Ocean View School District board president won’t take no for an answer

Gina Clayton-Tarvin remembers the moment clearly.

A teary-eyed mother tried to hold in her emotions as she implored the school district to bring the children back to Oak View Elementary. The Huntington Beach school was one of three closed in 2014 because of an asbestos discovery during refurbishment work, and children were being bused to Buena Park.

“She said, ‘the children are the heart of the community, and our heart is broken,’” Tarvin recalled.

That moment, in its way, crystallized much of what Tarvin figures her tenure on the Ocean View School District board of trustees has been about: trying to fix what’s broken.

Clayton-Tarvin, who was recently re-elected to a second consecutive term as board president, says her goal is “helping the district to heal and bring back a sense of stability.

“I think we are now with the leadership that can make that occur,” she said.

Plenty has been done and much more remains to get to what Clayton-Tarvin envisions: a financially stable district with magnet schools and innovative programming, including dual immersion schools that teach not only Spanish, but Vietnamese and Mandarin (Chinese).

That’s more in line with the ABC Unified School District, where she’s a sixth-grade teacher at highly regarded Cerritos Elementary School.

Since Clayton-Tarvin’s election as an Ocean View district trustee in 2012, she has seen plenty of tumult.


• Asbestos issues in 2014 closed three schools, cost the district upward of $15 million and for awhile threatened to bankrupt the district.

• The abrupt departure in 2015 of superintendent Gustavo Balderas, who left in the wake of the asbestos issue after only 21/2 years at the helm.

• Ongoing litigation with the owners of Rainbow Environmental Services, a waste-transfer facility across the street from Oak View elementary and preschool, over a variety of concerns including odors, seagull feces, vermin and dust and noise pollution.

But for all the headaches and heartaches, there have been successes that keep Clayton-Tarvin upbeat and positive as she enters her second year as president of the board.

In 2015:

• Students returned to Oak View, albeit in portable classes. The main building will be ready in January.

• Hope View School reopened in the fall, and the path has been set for Lake View to reopen in the fall of 2016.

• The district’s finances are improving.

• Two respected education leaders have been hired – Carol Hansen as superintendent and Michael Conroy as deputy superintendent.

Ocean View hasn’t arrived here without a fight.

Clayton-Tarvin, as much as any member of the board of trustees, has been an outspoken advocate for the students and families in the struggling Oak View neighborhood and schools over their issues with Rainbow Environmental Services, owned by Republic Services.

Thanks in part to a relentless campaign of calling in complaints about odors emanating from the facility and plaguing the schools, the Air Quality Management District in December repeatedly cited the operators for nuisance violations and eventually brokered a deal to have the trash hauler spend about $10 million to enclose much of its operations and undertake other measures to reduce adverse effects.

Clayton-Tarvin has earned her share of critics for her outspoken nature.

“I know there are people who think I’m too aggressive,” she says. “But who else is going to do it? That’s why I took such a strong stance, because I saw a lack of action.”

“She sticks to her guns,” said Superintendent Hansen. “That’s who she is and it’s OK.”

Clayton-Tarvin has helped pull the community together in the battle against Rainbow. She urged residents who had quietly endured to end their silence and make themselves heard.

Victor Valladeros, a life-long resident of Oak View, says since Clayton-Tarvin joined the school board, a community that had been united in fear is now uniting in other ways. He said he has come to believe that change can happen.

“I’m glad they lit the torch,” Valladeres said of Clayton-Tarvin. “Our residents are not going to stay silent.”

And the battle with Rainbow isn’t over.

“The AQMD got us 60 yards down the field,” Clayton-Tarvin said, invoking a football analogy.

However, she said a number of pollution issues outside of the AQMD’s authority still need to be resolved and the district will seek remedies in court.

Until then, Clayton-Tarvin will continue to push forward.

“I am a very persistent person,” she said. “I don’t accept ‘no’ for an answer. When someone says, ‘I can’t do that,’ I don’t hear it. Anything is possible.”

Contact the writer: gmellen@ocregister.com

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