October 22, 2004

Three for National School District Board

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

The three candidates for the two seats available on the National School District board are not new to the community nor to the district.

Cecilia Garcia-Kirk served on the board from 1996 to 2000. She lost on the November 2000 ballot.

Walt Graham, who’s running for the first time for the school board, is Alma Graham’s husband. Alma will be finishing off her third term on the school board.

James Grier is running for reelection and is the former district teachers union president.

There are two seats available on the five-member board.

Cecilia Garcia-Kirk is the executive director of Christmas in July, a non-profit corporation that repairs homes for low-income families in National City.

“In serving our community for over 25 years, I have gained insight into the issues and problems that affect our children, schools and our community as a whole,” she said.

“I would like to see the district develop guidelines so that each group knows what their responsibilities are and how to carry them out.”

Garcia-Kirk said she supports an education that develops critical thinking in children.

“Teachers must teach and students must learn ‘to think’. Without a solid basic education and the ability ‘to think’ the chances of being successful in an ever-changing world are significantly decreased,” she said.

She added that she’s an advocate of English-only education.

“English must be the primary language. Limited English is equal to limited success.

All teaching must be in English.”, Garcia-Kirk said.

She has been involved with Spirit of the Holidays, Lions Club, and the Bond Oversight Committee.

Walt Graham, a local bussinessman, said his background in finances will help him serve on the board.

“My education and business knowledge will serve the children of the National School District in these uncertain economic times,” he said. “My expertise will insure that the district budget is in line and money is appropriately spent.”

Graham said the three main challenges the district faces are making schools safe for children, improving needy schools, and the budget restrains that put pressure in many vital programs, such as the arts.

“I believe that children’s safety, both on and off campus is one of our top priorities. I believe we need to continue the progress being made in recent test scores. I believe in teaching the whole child, and that means finding ways to keep before and after school programs thriving, such as band and the arts,” Graham said.

He said the District needs to provide special attention to the education of Latino students, who represent the majority of the students in National City.

“I know the direction in teaching is full immersion to help the student learn the language quicker and then catch up to their grade level in all subjects. I feel that while this works best for many students, there are those who fall farther behind using this method, and their needs must be addressed. We have a mandate: ‘No child left behind,’” Graham said.

He added that Latino parents should vote for him because he understands Latino issues.

“I support bilingual education, I have been immersed in the Latino culture for virtually all my life. I married into the Latino culture. My closest friends are very active in the Latino movement, and I value their advice on many issues,” he said.

If elected, Graham said he will put special emphasis on the safety of children on their way to school.

James Grier has over 25 years of experience in education, 23 of those working as a 6th grade teacher at the National School District.

“As the incumbent, I should be re-elected to the board,” he said. “I have visited classrooms more than 120 times, which has enabled me to maintained personal contact with students, teachers and staff members.”

Grier said his efforts during his first term created many programs in the District, including the elementary-level track and field program.

His educational experience inside the classroom and on the board has given him a cutting-edge understanding of the District’s needs, he said.

“Presently, the biggest challenge facing The District is meeting the requirement of the No Child Left Behind Legislation and maintaining class size in the lower grades,” Grier said. “As a board member, I have encouraged parental involvement and teacher input to help close the Achievement Gap. I will continue to work very hard to insure that class size reduction funds are not used for any other purpose.”

Grier said he supports language development programs that benefit Latino students, many of whom are English-learners.

“Having taught in the Coachella School District and National School District which both have a large Latino population, I know first hand the importance of having a strong English Language Development Program,” he said. “I support the District’s new ELD adoption as well as staff development and planning time so teachers may develop better and more effective strategies for teaching all students.”

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