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After 35 years in public education as a high school English teacher and university administrator, I began my second life as a freelance writer, winning San Diego Society of Professional Journalist awards for my opinion columns in the former San Diego daily North County Times and the San Diego Free Press.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My Picks for Carlsbad School Board: Partnership Over Partisanship

I haven’t met any of the eight candidates vying for the Carlsbad school board’s four open seats. Nor have I attended their public forums. My choices are based on their campaign websites, the voter’s pamphlet, and fact-checking.

I’m voting for incumbents Veronica Williams and Claudine Jones to fill two of the three 4-year positions.

Williams, a technology professional for 20 years, owns a small consulting business. She holds a degree in mathematics, the California School Board Association’s Masters in Governance, and speaks Spanish. She worked with fellow board members to open Sage Creek High on time and under budget, save more than $1 million by refinancing Prop P bonds, reduce class sizes, and avoid deficit spending in 2012-13 and 2013-14. She promises to base investments on classroom impact, eliminate spending unrelated to student achievement, and seek resources beyond the district.

Jones was appointed to the board last year to fill a position vacated by Kelli Moors. In addition to her 20 years of financial management experience for Fortune 500 companies, she’s been a leader in PTAs, school site councils, the technology advisory committee, the Carlsbad educational foundation, grant writing, and co-founding the parent budget task force.

Maria Rosino-Miracco is my choice for the third position. Facing financial constraints, the board could use an attorney with executive experience managing multimillion dollar budgets. She supports a balanced curriculum of college/career readiness, while keeping the arts and sports alive, spending conservatively, involving parents, and supportive technology for safe/effective schools.

Realtor/Businessman Gil Soto has been an active volunteer in the district but the depth of his experience doesn’t match the three above.

Kathy Rallings’ financial disclosure statement was a deal breaker for me. Of her $12,300 in campaign contributions, $10,000 comes from the Carlsbad Unified Teachers Association. I’m a supporter of organized labor, but that much financial backing from a special interest group makes her an easy target for critics.

Nineteen-year-old Sage Naumann chose to launch a political campaign, rather than continue his education over the last two years. He’s courted Republican and Tea Party leaders throughout the county in this non-partisan election. His strategy is clear. Forty percent of Carlsbad registered voters are Republicans, 28% Democrats, and 25% decline to state. It makes you wonder why Carlsbad city leaders, elected officials, and educators can’t be found among his long list of Republican Party endorsers.

But what troubles me more than Naumann’s lack of education and inexperience is his fact-free, negative campaign. The latest example is posted on his Facebook campaign website, claiming next year’s school district budget will require $5 million in deficit spending he promises to stop. Had he done his homework he would have discovered next year’s budget will not be up for approval until June. The deficit in this year’s budget has been covered with reserve funds.

Naumann does not bother to cite sources for several other claims, including his comparison of class sizes in the Carlsbad school district with those in San Diego County. I couldn’t find that information in a careful search of both the district’s and the California Department of Education’s websites. He didn’t respond to my two requests for a source. In making the case for no new taxes,

Naumann claims, “California has thrown more money at their schools than most other states.” But according to a 2012 US Census Bureau report, California is 36th in the nation in per pupil spending, ranking just below Georgia, Kentucky and Arkansas.
While the young candidate’s political savvy is impressive, the issues facing the board require experienced partnership over youthful partisanship.

Jenae Torgerson gets my vote for the 2-year seat. Ray Pearson has a longer resume, but includes his opposition to opening Sage Creek last year, despite 70 percent voter approval of Prop P. His campaign seems to be more about saving money than serving students. Torgerson may lack experience, but a new face with no political agenda, open to learning, will be a good addition amid the seasoned veterans.

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