Vinson, Ruehlig to take on Belle for County School Board, three run for their seats on Antioch School Board

Antioch School Board Trustees Debra Vinson and Walter Ruehlig will challenge incumbent Jeff Belle for County School Board. Photos from AUSD and CCCBOE.

By Allen Payton

Long-serving Antioch School Board Trustee Walter Ruehlig let it be known on Saturday, July 14 that he will not run for reelection and instead join fellow Trustee Debra Vinson and take on County School Board Vice President Jeff Belle in November’s election.

While Vinson, finishing her first and rather contentious term on the Antioch School Board, didn’t officially announce her campaign, she did ride in a car in the Antioch July 4th Parade with a sign indicating her decision to run for the county board. In 2017 Vinson was censured by her fellow board members for her interactions with district employees. (See related article). She was also passed over for the board presidency, following her year as Vice President. (See related article).

In an effort to achieve greater transparency for the public, earlier this year and after years of the Herald pushing the issue, Vinson was instrumental in getting the school board meetings televised live for the first time in the district’s history, via their YouTube channel.

On one issue, all three will most likely agree, which is approving charter schools. Both Vinson and Ruehlig were two of the three board members who, earlier this year, voted in favor of the East Bay Tech Academy middle and high charter school petitions, and Ruehlig was one of the three who voted for the Rocketship elementary charter school petition in 2016. Belle has voted against one and approved five other charter schools while on the county board.

“I have decided definitely to run for Area 5 County Board of Education,” Ruehlig stated, following rumors of the possibility.

In his official announcement, he wrote:

I will be submitting my candidacy papers on Monday, July 16th to run for Area 5 of the County Board of Education, which covers Antioch, Bay Point, Bethel Island, Brentwood, Byron, Clyde, Knightsen, Oakley, and Pittsburg.
In June of 1968, I dedicated myself to public service and youth education when I taught English for the Peace Corps in Sultandag, a rural village in Turkey that had no electricity.  Fifty years later, the idealism continues.

I believe that that my twelve-year service, with three years as President, on the Antioch School Board, and my experience with the Pittsburg Unified School District as a California Department of Rehabilitation Workability Program Director for adults with disabilities and as a career counselor, have given me useful insight into County Trustee duties.  I am excited by the challenge of overseeing career training programs, special education, community day schools, and facilities for incarcerated juveniles.

I was a late-bloomer myself but, fortunately, had teachers who didn’t give up on me. I eventually caught fire and worked my way through college.  My passion for sharing opportunity and persisting with high-risk, disadvantaged or under motivated students is my way of returning thanks.

Aside from counseling, teaching and administrative background, I feel I have the proven temperament and intangible skill sets requisite for good governance.

I enjoy communication and transparency. I am open, creative and innovative but believe in sober budgeting, no-nonsense classroom behavior standards and back to the basics core curriculum.  I am pragmatic and put my ego at the door to focus on getting the task at hand done one building block at a time.  In this age of divisiveness, I am proud to say that I can get along without always going along. I am a consensus-builder but no pushover. I cannot be bullied or bought.

I look forward to meeting the voters of Area 5, hearing their concerns, and presenting my vision. I welcome their scrutiny and would be honored by their support. I pledge not to let them, or their kids, down.

Walter Ruehlig

Candidate, Area 5

Contra Costa County Board of Education

Incumbent Jeff Belle

Elected in 2014, Belle has faced a variety of controversies before and during his term on the County School Board. In January 2016, Belle admitted to claiming he was a respiratory care practitioner even though he didn’t have a license and was fined $8,200 by the state. (See related article).

He and his wife had to move from their home in Antioch in spring of 2015 for failure to pay rent, due to a loss of his wife’s job and Belle not earning enough through his consulting business. They separated and Mrs. Belle moved to the Sacramento area. As a result, questions have arisen about Belle’s residency. He rented rooms in other people’s homes in the district. The two have since reconciled and Belle now splits his time between his wife’s place in the Sacramento area and a home in the district.

In December 2016, facing prosecution by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office for lying on his ballot statement, Belle admitted in court that he didn’t have a college degree which he claimed. He agreed to community service to avoid a trial and possible fine of up to $1,000. (See related article)

In 2017 Belle suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. Recently, he posted a fundraising effort on his Facebook page to help him pay off $8,000 in medical bills. The total raised was $50 from former County School Board Trustee and Clayton Valley Charter High School Trustee Richard Asadoorian.

Until recently, Belle claimed to be serving as a producer for a TV show in Southern California for women over 40.

Three Candidates, Two Open Seats on Antioch School Board

Ellie Householder and Shagoofa Khan in a photo from Facebook on July 6, 2018.

Mary Rocha from her Facebook page.

As a result of Vinson’s and Ruehlig’s decisions there will be no incumbents running in the November elections. Three candidates have announced, so far, including former Antioch School Board Trustee and Mayor of Antioch Mary Rocha, Shagoofa Khan, a 2018 Antioch Youth of the Year award winner, 2018 graduate of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School in Antioch, and currently a School Site Council Member for the district, and Elizabeth “Ellie” Householder, who was a Research Analyst working as a vendor on the LCAP for the district for two years, and is beginning a Master’s Degree program in Public Policy, this fall. She has also served as a member and Vice Chair of Antioch’s Measure C Sales Tax Citizens’ Oversight Committee.

