El Centro City Council Profiles

Central Union High School District Board of Trustees

Four seats are available on the Central Union High School District board: three four-year seats and one two-year seat. For the full-term seats, incumbents Jacinto Jimenez and Diahna Garcia-Ruiz face challengers Maria Peinado and Eric Leonard Rodriguez. For the short-term seat, appointed incumbent Steve Walker faces challenger Carlos Hernandez. Hernandez did not provide a profile and photo by the deadline.

Four-year (full) term

Jacinto Cruz Jimenez

Name: Jacinto Cruz Jimenez                

Age: 76                

City of residence: El Centro

Family: Married, Virginia Borgetti Armenta; two daughters and two sons

Current employment: Retired since 2011; 31 years Allstate Insurance Agency owner

Political experience: Two years on school site council at Wilson Junior High; one year school site council, Central Union High School; one year school site council, Southwest High School; and 24 years on CUHSD Board of Trustees

Employment history (last 10 years): Retired in 2011

Other affiliations/memberships/board positions: 10 years Kiwanian, 1996-2006; one of five founding board members of the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program Community Foundation since 2004 to the present; 15 years on the IVROP Board of Trustees; and presently from 1996 a trustee on the CUHS District Board of Trustees, and seeking re-election this Nov. 3.

Education: A.A., law enforcement; A.A. business administration; three years credit toward B.A.

Reasons for running and top issues:

Our school district is facing unprecedented times; we face the challenges of distance learning of our students, PPE resources, digital equipment resources, and not the least of, a financial shortfall, very similar to the last Great Recession of 2008, and a return to deferral fiscal funding by the state. An experienced, highly cohesive functioning school board is a must to provide stability for our district and confidence in all our stakeholders. Solutions to what confronts us during these perilous times requires an experienced collegial board willing to interact by consensus and proactively to move our district forward and successfully. Previous boards and I have had many successes, and we will have many in the future with concerned leaders at the helm. Twenty-four years has given me enormous insight and experience, which I intend, with the assistance of my fellow board members, to move our top notch district forward and to overcome our challenges with well thought-out solutions. I ask for your vote on Nov 3 for board trustee of Central Union High School Board of Trustees. Thank you.

Diahna Garcia-Ruiz

Name: Diahna Garcia-Ruiz        

Age: 51

City of residence: Heber

Family: Hubbs, Luis; son, Kaine, 23; daughter, Bethamee, 20

Current employment: Postmaster, United States Postal Service

Political Experience: Heber Public Utility District board, 20 years; Heber Elementary School board, 16 years; Central Union High School District, four years

Employment History: United States Postal Service, 1994-present

Affiliations/memberships board positions: California School Board Associations, Delegate Assembly, Region 18B; Brown Bag Coalition board, secretary; co-founder Proyecto Heber, 501-C(3); AB 617 Committee member; El Centro Education Foundation board member; Heber School Measure A Oversight Committee

Reasons for running:

Equity of Access in Education. I believe that all children should have the same exact access to an education; no matter what your economic status, your zip code, or your first language is. I believe that the children in Imperial County have all this availability, and I want to ensure that these kids will continue to have that. All kids deserve the best education we can provide. We are in the middle of unprecedented circumstances, which we are all learning, and adjusting as we go along. Distance learning has been the toughest obstacle our school district has faced, but we must all work together to ensure our students have a quality education. At CUHSD, we have provided over 2,500 Chromebooks, and over 200 MiFi devices, plus we continue to provide school lunches. I will continue to do my best to provide even more.

I am an active member in our California School Board Association, always maintaining open conversation with our Assembly and Congressional representatives, to make sure that our voices will always be heard. 

Maria Peinado

Name: Maria Peinado

Age:  48

City of residence:  El Centro

Family: Husband and son. Two parents, three sisters.

Current employment:  Imperial County Public Health Department

Political experience: First time running for public office

Employment history (last 10 years):  Public Health Officer, Imperial County Public Health Department

Other affiliations/memberships/board positions: MANA de Imperial Valley volunteer/board member since 2007. board positions held: president, membership director, scholarship coordinator, newsletter editor, public relations director, secretary.

Member: National Public Information Officers Association

Southwest High School school site council, parent representative 2018/19

Member of the Special Education Local Plan Area Community Advisory Committee

Volunteer – Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County.

