Incumbent Los Banos school district Trustee Dominic Falasco is working to be re-elected while facing challenger Gary Munoz, a retired resident, for the district’s Area 4 school board seat.
Falasco and Munoz were invited to be interviewed by the Los Banos Enterprise regarding their candidacy, including questions about themselves, their platforms and thoughts on issues facing the school district.
Falasco accepted, and was interviewed on Monday. Munoz declined to be interviewed.
Q: Who are you?
A: Falasco, 49, was born and raised in Los Banos. He is married to resident Jennifer Falasco, and has four daughters ages 21, 20, 17 and 8.
Falasco has been a prominent criminal defense attorney in Los Banos for 25 years. He has run his own practice, Law Offices of Dominic Falasco, since 2007.
Falasco received his bachelor of arts degree in history from California State University, Fresno, with minors in political science and philosophy. He graduated from Golden Gate University School of Law in 1992.
Falasco was elected to the school board in 2012, narrowly beating longtime incumbent Colleen Menefee by 25 votes, according to Enterprise archives.
Falasco also served on the local hospital board about 20 years ago. He has been a coach for the Los Banos Police Activities League, parks and recreations teams, and softball and basketball.
Q: Why did you decide to run?
A: Falasco said he wants to help fix an impending crisis in the near future of finding space to fit the growing student population.
“One of my daughters is a senior at Los Banos High, the other is a third-grader,” Falasco said. “I’ve been involved actively in education, and my family has been involved. It’s something I’ve felt very strongly about.”
Falasco said he wants to be a part of finding solutions to accommodate the increased housing projects that are sure to add more students to a district already talking about building more schools and expansions.
Q: What makes you the best candidate?
A: Falasco said he isn’t beholden to special interests, and that he has the skills to talk to both sides of an issue to reach a consensus.
“I try to be fully responsive to people I serve in the district,” Falasco said. “I’m in regular contact with people, with the administration.”
Falasco said his record includes being a big proponent of the new Creekside Junior High project, and convincing other trustees and school officials on big projects.
Q: Name three issues important to you.
A: Falasco is a big proponent of reducing class sizes.
“We need to put teachers in position to teach more effectively,” Falasco said, adding that teachers have told him they often need to police a class in addition to teaching.
Falasco wants to build more facilities to house the additional students expected to come as Los Banos adds more homes. He also wants to address school safety in the midst of the increase in shootings across the country.
“There are programs out there we’re looking into, including training staff on what to do if there is a gunman on campus,” Falasco said.
Q: What is the first thing you want to do?
A: “We need another elementary school out there,” Falasco said.
Falasco believes that the immediate focus needs to be on building to accommodate growth.
“These things take years,” he said. “If we don’t start now, we’re going to be pushing it to meet our needs two years (late).”
Q: How will you address future anticipated growth?
A: Falasco plans to support building new facilities and add more classrooms to reduce class sizes.
Q: How will you approach low student test scores?
A: Falasco wants to put more emphasis on data-driven teaching.
“(Introducing students to) iPads and that stuff are a great starting point,” Falasco said. “But we need to have something where that iPad data is funneled to teachers.”
Falasco said the district has shown improvement in its test scores. And while it was an important barometer of how the school district is doing, he said the district has shown improvement in other areas, such as rates of students going to four-year colleges.
Q: What can you say about your opponent?
A: Falasco said he has no ill feelings toward Munoz, even after Munoz’s son confessed to vandalizing Falasco’s campaign signs.
“We’ve always been cordial to each other,” Falasco said. “I’ll leave it for the voters to decide. It’s not about me or Mr. Munoz, it’s about what’s best for the kids.”
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562