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Bushra Butres Runs For Cajon Valley School Board
By Ziad Bitti :: Sunday, October 1, 2006 :: 72722 Views :: Career & Education, Government & Society

California, USA – Chaldean Bushra Butres challenges the old guard of the Cajon Valley school board, which oversees a district of 28 elementary and middle schools in the inner city and more rural neighborhoods. 

Incumbents Marsha L. Saben, Jill D. Barto and Jane Cruz Alfano are being challenged by  Bushra “Nissou” Butres in the Nov. 7 election.

The Cajon Valley districty has a large population of Chaldeans and Assyrians but is poorly represented in school policy or understanding.  Many in the community have long sought a qualified candidate to bring a unique perspective of the challenges new citizens in the Cajon Valley schools face.  Many in the Chaldean community feel Butres is the right person for the job. 

The Cajon Valley Union School District educates students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The district has 20 elementary schools, six middle schools and two special-program schools serving about 16,400 children in the city and the unincorporated communities of Crest, Mount Helix and Rancho San Diego.
The Cajon Valley Union School District, which has about 16,400 students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade, has its share of triumphs and challenges.

The district opened a new middle school this year in Blossom Valley and recently celebrated the completion of an $8.2 million multipurpose building shared with the city of El Cajon through a joint-use agreement. The district is ethnically and economically diverse and is working to bridge an achievement gap among its students.

However, like all East County school districts, Cajon Valley is struggling with declining enrollment, which can be crippling because state funding is based on the number of students in the classroom.   Many in the Semitic community who can afford to leave are leaving the public school system favoring private school. 

Cajon Valley has formed a task force to look at ways to address the problem at its 28 campuses. Candidates say it's one of the most important issues facing the district, which has already closed one school and has over the years cut back its teaching staff.

The three incumbents say they have fostered good working relationships with their district colleagues, and they appear to agree on the most pressing issues.

The old guard of the school board seems to be quite protective of their positions.  Saben, 57, is seeking a fifth term on the five-person board. She lives in El Cajon and works as a substance-abuse prevention and education consultant and has three children.

Barto, 40, has served three terms. She lives in El Cajon and owns a telephone installation and Repair Company as well as an Internet business. Barto, whose three children have attended district schools, said she is an advocate for special education.

She agrees that declining enrollment is a tough issue, but said early numbers suggest Cajon Valley isn't losing students as quickly as a few years ago.

Preliminary figures show that the district is down about 150 students this school year compared with last year, she said. Enrollment has dropped from 19,000 to 16,400 in the past five years.

Alfano, 53, is running for a second term. She was appointed to the board in 2001 and won her first election the following year.   The El Cajon resident has two children who attended district schools. She works as the director of religious education and youth ministry at the Church of St. Luke in El Cajon. Alfano said she will work to maximize the use of district dollars, a necessity as declining enrollment shrinks revenue from the state. That could include seeking partnerships with other agencies.

Butres, 42, works as a loan processor and a business consultant. She has lived in El Cajon for 11 years.   Although she has no children, Butres said her strong ties to the community offer her direct link to the challenges families face in the district. 

She was encouraged to run by a Chaldean friend to give a voice to the often ignored East County's immigrant community. Butres, who is Chaldean, speaks Arabic, Assyrian, Chaldean, Spanish and English. Butres said her diverse community connections would be a boon for the district. 

Using her special skills in language and business Butres feels her ideas can help rescue a troubled district.  Butres is eager to share modern business principals to help inspire creative ideas that would make the district more efficient and effective in their mission of educating every child. 

St. Joseph, MI USA

St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church
2442 E. Big Beaver Rd.
Troy, MI 48083
Tel: (248) 528-3676
Fax: (248) 524-1957

Congregation Organizer:
Rev. Michael J. Bazzi

Church Constructing Pastor:
Rev. Sarhad Y. Jammo

Current Pastor:
Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Ayad Hanna

 Current Pastor: Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Msgr. Zouhair Toma (Kejbou) was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1947.  He was ordained a priest in Baghdad, Iraq in 1968, and accepted his first assignment to serve the community of Baquba.  The Monsignor’s leadership skills and organizational talents along with his mastery of theology were immediately evident.  He later assisted Sts. Peter and Paul in Al-Salehia, and St. George in New Baghdad.

In August, 1978 Monsignor Toma was called to serve the growing community of persecuted Chaldeans finding refuge in Australia.   Being the fist Chaldean priest to arrive in Australia he quickly established a parish for the Chaldeans in Sydney to serve their social and spiritual needs.  The parish was named after St. Thomas the Apostle and built a rectory. 

In 1989, for his incredible work he was granted the title of Monsignor, Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar for Australia and New Zealand.  Continuing his passionate work to serve the Chaldean community the Monsignor moved the Parish Center to a more accessible location and built a large church campus featuring a modern community center, residence quarters, and administrative offices in 1995. 

In 2003, Monsignor Toma added a magnificent church to replace the previous one in order to serve the fast growing community and also opened two other centers.  The first was Our Lady Guardian of Plants in Melbourne, and the second was Mar Addai the Apostle in Auckland, New Zealand.  Mar Addai in New Zealand included two very large churches along with rectories and community centers.  Overseeing the Patriarchal Vicariate for 28 years, he managed to inspire six more priests to help minister to the fast growing Chaldean community. 

In August 2006, Monsignor chose to assist the St. Thomas the Apostle Diocese in the U.S. as more Catholic churches were being built in America and address the growing need.  On October 2006, Monsignor was incardinated and appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Troy.