Meet the Candidates Forum: El Tejon Unified School District Trustees

Four candidates were sent questions for the Sixth Annual ETUSD Candidates Forum. Two candidates will be elected.

In a tough year for education throughout California, we asked tough questions submitted by the community and the candidates themselves. Those elected to the El Tejon Unified School District Board of Trustees must solve many difficult problems next year.

Candidates were sent the questions at virtually the same time. They were given 72 hours and 43 minutes to return their answers. The newspaper publishes the forum replies exactly as they are received, with no editing, not even for spelling or punctuation.

After receiving the questions, Malinda Chadwick dropped from the race, mentioning family illness. Incumbent Catherine Wallace and write-in candidate Craig Stowell did not return their replies by the deadline. Incumbent and current ETUSD Board President Anita Anderson sent these replies, six minutes before deadline.

Read related story: School Board Forum Hints at Topsy-Turvy ETUSD Election

Q: The school with the highest academic performance in Kern County is located within El Tejon Unified School District. But ETUSD’s other schools are underperforming. What three things are most important in making the Pine Mountain Learning Center successful? Can these qualities be used at other ETUSD schools to improve their performance?

Anita Anderson: Pine Mountain Learning Center is successful because of parent involvement in classrooms, volunteers and learning interventions. These can be utilized at all ETUSD schools.

When everyone supports student learning and achievements, students feel proud of what they have accomplished and respond in kind.

Q: Student enrollment in the ETUSD, like that in many schools throughout California, has been decreasing. From Sept. 2009 to Sept. 2010 we lost 129 students. If we had 100 of those students stay and attend school everyday, the money the district would have received is $670,000. As a school board member, what will you do to increase enrollment and improve school attendance?

Anderson: As a current trustee, I am working to improve the quality of education, that teachers have the tools to be effective, students feel education leads to success and discipline equals consistency and consequences. Parent’s and our district need to make attendance a priority, to understand when a child is not there, he is not learning effectively, everyone pays a price.

Q: If the school district’s revenues are off by up to $840,000, the negative effect of this budget would impact student education, the district and the community. As a school board member, what will you do if this situation occurs?

Anderson: I would request a board meeting with all the stakeholders to brainstorm, discuss and make a plan of action to maximize our dollars, improve our education and delivery both short and long term. A board appointed committee to ensure implementing the plan of action.

Q: How long have you served on the ETUSD board? What has been your most notable contribution to the community as a member of this board?

Anderson: I have served on the ETUSD board for 4 years. My most notable contribution was to push for accountability of the Associated Student Body funds. This led to positive changes in oversight, accounting procedures, records management.

Q: There is a perception that the school board lacks a desire to know what the public actually thinks. Have you refused to answer the community’s questions? Why? How will you improve community trust if you are elected this year?

Anderson: No, I do not believe I have refused to answer questions. The exception would be those where I am legally bound not to answer.

Meetings can be videotaped, improvements for inclusion, better communication, transparency, openness and mutual respect builds trust. The goal is to improve education, learning and use our money wisely.

Q: Bullying and threats are a concern to parents at all grade levels. The state Board of Education’s Office on School Violence said a principal has the right and the responsibility to do what is necessary to assure the school is a safe place for education. If elected, what will you do to assure parents and children that ETUSD schools are a safe place for their children to learn?

Anderson: I can assure parents that safety is a priority for me. Having volunteers in classrooms, recess and lunch can lessen threats, bullying and provide positive re-enforcements to students. Start now, start young and always sow the seeds of responsibility for words, actions and respect.

Q: Two candidates utilize school property in the course of their employment. One’s employer (a social service agency) maintains a single-person office at Frazier Park School. The other, listed as co-pastor by a church, rents Frazier Mountain High School to hold Sunday services for up to 300 people each week. While both uses are legal, it is reasonable for the public to ask if a member of the board of governors can be an effective employer when the ability to rent the school space could depend on “not rocking the boat” with key employees, such as the principal of the school or the superintendent, who are also their landlord. How can the district’s conflict of interest policy be amended to reflect this concern?

Anderson: Conflict of Interest policies often look at financial gain. A trustee must remember the oath they took to safeguard the interests of the people. Through actions trust is earned. If an activity of a board member appears incompatible to the duties of the office, the district should consult their legal counsel as to its appropriateness and an amendment made to the policy.

Q: With all the troubles facing our schools, why do you want to serve on this board and what makes you uniquely qualified to help at this time?

Anderson: Our children deserve a good quality education, this is why I want to serve. Having served 4 years, I have a greater understanding of what is needed and what it will take to help prepare them for their future.

Our challenges requires creative solutions by educators, parents, community and businesses. We must put education first and make a commitment to ensure that no child is left behind.

This is part of the October 29, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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