SBHS district candidates diverge on idea for new school

Candidates for San Benito High School District and Hollister School District boards answered questions at Thursday’s Use Your Voice election forum.
Candidates for mayor and city council also participated in the forum hosted by the San Benito County Farm Bureau and Benitolink in the city hall council chambers.

SBHSD candidates Patty Nehme, Jennifer Coile, Frank Muro, John Corrigan, Mary Encinias, and Ray Rodriguez answered three questions relating to the district. Candidate Ellen Miller was absent.

The moderator asked the candidates their position on a second high school.
Muro said he was in favor of a second high school, but questioned where the money was going to come from.

Coile said yes, and cited the increase in population brought in by new developments in town.

Encinias said she believed the current high school should be improved before beginning construction on another one. She said a division would develop between a hypothetical new high school and the current one, a division felt by both students and parents.

Corrigan agreed with Encinias on a possible division between two schools.

“If you build a brand new shiny high school over here, and you haven’t taken care of the one that you have; no one’s going to want to go to that one,” Corrigan said. “Everybody’s going to try to go to the new one. You’re going to create incredible inequity in our community.”

Nehme said she echoed the concern over possible division between two schools, and made a point to mention athletics.

“If you want to do it because of sports, which I’ve heard is the main concern, that’s not a reason to build a new high school,” Nehme said.

Rodriguez said the same conversation happened when Maze Middle School was built, and that he thinks competition breeds success.

Hollister School District candidates Rob Bernosky, Elizabeth Martinez and Mike Baldwin sat in the council seats after the SBHSD board candidates finished their closing statements. They answered three questions relating to the district.

The moderator asked the trio what they thought about expanding dual language programs in the district, and mentioned the long student waiting list for the Hollister Dual Language Academy.

Baldwin said the board needs to look into expanding dual language programs, considering HDLA’s “huge” success.

Bernosky said he believes HDLA and similar programs should be allowed to grow as large as the demand fits, but that teachers should be able to teach the curriculum in Spanish, not just speak it.

Martinez said the long waiting list at HDLA was part of the reasoning for the need for Measure M, the $28.5 million facilities bond approved by voters in 2014.

“With the Measure M funds, we were able to expand it,” Martinez said. “Does it need to be its own school? Probably, but at this point we don’t have anywhere to put it. So we’re faced with the challenges of just doing what we can for now. We will continue to work with our community to offer what they feel is important to them and their children.”

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