Personality over policy the focus of school board race
Will a larger slate bring out more voters in the race to fill two seats on the Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Education?
Members of parent-teacher organizations throughout the district say they hope so.
In November of 1993, of the 13,750 eligible voters in the last school board race for two seats, only 4,510 – or 32.7 percent – turned out at the polls, election officials said.
With seven potential newcomers joining incumbent Valerie Rudd in the race, at least one new face will bring his or her ideas into the board room this year. Interestingly, most parent leaders in the schools say they are unable to identify any definite favorites.
“Everybody seems to like different people – I can’t get a consensus,” said South Tahoe Middle School Parent-Teacher Association President Betty Stone. “People seem to go with who they know and trust – I haven’t the slightest idea how this election will come out.”
“With a large slate, the vote could be split in a variety of ways,” said Judy Dupuy, president of Al Tahoe Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Organization. “Although some say this is a time for change, many aren’t exactly sure what that is.”
Because most of the issues raised at two recent forums are ones that have been visited by the board in the past, people will tend to vote for candidates who are willing to commit themselves to “fighting for programs and policies that benefit kids,” said Jo Jo Conroy, president of Bijou School’s PTA. “There are a lot of good, well-qualified people running – parents are looking for somebody who is going to make the position a primary motivating force in their life, not just another hat,” Conroy said.
Al Tahoe PTA President Lisa Kern agrees.
“It’s been hard for parents with smaller kids to attend the forums – people just aren’t talking a lot about the race,” Kern said. “I think it’s more of a personal thing – they all seem to have a shot at it. We have a good mix of people to choose from.”
An increased need in parental involvement and better communication with board members and administrators are key issues among Sierra House parents, said PTO President Lauren Thomaselli, along with the introduction of special programs that reach out to the growing Spanish-speaking population.
As the only Latino in the race, Manuel Jimenez says he feels he “represents the growing diversity in the community.”
All candidates say they see a need for further research and evaluation of bilingual programs, raise test scores and increase parental involvement. Most parents said no single issue is a deciding factor – other than a strong commitment to the board.
Stacy Romagnolo sees funding for special education as being the “No. 1 issue facing the district.”
For Debi Hamel, an increase in communication between middle school and high school counselors and teachers regarding students with learning disabilities is a top priority.
While incumbent Valerie Rudd sees room for improvement, she is happy with current policies, yet wants to continue to focus on meeting academic needs for all students.
Vikki Seelig says she would like to ensure that all elementary students are receiving an equal education.
Although all candidates advocate “fair wages” for teachers, Jon Helman says there is a need for binding arbitration.
Wendy David says a top priority is promoting better communication between the board and the community.
Diane McMillan says increased parental involvement is the missing link, and advocates introducing a second language to all elementary school students.
While some parents say they have not kept up with educational issues because they are happy with district policies, others simply say they are too busy, and that many issues are complex.
“It’s difficult for people to choose if they’re not aware of how things are funded and how things work, like teacher salaries and class size reduction,” said South Tahoe High School parent Bernadette Santana. “I hope more candidates means more people will vote.”
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