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ELECTION 2012

Two candidates earn spots on Roseville City School District board

Incumbent Gary Miller will be joined by new board member Jeff Willoughby
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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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.

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The Roseville City School District board of trustees has two seats open. Because only two candidates filed papers, they both have earned a spot on the board.

Gary Miller, 63, is serving his fourth year on the Roseville City School District board of trustees. The Missouri native previously served nearly 20 years on a school board in north Sacramento, and is actively involved in Democratic Party politics.

Why did you run for the school board?

I moved to Roseville in the early 2000s and I had all this experience on the (other school) board and I thought it would be a waste for me to just throw that all away ... so in 2008, I decided I wanted to throw my hat in the ring.

I'm a strong believer in public education. It gives children an opportunity to mix with other races, different cultures, different economic groups and people who may not have the same physical abilities. It allows kids to be able to meet them as friends and get to know them.

Can you pinpoint some (recent) accomplishments of the board?

We refinanced school bonds and that will save the taxpayers about $2 million. It's not often when you get to lower taxes, so that's a good thing. Another thing I'm very proud of is when we survey our parents, our approval rating is about 90 percent. I'm proud that I very seldom miss a board meeting. There's much to be proud of - we have a great superintendent, great staff and principals excited about their schools.

Was it a tough decision (to close Sierra Gardens as an elementary school)?

The Sierra Gardens decision was very tough indeed. That school is doing a lot of wonderful things and it's difficult for parents, kids and staff. ... I understand and empathize with that. But year after year, we have a dwindling number of students coming to our schools. And we're not actually closing Sierra Gardens. We're using it as a junior high.

What are the big issues facing the district?

Proposition 30: If it loses, we're going to have a lot of financial trouble. Money is always a problem. When there's a deficit, (the state) always looks to public education as the first program to make cuts. Public education has had more than it's fair share of cuts. ... It's funny, in our society, we talk big about our children being important and the future of America and that's a bunch of BS. Actions speak louder than words.

What are the best aspects of the district?

The staff is the first thing that comes to mind. They really care about kids.

What can be done to improve the district?

There's a concept out there that public education is doing a rotten job and children aren't learning. That's nonsense. If you look at leaders in any field you can think of, a lot of those people are products of public education. ... The education community needs to do a better job of showing all the wonderful things happening in public schools.

For more information on Gary Miller, visit www.campaignwindow.com/rosevillegarymiller/

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Jeff Willoughby, 46, moved to Roseville with his wife 20 years ago and has spent most of the past two decades working for SureWest. Willoughby is currently serving his second term on the Roseville Grants Advisory Commission.

Why did you run for the school board?

A recurring item occurred (on the grants commission) and that was schools and districts were requesting (grant) monies. That made me wonder if there were really good reasons that schools are reaching out for grant monies and what that research led to was yes and no. There is not always enough money (for districts) to get things done they'd like to get done. That drew me into the circle of can I help in some way? The answer is maybe as a school board member I could help guide the direction. I can't affect the flow of monies from the state directly. But can we look at what we have to work with and work smarter with it?

What big (upcoming) issues will the district face?

We have huge financial woes in this state and they impact education ... those are things we need to safeguard against where we can, or be aware and try to model ourselves in a way that we aren't subject to the ebb and flow of the state's budget.

If you look at the school machine, in general, it's a business with different constituencies that have to be addressed. From my perspective, students should always come first and teachers are the next most important part of that ecosystem. Then you have the rest of the machine. Each part of it needs to be adjusted, addressed occasionally. There are less efficient parts of the machine that we can look at.

What are the best aspects of the district?

Every teacher I've met, they view it as a calling for them and I think it's one of the best things a school has to offer is people that believe in what they're doing.

What can the district do better?

I have the observer's viewpoint only for a couple of years in terms of trying to understand what the mechanics of a school district actually are. It's a hugely complex machine. It would be silly to think I have all the answers. In short, I don't know but I will find out and try to take the best (parts) and make sure they are tended to and nurtured and hopefully made even better, and find the parts that don't work efficiently and ... make the machine run better.

What do you bring to the board?

I have a business background and a parent's perspective. I'll bring that perspective and help us make good fiscal decisions.

For more information about Jeff Willoughby, visit http://home.surewest.net/jwill.