Michael Snellings, a longtime Yucaipa resident with a career in education, was appointed a provisional trustee last week at a special board meeting for the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District, taking the seat vacated with the recent passing of Jane Smith.
Snellings, who most recently retired as the assistant superintendent of Educational Services with the Colton Joint Unified School District, was unanimously approved by president Chuck Christie, clerk Patty Ingram and trustees Sharon Bannister and Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh at the Wednesday, July 24, meeting.
“I am a glutton for punishment so I decided to do it again,” Snellings said during his interview.
He was referring to applying for the provisional appointment for the seat left vacated with Jim Taylor’s retirement in April 2018. At that time, the other board members, including Smith, approved Ochoa Bogh, who then ran unopposed in November 2018 for the remaining two years of Taylor’s four-year term.
“I do appreciate the opportunity, but I am sorry for the circumstances that brought this about,” said Snellings, referring to Smith, who served on the district board for 10 years before passing away in late May.
The at-large appointment of Snellings is until the November 2020 election, when the seat will be open to candidates who live in Trustee Area 1, which encompasses all of Calimesa and parts of Hidden Meadows and the Dunlap areas in Yucaipa.
Snellings was one of three candidates who applied for the seat. The other candidates were Kathy Crane and Ana Monroy.
Although Crane was a teacher at Fontana High School for 40 years and held several leadership roles while there, neither she nor Monroy, a former public servant who sought to become more involved in the community, have lived in Yucaipa for more than seven years. Snellings, on the other hand, offered both a background in education and 30-plus years in Yucaipa, including raising his three children in the district.
“The board historically is made up of lay people who are not necessarily from an education field,” Ingram said during the discussion of candidates. “But as times change and our decisions become almost regulated … it is important that the person that we appoint has a strong knowledge of education in California and also the history of Yucaipa because the school district is not only the largest employer in Yucaipa but kind of the heart of the community.
“It is important that the person who is here understands what is going on in Yucaipa, historically.”
The interview format, which was open to the public, had each candidate answering 12 questions in separate sessions. Among the questions was what is your vision for the district.
“I just see kids on-campus engaged in what they are doing, participating in their learning, being a voice in their learning and, like I said, using real-life experiences to enrich any opportunities that they have in their academics,” Snellings said. “I just see a real opportunity to engage kids in a different way.”
After the interviews were complete, board members discussed the candidates before voting. President Christie led the discussion.
“As I look at the position, I look at the person we are replacing on the board who was a lion, or a lioness, who was a major leader in the community,” Christie said. “A big part of what I am going to be looking for, as far as an individual, will be what each person brings and how they are able to fill that void and provide leadership abilities with the many issues and policies that we will face as we go forth.”
“To me having a great deal of background, in terms of breadth and depth, that add strengths to the board and our deliberations will be a big part of my consideration,” Christie said as he closed his thoughts on the candidates.
“What I am looking for is someone with knowledge, who has the heart, has the vision, has the ability to communicate effectively, is open minded, is open thinking,” Ochoa Bogh said.
Bannister closed the discussion.
“I do really appreciate all of you and it would be an honor to serve on the board with any one of you,” she said. “We are trying to fill a position for someone who was hugely knowledgeable and hugely experienced. So that is going to weigh on my decision.”
Snellings’ first official school board meeting will be Tuesday, Aug. 20.