A: Great question! The Trustee Area #6 Map is located at left. Demarcated by the red line, Area #6 has almost 35,000 voters. To pinpoint your address, click on the link below and enter the city, house number and street name, then hit "Tab." Scroll down to the "SCHOOL" section and "COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION Governing Board Member" will be listed. If Weldon (Joe) Howell (AIL) is listed, you can vote for Joe.
If you live in Area #6, please find and vote for Joe on the ballot and post a lawn yard sign out front! If you're not in the neighborhood, think of all the friends you know who DO live there & encourage them to vote Joe Howell for SB County Board of Education Area #6 on November 3 (or even better, via mail-in ballot!).
Q: What do you consider to be the biggest challenges for your campaign?
A: Great question as there are many challenges. First, it is surprising how many people are unaware that there actually is a County Board of Education. Consequently, many immediately think I am running in opposition to candidates also appearing on the ballot (Santa Barbara Unified School District, Goleta Union School District, etc.). With that in mind our first task is to educate the voting public that these are entirely different school districts with different mandates. See below for a thorough explanation of the tasks and decisions of the Board. Secondly, when someone asks if they are in my Trustee Area (TA) #6, I often have to answer with: “You know what? You must consult the map. If you are in TA#6, look for my name, likely near the end of a long ballot. But if you live in Santa Barbara or Goleta and are not in my TA #6, without question I encourage you to vote for my colleagues on the County Board of Education: Peter MacDougall (TA #2) or Richard Fulton (TA #3)”.
Q: What is your experience with education?
A: As residents of Santa Barbara since 1974, my wife Barbara and I have been active in local schools while raising our son Ben and daughter Sarah. Both are successful products of Santa Barbara public schools. Ben and his family live in Los Angeles, where Ben serves on the board of his children’s public charter school. My daughter Sarah, married and now the mom of a four year old, was an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles in the same charter school system. Beyond that, my wife Barb, my mother and both of my sisters have also been teachers and educators. It is amazing how much you learn about education and its challenges when surrounded by those dedicated to providing quality public education.
My professional path has been as a local attorney, but I have volunteered for decades on the boards and in leadership positions of a variety of educationally-focused nonprofits that are directly engaged with schools. These include the Computers for Families program, Partners in Education, and the SB Athletic Round Table which supports student athletes. With my own children growing up and attending our local schools, I saw the importance of devoting my volunteer time and leadership to issues and organizations that support teachers, students, parents and schools.
Q: What community service and activities relate to your service as a Board member?
A: Listed on this website are a number of nonprofits and community organizations in which I have been active over my years as a resident of Santa Barbara. Importantly, many of them relate to education and athletics. There are two, however, which I believe deserve mention as they best exemplify what I believe is a critical component to public education – balance in opportunities for students both inside and outside the classroom.
One of the community organizations I have been honored to serve both as a board member and chair is also one keenly relevant to the County Board of Education, Partners in Education. It is an organization dating back to 1977, comprised of business leaders and school superintendents with the mission of supporting local students and local schools. In fact, the three Santa Barbara area Trustees seeking re-election to the SBCBOE have long histories on this board.
In the early 2000s, Partners in Education realized the importance of computers in education and recognized the growing digital divide resulting in inequitable learning opportunities in our schools – often within the same classroom.. As former Superintendent Bill Cirone eloquently stated at the time, “For a student today to not have a working computer and an internet connection today is much like a student in the last century not having a desk, books, pencil or paper.” I am extremely proud to have co-chaired, along with then Superintendent Cirone and fellow Partners’ Board member (and now SBCBOE Trustee) Peter MacDougall, the successful $4 million dollar fundraising effort to sustain the Computers for Families (“CFF”) program in perpetuity.
To date, CFF has distributed over 13,000 computers to families in the South Coast, making huge progress in the effort to eliminate the digital disparity in our public schools. When we were launching the campaign almost twenty years ago we of course had no idea of the impact of a pandemic, closed schools and online learning. Critical issues (availability of equipment and reliable internet connections) persist, but the Partners in Education/CFF project continues as a great example of what a focused nonprofit, in collaboration with and the active support from the County Education Office, can do to advance public education in our community.
In the athletics area, I have been and continue to be active in several groups, including as a board member and former President of Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table (“SBART”). SBART, for over fifty years, has supported local high schools and colleges and its athletes by recognizing and supporting athletic participation and scholastic achievement of high school boys and girls, college men and women in every sport.
Q: I understand you have been on the Board since 1999, but don’t remember ever seeing your name on a ballot. Why not?
A: I was appointed in 1999 to complete the term of the Trustee Area #6 Board member who moved out of the area. I have gone through five four-year election cycles (2000 – 2016) and never drawn an opponent; by rule uncontested races do not appear on the ballot.
Q: If the local school districts throughout the county are responsible for curriculum, teacher and student responsibilities and the elected superintendent and administrative staff handle day-to-day management, what functions fall under the Board’s purview?
A: There are many critical programs and services that the County Education Office provides that school districts often cannot. This includes special education services for students with special needs, affordable child care programs for working parents and vocational education programs. The County Education Office also provides critical fiscal and administrative support. We help teachers maintain their credentials and continuing education; and support curriculum development, best practices and strategies across the County. Additionally, the County Board is mandated by the state to review and approve budgets, programs and related administrative functions. A critical responsibility of the Board is serving as the formal, final decision maker in appeals from any one of the twenty districts in three critical areas: (1) intra-district transfers (when a parent seeks approval to enroll his or her student in a district other than their assigned district and the request is denied); (2) a student expulsion by a local district; and/or (3) contested charter school petitions by one or more districts affected by the proposed charter school.
Q: What qualifications do you have that should be relevant to voters?
A: I'm qualified due to: a) my record of service on the Board and b) my role as a positive and deeply involved volunteer in many of our community’s most important local education-focused nonprofits. As my Board attendance record (three or four absences in twenty-one years) and my level of participation demonstrate, I am proud to have a history as an active, engaged Board member. Having long term institutional knowledge and experience is invaluable in listening to appeals and addressing some of the recurring issues that come before us. At a time when so much in our world is uncertain with challenges facing our local students, parents, teachers, and schools, I feel strongly that we need experienced, proven, positive leadership on the County Board of Education.