CARLSBAD — It is a unique time and situation, especially for political candidates.
Perhaps, none more than those seeking office on their respective school boards. As such, four candidates have emerged for two seats with the Carlsbad Unified School District Board of Trustees.
In Area 2, Frank Deming takes on incumbent Elisa Williamson, while Rhonda Guaderrama challenges incumbent Ray Pearson in Area 3.
Deming said the COVID-19 pandemic will change the face of education, noting it is accelerating virtual learning models. It is likely once the pandemic ends, he said, schools will turn to hybrid models of those students remaining on campus and others who prefer virtual.
As for the board’s decision to resume classes on Nov. 30, Deming said it was a tough decision and hard to criticize. However, while the board tried to appeal to everyone, Deming said a simple approach may have better the better solution.
As for the budget, CUSD had been on track to balance its budget prior to the pandemic. With funding sources up in the air, and unknowns from the state, Deming said tough discussions with the teachers and classified unions must be had.
He said since about 85% of the budget is salaries, difficult discussions regarding performance must be done to ensure the best education for students, along with the district addressing potential budget concerns.
As for Measure HH, the $265 million school bond passed in 2018, Deming said he hopes it addresses the digital infrastructure for the district.
Williamson, meanwhile, said the bond will not likely see any savings, noting materials and other costs have remained steady, even during the recession. She said one reason is due to 127 bonds passing in 2018, and a race to secure contractors, thus holding costs steady.
However, the board has been aggressive in getting projects done with its solar panel installation at several campuses done, along with the Carlsbad High School science building, Williamson said.
As for the budget, it’s the great unknown, she said, saying the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget is a large question mark at the moment. Williamson said the state threatened a 10% increase to education this summer but pulled back. Relief funds have been inconsistent, too, she said.
As for the COVID-19 response, she said it is critical to get students back in the classroom for a number of reasons such as emotional and mental health, closing the achievement gaps and ensuring vulnerable students are engaged.
Guaderrama, who works for the Boys & Girls Club of Oceanside, expressed her approval of students returning to school. She said the club kids have been back since June with appropriate protocols and procedures in place.
She said with mitigation efforts, school will be “pretty” safe, but added the board has in analysis paralysis for the past several months with its response. Until a vaccine is available, Guaderrama said the safety protocols will work and it’s critical for students to return as many are struggling to thrive in a virtual environment.
She said while teachers are going great, the focus of the board must remain on the achievement gap and with an eye on the budget. Guaderrama said $6.1 million in CARES Act funding will help ease the blow, but also must be vigilante as the economic environment changes.
Pearson, meanwhile, said the budget challenges are a priority, although it is difficult to pinpoint what the next fiscal year will look like. He is also in favor of students returning sooner rather than later, posting on Facebook his position, which led to a heated exchange during the Oct. 14 meeting.
He said local public health officials along with institutions such as the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control have released guidelines for safe re-entry into schools. But looking down the road, he said the district was on a great path and hopefully funding and other issues won’t be too burdensome to return the district to its positive pathway.
As for the bond, while students have not returned yet, Pearson said it gave the district time to accelerate some projects. And while the construction industry costs aren’t dropping, he said vetting all cost estimates is a priority in an effort to save as much money as possible.