Thursday Sep 02 2010
Four candidates running for Eureka Union School District board
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
Three board seats available for local district
The Eureka Union School District may have a reputation for small class sizes, active parental involvement and high-achieving students. But, lately, the district in Granite Bay and Roseville has also come to be known for declining enrollment and a subsequently shrinking budget. The district — with a preschool program, transitional kindergarten program, developmental kindergarten program, five elementary schools and two middle schools — has faced falling enrollment for the past six years. The district currently has about 3,450 students, down from 3,520 last year. The district projects a $1.76 million budget deficit this year and deficit spent about $2 million last year. This fall, the terms of current Eureka school board members Jerri Davis, Debbie Holt and Lori Dangberg expire, which leaves three seats available. The Press Tribune recently sat down with the four candidates. John Brooding Age: 38 Occupation: Training manager for California Department of Child Support Services Family: Wife Mercedes and two kids Q: Why are you running for the school board? A: When my daughter went to kindergarten, I started in the classroom as a science docent. I came in for the reading centers. It really surprised me how much joy I took from doing that and a real feeling of helping. Greenhills School had a dad’s club that had been non-existent for a couple years, so the principal and I agreed to start that back up. I led that effort. We did everything from painting playground maps to staining cabinets, to fixing puppet theaters to school-wide barbecues. That was a rewarding experience. It was nice because that school built a real sense of community. Then I worked for a short-term committee when the (district) decided to close Eureka School and another committee that determined what to do with that space. I worked on the Program Analysis Committee that looks at the budget and determines recommendations to make to the board. Q: What are some of the pressing issues facing the district? A: We’ve clearly plateaued. What are we going to do (to address declining enrollment)? We’ve got to look at numbers and the facilities we have. Is there going to be a need for another school closure? Does that mean changing the K-3 model? Does that mean keeping the boundary lines? These things are going to need to be determined because inaction could be very costly. The district has a very good reserve and that’s a luxury most other districts don’t have and the last thing you’d want is to see that money not spent wisely because that reserve is not coming back. That’s one-time money put aside as the district was growing. Q: If you had to choose between dipping into reserves or saving teachers, what would you do? A: That’s a super hard question. If a classroom is at 21 (students) to one (teacher) for K-3, if you’re saving teachers so you can maintain that level, that’s a different argument than dipping into the reserve to keep teachers and having it go below that level. Ultimately, I don’t feel that would be a good expenditure of the reserve to save teachers to go below the numbers that you need. Q: What do you hope for the future of the district? A: I like this district. I like the education our kids receive. I like the direction we’re going. The teachers have been fantastic with embracing technology in the classroom and 21st century learning. It’s important we continue the education of our teachers and make sure they’re able to incorporate all the tools that are there. At the same time, my involvement has led me to see this is a changing district. We’ve got numbers that are declining. We’ve got state funding problems. There are a lot of adjustments that need to be made. The decisions that are coming are going to be even harder (and) you have to have community buy-in. I’m definitely a person that works well with people. I have an ability to communicate and build consensus. For more information, visit www.votebrooding.com. Jerri Davis Age: 48 Occupation: Self-employed consultant to professional medical associations Family: Husband Dana and two children Q: Why do you want to serve another term? A: Since I moved here in December 2000, I immediately went to work in the schools. I volunteered as a room parent, then I was room parent coordinator, then I was teacher appreciation coordinator. I also served as Parent Teacher Club president for two years. I got involved in the Eureka Schools Foundation and ran their annual giving campaign. I’m very passionate about public education. I saw serving on the board as a natural progression. We are going to continue to be faced with some serious issues in the next four years. I think it’s important to have my experience of successfully navigating those bumpy waters for the past four and a half years. Until you’ve sat behind that desk and are faced with what is the most unbelievably convoluted budget system and process you’ve ever seen, you can’t anticipate how difficult it is. It took me a good two years before I had a comfortable understanding. Q: Last year, the board voted to lay off teachers. Were you able to bring back all the teachers? A: We offered all of the teachers back their positions and a couple didn’t take it. That was absolutely thrilling. The EUSD family is very tight-knit and collaborative and it was painful to make the decision to cut teachers. But we didn’t have enough students in the classroom to support that kind of staffing. Q: What do you consider to be the biggest issues facing the district? A: Decreasing state funding and declining enrollment. Those two combined are going to make it difficult for us to maintain the exceptional programs our parents have come to expect and our children deserve. Fortunately, we have a very active parent community that has consistently given over $100,000 a year and the foundation contributes half a million to our district’s enrichment programs. Our previous board members before my time had the foresight when times were good to put money away in our reserves for when times are bad. Saving for the rainy day — the rains have come and we have cut into our reserves to cushion the blow. The good news is we’ve also gained students. We’re at record-breaking intra-district transfers (with) over 350 students choosing to come to Eureka instead of their home districts. We added all-day kindergarten last year. This year, we added transitional pre-kindergarten and preschool. Both of those programs were very popular. We had to turn people away. Q: What are some ways to address declining enrollment? A: Ultimately, we