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Who runs things in the Valley?

Posted on August 2, 2017 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Let me get this straight. A guy got up at a School Board meeting, lauded the suddenly departing superintendent of schools, threatened one board member with recall, later another, and was chosen interim school superintendent.

Another guy got up, said he didn’t think the superintendent had been all that great, particularly for Latino kids, and the school board should get over its differences, and was fired from his job — which was to empower Latino parents who have kids in school. (His boss says there’s no connection.)

The first guy — 85-year-old Chuck Young — was for 30 years the chancellor at UCLA and a board member at Intel Corp., where he was friends with company founder Les Vadasz, now a wealthy donor to Valley causes.

Young is a recent officer of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, which funnels donor money into the schools. Its board includes other sincere, wealthy people with strong ideas about how to educate kids on the Valley floor, Les Vadasz among them.

Vadasz is also a major contributor to La Luz. And, ironically, it was La Luz who let the second guy go — Mario Castillo, for 30 years an activist in the Latino community.

Castillo immigrated into the Valley at age 14, worked in the vineyards, and helped found the predecessor of La Luz. With two kids in the schools, he has helped build the Family Resource Center at El Verano School into a major institution, and he is widely recognized as a leader in both the Anglo and Latino communities.

Warning — though it is tempting to connect the dots, they may not actually connect. More importantly, this is bigger and deeper than the any of the gents involved. It’s a question of who runs things in the Valley and where the money comes from.

Surely, Mario and the other parents should decide how their kids are educated, while Young, Vadasz, and their friends should pay for it. It’s the American way, is it not — progressive taxation and grassroots democracy.

Dave Ransom, Santa Rosa

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