Ariana Martinez for Benicia School Board, April 11 Special Election

Ariana Martinez has more experience working with a wide range of children than any other candidate

By Betty Lucas, Benicia resident, January 23, 2024

Ariana Martinez, LCSW, candidate for Benicia Unified School District Board of Trustees, Area 5

Ariana Martinez is the best candidate to serve as the Board Member (Trustee) for Area 5* of the Benicia Unified School District, in the special election that will be held on April 11. To start with, she has more experience working with a wide range of children than any other candidate. More specifically:

As a social worker with a Master’s Degree in Social Work, Ms. Martinez assists a wide array of children of all ages, as well as their parents and other family members, in dealing with various educational and other challenges. She weathered the dark days of the pandemic and all of the new problems it brought, helping children and parents get through the worst of the storm. A passion for helping families still drives her.

In addition, her experience with the Benicia school system is personal, direct and in key respects more recent than other Board members or candidates. After graduating from high school here, Ms. Martinez also helped her significantly younger siblings navigate their schooling in Benicia. She remains an active member and resident of our community.

How else do I know that Ms. Martinez is the most qualified candidate for Board Member? Because, after a careful, thorough application and review process, the BUSD Governing Board chose her for the position back in November. Along with her many other qualifications, the Board took into consideration her dedication to a fair and effective school system and knowledge of special education issues.

So if she was already chosen as the most qualified applicant, why is Ms. Martinez running for the same office now?

To start with, no one ran to represent Area 5 last year, resulting in the vacancy that the Board was required to fill. Any interested, eligible candidate (parent or non-parent) could accordingly apply for the post.

As a result, in November, the Governing Board interviewed four applicants for the position. Ms. Martinez was one of them. After comparing the needs of the district with the experience and backgrounds of each of the candidates, the Board chose by a majority vote to provisionally appoint Ms. Ariana Martinez.

Once Ms. Martinez was chosen, the three unsuccessful applicants – who, again, could each have run in an election for the position last year if they were so inclined – aired various concerns to the Board. They questioned Ms. Martinez’s qualifications, alleged conflicts of interest and suggested that the Board intentionally excluded parents of current pupils from serving on the Board.

The Board took these three unsuccessful candidates’ complaints very seriously. Each complaint was repeatedly reviewed in view of relevant policy regulations and with the assistance of legal counsel. The review firmly determined, among other things, that Ms. Martinez was indeed qualified for the post, that there was no conflict of interest, that Ms. Martinez could be appointed without creating a conflict of interest, that the Governing Board did not violate policy and that there was no reason to reverse the appointment decision made last November.

Ariana Martinez is not a parent, but she brings a wealth of professional and personal experience to the table. And let’s bear in mind that she does not need to be a parent to serve Benicia’s children admirably, just as she has not needed to be a parent to be a social worker serving children. Teachers do not have to be parents to teach; pediatricians do not have to be parents to see patients; the list goes on.

In addition, the majority of current Board members have had children attending Benicia’s schools, so it’s not as though the Board lacks experience in that regard.

Our school boards need people whose dedication and experience enable them to best meet the needs of the children and schools. Even better if their qualifications complement those of other board members. Ms. Martinez was chosen because she passed all of those tests with flying colors.

In response to the Board’s justified and carefully considered decision, the three unsuccessful applicants chose to in effect cost Benicia’s schools anywhere from roughly $60,000 to $80,000, by demanding the April 11 special election for Ms. Martinez’s position. One of their number is now an opposing candidate.

That’s $60,000-$80,000 that could have gone toward an additional student/teacher(s), school supplies, computer resources, athletic equipment, school maintenance or many other needs. That’s $60,000-$80,000 that would not need to be spent now if one of the unsuccessful applicants had opted to run for the position last year. That’s $60,000-$80,000 that Benicia’s schools cannot afford to spare.

Sadly, the expenditure of $60,000-$80,000 was triggered by the unsuccessful applicants circulating a petition that required only 62 signatures to initiate a special election. This imposition on the school budget works out to about $1,000 or more per signature.

Shame on those who decided to waste valuable school dollars on an unnecessary special election, especially since they could have easily run for the position last year and saved the schools all that money.

I sincerely hope that Area 5 residents vote for the most qualified person, Ariana Martinez, on April 11, 2023 or through the mail-in ballots that will be provided in March.

BUSD Area Map (click to enlarge)

*Area 5 includes: Mathew Turner School, Lake Herman, Water’s End areas.  Click on map to enlarge. Area 5 is in purple.

More information on this matter can be found by searching online for “Important Message From BUSD Governing Board re: Trustee Area 5 Appointment and Petition“.

Betty Lucas, Benicia

Betty Lucas

Benicia Resident