on the team – get to play every week. They expect to play. But Vinny (Torrice) stands there in full uniform every week and is just happy to be there, and in that game they let him score and that score counted and nobody knew it was going to happen. It was just an amazing thing. For those young men and those coaches to see what it meant – that it wasn’t about winning the game but fulfilling a lifelong dream for this young man – shows the kind of people that we’re raising here in Manteca Unified.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.