Candidates for the Santa Ana Unified school board are slated to go head-to-head at a debate Thursday night.

The forum is organized by Santa Ana Youth and Government, a model legislature and court program for high school students.

“It is so very important to encourage the youth and the community to be involved in the election process, especially when it centers on the quality of education in our city,” said Brial Leal, an alumnus of the program who is now a Santa Ana parks and recreation commissioner, in a news release for the event.

Also presenting the forum are the Santa Ana community group Connect-to-Council and the Orange County Laborers Local 652 union.

It comes as the school district, which is Orange County’s largest, is about to experience one of its most significant leadership changes in years.

The school board’s president, Audrey Yamagata-Noji, who often serves as a leader in board discussion and votes, is not running for re-election. She was first elected to the board in 1987.

The other seat up for election is that of board member John Palacio, who is running for re-election.

Eight candidates are vying for the two open seats.

They are: Palacio, Cal State Long Beach professor Rigo Riodriguez, retired Santa Ana High School teacher Everlena Oliver, UC Irvine student Angie Cano, former Santa Ana Unified bilingual community worker Cecilia Aguinaga, retired Santa Ana Unified teacher Shuntele Andrews, probation officer Valerie Amezcua and accountant Mike Dalati

The top two vote getters on Nov. 4 will win a place on the board, which sets education policy that affects more than 57,000 students.

Board members also oversee the district’s roughly $500 million operating budget, as well as the superintendent, who is the top executive for the district’s 4,600 employees.

The forum runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday and will be held across the street from the Santa Ana Unified headquarters, at 1532 E Chestnut Street. Click here for a map. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Like our content? Help us do more! Support Us

Since you've made it this far,

You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.