ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> The departing school board members had some advice for the two newcomers who will take their seats on the dais Dec. 10:
Make every decision for the students.
“When you’re up here, you have to make the best possible decision for the kids,” said Robert Hidalgo. The soon-to-be former Rowland Unified School District board member added: “Develop some pretty thick skin.”
Hidalgo and Gilbert Garcia were honored by their peers and by local mayors, representatives for county supervisors, assembly members and staff during a reception marking their service held at district headquarters last week.
Hidalgo, an assistant principal at Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, decided not to seek re-election after serving eight years on the RUSD board. He won an easy and somewhat surprising victory over West Covina Councilman Steve Herfert for a newly redistricted seat on the Mt. San Antonio College Board of Trustees.
Garcia, a board member for 12 years, is out of office and will work on extending his textbook business into Latin America, he said.
During his remarks, Garcia recalled how his daughter urged him to run for office the first time. In a sense, he said, he served for his own children who attended district schools, as well as for all RUSD students.
“I am privileged to have been on this board for three terms,” he began. “It has been a wild ride, but I’m glad its over.”
Garcia said his tenure was often spent deciding what programs to trim due to state funding cutbacks. He said he wished he could have “been more generous” toward teachers, whom he said are part of a profession that deserves fair compensation.
“We have not had the revenues to do what we wanted to do,” he said, describing many years of austerity and survival as a district.
“We made decisions. Tough ones. And we are now on the upswing. We will see much happier days,” Garcia predicted.
Hidalgo said he wanted to continue serving the K-12 population while on the Mt. SAC board by paving a smoother path from high school to college. He thinks his transition to the college board will be tough, but a natural extension of his time spent on the RUSD board.
“Education is the great equalizer. You can come from all sorts of places, backgrounds but education is the great equalizer,” Hidalgo told the audience.
On Dec. 10, Angelena Pride and Lynne Ebenkamp will be sworn in as new board members. Pride was the top vote-getter in the Nov. 5 election with 2,050 votes and Ebenkamp was next with 1,888. The third seat was captured by incumbent Cary Chen, who edged out challenger Anne Ma by 83 votes.
RUSD operates 19 schools in Rowland Heights, Walnut, La Puente, Industry and West Covina, with 15,000 students and more than 700 teachers. Its budget is about $150 million, of which 80 percent goes for personnel costs.