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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 7:37 pm | Fair 52º


Supporters Bid Farewell to Longtime School Board Member Bob Noel

Retiring after 12 years of service, Noel has never been 'big on idleness' and doesn't plan to start now

The Santa Barbara school board is losing member Bob Noel after 12 years of his challenging questions, community outreach and big-picture perspectives on day-to-day district dealings.

In his words, “dissent and straight talk” are a vital part of the job.

“What are we doing if we only … accept what’s given to us?” he said. “It’s a structural thing — the legislature and the administration, checks and balances.”

He said he has always enjoyed a broad base of community support, and Special Education Advisory Committee and Autism Society members thanked him for his service at a reception on Tuesday.

When special-education parents first expressed concerns to the board several years ago, Noel stood up and told them all his cell phone number, SEAC parent Cathy Abarca recalled.

“He’s always trying to help those who can’t help themselves, and thinks about how things will affect the general population in a bigger picture way,” Abarca said.

Parents said his fiscal responsibility, knowledge about district procedures and advice showed parents how much he cared.

“Without your help, we’d still be shouting into the wind,” Autism Society President Marcia Eichelberger said to Noel.

He’ll be missed by board members, too, though they said they hope he will stay involved.

“I value his input tremendously,” said board member Ed Heron, who has served for two years with Noel. “When he says no, it makes every single vote better with his input.”

Members Annette Cordero, Susan Deacon and Kate Parker thanked him for being the history of the board and bringing a unique voice to various district issues.

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Noel received a standing ovation for his years of service. He in turn thanked the board, district staff and faculty, and community members who have voted for him throughout the years and have called out to him in supermarkets and on the street.

Noel is “not big on idleness” and said he already has plans for all of his newfound free time. His UCSB course on the politics of global education is almost over, but he said teaching it opened his eyes and most likely will inspire some education-related writings of his own.

He advised the board to “keep the faith” without him and think independently. He said having a “rubber-stamp board” never helps those who really matter — the students.

His own educational success — including post-graduate work at Northwestern University from the GI Bill — only came about after dropping out of high school and being inspired after being in the Army, he said.

Noel will be replaced by Monique Limón, who was the top vote-getter in the Nov. 2 election.

“She has a huge mandate — she got more votes than a very powerful incumbent,” he said of Limón topping of Parker, who won re-election.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like with one male up here,” Heron joked. “I think I’ll survive.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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