Their Words: Piner-Olivet Union school board candidates

Their Words: Piner-Olivet Union school board candidates

Four candidates are seeking three seats on the Piner-Olivet Union School District Governing Board. Here, in their words, are unfiltered answers to questions posed by Watch Sonoma County. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order. The symbol (I) marks an incumbent.

WILLIAM J. CAMPBELL, III (I)

Age: 52

Occupation: I have worked in the electrical industry in Sonoma County for over thirty years.

Education: Redwood Empire Electrical Training Center, Four year Electrical Apprenticeship; State of California, Completion of Electrical Apprenticeship program in 1986, Santa Rosa Junior College

Political party affiliation: I am a Democrat, but party affiliation doesn’t make a difference at the school board level. I always vote thinking “what is best for the children of our school district”.

Endorsements: None at this time

Membership in civic, professional or other organizations: Civil Air Patrol Squadron 23; Piner High School Boosters Club; Piner-Olivet School District “Governing Board Member”; Piner High School Site Council; IBEW Local 551; Forestville 4 H Leader; Pacific Coast Air Museum; Piner-Olivet Charter School Site Council.

Previous government service: Governing Board Member of the Piner-Olivet School District, 2005 to current; Sonoma County Workforce Investment Board, 2007 to 2009; Civil Air Patrol Squadron 23, 2006 to current.

Why are you running?

I am motivated to serve on the board solely for the purpose of maintaining and improving the educational system for all children. Having gone thru the school district myself and now having two children in the school district I hope to make their schools the best that it can be while remaining cost-effective. I enjoy working with complex issues, challenges and have the ability to be forward thinking.

What sets you apart from your opponents?

My involvement with the district as a parent, volunteer, and current Piner-Olivet School Governing Board member gives me a unique perspective on the importance and consequential decisions that we face in these hard financial times. I am an effective communicator with common sense and recognize the difference between governance and management. I am dedicated to give every child a real chance for a good education.

If elected, what would be your top priority on the school board?

Goal #1: “Making sure the budget is balanced”. Look for outside funding sources like Federal grants, State grants, Scholarships, Educational Foundations and ways to reduce energy costs so that the savings can be put back into the district budget.

Goal #2: “Increase public and business participation”. This would lead to greater support and involvement within the school district and could result in savings to the budget. The more people involved will only mean more ideas in these tough economical times.

Goal#3: “Support the continued growth of North West Prep, the school districts career and technical school.” This school allows students to engage in their interests, and gives them a chance to explore a career in the medical field, computer programming, construction trades, and automotive industry at an early age. I would work with the community and business to form more partnerships that will help kids get a real feel of what’s available in the career industry.

Goal #4 “Energy Savings Committee” Establishing a parent, facility and concerned citizens committee that addresses a cost saving plan for energy and green building solutions at our schools and district office. They would suggest ideas on installing a solar system, updating the heating and cooling system with a goal of becoming 90 to 95 percent energy efficient. I would also like to see them look into modernizing the lighting systems to provide sensors in the classrooms that turn off lights when no one is in the classrooms and photo cells installed on parking lights that go on at dusk and turn off at dawn. The cost savings in energy could be put back in to the budget and hopefully use these savings to restore programs that were cut like libraries, music and teachers aids.

Should Sonoma County’s 40 school districts consolidate?

Some school districts could be consolidated and run more efficiently but not all school districts fit into the same mold. Smaller districts have different needs than larger districts as do rural districts versus districts based in the city limits. Rather than consolidating all the districts together I would rather see them share and use their resources. One good example is the partnership we have with West County Transportation Agency were as multiply districts work together in their school bussing needs.

Should open transfer policies be tightened?

No, parents get one chance to give their children the education they need and if the school is that good, then the parents won’t leave, but if the school is not a good fit for their child than they should have the option to transfer to another district. Tightening the transfer policy will only create more problems and not allow parents to make the right choice for their children.

Is class size reduction worth the expense?

Yes bringing class size down in the primary grades in and of itself has positive effects on student achievement in all subject areas. In addition to across-the-board academic gains, primary grades class size reduction begin students on a path that reduces the need for special education, grade retentions or disciplinary measures and increases the likelihood of high school graduation.

