Four in race for school board | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Four in race for school board

William Ferchland

A motley group of four will be vying for two seats on the Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Education as it heads into the 2005-06 school year with high expectations.

On Nov. 8, voters will decide on two of the candidates: Incumbent Wendy David, retired prosecutor Rolf Hermann Mayer, retired teacher John Nemes and education consultant Angela Swanson.

The district is attempting to rebound from last year’s closure of two elementary schools and the elimination of teacher jobs and class-size reduction.

Since the cuts, the program that maintains small class sizes at the lower grades has returned. A magnet school at the former Meyers site is getting set to open, and many teachers who were once laid off have since been hired back. New programs to raise money and aid parents have been introduced.

Still, the candidates have different areas of focus that they believe will make them ideal choices and improve the district.

Incumbent embraces future

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David, 56, is seeking her third term on a board she is now president of, a title she has held for five of the eight years. She feels the district is on an upswing, citing the hiring of James Tarwater as a reason.

David is the longest-serving member on the board. She is the case manager for Court Appointed Special Advocates, an organization that pairs adult mentors with children and teenagers going through the court system.

“I am running because I really feel this is a critical time for the school district and that my experience and leadership are critical to the school district as we go through a lot of changes,” she said.

Improving academic scores is one area David said she’d like to concentrate on, as well as maintaining programs and luring students back into the declining-enrollment district.

She cited the expanded alternative education program at the high-school level as an example of a valuable program.

“I’m looking forward to the next four years, if elected,” she said. “I can see some really great things on the horizon and want to be a part of that.”

Attorney with ‘great earnest’

Citing the need to keep the assistant superintendent position vacant and restoring the perception of credibility to the board, Rolf Hermann Mayer is throwing his hat back into the proverbial ring.

Mayer ran for a board seat in the November 2003 election, receiving 9 percent of the vote among a candidate pool of six for three board seats. Undeterred, Mayer, a 72-year-old retired Southern California prosecutor, said his campaign statements that schools would close and the district was administratively top-heavy were correct.

Summer job offers in Southern California left the district without a chief financial officer and assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. The board is weighing a staff reorganization.

“I want there to be an absolute voice that there not be an assistant superintendent,” Mayer said, adding, “Everything I advocated last time has come true and I think the voters might recognize what I have to say.”

Money should be directed toward teachers and students, he said, and long-range planning should be utilized by the board.

Mayer said he’ll run “with great earnest on my part and insufficient angst on behalf of the electorate.”

Retired teacher has lesson plan

John Nemes, a retired teacher with more than 30 years in the classroom, has a laundry list of improvements, and questions, for the district.

He questions the hiring of Tarwater. He believes the quality of academics have declined in the district, which he says is lacking discipline for its students.

Rotating principals back into the classroom to teach for a year is an idea of Nemes. Outsourcing the chief financial position to the El Dorado County Office of Education, transportation to the city and other district duties are other ideas.

Another idea is to send sixth-graders back to the elementary level, seventh- and eighth-graders to the high school, and to lease the property used by South Tahoe Middle School.

“That’s really a large parcel of property,” said Nemes, 60. “It has to be worth millions of dollars and just think if we leased it.”

Nemes has been a kindergarten and first-grade teacher. He was last at Tahoe Valley Elementary. He also taught at Sierra Nevada College.

“I think a new voice with some goals and directions can change hasty decisions,” he said.

Nemes initially worked on the district’s plan to reopen Meyers Elementary as a charter school. He believes administration was wrong in the process of reopening the school as an environmental magnet school and should have surveyed teachers and parents for what they wanted.

Consultant’s belief is restored

As an education planning consultant for a Sacramento company, Angela Swanson is plenty familiar with California highways.

Swanson, 44, has worked on many, if not all, the district’s superintendent subcommittees and focus groups since fall 2003.

Swanson said she decided to run “because the board is the final line where you make final decisions and because I do bring unique qualifications to the board.”

Since she believes in the direction the board and superintendent are taking the district, she reenrolled her daughter in the public school system from St. Theresa Catholic School.

Swanson said she wants to keep the community involved in planning and decisions.

“Because I work with school districts as large as Los Angeles Unified and down to a school district of 300 students, I have a great grasp and understanding of the challenges that districts face that are very similar and different from ours,” she said.

Swanson believes her working knowledge of school finance, education legislation and the common pitfalls of districts will benefit Lake Tahoe Unified School District.

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