ENCINITAS — After two hours and 11 interviews from a very strong field of candidates, the Encinitas Union School District board of trustees took less than a minute to unanimously select its newest member.
Patricia Sinay, a nonprofit consultant and PTA member at Paul Ecke Central Elementary, emerged from the crowded field to fill the vacancy left by Maureen Muir, who was elected to serve on the San Dieguito Union High School District.
Superintendent Timothy Baird swore Sinay into office shortly after the board reached its decision.
Sinay, who also teaches at UC San Diego, said she was surprised by the decision.
“I’m still in shock, this is amazing” Sinay said shortly after the board’s vote. “I remember looking at the applications and thinking to myself, ‘This is such an impressive field,’ and to come out on top is really amazing.”
The board members said that they were particularly impressed with Sinay’s commitment to ensuring that all students in the district were successful, including the district’s minority and low-income students.
Sinay, who was born in Mexico to an Argentine father and a Peruvian mother, has spent her adult life linking nonprofit organizations that service those minorities and low-income populations with government agencies, school districts and corporations through the firm she founded, Community Investment Strategies. She also spent years advocating for those groups working with such organizations as First 5 of San Diego, where she met Carol Skiljan, who is on the First 5 board, and the United Way of San Diego.
During her 10-minute interview in front of the board, Sinay said that she would work to make sure that all students succeeded, which meant ensuring that not only teachers received the training and support they needed, but parents as well.
“For me, I think it was her wide range of contacts in the community, her understanding of the role of a board member and having that background gave her an edge to me,” board member Marla Strich said. “When you hear her talk about making sure that every student achieved, I think that resonated with the board.”
“I felt she would be a champion for the children,” board member Gregg Sonken said, echoing Strich’s sentiments.
Each of the 11 applicants were given 10 minutes during which they answered the same four questions from the board and gave a one-minute concluding remark.
The four questions were to list the board’s major accomplishments and areas of improvement, what they would do to help the district implement common core standards, state their personal goals and highest priorities on the board and tell the board if they would have the time to devote to the position and if they intended to run in 2016.
Board President Skiljan said each applicant was scored based on their in-person interview as well as the information in their application.
Following the interviews, the board members wrote their top two choices for the position on secret ballots and, once the vote was tallied, they made the announcement.
Sinay was the top choice of each of the board members.
Among the second choices, Strich sided with Katrina Young, an active parent in the El Camino Creek Elementary community; Sonken chose Korri Ball, the PTA president at El Camino Creek, and Skiljan sided with Rimka Viskanta, who served on the Proposition P citizens advisory committee and the EUSD Wellness Committee.
One of the notable applicants who didn’t receive support from the board was Jennifer Hamler, who finished fourth place in the November election and had received the support of Muir, Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar and other conservative leaders during her campaign.
Hamler in her remarks said she had essentially taken a day off of campaigning before setting her sights on the appointment. Two supporters spoke in favor of her appointment at the meeting, saying that she deserved it because of, among several things, the effort she had put into campaigning.
Skiljan said Hamler’s interview wasn’t as strong as some of the other candidates.
“You heard her interview,” she said. “She didn’t say what we were looking for. And I don’t care what anyone says, I think this (appointment) process is just as rigorous (as an election.)”