Should teacher pay be linked to test scores?

Most teachers are trying their best to teach as effectively as they can. Focusing teacher pay on test scores will narrow what children learn by concentrating teachers efforts on what they think will be on the test and it will likely make more kids tune out or leave school all together. We should look at a teacher’s success on how they engage a student to be a better learner, not on how they do on a particular test, as not everyone does well on tests.

Should completion of A-G courses be required to graduate from high school?

First of all let me say that all students should have the ability to get all the educational material they need to be successful in life. However there should be room for another option like learning a trade in school as not everyone is college material. I think there is room for both paths.

How can the structure of how education is funded in California be improved?

We need to get the funding at a local level and limit the restrictions put on funding by our legislators. Our legislators put more money into the prison systems than they give to the educational system and that has to change. We need to streamline the funding system so the money goes to the school district first rather than trickle down from the State level to the County level to the district. All these layers create more ways for money to be spent on administration costs.

Sonoma County school districts have seen a drop of approximately 20 percent in funding from the state over three years. Looking back over those three years, where would you cut that 20 percent?

Having been a Governing Board Member responsible for the making cuts in the last three years I can tell you this is not an easy process. I have consulted with many parents, educators and politicians on ways to solve the budget problems only to find we are all suffering from California’s broken budget system. I always kept my focus on the educational needs of the children and making sure that we have the educators to fill those needs. Having town hall meetings and letting everyone share their ideas on what cuts to make and what to not make was a great process.

How would you add more arts and music to the regular day curriculum?

I would look for parents, community volunteers and business that can come into the classroom and share their knowledge and become mentors for our young children.

ALBERT LAU

Age: 41

Occupation: I am a Civil Engineer for CAL FIRE here in Santa Rosa. I help the Department develop its Capital Outlay Program for facility replacements. In addition, I take care of infrastructure repair and new construction.

Education: Bachelor of Science, Civil Engineering, UC Davis

Political party affiliation: NA. “Non-partisan.”

Endorsements: Piner-Olivet Classified Association (POCA), Chapter 45 of the California School Employees Association (CSEA)

Membership in civic, professional or other organizations: Structural Engineers of Northern California; California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) Safety Assessment Program.

Previous government service: This will be my first public office.

Why are you running?

I am committed to improving the education of our students by strengthening our schools and involving our community. We need to bring everyone together with the common goal of producing strong schools with excellent students.

What sets you apart from your opponents?

I will use three ideals to guide me in my decision-making:

Transparency – Our public education system is a service-oriented institution. The students are its clients; the community is its investor. The community invests its tax dollars and time in the School District to ensure the students are well educated. I will strive to ensure that everyone sees how that investment is being spent, making it a priority that there is transparency in Board decisions, increasing credibility in the School District.

Consistency – As an engineer, I research the pros and cons of a situation to come up with solutions. I will bring this approach to all the issues that the School District will face, thoughtfully listening to all sides before making a decision. Consistency in this process leads to the implementation of a common vision for our schools.

Balance – A student’s education is built on a foundation with three parts. Students themselves are ultimately responsible for their actions and decisions. Families provide the emotional support to become good citizens. Schools teach the content and the skills to learn. All three parts are equally important in order to produce educated children. The task of the School Board is to provide the best schools and staff possible, in facilities that are safe and secure. A balanced set of funding priorities is essential, especially in challenging economic times.

If elected, what would be your top priority on the school board?

My top priority would be the students. As parents of two girls in the District, my wife, Jodie, and I are actively involved in the schools of POUSD, having lived in the district for over 16 years. Together, we have volunteered for various activities such as Parent GATE Coordinator, Talent Show Director, Carnival workers, and other PTO activities. To serve students well, we must effectively use our limited funding while investigating alternative funding sources. I would also encourage staff to continue to look into innovative ways of teaching to provide the best education to our children.

Should Sonoma County’s 40 school districts consolidate?

