October 20, 2006

10 candidates in the race for three seats on the Chula Vista Elementary School District board

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Three of them are the incumbents. Many of the challengers said the board needs new blood that will lead the district into a better future.

La Prensa San Diego contacted all seven challengers, not all replied, but the ones who did all agreed that Chula Vista school children deserve a better education than the one they´re currently receiving.

La Prensa San Diego asked each of the challengers what they thought is the most important issue they believe needs to be address at the District, and how they would implement the necessary changes.

These are their responses:

Seat 1

The incumbent for Seat 1 is Bertha Lopez.

Candidate Tamara Arce is a community volunteer and parent.

“In my opinion, the most important issue I believe needs to be addressed by the Chula Vista Elementary School District is advancing academic expectations beyond the borders of Chula Vista now,” Arce said.

“We are morally obliged to provide the best education for our children. They deserve no less than students anywhere else, regardless of our location in the South Bay. In order to determine whether equity exists, we need to look at the effectiveness of our current curriculum. Goals need to be specifically defined and frequently evaluated for success,” she said.

Candidate Perry Mathes is a cardiovascular engineer and parent.

“Chula Vista Elementary School District is the largest of 561 elementary school districts in the state, yet the third lowest funded in San Diego County. There is something fundamentally disturbing from that statement and I got the information directly from the District and the Superintendent’s web site Dr. Lowell Billings,” Mathes said.

“There is something wrong with the level of clarity, openness and financial accountability. I will strive for open communication, financial transparency and accountability. I am convinced that there is the necessary financial support for success of the Staff and Students. I will ask for full financial independent audits to be performed and report the results openly to the District staff as well as board meetings,” he said.

Seat 3

The incumbent for Seat 3 is Pamela Smith.

Candidate Russell Coronado is an educator, school principal, and parent.

“The School District seems to lack a sense of urgency, as too many of our children continue to score below proficient on state achievement tests. 55% of students who took the California Standardized Test performed below proficient. This lack of urgency leads to inaction,” Coronado said.

“In order for performance gains to be accelerated, the District and the Board must be more accountable for their actions. Board members must be visible in the community, regularly engaging with parents and staff. The commitment I make, is that I will work with determination, compassion and urgency with students, parents, teachers and district staff. My experience has led me to believe that collaboration, accountability and vigilance lead to success,” he said.

Candidate Willard Howard is a veterans’ affairs travel coordinator. He did not respond to La Prensa´s e-mails and phone calls.

Candidate Felicia Starr is an emergency room secretary, a student at Southwestern College, and a parent.

“The issue I feel needs to be addressed would be trust and transparency in the decision making process at the district and the board itself. The community deserves as stakeholders to be included, involved and to have their concerns acknowledged,” Starr said.

“Implementation can occur immediately by having the Board members visiting school sites, perhaps assigning a ‘corridor’ to each seat on the board. This corridor would entail areas from east to west, so that each board member would have a diverse set of schools to work with. Bringing this information to the board in quarterly reports done at an open meeting would show the community that their voices are heard, and giving time to have questions answered,” she said.

Seat 5

The incumbent for Seat 5 is Larry Cunningham.

Candidate Norberto Salazar is a teacher and a parent. He did not respond to La Prensa´s phone calls.

Candidate Steven Yagyagan is a bank manager and parent.

“Right now, I believe our most important issue is to stabilize our school district. The current school board and administration has been in the news so much over the last few years because of poor decisions that have polarized our community, pitted teachers against each other, parents against each other, and removed some excellent principals who have made a positive difference in our schools, two of which were our only Filipino American and African American principals - Tim Suanico and Dwight Sykes,” Yagyagan said.

“First, I will work to establish individual e-mail addresses and a private mail box for each trustee. Trustees should be allowed 48 hours (depending on the extent of the issue) to respond to e-mails, mails, phone calls and faxes. Then, I will work with the new school board to establish new criteria that allows the general community (parents, teachers, community leaders and children) to air their concerns and receive a timely response.”

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