Chavez named to school board
At 26-years-old, Sal Chavez is likely the youngest member ever of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District board.
Chavez was chosen Tuesday night, to replace Cam Hawing as the trustee representing the El Verano attendance area. Hawing resigned last month after serving since 2005, so that his wife Kathleen could receive consideration for an administrative position with the school district.
Chavez was one of two candidates the school board interviewed Tuesday evening. Originally five people had applied, but two withdrew their applications and one didn’t live in the attendance area.
The board had four questions for Chavez and the other finalist, John Van Dyke, who were given the questions in advance with three minutes to answer.
Chavez went through school in the Valley, including El Verano and Altimira and graduated from Sonoma Valley High School before moving on to earn a degree from Sonoma State University. He is the owner of Picazo Cafe and Deli, a restaurant on Arnold Drive.
Van Dyke is a retired banker, after spending 25 years with Wells Fargo, and was also a small-business owner who spent six years on the Calistoga school board.
The board complemented both of the candidates.
“We have two fantastic candidates,” Boardmember Helen Marsh said. “And I don’t think we could go wrong with either candidate.”
Marsh pointed out that after Hawing joined the board in 2005, things started changing. “We started hearing from people in (the Hispanic community) that we hadn’t heard from before,” she said.
And she called Chavez a “bridge to the younger parents and students. With Sal, the board is younger.” Marsh also said it takes a long time to become a functional school board member.
Dan Gustafson praised both candidates and said Van Dyke did his homework on, for example, the number of teachers the district employs, and said there was no way the district could lose with either pick.
“They’re both very qualified,” he said. “But I’m impressed with Sal’s enthusiasm. He’s a conduit to a major portion of our community.”
Board President Gary DeSmet estimated that he puts at least 20 hours a month into board work – and sometimes more. “One of you will walk out of here tonight with 20 hours you don’t have to put in here. But please, put it somewhere.”
Nicole Ducarroz agreed with her fellow boardmembers and told Van Dyke that his experience would be a huge asset to the board. But she too leaned toward Chavez.
On a unanimous vote, Chavez was named to the vacant seat. The appointment is provisional for 30 days, and if there are no objections, the appointment stands. Chavez would serve until November 2014.