The matter of school district consolidation should be left to the school districts themselves. I believe the Piner-Olivet Union School District (POUSD) provides a distinct alternative to the larger districts in terms of smaller community schools. Our three K-6 campuses have enrollments of 270 to 400 students. We also have Charter Schools that allow for furthering a student’s education through grades 7 to 12 in a similar close and structured environment. This allows for more intimate interaction between students, teachers, administrators and parents. If families are looking for something other than a large school district, then they have a choice that best fits their situation.

Should open transfer policies be tightened?

No, open transfer policies do not need to be tightened. Competition among the schools actually benefits the students. Students do not force the schools to do better, the competition does. When one school does well in test scores, the other schools should ask themselves, “How did they do that, and how can we learn from them as well as re-evaluating ourselves.” Only then can we improve ourselves and grow, by sharing ideas.

Is class size reduction worth the expense?

Class Size Reduction (CSR) was a program that was initiated by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996. It started as a voluntary program to help pay districts to reduce class sizes in K-3, 20 students per certified teacher. Yes. It is worth the expense. It has benefitted the students in many ways, in particular the lower grades. It allows the students to have better interaction with the teacher as well as with other students, stronger connection to a class, greater emotional stability, more self-confidence and better development of social skills. As class size grows, it becomes more difficult for teachers to reach every student.

Should teacher pay be linked to test scores?

It is better if we looked at a teacher’s overall performance, including but not limited to test scores and overall student achievement. Test scores are only a partial reflection of how well a teacher is doing. Part of education is the learning of facts and information. More importantly, education is about teaching a student how to learn, how to become a productive adult. I view a teacher as successful if that teacher has engaged a student, challenged the students to be passionate about learning and thinking, and this will generally be reflected in test scores. Factors such as socio-economic group, knowledge of English and individual student challenges are powerful determinants in testing.

Should completion of A-G courses be required to graduate from high school?

The California Education Code identifies 13 yearlong high school courses that all students must complete as well as passing the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) in order to receive a high school diploma. The A-G Coursework (Subject Requirement) identifies 15 yearlong high school courses, certified by the University of California, which must be satisfied to enroll as a freshman in an UC. No, completion of A-G courses should not be required for graduation. Not every student will go to college upon graduation from high school, but all students should have the preparation to pursue college, if they so desire, through the junior college or other avenues. A high school diploma should be the minimum education goal.

How can the structure of how education is funded in California be improved?

Currently, the system is complex, developed over time for various reasons, which may or may not be appropriate now. We are in a fiscal situation that requires economy of expenditures, clear prioritizing of educational programs and creative searching for alternative funding sources.

Sonoma County school districts have seen a drop of approximately 20 percent in funding from the state over three years. Looking back over those three years, where would you cut that 20 percent?

POUSD has been severely impacted by the lost of funding. The District has made the hard decision of closing a school (Piner Elementary) as well as reducing staff through attrition and lay-offs. Funding of the music program and GATE ceased. I agree with these cuts only in light of the fiscal situation. But now, POUSD is cut to the bone and we cannot go any further.

More importantly, what does the next three years look like? I believe that the District is at the start of a reboot of sorts. We have a new Superintendent, teachers in new positions and campuses, and a new outlook. We now need to become a leaner system, doing more with less. We have to find other funding sources. We will find ways to innovate the way we teach by looking to other schools that have become successful in similar situations.

The community has to engage to help our educational system remain sustainable. We are talking about more than money; we are talking about time and effort. A strong school district is an indication of an involved community.

How would you add more arts and music to the regular day curriculum?

The Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) measures academic progress in English-language arts, mathematics, science, and history-social science. It does not measure creativity. Arts and music stimulate the brain and complement the learning process. Music is directly related to mathematics. Reading, writing, painting and creating is tightly linked to English and history. You cannot learn without encompassing the use of both linear and creative sides of the brain.

In talking to teachers, administrators and parents in the district, I have noticed that every one of them had differing interests that went beyond the required subject matters. Some teachers had a love of painting, others had expertise in ancient civilizations, and still others for jazz. The passion to share those interests and the passion to teach are powerful tools to engage students. I would encourage the staff and parents to work together to find ways to incorporate the arts. There are ways of working as teaching teams or carving sections of time within the school week to be creative. With arts, music and creative outlets, we augment all learning and create new paradigms of thought.

