There are three openings on the Hilmar Unified School District Board.
In trustee area one, Tim Jones, an incumbent, is running unopposed.
In trustee area two, six candidates are vying for two seats.
In trustee area three, Luis Freitas, an incumbent, is running unopposed.
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Meet the candidates for trustee area two:
Borba filed election papers to run for the school board on Aug. 5. His occupation is listed as retired on election documents.
Borba did not return several calls to a phone number included on election documents.
Edwards, 43, is the owner of Edwards, Lien, and Toso, Inc., an appraisal and brokerage company.
He’s lived in Hilmar for 18 years and is originally from Porterville. Edwards’ three children, all boys, attend three schools in the district: Elim Elementary, Hilmar Middle, and Hilmar High schools.
“I’ve got these three kids in school and I just want to make a difference,” he said.
He decided to run for the board for “multitudes of reasons,” he said.
“One of the main reasons is the financial turmoil the schools are in,” he said. “I believe that my business background will lend a hand in that situation in the future. With my business experience and knowledge of all things financial, I think I will be a strong board member.”
Edwards said additional qualifications for the job included his entrepreneurial spirit and community involvement. He is on the finance council at his church and has served on the educational committee of the American Society of Farm Managers and Appraisers, he said.
Katsounakis, 47, is running for the school board for the first time.
She has one son at Hilmar High School, and her two older boys graduated from there.
“I’m a mom that wants to make a difference. I want to be a voice for other parents,” she said. “I love kids and I want the best for all of our kids.”
A paralegal, Katsounakis said the biggest issue the school board will face is financial.
“Its tough times for California. Its tough times for the citizens of California,” she said. “I think they’ve (the board) done what they could with what they were facing.”
She said her experience with budgets and role as a supervisor with the United States Postal Service were unique qualifications for the job.
Katsounakis is also president of the local chapter of the Central Valley Blue Star Mothers – an organization that supports mothers, fathers, and family members of troops in the armed forces.
Machado, 37, has lived in Hilmar his entire life. He attended Merquin Elementary, Hilmar Middle and Hilmar High schools. His two children are in second and third grade at Elim Elementary School.
“My children and my community motivate me to take on the task of the school board,” Machado wrote in campaign materials that he provided to the Sun-Star in response to questions. “I would like to do all I can to insure my children and all of our children have the same experience I did growing up in a small town community like this.”
Machado also touted his ties with the community, including his work with the Hilmar Stevinson Youth Baseball Board, among his qualifications.
Machado’s father, Manuel, was a member of the school board for 13 years, and his brother, Dan, served on the board for 16 years, he said.
William “Bill” Hass
Hass, 41, is a correctional officer with the Merced County Sheriff’s Department. This is the first time he has run for election to the Hilmar school board.
He decided to run for his children.
“I have kids involved in the Hilmar School – I have five children currently attending – so I want to be apart of everything,” he said. “I want to be a part of the decision-making process of the Hilmar board to better reflect the community.”
Hass has another child as well, a 20-year-old daughter.
He is an Army veteran and completed a tour in Bosnia in 1996.
“I believe that the leadership I bring forward through civilian and military education will help the decision making process and problem solving,” he said. “I believe in communication between the school board, with parents, and on down to the children.”
While in the military, Hass said he had a lot of experience with personnel and fiscal management.
Hass said the biggest issue within the district will be monetary, but he also wants to keep his eye on student-teacher ratios.
“I believe that kids come first,” he said. “And without the teachers, we wouldn’t have educated kids. They can’t take on too much.”
Strom, 50, has been a member of the Hilmar school board for 12 years. A graduate of the high school, he has two daughters still at schools in the district in tenth and eighth grades.
Despite his ties to the community, Strom feels his best qualification for re-election is his tenure on the board.
“I think the biggest thing right now is my twelve years of experience on the board,” he said. “That’s my big advantage, given the cuts that schools are facing and what changes need to be made that will effect students the least.”’
One of the most difficult things to grasp as a school board member is the budget process, which he now understands completely, he said.
“We have to be more creative with what we do with our dollars and make sure we can get everything we can,” he said about future financial decisions. “With budget cuts and declining enrollment, that’s our biggest challenge: how can we give these kids the educations they deserve with less?”
Strom works at his own company, CJ Strom Properties, which specializes in planning, construction and property development. He has 25 years experience in the dairy and farming industry and is also currently serving his second term as board president, he said.
Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.