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Board's endorsement was wrong
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The Ceres Unified School District Board of Trustees has no business endorsing candidates for office. Yet that's just want they did 13 days ago when they decided to go on record to support the Assembly candidacy of Bill Berryhill.

Berryhill, a Republican, is running for the 26th Assembly District against Democrat John Eisenhut in the Nov. 4 election. Eisenhut, a Turlock Democrat is his opponent who also has ties to the education and agricultural community.

It's not uncommon for elected officials to individually endorse candidates for office. They have that right as an individual living in a free country. But I can't recall a time in my life when I've seen an elected body - acting in an official capacity as a governing board - endorse a candidate for any race let alone a partisan race. The move was ill-advised. Not a smart move. Not a good precedent.

And let's not parse words. The word "support" and "endorse" can be interchanged with no difference in meaning.

I understand why the board would want to support Berryhill but they should have resisted passing a resolution. It's no secret that Berryhill just stepped off the School Board to run for the Assembly. He helped lead CUSD into an aggressive school building mode. Berryhill's a great candidate and would be a great representative for this mostly agricultural district. Berryhill would be strong advocate education. (I wasn't impressive when I got a chance to speak to Eisenhut as he seemed guarded and somewhat evasive in his answers). But that's not the point - a School Board should not weigh in on partisan or even non-partisan office. It's that simple. The voters of CUSD elect a board to handle matters of education in Ceres; they aren't elected to politically pontificate.

It's more common for boards and councils to take stands - pro or con - on specific propositions that affect their jurisdiction. I am not sure that's even a role of an elected body. But the Ceres School Board crossed the line when issuing a suggestion to voters that they vote for Bill Berryhill. It's simply not their place.

If you go to Eisenhut's website, you'll see that he has the endorsements of Timm LaVelle, John C. Sims, Frank Lima and Tami Muniz as individual members of the Turlock Unified School Board. You won't see a Turlock Elementary School Board endorsement of Eisenhut because it doesn't exist.

I'm not a Democrat, for sure, but if I were one, I'd be livid that the board, in its official capacity, voted 7-0 to: "hereby give our support to Bill Berryhill in his seeking to become the Assemblyman."

It was short-sighted politically. Think about it. If Eisenhut wins the election on Nov. 4 and becomes our next assemblyman, what kind of relationship do you think he's going to have with the community of Ceres? Will he be responsive when CUSD comes calling to urge his support of legislation that affects funding for Ceres schools? Or will he remember what Ceres did and be lukewarm or cold to the idea of returning a call, thinking, "I remember that you supported my opponent, for crying outloud, so go fend for yourselves Ceres Unified." I'm not saying that Eisenhut is that kind of person - nor am I hinting that he will prevail - but people are people and few who bury the hatchet forget where they buried it.

It seems to me that the board wasn't thinking about the fallout, opening themselves to criticism without the benefit. Ceres is obviously already in the Berryhill camp so what the purpose of this resolution of support. Consider that the Berryhills already have signficant name recognition in Ceres. The Berryhill family has been a part of the fabric of Ceres since the 1940s. Claire Berryhill was a Ceres product, served on the Ceres School Board, and represented Ceres in the state Assembly. Ceres was proud that one of their own was tapped for the distinguished position of director of Food and Agriculture by Gov. George Deukmejian. The Berryhill ranch regularly hosts the powerful state movers and shakers. They are dialed in politically. Tom Berryhill, Bill's brother, is a member of the state Assembly in the 25th district.

Just what was the board thinking? They've set a precedent that's not good.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at