5 vie for Dry Creek board seats

Two spots draw competition to lead growing district
By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein The Press-Tribune
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Note: An earlier version of this story stated board candidate Bob Kunnmann was involved in pushing a failed recall effort against sitting board members after the issuance of controversial layoff notices. Though he did not support the layoff notices that spurred the layoff notices, Kunnmann said he did not support the recall. A clarification was printed in the Sept. 10 edition of The Press-Tribune. In the wake of a tumultuous year that saw noisy meetings and recall threats, five people have submitted their names for two spots on the Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District Board of Trustees. The four-year terms are up for trustees Barry Stillman and Ryan Darke, and only Stillman has opted to run for re-election. He’s being challenged by Bob Kunnmann, Scott Otsuka, Monica Prather and Jeff Randall. The district, which grew to include 10 schools this year – three middle schools and seven elementary sites – is responsible for the education of about 7,200 kindergarten through eighth-grade students in Roseville, Antelope and the Dry Creek community. Antelope resident Bob Kunnmann has been a vocal critic of the board during a 2006 school boundary realignment and, more recently, uproar resulting from controversial layoff notices given to teachers lacking English learner certification. Kunnmann, who has a 12-year-old at Antelope Crossing Middle School, said he hoped to “increase communication” with the community as a board member. “I think we need to bring a new perspective to the board, a fresh outlook that includes common sense and teamwork,” said Kunnmann, an advertising executive. Otsuka, of Roseville, has two children in the district, a third-grader at Quail Glen Elementary and an eighth-grader at Silverado Middle School. Though he has served as an appointed member to several city and school commissions, this is his first run for office. “I feel that with my tenure in the district and the time I’ve spent in district-level committees and school site committees at Quail Glen and Silverado doing budgeting, that I have qualities that benefit the district,” said Otsuka, a mortgage broker. That budget experience would be important, especially as state budgets are expected to continue to be uncertain, he said. Acknowledging the recent fracas, Otsuka said he wanted to make “coalition building and healing” a major priority if elected. He said better communication could have prevented the recent turmoil. Roseville resident Monica Prather has two children in the district, one at Silverado and one at Coyote Ridge Ele-mentary. The stay-at-home mom is new to politics, but said she was spurred to vie for a seat because she “wanted a voice in the education of my children.” “I’ve kind of been unhappy with some of the decisions they’ve made and I didn’t want to sit back and not do anything,” she said. Those decisions included the recent layoff notices, which the district said were necessary because of a tightening state budget. But Prather said belt-tightening needs to start at the top. “I feel strongly that the cuts can be at a more administrative and higher level; they don’t have to go to the schools and the teachers,” she said. “We can definitely do the cuts but they need to be at a higher level.” Antelope resident Jeff Randall said he’s running to bring a teacher’s insight to the board. He’s a seventh-grade pre-algebra teacher in the San Juan Unified School District, and has a daughter at Dry Creek’s Antelope Meadows Elementary. He said he wanted to run after watching a TV news report on candidate filings showing a dearth of contenders for local boards. “It seems like the teachers never really have a voice and I’m someone who understands where they’re coming from,” he said. Randall said he would be a teacher’s advocate on the board. “One thing I’ve always noticed is the elementary school teachers are worked to death,” he said. “I don’t know how you could get them more prep time, but I know that at the high school level and middle school level you get an hour of prep time.” Stillman, a high school teacher in the San Juan Unified School District, has served three four-year terms on the board, and says student academic performance has always been his top priority. “My single most important issue is academic excellence,” said Stillman, a Dry Creek community resident whose children at-tended the original Dry Creek School. He said that focus is re-flected in im-proved rankings that show the district has gained ground when compared to similar districts statewide. “Our comparable schools ranking wasn’t very good, and now our district average on comparable schools, I think is going to be over a seven,” he said, referring to the state’s one-through-ten ranking, a trend he attributed to board-driven policies during his tenure. Stillman, who was targeted by the recent recall effort, also defended the board’s actions, noting in the end no teachers were laid off.