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Fallbrook High board candidates respond

Rick Monroe

Special to the Village News

Two new board members of the Fallbrook Union High School District will be decided by voters in their geographic area in the Nov. 8 election. There are no incumbents seeking re-election.

In Area 1, Courtney Hilborn, a parent, and Jim Dooley, a retired engineer, are seeking to represent the district.

Area 3 candidates are Paul Christiansen, a fire department captain, and Karen Weisberger, a retired science teacher. Jennifer Sexton, parent, announced last week that she is dropping out of the race and supporting Weisberger. However, Sexton’s name will still appear on the ballot.

The four candidates answered questions by email last week about their qualifications, goals and on topics including Covid-19. The candidates for Area 2 will be presented first:

“I chose to run for Fallbrook High School Board because I have been a member of this community for over 10 years and believe I can bring a voice to advocate for our parents and children,” Hilborn said. “I am a parent of two children, ages 8 and 10, a military spouse, and volunteer on many of the school PTA boards. I am involved with military-based nonprofits and approach decisions with a broad perspective and objectivity.”

“I am a retired engineer, last employed with Callaway Golf as a senior R&D engineer in Carlsbad,” Christiansen said. “A current board member mentioned there were not many candidates at that point, and suggested I consider filing. I thought about it, and decided I have the experience, the time, and the interest to contribute if I am elected.”

Asked about their passion for budget, curriculum, etc., Hilborn responded, “My children attend school here in Fallbrook and I want to work for a more cooperative environment within the high school board and with the elementary school board. I am passionate about helping my community. I am all about the kids and working with parents to understand their experiences.”

“My goals would be to provide a good learning environment for students, a good place to work for teachers and staff, and to make the school a source of pride for the community,” Dooley said.

Asked what they would do differently:

“I will work to get the parents more involved,” Hilborn said. “Offer direct support and contact for our military families.

“I attended back to school night recently and was favorably impressed by the teachers and the program I saw,” Dooley said. “I think I might be able to provide some insight to facility plans and needs.”

Asked if they believed they are accountable to the superintendent and the administration or the community, they replied:

“The community who elected me,” Hilborn said.

“Board members should listen to input from the community and discuss at open meetings with other board members’ input that is important,” Dooley said. “If there is board consensus, any directives should be addressed to the superintendent.”

Asked how they you make curriculum more transparent:

“The community needs to be made aware of when and how the curriculum review process takes place,” Hilborn said.

“My experience as a host parent to multiple exchange students at Fallbrook High, as well as liaison to many others, is that school administration, counselors, and teachers are very receptive to meeting student needs,” Dooley said. “My role as a board member would be to help parents understand the process, but not to intervene personally.”

Thoughts on balancing the budget and keeping spending cuts away from the classroom:

“We need to not only be proactive in anticipating funding changes, but also look realistically at the salaries of district staff,” Hilborn said.

“I have experience preparing and living within budgets,” Dooley said. “It is always a matter of balancing the essential needs with the available resources. There is no one answer.”

The two were asked if they would consider negotiating for funds with strings attached before signing or having the school sued for conflict of interest (Example: ESSR funds tied to enforcing mask and vaccine mandates or to teach CRT.)

“Absolutely not,” Hilborn replied. “Impartial education of our children cannot come with strings.”

“Negotiating a hypothetical is bad negotiating,” agreed Dooley.

Understanding how closing the schools negatively impacted students, both emotionally and academically, the candidates were asked if they would vote to do something differently next time regarding mask and vaccine mandates, given the state’s position.

“I believe everyone should have the right to choose what is best for them and their family,” Hilborn said.

“I do believe schools must adhere to state requirements,” Dooley said. “Beyond that, policies should be those with the expected best results or outcome.”

Asked about introducing a year of study on the Constitution:

“Knowing the history of our country is essential to preserving the ideals it was founded on,” Hilborn said. “We need to teach kids how to vote, not what to vote for.”

“I took a civics class as a freshman and thought it was helpful,” Dooley said. “Fallbrook High does have a year of U.S. history. I don’t know how much study is spent on the Constitution but think that is important, although not for a full year. Also, the importance of voting as a citizen should be emphasized.”

Ethnic Studies must be offered but are not yet a graduation requirement. The candidates were asked their thoughts:

“Ethics Studies should not be a required class,” Hilborn said. “Like other electives, students can choose to learn about topics that they are interested in.”

“My understanding is that it must be incorporated into the curriculum, but I am not familiar with the specific requirements,” Dooley replied.

Candidates Christiansen and Weisberger were asked the same questions in their Area 3 race.

“Being born and raised in Fallbrook, attending Fallbrook schools from kindergarten through graduating from Fallbrook High School and currently raising my own family as a longtime resident, I have a long history and admiration for our small community,” Christiansen said.

He added that a majority of his family and his wife’s family reside in Fallbrook, and they attend North Coast Church in Fallbrook – playing active roles within small groups and youth groups.

