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St. Helena school trustees voted Thursday to appoint Julio Olguin to a vacant seat on the board, citing his connection to the Latino community.

Olguin is the executive director of the nonprofit St. Helena Preschool For All. He spent his K-12 years attending St. Helena’s public schools and went on to earn a degree in kinesiology from Sonoma State University.

As the son of Mexican immigrants, Olguin told the board about the need to get Latino parents more involved in the schools.

“Now that I’m a father … I find myself even more committed and invested in creating the best learning environment for not only my kids, but the students of this community,” said Olguin, the father of two students at St. Helena Elementary School and two younger children. “I believe that education and parent involvement in this journey is key for a child’s success in life.”

“I think that my parents would have liked to be more involved in my educational life, but they simply just did not know how and did not have the tools to navigate the school system as I do now. The barriers my parents faced in becoming more involved in the school system are not so different than the barriers that many Latino immigrants still face today.

“My hope is that this position will allow me to help the district forge a stronger sense of connection with the Latino community, making for a more unified and diverse district.”

Olguin was one of two applicants for the seat vacated by Cynthia Smith, who resigned from the board in January to become a Napa Superior Court judge. The other applicant was Alexandra Boeving Allen, a clinical child psychologist who, like Olguin, has been heavily involved in the schools as a parent and volunteer.

Trustees said they faced a difficult choice between two highly qualified applicants, and joked that they wished the board could be expanded to six members to accommodate them both.

However, after praising both applicants, the four remaining trustees unanimously voted for Olguin.

“It’s very important to me that there’s a strong voice for the Latino community on our board,” Trustee Maria Haug said.

“I’ve seen his leadership in action,” said Trustee Jeannie Kerr, who also serves on the board of St. Helena Preschool For All. “I’ve seen him make difficult choices with our board. I’ve seen him work with parents, donors and administrators. I’ve seen his patience.”

Olguin would bring a Latino voice “that’s been missing from our board for a while,” Trustee Lisa Pelosi said.

Olguin will serve out the remainder of Smith’s term, which expires in November. He will be sworn in at the board’s next regular meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 8, at Vintage Hall.

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St. Helena Reporter

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006.