CINDY PRYOR (I)

Age: 37

Occupation: I am a Freelance Bookkeeper for wineries and vineyard management companies. In addition, I do my husband’s books for our cabinet business.

Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Emphasis in Accounting Also; currently completing CPA certification.

Political party affiliation: Republican

Endorsements: NA

Membership in civic, professional or other organizations: Nor-Cal Boat and Ski Club

Previous government service: Current POUSD School Board Member since March 2010 (appointed incumbent)

Why are you running?

My interest in performing this position is of a purely pragmatic and positive nature; I have no interest in Politics or becoming a Politician of any sort. I feel that I have the necessary skills and the time and energy to contribute to the school board and as such feel compelled to lend my service and dedication to a worthy cause—the improvement and preservation of my daughter’s educational experience and of every child’s in the district.

What sets you apart from your opponents?

Four criterions that I adhere to:

Responsibility – As we teach our children to be responsible students and citizens, we need to remind ourselves to be responsible when considering future implications of runaway ideals and overzealous program spending. We need to be responsible for the decisions we make, if they worked—how can we make them even better, if they didn’t work—how can we change direction. One such example: a point of contention in my household, Bond L—I differ from my husband’s position because I believe personal responsibility should dictate that we should want to improve our schools and their structures in this district because it’s obviously better for our students but it also directly impacts our property values. A perception of poor, decaying schools will make this a less desirable place to live.

Accountability—As we hold our teachers to tough standards—visa vie STAR tests and other tests, we should remember to hold ourselves to high standards at home and in the community. By providing a solid, healthy base at home accompanied by a cohesive dedication from our community members, we can send our children off to school with the best support and the best tools possible. I will work diligently to ensure that we are considering our entire community when we make decisions; our students, our teachers, staff, parents and our community members.

Dedication—Since the day my daughter Amanda entered kindergarten over 6 years ago, I have dedicated my time and skills to the parent group, Schaefer Families and to the district parent group, POEF (Piner Olivet Educational Foudation). As POEF Treasurer for 5 years I managed over $60,000 in funds that I helped raise, including: $20,000 from our Carnival Fundraiser, $10,000 from our Pledge Drive, and $16,000 from SuperWalk. As Schaefer Families’ Treasurer (06-08) I helped manage $50,000 in funds raised by the group and its fundraisers. I would take the same level of dedication I had with these organizations and bring it to a higher level while serving on the School Board. While on the Board I will remain dedicated to serving the parents and their fundraising groups; a key component to the District’s success. I am in favor of a matching program, for example: if a parent groups nets $5,000 in its Harvest Fair fundraiser, I would like to see the District match those proceeds if it’s allocated to one of our focuses:Technology, Music, Library.

Work Ethic— I believe that you have to put your money where your mouth is. I am willing to throw myself, my time, my skills and my heart into a good cause, especially if I think I can make a difference. I have served on the School Board for nearly seven months and I can tell you that it requires a certain amount of work and “doing”, that is: being present, not just accounted for, and actually performing a function—in other words, really showing up. As an Accountant, I understand and appreciate numbers. As a parent, and a human being, I understand the people behind the numbers—-and, they are the children!

If elected, what would be your top priority on the school board?

My top priority will be dedicating myself and my time to serving on a responsible and accountable School Board. I will work diligently to preserve and improve our current successes, while working to come up with new solutions to the challenges we face in light of the recent budget constraints. As an Accountant, I feel that it is important to not get away from ourselves and spend ourselves out—I will stand alone, if I have to, to advocate socking away funds into a savings account or some kind of high-yielding interest account—that’ll allow us a cushion so that we can better plan for the future and its possibilities, as well as, its uncertainties. My top priority is to bring my responsible, accountable, good work ethic to the job of School Board Member so that I can help preserve Piner Olivet School District’s unique and sustainable community—one that my family and I, including our 11 year-old daughter Amanda, feel apart of and embraced by.

Should Sonoma County’s 40 school districts consolidate?

