For seven years, Frank Rich worked for the Hesperia Unified School District, starting off in the Hesperia Junior High School computer lab, and later moved his computer skills to the district office. Two and a half years ago, he left the HUSD, taking a job with the city of Victorville.

And now, he's back. But this time, Rich isn't an employee: He's a school board candidate.

"Quite a while ago, it seemed like something I would like to do in the future," Rich said. "Talking to people I worked with before who are still [at the HUSD], it seemed like a good time."

Rich is a lifelong Hesperian, attending Mesa Grande Elementary School before moving onto Hesperia Christian. He and his wife have three children. The two old enough for school attend a performing arts choice school in the Victor Elementary School District: "It just wasn't offered in Hesperia" at the time, he said.

And, he said, he still has a stake in how things are going in the HUSD.

"Currently my kids don't go to [school in] the district, but that doesn't mean they won't," Rich said. "My youngest is 3."

And, of course, he brings experience working for the district to the six-person race for the two school board seats vacated by incumbents Bruce Minton and Helen Rogers.

"We went through the same scenario [currently facing the HUSD]: 'oops, [the state] is out of money, we have to take it from somewhere.'"

He disagrees with the district's decision to cut back on school bus availability -- a decision reversed Monday after outcry from students' families.

"It didn't put the students' best interests [first]," he said. "It was an easy way out."

Had he been on the school board earlier this year, the 29-year-old Rich would have looked at "non-student, non-employee-related equipment or projects" as a place to cut costs. The HUSD -- the Victor Valley's largest school district -- replaces cars, computers and other equipment every year, repaints buildings and has other nice-to-have -- but not critical -- expenses each year.

"You need to work with the teachers and you need to work with the CSEA [the union that represents classified employees: non-teacher, non-managerial school personnel] and with their leadership."

Instead of letting the cost-cutting discussions turn into us-versus-them battles, Rich would have liked to have seen representatives of the teachers, classified employees and management at each of the groups' meetings on cost-saving measures, along with a representative of the school board, to emphasize that all the employees are, ultimately, one team.

"The school district couldn't be able to function without the classified," he said. "I don't look at them as individual groups. I think of every single one of them as important."

That sort of all-for-one, one-for-all team spirit has been absent from many school board meetings in recent months, but Rich said he's not deterred by the possibility of joining a contentious political body.

"If you're going to avoid it because there's certain problems, then you shouldn't run," he said. "It doesn't matter if all five members are the best of friends; they're not always going to agree."

But he'd also avoid some of the pitfalls the current school board has ended up in, he said, by reaching out to parents earlier in the decision-making process.

"The school board should be focused on really improving their relationship with parents in the district," Rich said. "Without the parents helping at home, it's very hard for the district to be a success."

The computer learning specialist turned school board candidate said he's ready for the potential hard knocks of the campaign season and, possibly, as a school board member after that, in part, because of what it could mean for children like his own.

"It's a great thing to do, to help lead," he said. "Having kids, especially young kids like mine, you see the importance."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.