Rancho Santa Fe school board race heats up

Stakes are high in the Rancho Santa Fe School Board race.Five people are running for three spots.This is the first time in several years that voters can have their say, because over the years, a number of the spots on the board were appointed when an elected member left mid-term. The major issue, of course, is how to maintain programs with ever-shrinking school funding. Things are bad and could get worse. In light of the loss of school funding, some of the candidates say the school’s budget needs a closer look at how money is being spent. Test scores loom as another issue. School officials say the scores are better than fine, but some of the candidates feel students could do better.

Candidate puts focus on school finances

Continuing to turn out well-rounded graduates from R. Roger Rowe School should be the first responsibility of the school board, said candidate Todd Buchner.

He said test scores are important, but not the most important thing.

“Too much of a good thing is not a good thing,” he said.

It is important for children to get involved with other activities such as sports, or drama or robotics.

“These are all terrific opportunities for our children to have at the school and they are really out of this world,” he said.

Todd Buchner

Besides, he said, there is “a huge financial crisis looming” and that needs to be addressed as well.

“We are blessed with a great facility,” he said. “We have terrific vision and a value set that has been put together. I would focus on the financial side of the equation. I want to make sure we are getting a good return on our investment.”

New to Rancho Santa Fe from Colorado, he views serving as a way to way to give to the community, plus he has four children.

He and his family moved to Rancho Santa Fe in 2010.

“I have four young kids and there is a huge benefit of living in such a special community,” he said. “Since we have moved here we have been struck by the quality of people and the importance of the school to the community and it is exciting.”

He said he thinks he can bring something special to the board.

“At this point in my career, I can bring a unique background to the financial side of the equation,” he said.

A graduate of Colgate, he worked in the family automotive and real estate business in Colorado. He is now employed by Credit Swift, a global financial corporation.

He said if elected to the school board, he would use his experience to provide tactical and strategic advice to the superintendent.

“That is of first and foremost importance based on my experience,” he said.

Buchner said he would also like to see technology in the school increased, like the current roll-out of iPads for instruction.

“I think we are seeing the first stages of that,” he said.

Buchner said the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation is a good example of the partnering of the community and the school and he would like to see parental involvement continue to increase.

“I think we are blessed to have an involved community and that we can draw on the expertise of the parents,” he said.

He said he was impressed with how the board did a recent technology study and how that resulted in providing iPads for the students.

“I would like to see more strategic and long-range planning that would provide a broad-based plan,” he said.

Burdge hopes to return as senior member

Richard Burdge is running for his third term on the Rancho Santa Fe School Board. He wants to offer four more years of history and experience, having served on the board during the battleground years of the polarizing issue of a new school for the district and the current challenge of the drastic cuts in school funding.

“I have been on the board for eight years and have a good background about where we are coming from and where we are,” he said. “I want to continue as the senior member on the board to give guidance for the next four years, which will be my last.”

Richard Burdge

Burdge said he believes state funding will be “a big and continuous challenge,” during the next four years.

He said school officials are waiting to see how voting goes in November on a couple of propositions that could aid school funding.

“If that does not pass, there will be further cuts in dollars in Rancho Santa Fe in substantial amounts of money in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “There is about to be potential major financial impacts going forward.”

He said the decrease in funding for schools in recent years has already had a major impact on funding and that it will be a challenge for school officials to continue to offer students the programs currently offered.

“I am offering the community continuance in the board’s policy and actions,” he said.

Having children in the district is the reason he originally got involved.

In 1993, he and his wife moved the family to Rancho Santa Fe and here they have stayed sending their children through the local school district. He now has a second-grader attending R. Roger Rowe.

It has not always been easy being a board member, like during the tumultuous years of trying to either build another school or rebuilding the existing one.

“We were experiencing high growth and pupil attendance so we started looking for a second school site,” he said.

After several bond propositions were rejected school officials decided to look elsewhere.

“We shifted gears and decided to rebuild on the existing campus,” he said.

Still, the decision was hard-fought and polarized the community.

In the end, the voters seemed happy and the district got a beautiful new school, with a performing arts center and a new athletic field.

Now is the time to use these resources to their highest potential, he said.

Still, Burdge believes that even if the school aid propositions pass, it will not be the solution to the lack of school funding.

“My opinion, and I’m not an expert, but I think it is a Band-Aid and next year could be a whole other issue,” he said.

Burdge has experience in finances having been the owner of an investment banking firm for 20 years. He holds a master’s degree from NYU, New York and an undergraduate degree from Trinity College.

Brovick-Kent seeks to involve parents

Lorraine Brovick-Kent is running for Rancho Santa Fe School Board not because she is all about test scores, but also because she wants more transparency between the administration and parents. Another reason is that she wants to make sure the money allotted to the school is spent wisely, but test scores are also very important to her.

She said that the Academic Performance Index, or API, is an important way to compare the progress of students in similar schools, but a more realistic way to see a student’s progress is the results of the California Standard Testing, or CST.

Lorraine Brovick-Kent

“It reflects how a second-grader is doing in Rancho Santa Fe,” she said. “How a second-grader is doing in San Francisco. How a second-grader is doing everywhere else.”

“Every parent should be concerned with test scores,” she said. “School officials have a tendency to tell parents only about the good things that happen, but you need to get a realistic snapshot about where we are.”

She said parents can go to cde.ca.gov to read the results for themselves.

“What you really need to tell parents is ‘this is what we are good at, this is where we are at and this is where we need to grow,’” she said.

Brovick-Kent said the children at R. Roger Rowe School are getting a good education.

“But, I think for the money we are spending we should being doing better than the school next door,” she said. “It’s not a contest to be No. 1, but I have to ask myself, why aren’t we?”

