By Raul Samaniego
NORWALK – The Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District’s Board of Education voted unanimously on Monday to appoint Jude Cazares as an interim board member until he is officially sworn in next month.
Cazares replaces Norwalk Councilwoman Margarita Rios who previously served on the school board, but stepped down after winning a special city council election in March.
After deciding last month to appoint Rios’ replacement, the school board members named five finalists to interview during Monday’s meeting. Board President Sean Reagan asked each current board member to select their top two choices.
“There was not a single bad choice,” Reagan said of the five finalists before he called for feedback.
With the initial tally, Cazares and Norma Amezcua were the top two choices. The next vote was the one that truly mattered -- and Jude was the top selection with all. However, Board member Ana Valencia maintained that Norma Amezcua was her favorite.
In the end, when an oral vote was taken, all six voted to have Norwalk resident Cazares join them on the dais after he is sworn in at the regularly scheduled meeting on June 26.
Despite the differences between the candidates, Board member Darryl Adams spoke of one thing many of the candidates had in common:
“Community college,” said Adams, who was impressed.
Cazares attended Rio Hondo College before transferring to Cal State Los Angeles where he completed his undergraduate studies receiving a bachelor’s degree in social science.
He has been a teacher in various subjects for over 21 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
When asked why he wanted to be a board member, he acknowledged the challenges and decisions that were forthcoming and stated, “I want to be part of the change.”
Cazares currently has three children attending school in the district and he said he takes an integral part in their development and direction.
Adams went on to say that his “commitment to his children’s and student success,” was another factor standing out from the other applicants.
When he was describing who he was and where he came from, Cazares said “family comes first.”
As a communicator, he stressed the ability to “listen,” and “being aware of what the community wants.”
In speaking of meeting the needs of all students, Cazares reminded the board that he wanted all students to “have equal access to the [entire] curriculum.”
When asked outside the board room as to his initial feeling about being responsible for over $240 million in tax payer dollars per year?
“Overwhelmed,” was all the future new board member could say.
“We’re all in this together,” said Cazares, referencing his “team effort” philosophy.