Volunteer – Red Shoe Day Fundraiser, Ronald McDonald House Charities

Supporter – March of Dimes


Master of Public Administration student, San Diego State University (currently completing program)

Bachelor’s Degree in political science, University of California San Diego

Reasons for running and top issues:

I’m running for the Central Union High School District to be the parent voice on the Central Union High School District. As the daughter of a bracero worker raised in the Imperial Valley, I understand the unique needs of many local students and their families. The experience that I bring advocating for my child will serve me on the school board to be a voice for the parents and families that just want their child to succeed academically and live a life with dignity and respect. My perspective will be unique due to my background as a public health professional – a Public Health Information Officer working in our local health department. I have first-hand knowledge of the guidance being shared by the state for our districts and have working relationships with the Imperial County Office of Education, Migrant Education, the Special Education Plan Area, among others. I plan to bring progress and raise standards and expectations at CUHSD using my experience. I believe that some of the academic performance gap is due to students not receiving the supports and services they need early on in the elementary school years. I am a strong supporter of music and performing arts programs and believe these programs/activities should be available to all students that want to participate in these programs and especially students in special education. I have been involved in raising funds for local scholarships for our students for over 10 years and want to work to expand scholarship opportunities for more of our students. 

As a first-generation college student, I welcome the opportunity to serve my community as a resource for aspiring youth and their families. I’m a life-long advocate focused on community, education and progress. I would be honored to earn your vote on Nov. 3. 

Eric Leonard Rodriguez

Name: Eric Leonard Rodriguez

Age: 37

City of residence: Imperial

Family: Fiancé, Michelle Estrada; children, Estrella (daughter), Erika (daughter), Saraya (daughter), Luli (dtepdaughter), and Ezra (son)

Current employment: Child welfare social worker

Political experience: No previous political experience

Employment history (last 10 years): Imperial County Department of Social Services, El Centro Police Department, private retail

Other affiliations/memberships/board positions: No affiliations/memberships/board positions. 

Education: A.A. general studies; B.A. religious studies, administration of justice; law enforcement certificate, California. POST RBC Police Academy Certificate

Reasons for running and top issues:

I am running for a seat on the Central Union High School District Board of Trustees with a goal advocating for innovation, community partnerships, transparency, school safety, and mental health awareness.

As a parent of three current CUHSD students, my vested interests are with my daughters and their education. I decided this is the right time for me to become more involved in their educational decision making, and an opportunity to give parents like me a voice. 

Education is essential. I will continue to support efforts to improve and expand the use of technology toward this goal. I am aware of the challenges in assisting our children with their distant learning curriculum. I will advocate progressive strategies and distribute necessary tools that will ensure that our children are receiving the best education they need for future success.

I am an advocate for keeping our parents, students, and faculty informed of what is going on in our high schools. Budget allocation, direction, available resources, or concerning on campus incidents. You will be informed. I will be the communication bridge.

As a former police officer, I am aware that bad things can happen at schools. I am an advocate for keeping our students and staff safe, and secure while on campus. I will secure our law enforcement relationships, appropriate training, policy, and maintain peaceful schools.

Lastly, as a current child welfare social worker, I am a mental health awareness advocate.  I will advocate for appropriate training and policy when assisting children in need.  There are local programs that want to help our children. I will utilize these additional resources and provide for our children in need. 

I will give you a voice. Thank you. 

Two-year (short) term

Steve Walker

Name: Steve Walker

Age: Old enough

City of residence: El Centro

Family: Spouse, Cheryl Viegas Walker; sons, Casey Walker and Kiel Walker

Current employment: Attorney

Political experience: Central Union High School District Board of Trustees, 2000-2016 and 2020; El Centro Elementary School District Board of Trustees, 1994-2000.

Employment history (last 10 years): Managing partner, Walker & Driskill, PLC

Other affiliations/memberships/board positions: Soccer coach and administrator, El Centro Soccer Club, Imperial Valley Soccer Association, and Dynamo Soccer Club; Imperial County Office of Education Mock Trial competition coach (Holtville and Southwest High Schools) and scoring attorney; Remnant Church.

Education: University of Washington, Bachelor’s degree, political science; University of San Diego, juris doctorate.

Reasons for running and top issues:

These are challenging times for us — teachers, parents, school administrators — as we search for the best ways to safely educate our students.

The coming months and years will be difficult for our district as we safely pivot from distance learning to a hybrid in-person and remote learning model and finally to a resumption of on campus classes. I am running to ensure that the education of our students remains a priority and that we close any achievement gap for all our students, especially our most vulnerable.

It is in troubled times that experienced leadership matters the most. That is why my 16 years of experience as a CUHSD trustee, including as the current appointed incumbent, are important.

Now more than ever there is a need for informed decisions to move the district to the new normal.

All of us have the same vested interest for our children in making sure we remain focused on college and career readiness, maximizing equitable learning opportunities for all students, and offering meaningful and memorable extracurricular activities when it is safe to do so.

I am committed to transparent and effective governance by including all stakeholders, and the practice of listening more and talking less. I am an advocate for delivering on the promise of excellence in public education that is achieved only through the retention and attraction of highly qualified and committed staff.

I am accessible, approachable, and an advocate for our students. Please vote for me, Steven Walker, on Nov. 3. Thank you.

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