CARLSBAD — The four Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD) Trustees selected PTA leader and CUSD volunteer Claudine Jones to fill the vacant seat on the Board on Sept. 16.
“I know what happens when you value education and you get a great job and you succeed in life. In that respect, I will pour my heart into Carlsbad Unified School District to make it a successful district,” said Jones during her public interview before the Board.
With her focus on public school finances, she was selected from a pool of 10 candidates to fill the seat left by former trustee Kelli Moors, who left mid-term to accept a position with a law firm that previously worked under contract for the school district.
The four remaining CUSD trustees previously voted to fill the seat with a provisional appointment rather than spending about $380,000 to hold a special election this November.
Jones will serve on the Board until the next regularly scheduled election in November 2014.
“I’m thrilled,” she said after the announcement was made. “I look forward to serving this community.”
The trustees interviewed all of the candidates publicly at Carlsbad City Hall Chambers and selected Jones by ranking their top three preferred candidates.
Without announcing their questions in advance, the trustees asked the applicants to describe a recent decision the Board had made that they disagreed with and explain how they would have handled it differently; explain how they would address the large class sizes in CUSD schools; describe what they would do to supplement the implementation of Common Core, and elaborate on how they have supported education in the CUSD.
With candidates ranging from a former CUSD Board member to a television executive, their perspectives and interview responses varied.
Jones stated that she disagreed with the Board’s decisions to allow larger class sizes and would prioritize cutting back on CUSD’s deficit spending.
She said that to generate the necessary funding to establish smaller classes, she would evaluate the district’s expenditures to see if there was any ways spending could be cut and look for untapped sources of revenues.
She also stated that she would look for ways to raise funds to buy the necessary technology needed to implement the Common Core state standards.
Kelly Schafer, the secretary for Hope Elementary’s PTA and chairperson of the school’s Site Council, was quick to take a stand against the adoption of Common Core during her interview.
“The city adopted a $2 million carrot to accept standards that have not been tested, that have not been proven,” she said about Common Core, adding, “I very much doubt I will get on the Board for my stance on this.”
Sage Naumann, who has been actively campaigning for the 2014 election for several months, said he thought the Board should be examining leasing out unused school facilities to generate more revenue for the district.
“I don’t think the students of Carlsbad can afford to miss out on any of the revenue streams that we may have,” he said.
He also said that the Board should better scrutinize where funding is being used.
He described that when he was a student at Carlsbad High School a few years ago, funds were used to buy laptops for the school, but only a few laptops were provided to each class.
“Four laptops per class is completely useless,” he said.
Ray Pearson, a television executive, said he would collect data from different sources to better predict CUSD’s future funding and work to increase revenue to generate funds to decrease class sizes.
Pearson, who has been involved in city matters, also said that he would work to garner community support to supplement the Common Core transition.
Kym Szalkiewicz, the current president of Carlsbad high School’s PTSA, said she would pursue federal grants and strive to develop corporate pilot programs to support Common Core in CUSD classrooms.
She said that she would also work to better explain the shift to Common Core to parents to dispel misinformation.
Some candidates admitted that they lacked the experience and or knowledge to adequately address large class sizes or Common Core at that time.
“I have not really participated in these (Board) meetings for years,” said Thomas Wachter, a retired pharmacy supervisor who has had children and grandchildren in CUSD schools.
Responding to the question about reducing class sizes, he said, “Do you have the classrooms to do it? I don’t know. There’s a lot of things about the system that I have to learn.”
About Common Core, Dr. Sherman DeForest said, “I am not an expert, nor claim to be an expert in the ETL’s Common Core.”
He said that if selected, he would learn about Common Core by, “Simply (being) quiet until I can learn exactly what’s on other people’s minds.”
Other candidates included Gilbert Soto, a Site Council member for Magnolia Elementary, Steve Barker, a member of the Education Committee of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, and former Board member Nicole Pappas.
David Van Der Linden, who submitted an application for the position, dropped out of the race prior to the interview session, according to CUSD Superintendent Suzette Lovely.
After interviewing each candidate and listening to public comments, the trustees voted without discussion, awarding their top choice four points, their second choice two points, and their third choice one point.
Jones won with 14 points, while Pearson came in second with seven points, Szalkiewicz in third with three points, and Soto with one point.
“We want to thank everyone who applied. This takes a lot of guts and a lot of energy,” said CUSD Board President Elisa Williamson at the interview session. “I believe that each candidate brings some real strengths.”
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