Three candidates running for Dry Creek school board
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Press Tribune is conducting Q&As with candidates for the four local school boards. All Q&As will be appear in print and be available on www.rosevillept.com.
Stephanie Dement, 35, moved to west Roseville with her husband, son and daughter two years ago. She currently works as an outreach program manager online for Brandman University and sits on the Roseville Chamber of Commerce's education task force.
Tell me about your background.
I grew up in San Diego and as an adult I lived in Carlsbad. We (like) it up here. Going through the (chamber's) Leadership Roseville program opened my eyes to the vision of the community and where it's been and where it's headed and I like it.
Why are you running for the school board?
I want to invest in our future leaders of tomorrow and that includes my children who are going, and will go through, this district. (I want) to use my strategic business background to enhance the board, which has been doing a good job at making sound decisions and being visionaries of what's to come.
If you asked me five years ago if I thought this was in my repertoire, absolutely not. But circumstances present themselves and you've got to grab hold and if I'm the best fit and I bring the best tools and skill sets, then that could be advantageous to what's best for (our children) and I'm happy to help.
What are the big issues facing the district?
There is a deficit and they're currently (deficit spending) and the next step, from my understanding, is to go to furlough days and I'm not excited about that. That means reduced days that my children are in school and getting an education. I don't think that's necessarily the best answer.
What do you consider the best aspects of the district?
We have great leadership from the superintendent, we have great leadership and visionaries from the current board and they have a great relationship with the teachers union, and keeping that open dialogue is important. We have phenomenal staff, both credentialed and certificated. We've upgraded our technology. We have a lot going for us.
What areas can the district improve?
We just got our test scores back and they're phenomenal. But some areas were inconsistent from years prior. ... There's also been an influx of English language learners impacting those scores, and what other opportunities do we bring to those children to help them with their comprehension and language barriers?
What would you bring to the board?
I bring my business background and a higher education viewpoint of how things are achieved. (Education) is very much a service industry. How are we best going to serve students? Something that I'm very passionate about is service, and that's why I want to serve on the board.
For more information on Stephanie Dement, visit www.facebook.com/StephanieDementForDryCreekSchoolBoard.
Scott Otsuka, 45, moved to Roseville in 1994 and is self-employed as a mortgage broker. He currently serves on the Roseville Parks Commission, coaches in two youth sports leagues and is in his 4th year as a school board member with Dry Creek's district.
Why did you originally run for the school board?
I knew the incumbent wasn't running so at the end of the filing period, I saw who was running and I couldn't vote for any of them because they seemed to be one-issue individuals. This is a very well-run district with high-performing students and high test scores. I felt I could speak to the quality of the education and (not focus on) one issue.
There's still a lot of work to be done with the state budget issues and overseeing the dismantling or suspending of some of our programs. I want to make sure for the sake of the kids (the district) continues to do what best suits the needs of students. There's no way I support further reduction of education days.
What pressing issues does the district face?
The most pressing issues are all budget related. We had a $52 million budget in 2008. Now we have a $47 million budget. That's a 10 percent decline in four years. We negotiated a pay freeze with the teachers union, which saves $1.2 million the first year and automatically escalates in subsequent years.
We're deficit spending almost $5 million this year. I've worked hard to reduce costs in a systematic way. Keeping cuts out of the classroom is not possible because everything a district does affects the classroom.
The (second) biggest issue is implementation of Common Core Standards.
What are the best aspects of the district?
One great asset we have is our business services team that is fiscally conscious and very creative in finding ways to deliver a high-quality product to our students. Our principals are amazing with building in time for collaboration and intervention at a time when that easily couldn't be the case. We have a team pulling together and keeping focused on what's important. We have the lowest administrator-to-student ratio in the area. People are doing more than they've ever had to do and they're doing it in a positive way.
What can be done to improve the district?
Communication can always be better. There are a lot of stakeholders in this district that don't have kids ... If (these) stakeholders knew more about the great things happening to help every child achieve, I think the support we receive would be even greater.
What do you bring to the district?
As a business owner, I bring fiscal responsibility, budgeting, a business approach to a public entity and accountability.
For more information on Scott Otsuka, visit www.facebook.com/ScottBOtsuka.
Jeff Randall, 44, is serving his first term on Dry Creek's board and has spent the past 18 years as a math teacher in a district in Sacramento. He originally ran for the board after growing concerned with decisions being made, and realizing he could complain or get involved.
What have you enjoyed about being on the board?
It's kind of like seeing how the sausage is made, rather than just being on the consumer end as a parent or teacher. It gives me a whole new appreciation for what schools do.
Why are you running for re-election?
The last four years have been pretty frustrating. I really like the way the board has worked. I think having that stability has been really good for the district. The frustrating part is we've had such horrible budgets to work with and I'm hoping just once I can be there at a time when we don't have to be laying people off and cutting back.
A lot is going to come down to the choices voters make in November. I think we've done a really crummy job of choosing our leaders in California and that's one of the reasons why we have budget (issues). The state Legislature could have found a way of increasing those taxes themselves. They didn't have to put it on the voters and we wouldn't have this proposition hanging over our heads: Are we going to get funding or not? Now we're at the whim of voters and who shows up on Election Day and that's just messed up for schools.
(Dry Creek's budget) assumes the tax increase will fail. We're doing our students and employees a favor by planning for the worst and hoping for the best.
What other challenges does the district face?
There is no more low-hanging fruit. We're going to have to start chopping off limbs, unfortunately if things don't get better. The only thing that's going to be better for schools is to have an expanding economy.
What do you bring to the board?
I'm coming at it as a parent, taxpayer and teacher. I have experience of being a school district employee so when decisions are made that's one of the lenses I look at things through.
I'm hoping the housing market begins to turn around and people begin moving into all the foreclosed homes and the new construction that's supposed to happen in the unincorporated area and west Roseville happens. We have a site for the (new) Morgan Creek school and it would be really neat to be part of the creation of that school. But it can't happen until our housing comes back.
For more information on Jeff Randall, visit www.facebook.com/JeffForDryCreek.