Educator Jesse Ortiz — who served for 10 years on the Woodland school board, and currently serves on the Yolo County Board of Education — has entered the race for Yolo County superintendent of schools. The election is scheduled for June 3.
“My 31 years of K-12 professional experience and extensive local community involvement have served me well in preparation for the Yolo County superintendent position,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz is a professor at Woodland Community College. His employment history includes stints at the Sacramento County Office of Education, Santa Clara County Office of Education, Elk Grove and North Sacramento school districts and the Los Rios Community College District. He also has served as a visiting educator with the California Department of Education, and as an adjunct professor at Sacramento State.
He has received honors and awards from the Yolo County School Boards Association, the Yolo County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Concilio of Yolo County and other groups.
Ortiz earned a doctorate in educational leadership from Brigham Young University, and a master’s in education from Sacramento State. He is also a Vietnam-era veteran who served in the Marine Corps.
He stressed four points in announcing his candidacy. He notes that some 40 percent of children ages 3 and 4 in Yolo County do not attend preschool, and he advocates “preschool for all.” He says that a recent survey by the advocacy group Children Now found that only 43 percent of Yolo County third-graders read at grade level, and calls for making all third-graders “reading-ready.”
He proposes creation of a local system to encourage parent/school engagement. And he proposes development of a county comprehensive plan and partnerships connecting UC Davis, Sacramento State and the three community college districts that serve Yolo County.
“By working in close collaboration with local school district leadership, the academic needs of all students can be met,” Ortiz said. “I bring a perspective that would assist in preparing our children to be college- and/or career-ready upon graduation.”
Ortiz has picked up several endorsements, including current Yolo County Superintendent Jorge Ayala (who was elected in 1998, and is retiring) and former Yolo County Superintendent Jack Graf. Other endorsements include former Assemblywoman and Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson, and Davis school board trustees Tim Taylor and Sheila Allen.
The June election will mark the first time that the elected office of Yolo County superintendent has been contested since 1998. Ayala ran unopposed in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
The other candidate who has entered the race is veteran educator Sam Neustadt, who has lived in Yolo County for nearly 20 years, and resides in Woodland. Neustadt declared his candidacy earlier this month.
The county superintendent is the primary administrator at the Yolo County Office of Education, which provides assistance and support (as well as state-mandated fiscal oversight) to the five school districts in Yolo County (Davis, Woodland, Winters, Esparto and West Sacramento’s Washinton Unified district).
The Yolo County Office of Education also provides special education programs, education for minors in Juvenile Hall, operates payroll services for local school districts, operates an education program that provides an alternative competency-based route to a high school diploma and offers a variety of other services.
Under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula for the public schools — which includes Local Control Accountability Plans to be developed by each school district — the Yolo County Office of Education will have the new oversight duty of reviewing each local school district’s plan to see if funds allocated for certain categories of students (such as English learners, and students from lower-income households) are being used appropriately.