Candidates running for Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board of trustees
Staff reportsWith the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District facing another million-dollar deficit and the possibility of mid-year cuts, the school board is going to have many important – and possibly unpopular – decisions to make this school year.Still, four people have stepped up to this challenge by running for a seat on the school board. In Area 2 Monty Folsom challenges incumbent Daniel Collin on the ballot to represent the Prosser, Glenshire and Hirschdale.Though current Area 3 representative Karen Van Epps filed to run for re-election, she has thrown her support behind Kristy Olk, who is running against Carnelian Bay resident John R. Falk to represent the area from the stateline to Dollar Hill on Lake Tahoe’s north shore.The Sierra Sun asked all four candidates how they would deal with the issues; Monty Folsom, John Falk and Christy Olk answered. Area 2 incumbent Daniel Collin did not respond.Here’s what three of the candidates had to say:Area 2: Prosser, Glenshire and HirschdaleName: Monty FolsomAge: 59How long in area? In Truckee 13 yearsOccupation and education: Graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and have more than 20 years of experience in school finance. I moved to Truckee in 1991 and served as the director of business services for the school district until 2001, when I retired. My wife, Ann, is a teacher in the school district and our three sons are all Tahoe Truckee High School graduates.Area: 2.Platform statement: The school board needs to direct its attention toward equitable student transportation, efficient use of school facilities (including the usage of excess school sites), site supervision of student discipline, greater support for teachers and staff, and efficient use of resources. In addition, I plan to review contracts and agreements made by the board and administration for compliance with state codes. There was a lot of controversy about the budget cuts last year, especially preserving small class sizes. Mid-year cuts may be necessary in 2004-05. As a school trustee, what do you feel is important to preserve in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District?It is important to preserve the uniqueness of the educational programs within the school district, including small class sizes. In order to do this, a more effective job in allocating resources is necessary. District resources, including Measure A, are adequate to maintain current programs especially if the district enters into partnerships with other local agencies, sharing school sites. This way, we can accomplish the needs of the district without making any mid-year cuts.Many school employees have voiced concerns about the high cost of living in the area and say they will have to leave if things don’t change soon. How would you, as a trustee, try to hold on to and find solutions for those employees? As a trustee, I will encourage employees to voice their concerns regarding working in the school district, and I will strive to change the working conditions to bring about a positive learning environment where every member of the staff is valued. The cost of living is high in this region, but employees are leaving, in large part, due to the way many of them are treated in the workplace. This is an area which requires the board, administrators, and staff to work together in order to make a change for the better. How would you improve the school district’s communication and relations with its employees, the public and the local media?Improving the school district’s communication and relations with its employees, the public and the local media is more important now than ever. Deteriorating morale, I believe, is an even deeper part of the problem. The school district had a workshop on communication in the spring of 2004, whereupon the audience pointed out that the district needed to provide an atmosphere where the staff’s opinions were listened to and considered. I hope to encourage and value the free-flow of information and opinions, thereby helping to bolster confidence within our schools.Area 3: Dollar Hill to statelineName: John R. FalkAge: 43How long in area? Carnelian Bay for 16 yearsOccupation and education: Community relations coordinator. Education: H.S. Diploma; Cabrillo College, Associate of Arts Degree, conferred with honors; California State University, Long Beach, bachelor of arts degree, conferred with honors; Humboldt State University, bachelor of arts degree, conferred Magna Cum Laude; Pepperdine University, Master of Arts Degree (M.A.); and partial completion of Ph.D. in social psychology from UNR.Area: 3Platform statement: Our public school system should be treated like the regional asset that it is, emphasizing the many strengths that are contained within its ranks.This is an important time in our school district’s history, a time of great change, many challenges, and real opportunity for improvement if strong leadership is in place. I will provide this leadership. It is time to look forward, not backward. It’s time for real change, change for the better.We cannot afford, nor should we tolerate, the divisive “us vs. them” climate that has taken hold at many school sites. We must work together towards the common goal of providing a top-notch education to all the district’s students. We must embrace diversity while seeking commonality. Ultimately, we must provide our children with all the requisite tools and opportunities to succeed in higher education, in business, and in life. I will re-energize the district by focusing on what is possible rather than what stands in our way. My platform is based upon four “C’s”: Character, Courage, Compassion, and Commitment. I appreciate your support.There was a lot of controversy about the budget cuts last year, especially preserving small class sizes. Mid-year cuts may be necessary this year. As a school trustee, what do you feel is important to preserve in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District?The seemingly ever-present budget crisis within our district can only be addressed by putting students first. If and when budget shortfalls demand that cuts be made, those aspects of the district’s operations that directly affect the child in the classroom must be protected and preserved. Cuts should, indeed must, start “at the top”; once all that can be done has been done to curb costs at the district administration level, only then should cutbacks work their way towards the classroom, not the other way around. Thus, the initial target of any budget trimming under my watch would be at the district office, followed by administrative services, then ancillary activities. In lean fiscal times priorities demand that front-line student directed services and resources be “off the table” in terms of budget