ELECTION’ 12//HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD//PROFILE | The students gather around the makeshift crime scene with yellow tape sectioning off students at the corners of the classroom with their papers and pencils at their finger tips. A plastic human body is spread out before them with the paraphernalia of a criminal surrounding the haggard corpse, cocaine, a bag of pills, a 9mm pistol and a bloodied knife. Their job is to measure the size of the crime scene, “West wall, 10 feet! East wall 10 feet!” shouts a student as he and his colleague snake around the makeshift murder scene.
Students circling the crime scene frantically draw a visual representation of the unsolved case before them. John Taylor, Hayward school board candidate, walks from student to student to see how each of them is doing. Taylor’s forensics Eden Area ROP program won nationals last year and a new batch of kids working on the crime before them aim to do it again with Taylor at their side using the skills and experience he hopes to bring to the Hayward school board.
The school board was ransacked by controversy in recent months when board President Jesus Armas and board member Maribel Heredia were caught in an affair last July. In light of The Citizen’s findings, the two board members decided not to file for re-election, thus giving an opportunity for local candidates to vie for their vacancies. The board will be changing dramatically after Election Day next week. If those with the right skills and know how are lucky enough to snag a seat on the board they will have an opportunity to begin pulling the board away from a tainted past of questionable ethics among board trustees. Taylor says he understands this and when he stood before Armas, who was on the government relations board of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce endorsement meeting, he made this a point. “What will you do differently,” Taylor said Armas asked him, “He tried to corner me, but I told him that I would be ethical.”
Taylor hasn’t been publicly denouncing the affair at forums; that’s been board member Luis Reynoso who is running for re-election, but aside from him, Taylor has been most open about the affair in private. While candidates like Reyes shift uncomfortably when questioned about the ethical issue or candidate Peter Bufete who will just not speak of it likely because of the financial support he’s receiving from Armas, Taylor doesn’t have qualms denouncing it. “I don’t talk about it at forums because the board is already changing. It’s going to be better for it. Let’s not take that baggage with us.”
In fact, ethics, integrity and honor are the pillars of both Taylor’s campaign and classroom, albeit with a dose of humor. “We have fun and laugh, but I try and implement a system of self correction.” Taylor gives his student;s the titles of captain, corporal and sergeant so when a student acts out their superior corrects them first. Every morning the students are even taken outside to do drills. When they forget formations or a timely about face, a student overseer of the exercise tells them to hit the floor for pushups. It’s not as militaristic as it sounds; no superior is screaming in a kid’s face, instead opting for positive reinforcement and repetition until the class gets the drill right.
The style suits Taylor, though, who is demanding when he needs to be, but usually comical and warmhearted. He was a police officer for San Francisco Police Department for 17 years where he practiced forensics. Influenced by a cop at his youth center when he was a boy, he wanted to grow up to be a boy in blue. He even ran his own security agency for years for different organizations around the country, even providing security at point for an event that Mike Tyson attended. That’s why Taylor emphasis public safety at forums, “A teacher can’t do their job if they are worried about their safety,” said Taylor.
Taylor’s father made caskets and traveled frequently for business. At one point he even had a brief stint in the infamous gangland at Southgarden’s in Chicago. He’s been to New Orleans and Michigan but fell in love with California when business brought him here for a brief moment. He vowed he would return to settle in California one day. He grew up with 10 other siblings and was heavily influenced by his older brother and father. “My father was like a teacher,” said Taylor, “That’s what led me to education.”
Taylor wants to make sure resources are available and the district is financially sound. He doesn’t have the answers to this problem but he attributes it to being on the outside looking in. Issues like consultant contracts have stirred controversy at the board because some, like Reynoso, believe inventory audits could be handled by staff at a cheaper rate. “We are spending money on things we shouldn’t be spending money on,” says Taylor vaguely, “We do need some consultant contracts by law but it’s hard for me to judge until I am on the board.” Taylor says he wants to see collaboration, see the new board prepared for meetings and make speedy decisions on topics. A point often made by competitor candidate, Sara Lamnin, whose leading the race financially. But Taylor says one of his biggest priorities is student progression, “I want to make sure we get those 900 scores.”