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By The Capistrano Dispatch

In the first installment of our question-and-answer series with San Jan Capistrano’s CUSD candidates, we asked the candidates:

Given the financial constraints the Capistrano Unified School District is operating under, difficult decisions will have to be made that will likely find some level of criticism, even if the board feels they serve an overall benefit. When it comes to the decision-making process, should board members base their decisions off what a majority of their constituent’s want or what they feel is best, even if it’s contrary to public opinion? What sort of ideas or changes would you bring to the table?

Here are the candidates’ responses in the order in which their names will appear on the November ballot:

TRUSTEE AREA 1

Karin Schnell
Community Volunteer

California’s fiscal crisis impacts the school districts directly. Shortening the school year, furloughs, eliminating teaching positions, and increasing class size are a means to balance the district’s budget, but these are only temporary solutions. It is the board’s fiduciary responsibility to maintain fiscal solvency for the current and subsequent fiscal years.

All CUSD board members will have to make tough decisions mid-year depending on the outcome of the Governor’s November 2012 tax initiative. The district already has a contingency plan in place. It is important to empower local school officials to determine the best use of scarce resources.

We need board members who put politics, factions, and special interests aside to work together for the best educational system for our children. It is important as a board member to ask questions regarding all aspects of an issue and to listen to all sides as an independent thinker. Additionally, it is essential to encourage more informed involvement of parents and community members in local school financial matters.

Districts are only allowed to augment their state funding by private donations, interest income, lease income and parcel taxes (which require two-thirds voter approval). The board needs to explore new avenues of funding and strategic partnerships to fill the gaps. It is time to make local funding options a part of the solution and I am committed to making that a priority.

Amy Hanacek
Small Business Owner

School Board Trustees are elected to ensure that a quality education is provided to every student. A Trustee cannot depend on any single decision-making process. The first priority will consistently be what is best for the students and their academic success, and what will keep this district focused on learning and achievement for all students. A core objective is creating the best learning environment while maintaining the highest quality instruction to help students reach their full potential. Decisions should be “forward focused” with emphasis on college and career readiness for all students, while offering the broadest range of academic opportunities possible. Community leadership on educational issues should remain a high priority, and advocacy on behalf of students and public education should be provided at the local, state and federal levels.

TRUSTEE AREA 2

Michele Taylor-Bible
Community Volunteer

The financial restraints are what they are. No matter what, whether the majority or minority, no one is going to be happy. It does not matter what department; music, art, language, maintenance, admin, etc. is first to go. The only constituents that really matter are the students. Not every student learns the same. To think about cutting from one area over another is not the answer. Every aspect of education is vital to the success of every student in CUSD and then some. We as a country are failing our children to be competitive on a global level. We need to get creative with the budget we have and be resourceful with the local community and business leaders, to get outside funding. I also want to take back local control when it comes to our financial situation. I would like to move away from depending on Sacramento to fund our schools and instead look to our local communities. This would include working with the county government to come up with unique ways to increase funding for all schools in Orange County. Let’s remember that Orange County is the French Riviera of the US—tourists from all over the world visit our county—perhaps we could tax tourists—and that money could go toward all the schools in Orange County. Also, I would like to work more closely with our local legislators to change our “low-wealth” status. We need to update the formulas—which were decided upon in the 70s—that calculate how much funding we receive per pupil. Our district receives less than other school districts in the county. I also would like to explore the parcel tax idea and I would definitely get behind Prop 38 and support its passage. Prop 38 brings back local control to parents, teachers and community members.

Carol L. McCormick
Community Volunteer

My years of experience as a board member of various organizations has taught me that it is best that all decisions and actions be grounded in the organization’s mission. The mission of Capistrano Unified is to educate students. All decisions made by this school board must be focused on providing a supportive educational environment in which all students are challenged with the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Our students will be introduced to new academic standards and achievement tests in the next few years. Our district needs to provide appropriate support to our classrooms for our students to succeed. This includes providing the necessary technology for students and teachers at all school facilities. This new technology must support innovative instruction, student learning and information reporting to parents. Community partnerships will be crucial to the district’s ability to support the implementation of these rigorous standards.

The current fiscal climate challenges school boards to critically examine district policies and spending practices to maximize the resources that we get from Sacramento. I will diligently work to insure that all practices consistently maintain the focus on creating and supporting the best possible learning environments for all of our students in all of our communities. When faced with the magnitude of the budget shortfalls, hard decisions have to be made. The input of stakeholders is important, but board members must be guided by what is best for students.

Don Franklin Richardson
Public School Teacher

A statesman always makes a decision based on what’s best. My grandmothers were both teachers and lived through the Depression of 1929. Our current economic situation is so reminiscent of that extremely hard time. Why would someone want to seek a position on a school board in such a hard time? Love of students.

Jim Reardon
Business Owner/Engineer

A board member’s highest responsibility is to preserve and enhance the education provided to our students. In difficult financial times, adults face difficult choices. These choices must be made in the context of negotiations with our labor organizations, primarily with the teacher’s union. The outcome of these negotiations will determine what is offered to students. As a board member, I will seek to build public consensus about the choices to be made in negotiation—before the negotiations begin. I will keep the interest of students ahead of other considerations during the negotiations. I will publicly explain all the decisions made in negotiations.

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