MERCED — George Soares Jr. has joined his father as a member of the Merced River School District board of education.
The 20-year-old political science major at Modesto Junior College joins his dad, George Soares Sr., on the five-member board. Also appointed Wednesday night to fill a board vacancy was Robert Gamble Jr., whose father served on the same board for many years.
Helio Brasil, superintendent of the rural district, which includes Hopeton and Washington schools, said the two new trustees will serve until November 2014; they replace veteran trustees Richard Lopez and Joanne Presnell, who recently resigned.
George Soares Jr. plans to transfer to a four-year university and hopes to pursue a career in politics. He calls the rural Snelling, Merced and Winton area encompassed by the district a "great little community" and is eager to begin his trusteeship.
Soares Jr. said his father has been a pretty good leader and sets a good example. He thinks he and his father can work well together and said all board members always put children's interests first and do what's best for them.
Soares Jr. went to both Hopeton and Washington schools, graduating from Washington School in 2007 and Buhach Colony High School in 2011.
No conflict of interest
Soares Sr., a general construction supervisor with the line department at Pacific Gas and Electric Co., said he thinks his son will be a great asset to the board and will bring some fresh ideas to the district. The experience should help him understand his options for the future, he said.
Brasil said he checked with the district's legal counsel about possible conflicts of interest with father-son board members and was told there would be no problem. Merced River board members receive no compensation for their service.
Gamble, a real estate appraiser with the Merced County Assessor's Office, and Soares Jr. will be officially sworn in at the board's April 29 meeting. Their appointments were unanimously approved by trustees Soares, Scot Sherman and Lloyd Pareira.
Other candidates for the two board vacancies were Michael Pressley and James D. Kanabay Jr. A fifth candidate withdrew prior to the meeting, Brasil said.
"I'm very excited with the two new board members," Brasil said. "We got two extremely dedicated candidates and I'm very pleased."
Gamble, 33, said he can't wait to begin his board service. He said it will be a learning process at first, but he is eager to give back to the community.
Gamble's father, Robert, also served 20 years on the Merced River board.
Steve Gomes, Merced County superintendent of schools, is not aware of any other school boards with father-son teams. He said it is becoming increasingly difficult to get people to run for trusteeships, especially where there are no benefits.
Soares Sr., who has been on the board for seven years, said finding the board replacements was a very challenging task. He said his son did very well in his presentation to the board, with lots of pressure, particularly since 80 percent of the district's teaching staff were in the audience.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.