The two are backed by Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and have been campaigning together, including during the Antioch July 4th parade and on Facebook. In a post on July 5, Householder wrote, “Filing out our campaign finance forms. I couldn’t of [sic] asked for a more passionate and dedicated running mate.” Then in a post on July 6 she wrote, “Officially mailed in our finance papers to the Secretary of State! August 4th is our official campaign kickoff. Fundraising season starts soon – stay tuned for more details! #EllieandShagoofaforAUSD

Filing opens on July 16th and closes August 10th if the incumbent seeks reelection. If not, the filing period will be extended to August 15th. The election will be held on Tuesday, November 6th.

the attachments to this post:

Belle med bills fundraiser

Belle & Modern Ageless Beauty show

Mary Rocha

Vinson Ruehlig Belle photos

Ellie & Shagoofa

12 Comments to “Vinson, Ruehlig to take on Belle for County School Board, three run for their seats on Antioch School Board”

  1. Ellie Householder says:

    Hey everyone! Loved this article. Just wanted to comment and let folks know that Shagoofa and mines campaign kick off party is August 4th at 5pm at Nelson Ranch Park. More information at our Facebook

  2. Julio says:

    Is this what we teach in AUSD? “Shagoofa and MINES campaign kick off” Really. No vote here.

  3. Ken Gardner says:

    I believe that Ellie and Shagoofa should be supported in their quest for seats on the AUSD Board of Trustees. They bring youth, out of the box thinking and perspectives the board needs.

    Mary Rocha has the best intentions and would not harm the district or embarrass the board in anyway, she can build consensus and in general will be a positive influence.

    Regarding Vinson vs Ruehlig vs Belle, this will be the quintessential shit show of three very self serving dysfunctional adults trying assuage their egos to stay in the public’s eye.

    • Fernando Navarro says:

      Ken gardne, arent you the principle of Deervalley high school? Do you also greet our students with that mouth? Do you expect any respect from those under you, When you display publicly such an insubordinate attitude towards your own board members? You know the very ones that sign off on your check?

      If there are any dysfunctional adults its prevalent amongst its very ranks!

      • Julio says:

        Fernando, lucky for Antioch School Dist Mr. Gardner is no longer there. Should never have been hired.

    • Julio says:

      Mary Rocha has long been the very problem with the Antioch School District and City Hall as long as she has been an elected official. Please do not put her back on the school board. Please do not elect her son Louie to any positions either.

    • Melissa says:

      I agree with you on everything you said. I wish Mary would state what her actions would be. has a clear platform that resonates with me as a parent. However then I dig a little deeper, and I am turned off by her other political views.

      Mary please get your act together and get a clear platform!!

    • Concerned Antioch Citizen says:

      I have heard from many students that Shagoofa was a bully in high school. Students have seen her pick a fight with other students. She was screaming at someone loudly when students were around while her friends stood behind her. Is this someone who you would vote for to the school board? She lacks maturity. I will be voting for someone who has experience and not a bully.

  4. Concerned says:

    I believe in young individuals pioneering to make a positive impact in our community, but I don’t believe she is an appropriate candidate that we should be voting for and entrusting. As someone who has known Shagoofa Khan, I don’t believe she is ready to be elected due to her persistent behaviors and misdemeanors in the high school she graduated from. Miss Shagoofa was well known for her vulgar language and caustic attitude towards her peers and even fellow teachers. She has constantly sworn inappropriately and has even been known to bully several classmates. I do not want to place my trust in a candidate who supports student excellence but has also been known to actively disrespect those in her own community wrongfully and uses her background story as a reason for those actions. Perhaps after high school, she has had a change in heart – but her persistent proof of behavior in the past will not earn my vote.

    If Antioch is seeking “STRONGER and BETTER schools” that are “moved beyond the basics” and out of “old, and outdated facilities” (as quoted from her campaign message and fundraiser), we should be empowering our students by incorporating their citizen participation in their curriculum or launching more student-organized youth committees, not trusting only one youth to represent them all. We can get those “new ideas” that Lamar Thorpe says we need by simply asking those who we are teaching; hundreds if not thousands of students instead of one.

    Yes she has been backed by her colleagues for having a “recent and fresh perspective” (as Lamar Thorpe describes) to support why she is running at a young age, but I believe we need our council members to be experienced and well-versed. There are candidates who have spent years of rigorous study and obtained degrees in education-related subjects. I believe they would have the answers on how to maintain our schools effectively with evidence rather than someone who, for now, can only promise us STRONGER and BETTER.

  5. Concerned Antioch Citizen says:

    I have heard from many students she went to high school with that she was a bully. They have seen her picking fights with fellow students. Is this someone who you would vote for in to the school board. She lacks maturity. I will vote for someone with experience and who is not a bully.

  6. I would like to remind everyone that there is another choice for the Contra Costa County Office of Education for Area 5. This article was published before I filed for election.

    I am running for this office as well. I am a long time volunteer (over 20 years) in the education community advocating for all children. Please see my page at or on Facebook

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