School Board members reflect on an unforgettable year


Lucia Mar Unified Youtube

The board at its business.

As the 2021/2022 school year was full of different circumstances, varied challenges arose as well. From the COVID-19 pandemic to heightened debate and scrutiny of the school board’s votes on controversial issues, board members will always remember this school year. Board trustees Colleen Martin and Dee Santos look back on the challenges and things they look forward to in the upcoming school year.
For Dee Santos, serving on the School Board has always been about speaking up for the needs of her community. Santos was first elected to the school board in 1994, before serving on the city council in Grover Beach. She returned to the board and has been representing the Grover Beach community for the last 20 years. Colleen Martin, first elected in 2006 represents the area south of Grand Ave. in Arroyo Grande, serving the families of students from Harloe, Paulding, and Arroyo Grande High School.
Both Santos and Martin have noticed numerous changes to the job since their first election.
“I think for me, I would say [the biggest change is that schools] are paying more attention to Career Technical Education,” Santos said. She went on to add that Lucia Mar has added and is planning on providing more Career Technical Education opportunities such as the culinary program, and the upcoming hairstylist program, both of which Santos took great pride in advocating for.
Martin observed that the day-to-day involvement of the board has changed.
“Things have changed not just of the size of the district, but the intensity of what goes on,” Martin said. She said that the frequency of events that the board is notified about, such as an ambulance on campus or challenges related to staffing, has increased.

Colleen Martin at Harloe elementary school. (Courtesy of Colleen Martin)

This school year, both Martin and Santos were shocked by the actions of certain community members, particularly the disturbing protests in front of their homes from those who disagreed with the policies of the district such as following state law in regards to the mask mandate.
“The fact that the loud minority thought it was ok to come into my neighborhood and protest loudly and disrespectfully and be rude to Arroyo Grande neighbors,” Martin said was something that she will remember from this school year.
“When the protesters came to my house that night I was paranoid,” Santos said. She said that it was the first time that she ever feared for her safety as a result of being a board member.
They both expressed deep concern that such incidents will discourage those interested in education and public service from entering the field.
“The way the last few years have gone has been a big disturbance to encouraging people to be involved with local governance,” Martin said.
Despite the discouraging events the board members experienced over the past year, both of them believed that the beliefs of the comments at the meetings are not reflective of the majority.
“One of the things the recall showed me is the positive majority out there, most people are happy with our schools, [and] our teachers and they know that most decisions regarding health and safety were out of our hands,” Martin said.
“People know me, they know what I’ve done. You have to earn respect by being the person there for them,” Santos said. She went on to say that she believed that one of the reasons why the recall petitions against her failed was because of her contributions to the Grover Beach community, including founding AYSO, Little League, and her city beautification efforts.

Dee Santos at Arroyo Grande High School

Martin and Santos said they believe that to repair bonds with unhappy community members, being involved in the school is required.
“It goes right down to the core trust with the teacher in the classroom, with the principal, superintendent, and school board following on their word,” Martin said. Santos believes that when parents become involved in the classroom and school level, they will be satisfied with the environment in which their children learn.
Martin and Santos hope to be able to continue to protect a sense of civility by respecting the disagreements that they have with other board members.
“Maybe we didn’t see something they did, and we have to come for the betterment of everyone, not just my opinion or their opinion, but how is it going to affect everyone that is involved,” Santos said.
Looking forward, Martin and Santos hope to serve the needs of the Lucia Mar community. Martin is preparing to seek another term in the 2022 election. “I’m more motivated than ever, now is the time to stand up for what’s right,” Martin said.
Santos continues to strive to be a voice for the silent majority she dedicates herself to representing.
“I always say that I’m the voice for those who don’t speak,” Santos said.
She emphasizes that in her last years on the school board, she will continue to advocate for making Lucia Mar a more accepting and welcoming environment for everyone.