The current chaos in national and state politics serves to underscore the importance of local elections. And what could possibly be more important than the future education of local children?
It’s obvious that the non-partisan race for Tulare County Superintendent of Schools is among the most important elections on the local ballot for the June 5 primary.
The window of opportunity opened for prospective candidates when Jim Vidak announced last year that he would not seek an eighth term. Vidak has served the students of Tulare County as superintendent for nearly three decades.
Vidak won’t be going anywhere soon. He will remain on the county board in an advisory capacity and help with the learning curve during the transition for the winning candidate.
The current three candidates all have experience as administrators and know best their hometown districts: Tim Hire (Exeter), Anthony Martin (Porterville), and Craig Wheaton (Visalia).
The county superintendent of schools position was established by the California State Constitution in 1879. The superintendent’s primary responsibilities are the monitoring and oversight of the student academic environment and the district’s fiscal stability.
In recent years, those responsibilities have evolved to also include educating specific student populations like special education and the disenfranchised. Key to small districts like Three Rivers are the direct services that each superintendent is entrusted to supervise.
Town Hall— Each of the candidates has been invited to attend the candidates’ night scheduled for the next Three Rivers Town Hall meeting Monday, May 7, 7 p.m., at the Memorial Building.
Here is some information on the candidates:
Tim Hire’s name may be familiar to local voters. He is a former ag teacher at Woodlake High and served as WHS principal from 2005 to 2007.
Tim has served at Exeter Unified School District as its superintendent for the past 11 years.
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Statement from Tim Hire: Tulare County is full of small, rural school districts that depend on the Tulare County Office of Education for many basic services but I believe they can benefit from more support with technology, specifically access to hardware and reliable internet connectivity.
Student and staff safety has to be on the mind of every educator and parent across the nation. The fact that I have been endorsed by the Tulare County Deputy Sheriffs Association and the Exeter Police Officers Association demonstrates my commitment to safe schools and strong partnerships with law enforcement.
My passion for students will fuel my fire to convince our elected officials in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to increase funding to a level that ensures our students have the educational experiences to achieve their personal goals, reach their full potential, and become positive contributing members of our communities.
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Craig Wheaton is currently the deputy county superintendent and has spent the last two years working directly with Superintendent Jim Vidak. Leading up to this appointment, he spent 20 years in a small school district, Corcoran, specializing in serving at-risk, low-income students and their families.
In 2002, he joined the Visalia Unified School District specifically to head up the district’s efforts under federal and state improvement programs. From 2010 to 2016, Craig served as superintendent of Visalia Unified School District.
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Statement from Craig Wheaton: The real difference between myself and the other candidates can be summed up in experience, but it is much more than merely the number of years of experience. I have had tremendous variety in what I have done and the positions in which I have served.
From these experiences, I am equipped to work with the county’s school district superintendents to support them in their work. I have a track record of success, and here is some of what we accomplished during my years as superintendent:
Graduation rates went from 89 percent to 95 percent.
We expanded a variety of school options for kids and families, including a rigorous hybrid charter, VCIS, which is now across from COS and includes an online program.
Visalia Technical Early College High School (VTEC) was fully developed and expanded to include a working farm on the old COS farm. We bought the property and remodeled the school.
We developed and implemented 10 Career Academies across all VUSD high schools and they have proven to be highly successful.
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Another candidate is Anthony Martin. Martin has 14 years of experience in education and currently serves as director of school resources and support for the Burton School District in Porterville.
Martin did not respond to queries of information about his campaign to be elected as Tulare County Superintendent of Schools.