The turnout was light and the forum brief, but three candidates for two vacant seats on the Temecula Valley Unified School Board were intent on delivering their messages for improving the district’s schools to the parents and educators attending Monday, Oct. 3.
One candidate Lee Darling, a 2007 graduate of Great Oak High School, is running unopposed for the TVUSD Area 1 area seat now occupied by Dr. Allen Pulsifer. Darling and the other two candidates, incumbent Kristi Rutz-Robbins and Ronald Prentiss were called upon to answer three questions about their views on the issues now facing the 33,000 student school district during the district candidate forum in the Temecula City Hall chambers.
Ruiz-Robbins and Prentiss are both running for the Area 5 seat. The five TVUSD Board members are elected by a By-Trustee Election System requiring those candidates running living within the specific at large district that took effect in the 2016-17 election cycle. There are five districts in the system.
Roland Skumawitz, educator and community leader, was the moderator of the forum. The forum was presented by the Temecula Valley Council Parent Teachers Association.
The first question was in regard to the number one issue facing the school district.
Darling said the board is facing tough financial decisions and urged support of Propositions 51 and 55 on the Nov. 8 ballot. Both Rutz-Robbins and Prentiss agreed.
Proposition 51 authorizes $6 billion in general obligations bonds that will provide for construction, modernization of public schools; provide $1 million for charter and vocational education schools; and $2 billion for state community college facilities. Proposition 55 extends by 12 years, tax increases in state personal income for high income earners allocating 89 percent of the collected tax money to K-12 public schools, 11 percent to community colleges and up to $2 billion a year to certain healthcare programs.
The second question was in what does the district do well and what needs to be done to improve the local schools.
Prentice said the district has done well in helping disadvantaged children and generally does everything well. He noted the district does need to do more in getting families engaged with the schools their children attend and help them understand it is linked to “student success.”
Darling said he believed that the district’s high schools were high performing but was concerned why Great Oak High School was much higher than the other two larger high schools.
Rutz-Robbins praised the performances of all the schools, citing how the current board has done well in keeping the standards high. She believed that even higher performance from all the schools from elementary up can be achieved through reinstating or added a full range of performing arts programs.
The third question asked the candidates how they would react in when a 4 to 1 vote was cast against their own opinion.
Rutz-Robbins said if it was a 4-1 decision she would go with whatever policy was approved.
Darling said they need to support the boards majority decision.
Prentice said they would need to support majority no matter what.
A member of the audience questioned how they would respond to the classified and certificated employees in critical issues.
Prentice said he would look for a consensus between the employees and the board but would have to respond to the community at large.
Rutz-Rollins said she would always remember their role as a community representative and still support the board.
Darling said the level of transparency between the community and the board needed to be better. We are obligated to best serve the majority. Darling in summing up his reason for running was to “give back to all the students” what he had received in achieving his success.
Prentice said his was a person in favor of schools remaining public and not private being “skeptical of the free market concept” in schools. He was not in favor of more charter schools.
Rutz-Robbins said her goal was to keep all the schools in the district up to blue ribbon standards and add more arts, sports and clubs in all the school because they will increase student success.