will most likely have to close another school. We may have to reinvent ourselves and use those facilities for other purposes. (But) we’ve found a silver lining. We’ve become much more efficient. Q: What do you hope for the future of your district? A: I hope we are continuously improving ourselves. Principals and teachers are establishing (collaborative) teams to work on each and every aspect of education — the professional learning communities process is going to reap enormous rewards for our students in the future. Student learning will definitely improve. For more information, visit www.facebook.com and search “Vote Jerri Davis.” Andy Sheehy Age: 35 Occupation: Nonprofit executive director Family: Wife Rachel and two sons Q: Why are you running for the school board? A: First and foremost, I view myself as a public servant. I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 to serve our country. I’ve worked in public service in some form pretty much my entire adult life running nonprofit organizations, serving in the military and I’m kind of addicted to it. (Being on the school board) is a great way to serve the community. Q: What do you consider the most pressing issues facing the district? A: One of the things that was a tipping point for me to get into the race was the superintendent getting an 8 percent pay increase after five months on the job, that really bothered me. It just seems like a weird priority — giving someone a raise in violation of the Brown Act instead of saving teachers and saving a school. Obviously, issues with declining enrollment are paramount with average daily attendance down, which cuts the funding to the district, and I think the teachers are really unhappy with what’s transpired. I think the No. 1 resource that we have are our teachers and they should be respected and every effort should be made to keep as many teachers as we can. Q: If you had to decide between increasing class sizes and cutting teachers, what would you do? A: First of all, I think that premise is what the board has been using and I don’t think that’s a correct premise to make. State law says we need to have a 3 percent reserve and since the dire economic times, it has decreased to 1 percent. But the district wants to keep it at 12 percent. We’re in the worst economy since the Great Depression and this is the time to dip into the reserves. (If the district dips more), what you end up with is other school districts in neighboring areas increasing class sizes and you’re maintaining really low class sizes, then you’re more of an attraction to parents who would be willing to drive their kids a little bit father to get into a school district that has a reputation for higher test scores (and) low class sizes. This may solve some of the declining enrollment problems. Q: Do you have other ideas to address declining enrollment? A: The idea of a magnet school — and I’m thinking math and science — would be interesting. When you look at our middle schools, Olympus Jr. High School borders the Roseville City School District so you see a huge increase in intra-district transfers and Cavitt School is down because it’s landlocked and undesirable for people from Roseville to drive there. (We need) a curriculum to bring in students from all over the area. Q: What do you feel you can bring to the board? A: I’ve been a leader in the military and the world of nonprofits. I appreciate everybody’s viewpoint. I don’t think anybody is right or wrong. I’m usually the guy that gets a group of people together to come to a solution. Eric Teed-Bose Age: 44 Occupation: Director of Development for SunChase Holdings, Inc. Family: Wife Shelli and two children Q: Why are you running for the school board? A: I am running primarily because I have children in the district. I got to a point in my life a few years ago when I realized I need to give more back to the community. We moved to the district about the time the district was going through its long-range planning process. It became obvious the district was having a lot of really difficult challenges. Usually districts go through growth cycles, but in areas like Granite Bay, they’re on the other side. Fifteen years ago, the future involved growth — new schools, new subdivisions, new students, more teachers. Now it’s going the other direction, so we need to develop a new, long-range vision. More than anything, I feel like I’m a good communicator and right now this district needs people who know how to communicate. They need people who can balance a variety of issues and form those into coordinated solutions so we’re not dealing incrementally with issues but that we’re moving everything together to a broader plan. Q: What are the big issues facing the district? A: It’s the effects of declining enrollment. We’ve enjoyed smaller classroom size. We’re losing students so we’re losing funding and we’re probably going to have to figure out how to shrink the district, like closing another school. But the other part is the fact that the state just doesn’t have the money. So how do we maintain (small) classrooms? No. 2 how do we keep our quality teachers? No. 3 is developing a curriculum that keeps up with new technology, new learning styles and new expectations for careers. How are we going to do those things with a shrinking budget? I served on the Program Analysis Committee that looked at prioritizing the district’s goals. We have to get our community — parents, residents and businesses — more involved and try to raise as much private money as we can. Being involved with the Eureka Schools Foundation helped me understand one of the greatest things we can do is raise money for costs the district can’t afford to pay for, whether that’s instructional aides, library technicians (or) science equipment. I’ve been working with the district to attract more students. I’ve been working with large employers in the area and have them notify their employees that they can actually bring their students to our district. Q: What do you hope for the future of your school district? A: One of the things Eureka has done is develop educational programs that have the flexibility to allow every student to do the best based on their capabilities. To do that you (need) fluid instructional expectations, teachers that are constantly trained and given tools to do their jobs, and a variety of enrichment programs so we aren’t just a typical school district. What we’re doing here is trying to improve the chances of future success for our kids. We’re not just fulfilling an obligation for public education. We’re trying to launch our kids for their future lives as best and as far as we can. Sena Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.