By Bill Cirone

As the former Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools, it was one of my great honors to work with the four county school board incumbents who are seeking re-election. These individuals have been highly effective on the board because their backgrounds 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 that is why I urge community members to support their re-election. 

Fred Rogers, from “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.”

When any of the four incumbents see a need, they respond. They are among my heroes.

Two of the open seats include geographic areas throughout the Santa Ynez Valley and unincorporated areas, as well as Guadalupe, Cuyama, parts of Santa Maria, and Lompoc.

Roberta (Bert) Heter, District 4, is a former teacher, who 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. 

Bert is a very involved supporter and volunteer with youth sports in Lompoc and has worked tirelessly in a number of organizations and nonprofits, including the Lompoc Library board. Having served on the SB Foundation Board and the North County Women’s Fund, she has a broad understanding of North County needs. 

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

Dr. Richard Fulton, District 3, is a radiologist and a co-founder of Pueblo Radiology. Dick served as president of the Rochester, Minnesota, school board when he was a physician at the Mayo Clinic. 

On the county school board, Dick has been a driving force in 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 this pandemic. 

He serves on the executive committee of the County School Boards Association and is an active member on the Partners in Education Board of Directors, where he has been a leader in the highly acclaimed Internship Program. Dick 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, which is critical to advancing the changes needed so that all students can be served. 

In seeking re-election, Bert and Dick join fellow South County board members Dr. Peter MacDougall, who served as the highly respected president of Santa Barbara City College, and Joe Howell, an attorney and Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, whose broad-based community achievements have also made him tremendously effective as a “go-to” county board member.  

Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, said, “If we don’t stand for children, then we don’t stand for much.” Richard Fulton, Roberta Heter, Peter MacDougall and Joe Howell have always stood tall, passionately advocating and working tirelessly for children and families, undistracted by political agendas or ancillary 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 the retired Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools.