Meet Our Governing Board
Captain Pontes is a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia and a graduate of the University of Virginia, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science. He entered the Navy in December 1977 and received his commission several months later after completion of Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida.
After receiving his designation as a Naval Flight Officer, Captain Pontes completed S-3A Viking replacement aircrew training. It was in the venerable Viking aircraft that Captain Pontes logged over 3000 flight hours and 600 arrested landings, while flying in and deploying to nearly every corner of the globe. Captain Pontes' VS community tours included fleet assignments in San Diego with the VS-29 Dragonfires, the VS-33 Screwbirds, and in Jacksonville, Florida where he commanded the Checkmates of VS-22. Additionally, Captain Pontes served as a flight and weapons system instructor with the community's fleet replacement squadron, the VS-41 Shamrocks. He later returned to command VS-41 and was responsible for the training of all Viking aviators. While assigned to these squadrons Captain Pontes deployed in the aircraft carriers KITTY HAWK, CARL VINSON, NIMITZ, and EISENHOWER.
Following his second command tour, Captain Pontes served as Operations Officer embarked in USS CONSTELLATION where he oversaw ship's movement and operations during an extended Western Pacific Ocean/Persian Gulf deployment. Additionally, during his 25-year career, Captain Pontes served on a number of staffs to include Carrier Group FOUR, SECOND FLEET, Chief of Naval Operations, and Naval Air Forces U.S. Pacific Fleet. His memorable staff achievements include embarking in five carriers in eighteen months while serving as Flag Lieutenant for COMCARGRU FOUR, exercising with NATO units at the height of the Cold War while sailing with SECOND FLEET in USS MOUNT WHITNEY, and developing strategic plans to reshape Naval Aviation in the post-Cold War era for the Chief of Naval Operations. Most notably, in his final assignment as Air Wing Readiness Officer on the AIRPAC staff, Captain Pontes played a vital role preparing five air wings to simultaneously deploy in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM and the war on terror.
Upon his retirement in June of 2003, Captain Pontes was authorized to wear the Meritorious Service Medal with three gold stars as well as numerous additional medals and ribbons. He was a designated Joint Specialty Officer and graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.
Captain Pontes continued his long relationship with the Navy after his retirement. In the Fall of 2003, he stood up the Naval Junior ROTC unit at Coronado High School and led the unit for six and a half years as the Senior Naval Science Instructor. Before retiring a second time, the unit had won six consecutive Distinguished Unit awards. His experience gained as a teacher, combined with his past leadership successes made him a logical appointee to the Coronado Unified School Board in December or 2014, where he still serves as a Trustee today. His current term on the school board runs through 2022.
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 the public to contact her as needed, in service as a board member. Her current term on the school board runs through 2020.
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 of 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. Her current term on the school board runs through 2022.
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 2020.
Dr. Helen Anderson-Cruz
Dr. Helen Anderson-Cruz and her family have been Coronado Islanders since 1989. Her daughter attended elementary, middle and high school in Coronado and is currently a teacher at Village Elementary. She also has a 7-year-old granddaughter in second grade at Village Elementary.
Dr. Anderson-Cruz’s professional experience includes 20 plus years teaching Language Arts course in the Sweetwater Union High School District and over a decade of teaching a variety of graduate and undergraduate courses at the University level.
Dr. Anderson-Cruz completed her doctorate in Education in 1997 at the University of Southern California. Subsequent to graduation she was invited to join the graduate faculty in the Rosier School of Education at USC, where she designed and taught a variety of graduate courses in the doctoral and Master of Science programs. When her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, she left the University to care for her.
In 2006 she was coaxed out of retirement by the Dean of the College of Business at San Diego State University. She taught Report Writing for Accountants in the College of Business, and Business Communication courses in the Rhetoric and Writing Department for 10 years before retiring again, in 2017.
Dr. Anderson-Cruz brings an extensive background in teaching and learning to the CUSD Board of Trustees. She has had many years of experience developing Language Arts curriculum at the state and local level, and has developed and taught a number of graduate courses in curriculum and instruction, classroom management, diagnostic and prescriptive teaching, individualized instructional delivery, and literacy assessment.
Dr. Anderson-Cruz is looking forward to serving on the CUSD Board and working with all stakeholders to ensure the best education for all students in Coronado. Her current term on the school board runs through 2022.
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