Veteran school board member
opts out of race
by Bret Bradigan
1980 was a bittersweet year for Vince France. The then-Ojai
police chief was elected to the Ojai Unified School District
board the same day Ojai voters turned over their policing to
the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.
"I got the school board seat and they did away with the
police department," he said.
So after nearly 23 years on the board, France is calling it quits.
"It's time for new blood on the board," he said. "I
need a break."
There were two issues that prompted him to run - low teacher
salaries and what he saw as the waste and redundancy of Chaparral
High School. "That was one of my personal goals, to get
teachers paid what they deserve," he said. "Chaparral,
well, I was dead wrong on that issue. They do excellent work
France considers the new and higher levels of trust and communication
between administrations, staff and teachers to be the accomplishment
he's proudest to have witnessed, and perhaps to have helped foster.
"It used to be very confrontational 12, 15 years ago. The
situation was getting out of hand," he said. "In time,
though, we learned to trust each other, and it has made the district
a better place."
Another accomplishment is having participated in the hiring of
three superintendents. "We've been very lucky - they've
all done an outstanding job."
France felt his budgeting and public funding experience from
his years with the city, then with the Ventura County Sheriff's
Department, worked to his advantage as a school board member.
A few obstacles facing the board members during his tenure included
the book-censoring uproar at Nordhoff and the expansion of Nordhoff's
athletic fields, all of which brought packed board meetings and
heated exchanges and debates. "We've had rather animated
meetings," he said.
A lifelong resident of Ojai, France, his children and now his
grandchildren have all gone to Ojai schools.
"Listen," is the short version of France's advice to
prospective board members. "Don't go in with any preconceived
notions. There's a lot more to it than people think."
Three school board seats - currently held by France, board president
Kathi Smith and Rikki Horne - will be contested Nov. 5. Filing
deadline for the board of trustees of the 3,950-student district
is Aug. 9.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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