Some may have found the result surprising, others may have found it expected, but in a more than 50% margin over either of her opponents, Patricia Griswold won the District Area 5 seat for the Visalia Unified School District.
“I was, like, shocked” Griswold said. “You don’t ever know. I did a lot of canvassing and I had people out canvassing for me, but so did the other candidates.”
Her opponents were Michael Washam, Tulare County’s Resource Management Agency’s planning director, and Niessen Foster, a retired US post office employee who served on the school board in 2000, but resigned before his term ended, mid-year in 2002.
Griswold, herself, is a special education teacher, who works for the Tulare County Office of Education. She was endorsed by Donna Martin, the outgoing board member for Area 5.
Griswold said, she was the most qualified, as she has experience with schools as a teacher.
She said that during her canvassing, she visited the mix of neighborhoods that make up her district area.
“That was the best part of the campaign,” she said, “meeting the people.”
While she will serve with regard to all Visalia Unified School District schools, there are four schools that actually fall within her territory – Washington, Mountain View, Conyer and Royal Oaks.
With the change of administration on a national level, there has been talk of greatly diminishing the federal Department of Education, if not eliminating it altogether. This could have an effect on local budgeting, so Griswold said, she finds it difficult to discuss some of the things she’d like to see done within the district in that manner.
However, somewhat irrelevant to budgets, she would like to see more even more community involvement in the schools with the police and fire departments, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses. She wants students to learn more respect for law enforcement.
“When I hear, ‘cops, run!’ this really means to me that we need more community outreach,” she said.
Currently, there is one police officer assigned to each high school, and one officer assigned to rotate around the middle schools. The elementary schools within the district are being served on an as-needed basis, she added. She feels, she said, that there needs to be more communication between the police and elementary-grade students.
“There are serious gang problems in town,” she said. “I don’t think you can rescue [a student with gang ties] in middle school – by then it is too late.”
More technical training is on her to-do list, and she would like to work on class-size reduction, across the board from pre-k through 12th grade, including AP classes. She would also like to see more help in the classroom, and more support for teachers with a greater presence of aides, she said. She has talked with one teacher, who was thrilled with the 30 minutes a day of aide time he has in his classroom. While another, said that the 45 minutes of aide time she has, just isn’t enough.
Griswold believes that education should start at an early age.
“I love that we’re expanding the pre-K program,” she said.
Prior to the November 8 election, VUSD Superintendent Todd Oto said, he had met with all three candidates and was impressed with all of them.
“We had a great meeting,” he said. “They all seemed very committed. They are sincere candidates, who want to move the district forward.”
Griswold will be sworn into her position on December 6 to start her four-year term.