Mat-Su school board's youngest member resigns

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- Citing health and family issues, Mat-Su School Board vice president Erick Cordero this week announced he plans to resign in November.

Cordero, the board's youngest member, broke the news in a late Tuesday Facebook post that also hazed his colleagues for being out of touch with students.

He started a new job as chief of staff for Wasilla Republican Rep. Lynn Gattis back in January, when he pledged to leave the board if he couldn't juggle both duties.

The decision to resign, however, stemmed from a need to "lessen my load" to deal with personal issues, Cordero said in a text message on Wednesday. "It's been an honor to serve -- learned a lot and managed to push for some good policy changes."

Cordero, 38, declined to provide more details about the issues behind his resignation. He and his wife, a teacher at Eagle River High School, have two children. He said he could text but not call because he was at a doctor's office.

A self-described social conservative who grew up Catholic in Mexico City, Cordero supports home school and alternative options and school vouchers for some communities.

His Facebook post dinged other school board members for being too old to share the "worldview" of the people they're setting policy for.

"I hope someone my age or younger considers joining the board," the post said. "No offense to my colleagues, but their worldview is no longer in synch with our children's worldview."

Cordero, asked about the meaning of his comment Wednesday, sent a text message saying it related to "supporting school choice, technology and innovation and not just trap kids in a brick and mortar buildings because that's how it's always been done."

A few school board members responded right away to the Facebook post with comments of their own. David Cheezem, a Palmer bookstore owner, told Cordero he'd be missed.

"Hey! I'm not old!" was the comment from school board member Debby Retherford, followed by a smiley emoticon. "(S)orry to hear that, Erick, but I wish you the best and I hope all is well. I'm sure we'll have more opportunities to work together."

Others didn't know about the resignation -- or the comment -- until they heard about it Wednesday.

Board member Sarah Welton, a pastor and private counselor, expressed her support for Cordero's decision but called his "worldview" remark short-sighted and a strike against those like her who don't support education reform such as vouchers.

"I can't go there personally and I think that the push for that is not looking at the consequences," Welton said. "We need to make changes in the way we educate students but public schools need to stay public schools."

Board member Ole Larson said he understands Cordero's decision to go. Larson, a retired corrections official, said he struggled as a 30-something in 1990 to balance a term on the Matanuska Electric Association board with a job and family.

"I had a full-time job, my wife had a full-time job and we had three children at home," he said. "You know, I found out that being on a board at that age, it's tough because it takes up all your spare time."

Cordero's term expires next year. His resignation is expected after local elections Oct. 1 so his position will be filled through a board appointment, according to Mat-Su Borough School District spokeswoman Catherine Esary.

He will become the third Mat-Su school board member of late to leave the body after starting political life in Juneau.

Gattis resigned from the board in mid-January after the House Majority named her Education Committee chair. State Sen. Mike Dunleavy, former school board president, termed out in October 2012 after winning a primary election over former Sen. Linda Menard in August.

Once the session started in January and until it ended, Cordero attended no school board meetings in person but took part in five via either videoconferencing or teleconferencing, according to board meeting minutes.

Larson at one point joked about putting the video monitor at Cordero's seat at the board's table.

"I thought that would be kind of funny to have Erick just sitting there, smiling at the audience," he said.

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