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Santa Barbara School Board Gets New Look with 4 New Faces Among Trustees

Laura Capps, Jackie Reid, Wendy Sims-Moten and Ismael Ulloa bring diverse perspectives to Santa Barbara Unified School District

New Santa Barbara Unified School District trustees, from left, Ismael Ulloa, Laura Capps, Wendy Sims-Moten and Jackie Reid listen to a presentation at last week’s school board meeting. Click to view larger
New Santa Barbara Unified School District trustees, from left, Ismael Ulloa, Laura Capps, Wendy Sims-Moten and Jackie Reid listen to a presentation at last week’s school board meeting.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

In just the past month alone, the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education has filled four seats on its five-member panel and begun taking over the reins on educational policy-making.

Last year, board members Gayle Eidelson, Ed Heron and Pedro Paz announced that they would not seek re-election. Because only three candidates stepped forward, the trio — Laura Capps, Jackie Reid and Wendy Sims-Moten — were appointed to fill the vacancies.

The fourth opening was created when board member Monique Limón was elected to the Assembly on Nov. 8.

Last week, the board — Capps, Reid, Sims-Moten and the lone incumbent, board president Kate Parker — voted to appoint Ismael Ulloa to take Limón’s place and serve the final two years of her term. 

Two of the new board members are Santa Barbara natives and alumni of the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Ulloa, who attended district schools from preschool through his graduation from Santa Barbara High School, works in the Santa Barbara City College Express to Success Program.

He previously worked as a director of Cal-SOAP, which helps local high school students and low-income families prepare for college, and he serves on the board of Future Leaders of America.

Ulloa, who graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a history degree and earned a master’s in education from Antioch University Santa Barbara, said he wanted to join the school board “to give back to my community by helping to continue expanding opportunities for our students in SBUSD.”

Capps, also a Santa Barbara High alumna as well as a graduate of UC Berkeley, returned to Santa Barbara three years ago after working in Washington, including jobs as a speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and as an aide to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

She also served as a communications director on John Kerry’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, was part of former Vice President Al Gore’s climate change campaign and worked as an ocean conservation advocate.

Capps — whose parents, Lois and the late Walter Capps, both represented Santa Barbara in Congress — has a son who attends Roosevelt School, which she attended as a child.

"I believe that we live in the strongest most caring community in the country, and at the heart of that community are our solid public schools," Capps said. "I decided to run for the school board to do my part for my hometown community and the public school system that gave me my start."

As a mother who spends time in her son's classroom, Capps said she will put the needs of SBUSD ​students first.

"I will work hard to address the achievement gap that still persists in our public school system," Capps said. "We have made great strides in recent years to close that gap but so much more can, and will, be done to ensure that every child has an equal chance to fulfill their potential."

Her community involvement includes serving as board president of the Community Environmental Council, as a board member of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and as a member of the County of Santa Barbara Commission for Women and the Santa Barbara school district’s Measure B Citizens Oversight Committee.

She worked on issues of child hunger — both in Santa Barbara County and nationally — and said she "will continue to support efforts to ensure that students are free from hunger and have access to nutritional and locally grown food."

As an environmental advocate, she is also interested in championing efforts to the strengthen the sustainability of Santa Barbara school facilities.  

Sims-Moten was born, raised and educated through high school in Texas. She moved to Santa Barbara more than 35 years ago.

“I chose to seek a seat on the school board because I know personally the importance of having an accessible and equitable educational pathway,” she told Noozhawk.

Sims-Moten graduated from Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena with a degree in human development with a social justice focus.

She has been involved locally as a member of and volunteer for several community-based organizations.

For the past 17 years, Sims-Moten has worked at First 5 Santa Barbara County, focusing on the importance of early care and education for newborns and toddlers.

“Facilitating the education of all our children is a driving force in my life,” she said.

Her son, as well as nieces and nephews, attended Santa Barbara district schools, and she said she was involved as a parent throughout his student years.

As a new school board member, Sims-Moten said, she is “committed to working hard and collaboratively with fellow board members to ensure that our actions, expectations and policies reflect a school environment that is supportive of all our students.”

Reid was born in West Los Angeles and grew up in Pacific Palisades, where she attended kindergarten through high school in the public education system.

For the past 20 years — since she moved to Santa Barbara — she has been an advocate for all students.

Reid previously worked as a classroom teacher and currently is co-director of the nonprofit Teachers for the Study of Educational Institutions.

“I have always worked to ensure students develop the academic, technological and cultural skills necessary to succeed in our 21st-century society,” she said. “I have committed my career to addressing bullying in schools and will continue to work to ensure inclusive, safe environments for all our students.”

Reid said she is passionate about equity for special-needs students and has fought to close the achievement gap for underrepresented students.

“I believe that public education is for the common good and to ensure that all people have equitable opportunities to reach their individual potential, which will in turn positively impact our society and culture,” she said.

As a parent of a student who attended Santa Barbara district schools, Reid said she “cares deeply that all students who graduate are college- and/or career-ready.”

Reid graduated with a degree in radio/television/film from CSU Northridge, holds a master’s in education and a K-12 multiple subject credential from the Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education & Psychology, and has a master’s degree and  in teaching and learning emphasis from the UCSB Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. She also holds a Ph.D in education from UCSB.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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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