Meet Our Governing Board
Maria Simon was raised in San Diego and is a graduate of Bonita Vista High School and The University of Arizona where she earned a BA degree in Marketing and Communication. She has lived in Coronado since 1998 and she and her husband, Dr. Fred Simon, have three children who currently attend CUSD schools. Simon has worked as a Marketing Manager for Mercy Hospital and as the Executive Director of the San Diego Museum Council.
Prior to running for the school board she was an active volunteer for 10 years in the Coronado schools, including serving as president of the Parent Teacher Organization of both Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. Simon has also served on the board of Coronado Pop Warner, the Coronado Yacht Club Junior Advisory Committee and as a Girl Scout leader for six years. Her current term on the school board runs through 2016.
Lou Smith was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from Marquette University there and (later) his Master’s Degree from Purdue.
After obtaining his commission through the Navy’s NROTC program, Lou went into the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps, and spent his first few years in the Seabees, doing three tours in Vietnam. He then did several tours in facilities maintenance and construction, moving from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to Brunswick, Maine to Omaha, Nebraska to Washington DC to Keflavik, Iceland. The tour in Iceland was followed by assignments in Washington, San Francisco, and a command tour in San Diego. From there, Lou was transferred back to Washington where he was selected for the rank of Rear Admiral. He served (again) in the Pentagon, this time as the Navy’s Director of Shore Activities. In 1998, Lou was selected for promotion again. This time, as a two-star Admiral, he took command of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command. In this position, he also served as the Chief of Civil Engineers for the Navy.
Lou retired from the Navy in late 2000 and went to work for the San Diego Unified School District leading their execution of a $1.5 billion school bond. Despite the program being more than two years behind schedule at the time, it ultimately finished under budget and ahead of schedule. Lou was then promoted to head of all Administrative Operations for this, the second-largest school district in California.
Later, Lou joined Sharp Healthcare as their Vice President of Facilities. In this position, he directly oversaw all of the facilities maintenance and construction for the largest Healthcare System in San Diego County. This also involved the construction of two new, $150M hospitals in the San Diego area. Lou later retired from Sharp.
In 2009 Lou was appointed by the City of Coronado to be their representative on the Board of Port Commissioners overseeing the operation of the Unified Port of San Diego. In 2012, Lou was elected Chairman of the Board by his fellow Commissioners.
Lou is a Registered Professional Civil Engineer. He is a Fellow and Past National President of the Society of American Military Engineers. He serves on the Board of Directors of Sharp Coronado Hospital as well as several other organizations. He is a proud member of Coronado Rotary, and is active at Sacred Heart Parish. Lou and his wife, Susan, have been married for 43 years and have two sons. His current term on the school board runs through 2018.
Originally from Virginia Beach, VA, Captain Lee Pontes, USN (retired) earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia. In 2003, he retired to Coronado after a 25 year naval career that included tours of duty on both coasts and embarkations in no less than eight aircraft carriers. While in the Navy, he commanded two aviation squadrons, VS-22 out of NAS Cecil Field, FL and VS-41 at NAS North Island, CA. Uniquely, the VS-22 tour in 1995 was highlighted by the fact that it was the first time that women were integrated into deployed crews on U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. After his naval career, Captain Pontes was hired to open and teach the Navy Junior ROTC program at Coronado High School. During the six years of his tenure, the JROTC program grew significantly and earned numerous awards.
A Coronado resident since 1996, Captain Pontes and his wife joined the Blumenthals, Aurichs, and several other local families to raise over $50,000 to bring Pop Warner football and cheer to Coronado in 1998. He continued to coach for seven seasons. The relationship he built with Coronado youth in Pop Warner grew into an opportunity to coach boy’s lacrosse at Coronado Middle School for two years. It was this involvement in youth sports that started him thinking about teaching. So in 2000 Captain Pontes started and subsequently earned a Masters of Education degree.
Captain Pontes and his lovely wife, Karen, are now enjoying life as empty-nesters but still relish spending free time with their three adult sons and daughter-in-law whenever opportunities present themselves. His current term on the school board runs through 2018.
Julie Russell was raised in California. In 1989, she earned a BS and commission from the US Coast Guard Academy, and served 7 years in various operational and administrative roles as a Coast Guard officer.
Upon leaving the service in 1996, Julie earned her MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Business, transitioning to a business consulting career with Deloitte Consulting.
As an active mother of two, she is currently a part-time, self-employed small business owner of a virtual property management company.
Since 2002, along with her husband and two children, she has called Coronado home. Both her children currently attend Coronado High School.
Julie was elected in 2016 for a four-year term on the board. In her free time, Julie employs a spirit of learning and contributing to programs supporting youth. Julie welcomes public to contact her as needed, in service as a board member.
Esther Valdes is the Owner and Principal Attorney of Valdes & Associates, a law firm located in Downtown San Diego. Ms. Valdes is a San Diego native, a graduate of Chula Vista High School, where she was the recipient of a Rotary Scholarship, as well as a scholarship from the Embassy of Spain. Ms. Valdes attended the University of California, San Diego, where she majored in United States History. As an undergraduate, Ms. Valdes received a scholarship from the Friends of the International House, which allowed her to study in Alcala de Henares, Spain, focusing on Spanish Literature and History. Ms. Valdes graduated cum laude, while working two jobs throughout her undergraduate career. Upon graduation, Ms. Valdes attended the University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall), where she studied Labor Law, International Civil Law, and Asylum Law, and an Associate Editor at the Berkeley Journal of International Law. Upon receiving her law degree, Ms. Valdes relocated to her hometown of San Diego, to raise her daughter Paulina.
Ms. Valdes is a practicing attorney, and is regularly featured on Spanish- language network Telemundo. She has been interviewed by local and national media including the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, NBC News, The Hill, CalNews, and Reuters, regarding her advocacy and effective legal representation. Throughout her career, Ms. Valdes has represented school employees, parents and teachers as an advocate and legal representative. For the past 6 years, Ms. Valdes has volunteered at several school districts including Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Ysidro, and San Diego school districts. Ms. Valdes frequently serves as a guest speaker at statewide student conferences, and as an advisor to counselors and teachers on Immigration and Labor issues, throughout San Diego County.
As the daughter of immigrants, Ms. Valdes' journey has been marked by a dedication to education, and a love for her community. Since 2012, Ms. Valdes and her daughter, call Coronado their home, and in 2015, Ms. Valdes became the proud parent of a Coronado High School graduate.
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