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Five Vie For Three School Board Seats
Election 2013
Charles Neal
Charles E. Neal - photo by VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS


There are three open seats on the Riverbank Unified School District Board of Trustees that Riverbank voters will fill when they go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The school board members are elected at-large with the top three vote getters winning the seats. The following candidate profile and questionnaires were sent to the five candidates running for the open seats: Charles Neal, incumbent Elizabeth Meza, Patrick Hagan, Susan Taylor, and Suzanne Dean.


Charles E. Neal

Age: 72

Occupation: Retired, 33 years in Operating Engineers Local 3 as a heavy construction foreman.

What are your qualifications?

My many years of community service dealing with budgets, and working as a team to solve major problems. I bring to the district my experience, knowledge and history of this district and community.

Listed are a few of the many boards I have served on: Oakdale Riverbank School District Curriculum Committee 1974-1978; Riverbank Planning Commission 1978-1980, Chairman 1979-1980; Elected to Riverbank City Council 1980-1992; Vice Mayor City of Riverbank 1981; Mayor City of Riverbank 1982-1989; Stanislaus Area Association of Governments Executive Board 1981-1990, Chairperson 1988-1989; LAFCO ( Local Agency Formation Commission) City Member 1986-1992, LAFCO Chairperson 1989-1990; Advisory Board on Alcohol Problems 1984-1990; Economic Development Action Committee four years; Central Valley Division League of Cities Vice President 1984-1985, President 1985-1986, Director to the Board 1986-1992; State of California Democratic Committee, Appointed by Representative Tony Coelho, five years.

Why are you running for office?

Over the past few years the Riverbank Unified School District has had problems with their budget, with their enrollment dropping and the Board has not been working together for the betterment of the students they were elected to represent. It’s really time for a change of directions. Several citizens approached me about running to give the board some mature leadership, to get this district back on course of providing the very best education for our students.

What are your priorities?

The students, to insure that they receive the very best education we can provide. That means working together as a team, parents, teachers and board working to solve the many budget problems Riverbank has had over the last few years. It really does take a community to educate our students; without parents involvement it’s really hard to know what our students need. We need to communicate better with staff and the community in order to instill pride into our students so he or she will want to strive to do their best. When a student feels good about himself or herself they will work harder for themselves and our school district.

My wife graduated from Cardozo and Oakdale High School, that was before we had a high school in Riverbank. I worked with the committee to get the high school here. I was a member of the first Riverbank Quarterback Club which is now the boosters club. All four of our children and our grandchildren graduated from Riverbank High School. I would like to once again help restore the pride in this school district. Where students will want to attend Riverbank Schools and parents will want to enroll their students in our school district.


Elizabeth Meza, incumbent

Age: 36

Occupation: Probation Corrections Officer

What are your qualifications?

Served as a Board member for the past four years. I am college educated with a Bachelor’s Degree, in Political Science. I am bilingual. I speak English and Spanish. I have taken the time to seek professional development as a Board Member. I have been willing to learn as much as possible through various resources. I seek out networks to learn about what has worked and what has failed. I am a long life learner open to dialogue and debate. I have traveled to Washington D.C. with NALEO “Newly Elected Workshop” on a partial scholarship. I have attended various California School Boards Association workshops and have sought out experienced board members. I have served on the policy committee on the board as well as Board President. I bring life experience as a parent of two children who currently attend the middle school and high school. I know what I would like for my children to experience in an education as well as what students must achieve to be college ready and career ready.

Since 2000, I have served in various volunteer positions such as PTA member/Treasurer; volunteer with After School Program; School Site Council; volunteer at California Avenue Elementary, and Riverbank High School Booster.

Why are you running for office?

I am seeking re-election to the Riverbank School Board to continue to advocate for students and their families.

What are your priorities?

To prepare students for college, career, vocational, and/or military readiness.

We need to increase our graduation rates.


Patrick Hagan (No photo provided)

Age: 45

Occupation: Home Health Care Provider


What are your qualifications?

I have been a resident of Stanislaus County for 40 years and of the City of Riverbank for eighteen months. I keep abreast of the needs of our community and can be effective in helping to meet the needs of the Riverbank Unified School District.

As a home health care provider it is my passion to provide care for some of the most vulnerable in our community – the elderly and the infirm. I can bring that same passion to providing a good educational experience to the young and vibrant of our community – our school children.

As a student I had firsthand knowledge of dealing with an unresponsive school system. The difficulty I had in making my concerns known is something no student should have to experience. I can empathize with and support the marginalized student.

Why are you running for office?

I want to see that the students and school staff have every opportunity to succeed. It is important that schools have all the tools necessary to educate the children in a safe and secure environment.

What are your priorities?

It is important that the community, schools, parents and the students be accountable for furthering the educational process in the city of Riverbank and that the district be accountable to the schools, the students and the parents.

Financial management and debt control – the needs of the students must be our first priority – not squandering funds on projects the district can ill afford.

Children must have a safe and secure environment in which to learn. Student and teacher safety is definitely a top priority.


Susan Taylor

Age: 61

Occupation: Retired Educator – Currently serving as a mentor for Stanislaus County Administrator Induction Program

What are your qualifications?

I have 25 years of experience in education as a teacher, school principal and district level administrator. For most of these years I served in the Riverbank School District. I am the parent, as well, of three children who attended Riverbank Schools and graduated from Riverbank High. My education and training have involved numerous facets of public education.

Why are you running for office?

It was an honor for me to work for Riverbank School District for 22 years. I believe I have the knowledge, experience and capability to be a school board member and see this as an opportunity to give back to the community in which I have lived and worked. I strongly believe that great communities have great schools.

What are your priorities?

To assure our students receive the opportunity to learn in a setting where they can be safe, cared for and successful. To assure our students acquire an education that will enable them to be self-sufficient members of society. To act responsibly and respectfully toward students, parents and staff, as part of a school board that acts as a team, to ensure the success of our students.

To assure fiscal responsibility and delegation of funding that enables us to offer the best programs possible to prepare students for the workforce of the future, supports resources and professional development for teachers, and provides an infrastructure of staff that can assure our students are served and our schools run well.


Suzanne Dean

Age: 51

Occupation: Deputy Finance Director, City of Ceres

What are your qualifications?

I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting. I am currently serving as a member of the Riverbank Budget Advisory Committee. I work in government finance.

Why are you running for office?

Our district is facing several financial challenges in the coming years. Looming bond debt coupled with the new funding formula will require a strong, educated board to make sound fiscal decisions that are equitable to all stakeholders in our district. My education and work experience make me uniquely qualified to take on these challenges.

What are your priorities?

My priorities are centered on student success. My goal is to provide students with the most current materials and technology in each classroom. I also believe we can’t have student success without retaining the best and the brightest teachers. These priorities require sound policy and a board that works as a team to achieve the best possible educational environment for all students.