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MUSD school board fills vacancy

For The Madera Tribune Philip Huerta.


Huerta appointed Madera Unified School District trustees moved Tuesday night to fill the vacancy on the school board by appointing Philip Huerta to serve the remainder of the term of former trustee Maria Velarde-Crist who resigned in January to take a job as a school principal.

The action was taken on a 4-2 vote with trustees Ricardo Arredondo and Ed McIntyre voting no.

Prior to the vote, three applicants for the position were questioned by each member of the board in front of a standing-room-only audience. The applicants appeared one at a time at the podium to make statements and respond to inquiry from trustees.

Huerta appeared first, and he was followed by Joetta Flores Fleak and Matthew H. Stickler. Each applicant gave a three-minute opening statement, which was followed by six questions from the board. Each trustee had been assigned a question to ask each of the applicants.

The questions dealt with the following topics:

1) What is the purpose of a school board member, and how should one fulfill the obligations of that role?

2) How do school board members ensure that stakeholders with diverse views have a voice in the affairs of the school district?

3) Cite a recent decision by the Madera School Board that has been controversial and tell what you would have done.

4) Describe your strengths for serving on the school board.

5) How would you respond to a “hot issue” raised by a parent?

6) What question would you like to ask the board that would help you understand how it functions? Huerta indicated that he felt the role of a school board member is to help create collective goals, understanding that there may be some diversity of opinion. He said a school trustee should listen and provide productive input.

The new board member also said he adheres to the philosophy that board members should do all they can to engage parents in dealing with school district concerns.

He maintained that when dealing with a “hot issue” with a parent, it should be clearly understood that the district has a process for solving problems and that protocol should be followed. He said it was also important that school trustees provide feedback on these issues.

Huerta said he did not agree with the board’s 2016 position on Measure G because he felt the maintenance of the older schools could be neglected while new schools were being built.

As for strengths, Huerta said he has a strong desire for success, to be well informed, and to engage the district’s stakeholders.

Huerta ended his public interview with a question for trustees. He wants to find out if the board is collectively moving forward.

Huerta is a native of Texas who came with his family to Madera when he was a freshman in high school. He graduated from Madera High School in 1974, and California State University, Fresno with a degree in accounting. After working for 10 years in Santa Clara, he and his wife moved back to Madera. They have been married for 36 years and have one daughter and two sons.

Huerta is a regional controller for Taylor Communications.

Among the current issues in education, Huerta cites dual immersion as one that has his attention. He told the board he had no “encumbrances” and that his purpose for wanting to serve was to give back to the community.

Huerta ran for the school board in 2014 and was defeated by Velarde-Crist in that race for district four. He will serve out the unexpired portion of Velarde-Crist’s term, which ends in December 2018.

Huerta said he would run for the district four seat in the Nov. election.

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