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School board candidates focus on academics, budget

Six in running for four seats
By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein The Press-Tribune
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Four years after a contentious election centered on social issues, academics and the budget are once again the focus for six candidates battling for four seats on the Roseville Joint Union High School District’s governing board. Voters in the district will decide two separate races: Appointed incumbent Scott Huber is facing a challenge from Granite Bay resident Anthony Kong for a two-year seat on the five-member panel. And incumbents Paige Stauss, Garry Genzlinger and R. Jan Pinney are being joined by former Dry Creek school board member Wayne Roberson in their hunt for three four-year seats. The district has been quieter since 2004, when social issues dominated the pre-election debate. It has opened a new comprehensive high school in Antelope and started new academic programs, such as International Baccalaureate. But it has endured its share of challenges, too, most recently making painful cuts to reckon with an increasingly stingy state budget. Garry Genzlinger is well known in local education circles, having spent his career as a teacher and counselor in the district before being elected to the board in 2004. Genzlinger, 65, said he’s running again “Because I care about kids and young people, and that’s what it’s all about – they are our future.” Like other candidates, he said the No. 1 issue is “getting through this budget crunch we are going to be facing. “We need to spend every dollar we can on student-oriented things, and maintain our teachers. I do not want to have to lay anyone off,” Genzlinger, of Granite Bay, said. He praised the current board for focusing on the issues he said matter to parents, students and the community. “I think our priorities are definitely in order. All of us are focused on students,” he said, adding he’d like to expand vocational education options for students. Pinney, seeking his fourth full term, said, “I just think we still have some issues I’d like to try and help with.” The biggest one is the budget, the Granite Bay resident said. “We need to look at everything we’re doing and be ahead of the curve,” he said, citing the board’s accumulation during good years of a sizeable reserve as evidence of fiscal responsibility. “We did not issue any pink slips,” Pinney, 61, said. He cited a record that includes helping oversee major building projects and implementation of new academic programs, such as IB. But he said there’s work to be done, particularly in improving academic achi-evement. One way to do that is through technology, he said: “We’ve got to be open to new ideas, new ways of teaching, new ways of reaching kids.” If re-elected, Pinney said he’d renew focus on establishing internship opportunities through local businesses. While Roberson, 49, said the current board is “doing a good job,” he added there’s room for improvement, particularly in balancing the interests of all district schools. “I think (the board has) spent a lot of their efforts in one area of the district,” Roberson, a Roseville resident, said, referring to Granite Bay High School. “We need to be balanced in our approach to all school sites. They should have the same populations, and the same opportunities.” Roberson, a Dry Creek board member from 2002 to 2006, said he wants to better align the district’s calendar with its feeder districts to make things easier on parents. He stressed a fiscally conservative outlook while no-ting the impor-tance of extra-curricular activities be-cause “when you have kids engaged and wanting to go to school, the academics follow.” He added he would look for ways cut costs without hurting students, such as seeking transportation efficiencies. Stauss first ran in 2004 to “take focus off the social agenda and put it back onto academics,” she said. “We are going in such a great direction right now and I want to continue it,” she said. “I’ve spent four years establishing the relationships and learning particularly about facilities.” Stauss said the board’s stewardship of the budget has proven itself as “we’ve weathered this better than almost any district in the greater Sacramento area.” Stauss said the district must continue to operate under the assumption of lean times, while also finding new revenue so students don’t suffer. “We’ll just continue to be fiscally conservative so we don’t get in trouble. Ha-ving said that, it’s the board’s job to look out for students.” Stauss, of Granite Bay, said a major priority for her would be increasing technology use in the classroom. “That will be my focus. Trying to figure out how we can bring in sources of revenue so we can pay for technology.” In a separate race, voters will choose between Scott Huber, a Roseville attorney, and Anthony Kong, a Granite Bay physician. Huber, who was elected to the Roseville City School District board in 2004, was appointed to the high school board in July 2007; the seat is now up for a two-year term. “I have a vested interest in having excellent schools for a long time,” Huber, 39, the parent of three young children, said. “I’m not going to have a shortsighted view of, ‘Let’s do what’s best for right now,’ because I want quality sch-ools for dec-ades.” Huber lau-ded the boa-rd’s stewardship of the district’s finances. “Because of financially prudent decisions the board has made in last several years, we could survive until spring” if state funding completely dried up, he said. If elected, Huber said he would support boosting the district’s vocational education offerings. “Almost universally, their grades in other courses improve when students have some subject matter they enjoy and want to do,” he said. Huber said he would also work to enhance ties with business. “We need to be more engaged with the Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “There are businesses that would jump at chance to have an intern.” Kong, 49, said he would bring fresh ideas to the board. The goal, he said, should be to motivate students to achieve in hi-gh school and beyond. He said he wants to re-think the role of high schools in the community, seeing them as “intellectual centers” that would benefit a wide swath of residents. College-style arts and lecture enrichment series open to everyone, for instance, would help make high school a “more memorable experience” for students, and build positive relations with the community, he said. “At 3 p.m., you close the doors to the school unless you’re in sports,” he said. “Why can’t you open them up to the community and you can do things in this high school? It’s your high school. “A lot of things we can do don’t cost anything,” he added. In addition, he said student health should be more of a priority. Voters can have their say Nov. 4.