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Vallecitos, Bonsall school districts move smoothly through election process

Vallecitos School District

No candidates filed for the two empty seats on the Vallecitos School District Board of Trustees. The process of choosing two new board members is underway.

According to Dr. Paul Cartas, superintendent of Vallecitos School District, this type of situation has occurred in the past.

“We have sent out notices within the school and community advertising that there are two vacant positions on the board that we intend to appoint,” he said.

In the past, Cartas said this type of public announcement has generated candidate interest. The Vallecitos School District board is comprised of five members, each of whom serves a four-year term.

At its October 14 board meeting, current members of the board will interview the candidates, explained Cartas.

“Board members will ask candidates any questions that they may have,” he added.

That very same evening, it is expected that two of the applicants will be appointed and will be sworn in at their organizational meeting in December.

Cartas believes that, at times, a lack of candidates can be due to a small community and the population of residents.

“It really does vary from year to year,” he stated, “and sometimes it goes the other way where there are more applicants than there are positions available.”

Despite the process they must undergo, Cartas said he is confident the two seats will be filled by excellent future members.

“We have been really fortunate in having outstanding board members who are highly qualified and well-educated,” he said.

Bonsall Union School District

This year, the Bonsall Union School District Board of Trustees will have two open seats. They will once again be occupied by incumbents Richard Olson and Dr. Sylvia “Grandma” Tucker.

Olson and Tucker were the only candidates who filed, eliminating the need for an election. They were both willing to respond to the following questions.

Please provide your full name, occupation and/or retired occupation.

Richard A. Olson: Business owner, incumbent board member.

Dr. Sylvia Tucker: Retired teacher, administrator, counselor, professor and dean. “Currently, I am working as provost of a new online university and am finishing a book on education.”

How many years have you lived in the area?

Olson: “Lived in the same house since 1977.”

Tucker: “I have been a resident of Bonsall for 26 years and a property owner for 32 years.”

How do you feel you could be of benefit on this board?

Olson: “I have served on the Bonsall school board continuously the longest of any board member. This serves the community well because I know where all the skeletons are buried. The district is in exceptionally good shape and with the recent addition of our new superintendent, Justin Cunningham, we are poised to provide an even better educational vehicle for all of our students.”

Tucker: “I have had the pleasure and privilege to serve on the board for 12 years. I look forward to serving four more. I feel now as I did when I ran the first time: that my varied and long experience in all facets of education would be of value to the district. I hope to remain part of that potential for change. I can see issues from all sides.”

How can the district achieve higher test scores in the student body?

Olson: “I definitely think that teachers should be accountable to improve the average test scores in their classes. This does not mean that the teacher alone should be held accountable; the parents bear just as much responsibility. If they are not totally involved with the actions of their children, including homework assignments, dress codes, good eating habits and sufficient sleep, it is totally unfair to hold the teacher responsible for the results of an under-fed, under-rested, under-prepared student.”

Tucker: “Bonsall is achieving higher test scores in most instances. We continue to work to improve the learning environment for students and teachers. The people in the community have been terrific when we have asked for help. Our district is fortunate to have new facilities that have allowed us to use technology to the best advantage for learners. We have added various programs that help teachers, learners and parents to target learning concerns. Test scores are disaggregated to find the areas in each discipline in which students excel and those which need attention. The data available is amazing.”

Despite the national and local economy, and state of the district’s budget, in any given year, should union workers (teachers and classified staff) be given raises? Why?

Olson: “Teachers have the same bills to pay that the rest of us do. The cost of living increase affects them the same as it does everyone else. Yes, teachers deserve raises, not because they are union members but because they are valued employees.”

Tucker: “Teachers must be held accountable for the learning environments in their classrooms. They are like transmission towers; what they send out, they get back. As a teacher, I felt responsible for what happened in my space. Yes, I think teachers need to be held responsible for creating an environment where higher test scores are the result. They must be willing to do whatever it takes to do the job.”

What are the top two issues you think need to be addressed immediately?

Olson: “The busing situation is a major issue. Busing is one of the few services that has yet to be classified as mandatory. The state budget, what there is of it, specifies that a certain amount of the budget is designated for the transportation of students. We only have so much in the general budget that goes toward paying all the bills of the district.

The board did the right thing in reducing the transportation system to meet the amount of money in the budget. The alternative was to eliminate sports, music and lay off teachers. The board took the stand that it was going to do everything that it could to keep cuts away from the classroom and the students. As more money becomes available, if that happens, the issue of bussing will be at the forefront of discussions to improve and increase.

“The second issue, as I see it, is the continued drive to increase student scores. This does not mean to ‘teach to the test’ but to really provide the class information in a format that makes sure the students not only learn but that they want to learn.”

Tucker: “Current budget issues make it imperative that all stakeholders are on the same page – that resources are used to accomplish the vision and goals of the district. In other words, all efforts need to be aligned. This requires that all decisions made are directed to accomplish this vision and goals. Teacher in-service, board policy decisions, practices, curriculum, administrative decisions, staff work, lunch menus, technology use, busing or any other matter must be considered relative to the district goals.

“Recently I found a campaign flyer from when I ran for the office of State Superintendent 38 years ago. Sadly, all of the things that I said then, I could say again. Change is not easy. It is very difficult in monopolistic situations because change is not necessary for continued existence. The public school is a virtual monopoly through forced attendance and government funding. I believe this is the basis for so many of our concerns.

“Where there is choice, change occurs naturally. Where there is no choice, change is nonexistent or forced. Therefore, I think it is very important to think about how we might give choices to our constituents – our parents and learners. Currently, only those who can afford it have choices of private or parochial schools. Parents and community members need to understand there are alternatives.

“I believe choice would provide more improvement more quickly than anything else. I say this after 60-plus years in education, working for improvement and excellence. The greatest changes that I have seen have occurred when constituents made choices that forced change.

“One of the choices parents in our district need is our own high school. We can accomplish this at present. We can make our current schools K-8. This would allow us to use Sullivan Middle School facilities for our high school until unification occurs or we outgrow these facilities.”

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