This is a yes and no answer for me. I reluctantly say yes, if the Board and I can’t effect the necessary due diligence to keep the District running in a fiscally responsible manner, then of course, it would be better to draw from the greater resources that a larger district could offer. At the end of the day, the quality of our children’s education out weighs anything else. However, No, I don’t want to lose Piner Olivet’s unique sense of community and country-style schools, and I will work with every fiber of my being to not let it give way to urban sprawl. This is why I believe that planning for the future now, being innovative if we have to (by way of Solar) and being responsible and accountable is so important.

Should open transfer policies be tightened?

For a moment we must think like a business: once the students in our district graduate on, there isn’t a direct replacement for the numbers lost. We need students, and, we need our schools to be competitive, so that the students that we’re trying to serve IN our District can receive a top-notch education

Is class size reduction worth the expense?

This is an issue close to my heart. My daughter Amanda is a bright student, but she struggles in certain subjects, and the progress she makes can be directly correlated to the special one-on-one assistance she receives from her teachers. I also strongly believe that learning is facilitated by a strong and nurturing bond with one’s teacher. So, yes, building a solid, positive learning environment, building strong bonds, and helping students become more confident in them selves, IS worth the expense!

Should teacher pay be linked to test scores?

I am not a big proponent of the over emphasis on test scores in general. As a parent of a child who is not the best test taker—this method of almost forcing the teacher to teach to the test, is not something I can appreciate. I’m a strong believer that children learn at different rates, in different ways, and fostering a more holistic approach to learning can be beneficial to all students. It goes without saying that teachers need to be held to a high standard—after all they’re being entrusted with our children’s future—in part that is–Here again, I go back to responsibility. If we are fair, we must expect responsibility and commitment from ourselves as parents—to provide a good base, a good home life to adequately support our children’s success in school, as well as to be personally involved in their schools and their school work. As a community, we need to help facilitate positive learning environs, and we need to remember that it’s also for the betterment of our community as a whole. In short, performance based incentives might be good for sales people, but not for teachers and schools, who are handling our precious children’s learning aptitudes.

Should completion of A-G courses be required to graduate from high school?

Talk about burnout. We’re forcing our kids to do more, to do it faster and better—hurry up and grow up. They’re not machines, they’re children. At this rate we may force them right out of the love of learning. No, completion of A-G courses should not be compulsory for graduation. Not every student is geared for a purely academic track; some will pursue higher education in the form of a 4-year university, others will need to gain more maturity and life experience before being ready for such a commitment, others will pursue artistic or business aims or other trades. A high school diploma is a rite of passage and a first start toward higher education, but should not obstruct a young adult’s future possibilities.

How can the structure of how education is funded in California be improved?

First of all, making it a priority would be a start. Achieving that could require a very complex change and almost radicalization of our current structure and might mean that we won’t please all the stakeholders. Creating Charter schools that appropriately address the needs of each demographic and perhaps involve businesses and trades to invest in their particular industry could be one of many innovative plans to help public schools be sustainable. We know that California lags behind most of the nation. It’s embarrassing for such a progressive place.

Sonoma County school districts have seen a drop of approximately 20 percent in funding from the state over three years. Looking back over those three years, where would you cut that 20 percent?

There isn’t much more to cut. I think the question should be what can we do that might be innovative and new to forge ahead, to mitigate our current circumstances, and to improve how we use the allocated funds. It isn’t just that we need more; we need to better manage what we have. POUSD is currently looking at alternative methods in creating resources (like Solar and improving our schools’ buildings) that will ultimately help us maintain and refocus those same resources. In other words, we’re improving our resources by effectively using the ones that we already have.

How would you add more arts and music to the regular day curriculum?

We experienced a huge loss when music and arts were cut from our school’s curriculum—our daughter Amanda was in band, playing the Drums under Mr. Harris’ direction and she was avidly involved in art and drawing. It’s my hope that as the health and vigor of our State’s economy improves, that these programs will be restored to their previous state or to an even better one. In the interim, I am in favor of allowing the teachers the resources and time to bring their own personal talents in music and art to the classroom to share with our students. Also; this can be achieved by allowing parent and community volunteers the access to our classrooms to bring and share their experiences and appreciation of art and music.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.