Saturday, September 24 , 2016, 8:59 pm | Fair 64º

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Diana Perez Adds Fresh Face to Long-Standing Santa Maria School Board

College career counselor appointed to fill the seat vacated by newly retired Dean Reece

Diana Perez has for years helped high-school students navigate a path to college, and now she will get the chance to shape their education well before graduation.

Perez, director of the Central Coast Cal-SOAP Consortium, was appointed last week to serve as the newest member of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Board of Trustees.

The board, which boasted the same five members for the past eight years, had a vacancy when Dean Reece recently retired after 50 years in the district as a teacher, administrator, superintendent and board member.

Perez was nominated based on her years of education experience and because she has tried to be on the board before.

The longtime Santa Maria resident unsuccessfully ran for a seat in 2012, and already was mulling whether to campaign again in November’s election.

As Cal-SOAP director, Perez has worked out of Allan Hancock College since 2002, helping connect hopeful students with the proper resources to go to college or start a career.

Before that, the UC Santa Barbara graduate served as an admissions counselor at her alma mater.

“I’ve been very involved in the community,” Perez told Noozhawk. “I bring direct experience with students and parents. There’s a career for every student.”

Perez’s fluent Spanish should also add an essential element to the district, which serves more than 7,000 students at four high schools with high Hispanic populations.

In fact, going out to visit schools and approaching parents are on her to-do list.

Relating to challenges parents and students face isn’t a stretch for Perez, who has a son who is a freshman at Righetti High School.

Two of her children, at Lakeview Junior High and Alice Shaw Elementary, will be in high school soon enough as well.

Superintendent Mark Richardson said he’s impressed with Perez, who has shown interest by running for office and volunteering to be on a strategic-planning committee.

“Because she’s had that experience, I think it helps her understand what we’re trying to do in the district as a whole,” Richardson said.

Perez said she was surprised to have been nominated for the appointment, but is excited to delve into local school politics, focusing on student success, retention and other areas.

Her term ends in November, at which time Perez could — this time — become an incumbent in the election.

“I think it’s an excellent opportunity to see, what is this going to be like?” she said. “I can’t wait till I can roll up my sleeves and get to work. We have a huge responsibility. We really do.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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