Schools build a future

2018 featured new faces, new school facilities, new programs

2018 featured new faces, new school facilities, new programs

From the curious case of former San Benito County School Board president Mitchell Dabo to the abrupt resignation of Hollister School District Superintendent Lisa Andrew to the physical transformation of the San Benito High School campus, 2018 was a memorable one for many reasons.

Lisa Andrew resigns

Lisa Andrew, who in 2016 described the Hollister School District as “a good fit for me,” found it was not, as she unexpectedly announced her resignation as superintendent in June 2018.

Andrew’s announcement put the district in a precarious situation, and a permanent replacement wasn’t found for the remainder of 2018. Instead, the board went with a short-term fix, hiring retired administrator William Barr on an interim basis so they could take their time with a superintendent search.

The board has closed in on Andrew’s replacement, conducting interviews of six finalists in December 2018. However, that decision could be impacted with the public voting in three new trustees at the November 2018 election.

Challengers Carla Torres-Deluna, Stephen Kain and Jan Grist finished one-two-three in the six-candidate race for three at-large seats, while former board president Patricia Moore—the lone incumbent to seek another term—was out after finishing fourth.

The Mitchell Dabo case

Evidence submitted in a 2017civil lawsuit by Dabo himself—bank statements, canceled checks and emails—detailed the systematic draining of $644,000 from the Matulich Charitable Trust by the District 4 county board member, a Hollister financial planner and tax preparer.

The on-again, off-again criminal investigation that began in 2017 took twists and turns throughout 2018. The criminal case was finally closed late this year, and in the civil case, Dabo never paid a $1.5 million civil judgment from November 2017. Dabo decided to not seek re-election and ended his term on the county school board after more than 30 years

High school building boom

While the preK-8 district’s plan is to build on its cache of school sites, San Benito High School District expanded and upgraded facilities on its massive 120-acre campus throughout 2018, with more coming in the new year.

Thanks to a pair of voter-approved bond measures as well as state-matching funds in some cases, San Benito’s list of enhancements was plentiful in 2018 including: new visual and performing arts and academic buildings; a new 177,000-square-foot outdoor multi-purpose/physical education field; the opening of the River Parkway, a bypass around Nash Road; ground-breaking for the new 36,882-square-foot Science and Robotics Building; a planned multi-faceted Career Technical Education Classroom Building; and ongoing construction of the new track and field/football stadium, aquatics complex and softball field.

On the horizon in 2019 and beyond for are projects that include an Associated Student Body and Student Union Building and a multi-purpose room, kitchen and cafeteria.

New Sunnyslope school

In June 2018, the Hollister School District board unanimously approved a $5 million deal to purchase a 12-acre parcel of land on the corner of Sunnyslope and Fairview roads in the Santana Ranch development, where the district plans to build a new transitional-kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school to meet the needs of a growing population.

Gavilan bonds approved

New building and bond funds also will come in 2019 at the college level.

In July 2018, Gavilan College’s Board of Trustees approved a $248 million bond measure for the Nov. 6 election ballot, which passed  despite some pullback from local voters who felt betrayed by promises of the past and will have a major impact on the community college that serves south Santa Clara and San Benito counties—namely a new satellite campus in San Benito County.

Gavilan’s board also welcomed two new members in its Hollister districts, with high school teacher Jeanie Wallace and Gavilan alumna Irma González winning seats in November. Both promised more transparency and open line of communication with stakeholders as the latest bond measure projects are decided in the new year.

New softball field

With a target completion date of spring 2019, San Benito High School’s brand-new softball field already resembles a Balers’ field of dreams.

The Measure U-funded, state-of-the-art facility is all-turf field with a clay pitcher’s mound and includes double-wide batting cages, a double-wide bullpen on the home side, a new scoreboard and three bleachers with a 180 spectator capacity.

The softball facility also is equipped with a netted backstop and storage area.

On the field, there is the letter “H” embedded in centerfield turf and “Haybaler” behind home plate. It is part of the larger athletics complex currently under construction on the south campus.

San Benito High School’s sprawling campus encompasses 120 acres.

Measure U is a $60 million bond approved by voters in 2016.

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