SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - For the first time in 40 years, local voters will have a choice in the race for Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools.
Incumbent Susan Salcido was unopposed four years ago and is seeking re-election. She's spent 26 years in public education.
"We're coming out of such an important, pivotal time in education," said Salcido. "Now is the time to deepen, expand those supports for our students and teachers and staff throughout all of our schools in Santa Barbara County."
Her challenger is Christy Lozano, an Air Force veteran with expertise in physical education. She said she knows the "magic" and "success in teaching."
"I'm running for office because I've been teaching for 18 years and I've watched a steady decline in academics, in behavior, and in mental well-being of kids," said Lozano.
Through 2017, the prior superintendent, Bill Cirone, ran unopposed for decades, making this year’s race a contest between different educational philosophies.
Both candidates pointed to their layered career paths as proof that they're qualified for the job. And each shared their main priorities.
"The first one is to bring transparency to, not just the county office of education but across the board," said Lozano. "Parents should be able to see what their kids are learning."
"Internships, externships, apprenticeships, real life experiences," said Salcido. "Practical, relevant, meaningful experiences within their high school careers."
Each stressed the importance of mental wellness support. And, the best approach to overcoming pandemic losses and educational challenges.
"Technology, infrastructure, connectivity," said Salcido. "So, there's a lot of support right now looking at broadband connectivity."
"Implementing a literacy task force right off the bat, starting in the Santa Barbara County Office of Education' preschools," said Lozano. "You know, to really give little kids the support that they need to grow."
Salcido said addressing motivational needs for both students and teachers is critical.
Lozano cited safety and engaged leadership as key to the fundamentals of learning.
"When we have two-thirds of our population are not proficient in math and over half are not proficient in literacy, we're not doing a good service for kids," said Lozano.
"I think what's really, really important is that when students wake up to go school everyday, they're eager and motivated, excited about something they can be just thrilled about," said Salcido.
Salcido's campaign slogan: Experience. Integrity. Community.
"To know the complexities of not only the period of time, but in the role of supporting 20 school districts, 123 schools, 70,000 students."
Lozano's campaign slogan: Taking Politics Out of the Classroom.
"In this difficult environment that we have right now in our schools, I am somebody who believes that there is something different that we could be doing and it will be the change that is needed."
The race has garnered national attention. Lozano has appeared on Fox News to criticize approaches to teacher training and information that she said is being "concealed" from parents in the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD).
"Parents should be able to see what their kids are learning. We should be able to see budgets and the different things that are not able to be seen right now," said Lozano.
Salcido told News Channel 3-12 that she has not appeared on national programs.
"In the history of education, I think we're at a point when it's probably one of the most challenging and complex periods of time that any of us can think of or remember," said Salcido.
For the full interview with candidate Christy Lozano, play the YouTube video below.
For the full interview with candidate Susan Salcido, play the YouTube video below.