She has had children continually in the district since 1996. She still has an 11-year-old at the school.

If elected, she said, she would also like to take a close look at the budget.

“I am reading between the bottom line,” she said. “I look at the budget, at spending, employees, managing employees and salaries — just the whole breadth of the whole organization.”

She said she thinks some of the programs need a closer look.

“I don’t think parents know the cost of programs,” she said.

For example, the Ocean Science program costs $30,000 a year, she said.

In her former job, she was responsible for a $6 million budget. She was responsible for the national sales division and production.

“I’d also like to see more transparency between the school and the parents,” she said.

She said she would like to find out what parents think either through a formal survey or community round tables.

“We need to touch base with parents about what they value most,” she said.

She said she would also want to ask teachers their opinions, but not publically.

“They will not tell what they think in front of their bosses,” she said.

“I want to bring back the collective voice of the parents and the community. I want to bring back the voice of the parents into the school,” she said.

Candidate looks to individualized education

A person who grew up in Rancho Santa Fe and who attended R. Roger Rowe all the way through eighth grade would certainly have a unique perspective on the community and the school. Tyler Seltzer believes he does and that is one of the reasons he is running for school board.

“When I was 1 year old my family moved to Rancho Santa Fe,” he said. “I went to the Village Preschool, so did my wife Liz (McElhinney). We both went all the way K through eight at Rancho (Rowe). I still call it Rancho. We then went to Torrey Pines High School.”

“I have a unique perspective that no other candidate has,” he said.

Tyler Seltzer

Now he and his wife have three children — ages 8, 6 and 4 — and have returned to Rancho Santa Fe so that the kids can take away the same fond memories of their elementary school as their parents.

“We had great experiences at the school, “he said. “If my kids 20 years from now view their time here as we have, we have done our job.”

Seltzer was appointed to the school board last year when Jim Cimino was transferred to Texas with his job. Seltzer said he wants to stay the course of the current board.

“I am a proven, productive and effective member of the school board,” he said. “If you ask (the others), they say I am a positive addition to the school board.”

“I think the school is doing great,” he said. “I see the test scores are going up and are extremely high. I do think test scores matter, of course they do,” he said.

“We are pushing 960 (out of a possible 1,000) if we are not already there,” he said.

“With 650 students, what we care about most as a school board is being responsive to all their needs,” he said.

But, he said, test scores are only part of the measure of a school’s success.

He said some of the other candidates are passionate about certain issues and are not looking at the entire picture which would “cloud their thinking,” in decision-making.

He would like to see each child’s education enhanced by more individual instruction. If a child is excelling at a certain subject, they should receive extra instruction.

“I think we should be able to provide that and for the kids who are struggling, we should be able to help them,” he said.

He said school funding will continue to be an issue.

“We have had and must continue to have fiscally conservative leadership,” he said.

He said as he looks around the community at families with school-age children, he realizes how important the school is to the community and how important the community is to the school.

Seltzer’s background is with his family-owned, Carlsbad-based Seltzer Companies, a company that provides raw materials, such as vitamins or fortifications, to food companies. That company was sold and now the family group is an investment group.

Seltzer said he and his wife and children lived in Carlsbad.

But, when the couple’s children started becoming school-aged, they gave up their home with an ocean view and returned to Rancho Santa Fe for the school.

Local mom has vested interest in position

Heather Slosar says she has five very good reasons to run for the Rancho Santa Fe School Board — her five children.

“I will have children at Roger Rowe until 2025. I have an interest in the long-term success of our school,” she said.

Heather Slosar

If elected, she said she would work toward having the school again being ranked No. 1 in test scores in the county, getting foreign language back into the elementary school curriculum and pumping up the retention of students who leave Rowe when they hit middle school.

“I believe our school needs to get a bigger bang for the buck,” she said.

She said R. Roger Rowe in the past had been rated the No. 1 school in the county.

“Year after year we were No. 1 until 2002. What happened?” she asked.

She said Rancho Santa Fe is spending 60 percent more per student than other schools in the county.

“I feel we should be in the top 10 for API (Academic Performance Index) scores and we are not,” she said.”

She said the school keeps creeping away from the top spot in the county.

“We have some of the best staff and parents and I really feel like perhaps we need to refocus,” she said.

She said test scores are important for many reasons.

“Our children will be taking tests throughout their academic life,” she said.

She does not agree with those who say that test scores are not that important.

“It is a great measure of what our children have learned,” she said.

Test scores and school ranking are also things people look at when they are considering buying a home in a particular district.

She said if elected she would also look at the retention of middle school students, which seems to be an issue.

“I want our middle school to be the choice of middle school families. We lose students to private schools,” she said.

Her next issue is that foreign language is not in the curriculum in elementary school as it has been in the past.

“One year it just disappeared,” she said.

She said studying foreign language in elementary school just makes sense.

“They will be studying foreign language in middle school and high school,” she said.

Slosar said the school district is looking into foreign languages as an after-school activity for which the parents pay, but she believes it should be included in the curriculum.

Slosar and her family have lived in Rancho Santa Fe for the past 10 years.

She was raised in Michigan and after college worked for a major automotive supplier where she worked on labor relations, union relations and negotiations.

“Certainly it gives me understanding of the negotiation process and the importance of fiscal responsibilities and personnel issues,” she said.

When she moved to San Diego in 1997, she returned to school and earned her Ph.D in clinical psychology.

“I dealt primarily with children and teens and that certainly helps me understand what motivates students and their overall behavior,” she said.

She believes she could do a stellar job as a school board member.

“I want my children to have the finest public education available,” she said. “I have a unique background and a good perspective on the management and overall education.”

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