Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, once said, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘it’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

As Santa Barbara County former superintendent of schools, it was one of my great honors to work with the incumbents on the county Board of Education who are seeking re-election.

These individuals have been highly effective on the board because their background and expertise equipped them to make decisions and take actions with direct positive impacts on students, teachers, families, programs and school districts throughout the county.

The position is nonpartisan. Those who fill it run the gamut of political leanings. What they share is an unfailing dedication to students and education.

In echoing Fred Rogers, I know that when these individuals see a need, they respond. They are among my heroes.

Joe Howell

Joe Howell

Peter MacDougall

Peter MacDougall

It’s important that the community have the information needed to make an informed decision on these positions.

Peter MacDougall served as the enormously respected president of Santa Barbara City College, where he was instrumental in developing the West Campus and the SBCC Foundation among other programs too long to list, while skillfully managing that complex and highly regarded institution.

He chaired the Partners in Education board of directors and co-chaired the endowment campaign for the Computers for Families program that helps bridge the digital divide for local families. He also served on the advisory board of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, providing a lifeline to hundreds of worthy students.

MacDougall’s accomplishments as a community volunteer have been equally noteworthy, including Cottage Health, the Santa Barbara Foundation and United Way of Santa Barbara County, among many others. He was co-chairman for Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s capital campaign, and has received the Santa Barbara Lifetime Achievement Award, the Anti-Defamation League’s Distinguished Community Service Award, and the Westmont College Medal of Honor to name just a few.

His totality of service, his passion for education and the larger community, his fairness and goal-orientation have made him a highly effective county school board member for 14 years.

Joe Howell has been a true go-to county school board member, volunteering to help and to do the heavy lifting whenever there is a need.

He co-chaired the successful endowment campaign for Computers for Families, designed to put a computer in the homes of children whose families could not afford one. This vital program is now serving families countywide, helping with remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Typical of Howell’s unique dedication, he sends a handwritten letter congratulating graduates of the county Education Office’s Court and Community School program, providing extra encouragement toward a better path. He also joined me on classroom visits to special education and vocational classes, and programs countywide, to see the needs first-hand and take the actions needed to improve the lives of children and teachers.

Roberta “Bert” Heter

Roberta “Bert” Heter

Dick Fulton

Dick Fulton

Howell’s long history of service to the community was recognized with the Santa Barbara Lifetime Achievement Award, among many others. It is this passion and energy, and this focus on what is important, and willingness to do the hard work, that has made him such an effective county school board member for 21 years.

Dr. Richard “Dick” Fulton is a retired radiologist and a founder of Pueblo Radiology. He served as president of the Rochester, Minnesota, school board when he was a physician at the Mayo Clinic.

On the county school board, where Fulton has served with great distinction for 10 years, he’s been a driving force in the successful endowment campaign for Computers for Families, and is a strong supporter of vocational education programs. He serves on the executive committee of the County School Boards Association and has been a leader in the Partners in Education’s highly acclaimed Internship Program.

He is also a very strong supporter of both UC Santa Barbara and SBCC.

Fulton approaches his role as a board member with one goal: Find the solution that best serves all students. To him, this is not a political role, but a human role. His longtime service enables him to understand the complexities in our education system and push forward the changes needed so that all students can be served.

Roberta “Bert” Heter has been a highly effective county school board member for nearly eight years. A former teacher, she became principal of Lompoc High School, where her leadership was recognized for excellence district-wide.

She was also well respected in state professional organizations, having served on local and state committees, and has received numerous state awards from the Association of California School Administrators.

Heter is also very involved with youth sports in Lompoc. She served on the Santa Barbara Foundation board for nine years and is also involved in a number of organizations and nonprofit organizations locally, including the Lompoc Library board and the Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County.

A modest demeanor belies Heter’s truly impressive track record of accomplishments for students, teachers and families. She is highly competent, professional and effective, always putting what is best for kids first.

Heter is respected by all who know her in the education, philanthropic, nonprofit and community arenas, which is why she has been such an effective board member.

Peter MacDougall, Joe Howell, Dick Fulton and Bert Heter have always stood tall, passionately advocating and working tirelessly for children and families, undistracted by political agendas or side issues.

They do not consider the position a steppingstone, but rather a chance to serve, as reflected in their long and respected careers. Their work represents the effective, calm, nonpartisan leadership needed in these divisive times.

— Bill Cirone is a retired Santa Barbara County superintendent of schools. The opinions expressed are his own.