“My parents, Bob and Patty Christensen, lived and worked in town for many years, my father as a fifth grade teacher for 35 years and my mother for 16 years at Fallbrook High School,” the candidate added. “I have been enveloped by the school system, the educators, the administrations and students as far back as I can remember. Education on some level is in my family and I found myself desiring to provide a voice to the community I cherish.”

“I’m married and have two children,” Weisberger said. “My adult daughter is married to a Marine and my son is a freshman at Fallbrook High. I’ve been a teacher for over 30 years, from kindergarten through adult school. Most of my time has been as a middle school science teacher.

She said she is currently semi-retired and working as a special education paraprofessional at Live Oak Elementary School.

“I’ve also served in the past as a faculty representative on a school board.” Weisberger added. “I have no past political experience.”

Why run?

“Having a seat on the Fallbrook High School Board will give me the opportunity to give feedback and direction to those in my district that otherwise have felt left out, concerned and voiceless for changes that they hope for in the educational system,” Christiansen said. “These changes may affect each person differently in different stages of life, however, as a community, the development of our children has a greater impact regardless of demographic or social standing and will influence every aspect of our daily life both now and in the future.”

He also cited a vested interest for the success and development of Fallbrook High School because over the next few years, his own children will begin attending Fallbrook High.

“My hope and desire will be to continue to support the progress and success our high school has achieved in its rich history, and I am excited about the direction it is headed,” Christiansen added.

Weisberger had a shorter answer: “As a parent of a current FHS student and a professional educator, I am running for a seat on the board to represent Area 3 residents' concerns and to improve the school board’s decision making process.”

Asked about a school board passion such as budget or curriculum, they responded:

“My focus will be on the community engagement as parents, students and loved ones and preparing students for their futures,” Christiansen said. “I want each student to be served in the best capacity based on their individual needs.”

“I am most passionate about prioritizing classroom instruction in the school’s budget,” Weisberger said.

How will each make curriculum more transparent?

“Curriculum should be open to the students, parents and staff alike,” Christiansen said. “Having a select few review specific ideas or directions is one of the reasons society has been driven to attend other schools.”

“The curriculum should have open and honest ideas that fit individual needs and family values that affect them while allowing a choice for every family,” he added.

“Students currently receive a course syllabus for most classes,” Weisberger said. “I will encourage administration to post course outlines at the school’s website.”

Balancing the budget and keeping spending cuts away from the classroom was important to each:

“We need to stop asking for classrooms to suffer and identifying the greater needs over wants,” Christiansen said. “Supporting teachers, supplying the classrooms and excelling the long term needs of the students should be the focus for a community to grow in a positive way.”

“Budget decisions should always be made with classroom instruction as the priority.” Weisberger said.

The candidates were asked if they would consider negotiating for funds with strings attached before signing or having the school sued for conflict of interest (Example: ESSR funds tied to enforcing mask and vaccine mandates or to teach CRT.)

“As a board member, I represent the overall community within my district,” Christiansen said. “Decisions are not based on my belief but as a community. Being tied to something with strings attached is a difficult but familiar point of interest. The community has a right to know what and how things are being taught or enforced on their own children. I believe whatever the funds are being negotiated for, there should always be a choice for families.”

“Careful scrutiny must be applied whenever funds are offered with additional requirements and when appropriate, additional negotiation should be applied,” Weisberger said.

Understanding how closing the schools negatively impacted students, both emotionally and academically, how would you handle or what would you do differently regarding mask and vaccine mandates, given the state’s position?

“The one size fits all method has rarely worked throughout history. Parental choices, family values, and listening to the voices of the community is the path to success. Mandating a vaccine on any level, requiring masks for every student or removing kids from classrooms for lack of testing or potential exposure is an abuse of individual rights,” Christiansen said.

“There is no answer that identifies what is best for every community or isolated school district within the state,” he added. “As a community, we know what is best for our schools, what is best for our students and the approach that blankets the entire state will not necessarily be what is best for Fallbrook. Government by force is not government at all. All the above items can still be completed with choice. Choose to be vaccinated. Choose to wear a mask. Choose to attend school or stay at home. Make the choice that is best for each individual and support each other in their choices.”

“Every public health emergency requires careful consideration,” Weisberger said. “I wore a mask and a face shield at times to teach my students. It wasn’t easy but I will wear my mask again should the medical community deem it necessary.”

Their thoughts about Ethnic Studies in High School, something that has to be offered but is not yet a graduation requirement:

“As the requirements continue to evolve for graduating students, questions continue to come up from all school districts regarding the direction and purpose of these programs,” Christiansen said. “As a father, I want to know the choices moving forward that expose my kids to ideas, beliefs or thought processes that do not reflect the values or images of our own family. Each family should be able to make the educated decision with knowledge and understanding of what it is that is being pushed by the state or supported by the school.”

He said that if a topic is being forced to graduate, there needs to be alternative studies and coursework for the family or student that chooses to not expose themselves to these ideas without the fear of holding their graduation as a consequence.

“It will depend on how the Ethnic Studies course is set up,” Weisberger said. “It could promote cross cultural understanding or cultural division.”

Note: Most of the answers submitted were used, but some were shortened because of space limitations.


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