cuts. Any such reductions should “hurt” worst at the top of the organizational structure, not the day-to-day classroom operations.Many school employees have voiced concerns about the high cost of living in the area and say they will have to leave if things don’t change soon. How would you, as a trustee, try to hold on to and find solutions for those employees?Job stability, a competitive wage and benefits package, ongoing training, supportive colleagues and administrators, as well as community interest and involvement are all vital to a fully functional district. The district employee must feel valued to thrive. The employee should feel that they, as an individual, are an important component to the operation of our school system. The individual should feel vested in the process and product of their efforts; leading to a sense of community. Housing affordability is an ongoing problem throughout the region, indeed throughout much of the state. As a major employer within the region, of which many jobs fall into ‘moderate-income’ jobs category, the district should be leading the way towards the provision of additional workforce housing. I would actively promote TTUSD’s partnership with the Workforce Housing Association of Truckee-Tahoe (WHATT) and other community groups to secure additional workforce housing.How would you improve the school district’s communication and relations with its employees, the public and the local media?The key to productive communications is to re-engage all interested members of our internal (employees) and external (parents, students, businesses, media …) communities. All too often district decisions are made “at the last minute” with little time for thought, research, outreach, or dialogue. People will only feel vested in the outcome if they have had a real opportunity to participate in the decision-making process. To achieve this, I am committed to continuous outreach. I seek to inform and involve all segments of our communities. I operate under the premise that ‘the public’s business should be done in public’. This ongoing outreach and feedback loop can be facilitated by newspaper articles, open forums, workshops, as well as various citizens’ committees. We can do better, we must do better, and during my term of office we will do better.Name: Kristy OlkAge: 40How long in area? Agate Bay for 13 yearsEducation and background: Business owner with a BS Business Administration – MarketingArea: TTUSD Trustee Area 3Platform statement: I am running for school board because of my passion and strong commitment to public education and the youth of this community. My goal is to improve the District in three main categories: education, communication, and accountability. Our district needs better communication between district administration, teachers, parents and the public at large. By listening openly to all points of view and developing that input into programs and policies, we can meet the educational needs in our community, from serving a growing English learner population, to making available solid course offerings for college-bound students. With better communication improved accountability will follow. Our District suffers from serious financial constraints and some students are struggling to meet state standards. We need to ensure appropriate educational programs that serve our unique community within a tight budget. It is imperative that we practice sound fiscal management and keep budget cuts out of the classrooms. My candidacy is supported by incumbent Karen Van Epps, Ken and Terry Yagura, Martha Simon, Michelle and Larry Larson, Bob and Linda Bush, Kim Maier, and more than 90 percent of the staff at Kings Beach Elementary. I would appreciate the consideration of your vote on Nov. 2. There was a lot of controversy about the budget cuts last year, especially preserving small class sizes. Mid-year cuts may be necessary in 2004-05. As a school trustee, what do you feel is important to preserve in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District?My budget goal is aligned with that of the community: Keep budget cuts out of the classroom. A recent district-wide survey shows that preserving small class size is a top priority. The district must explore every possible cut and rank it based on its impact on kids in the classroom. One important step in accomplishing this goal is to ensure that the budget review committee is representative of both school sites and the community. The district is currently forming this committee and I encourage anyone interested to participate on the committee or to communicate their ideas with their school site representative. Every district in the state faces similar if not more difficult funding challenges. As a board member I will develop policy that maintains educational standards within fiscal constraints.Many school employees have voiced concerns about the high cost of living in the area and say they will have to leave if things don’t change soon. How would you, as a trustee, try to hold on to and find solutions for those employees? The region’s high cost of living is a challenge for TTUSD, and the entire community. It is a challenge for workforce levels, from resort employees, to teachers, law enforcement and middle managers. As one of the region’s largest employers, the district should partner with the community and local organizations like WHATT to advocate for affordable housing. In the near term, the district needs to build a competitive wage and benefit package for all employees. As a trustee, I would research what other agencies and school districts provide to their employees, such as the Placer County Tahoe employee stipend. Because we’re a basic aid district there could be increased funding over the next few years. This could be used, in part, to increase compensation to cover escalating housing costs. In planning for the future, we should seriously consider making available district assets for the development of housing for our employees. How would you improve the school district’s communication and relations with its employees, the public and the local media?Communication must be improved in a number of ways. I would like to see the superintendent communicate weekly with district staff via e-mail and monthly with parents and the community via an article in each school site newsletter and local newspapers. The district could also to compile parent e-mail contact information through the existing annual update process, and start using that as a communication tool. To better communicate with teachers, staff, and parents, each school site should have a liaison that attends board meetings and reports back to the school sites. Ultra-long, late night meetings impede community participation and should be streamlined. As a trustee, it would be incumbent on me to seek out and accept input from business owners, service clubs, retirees, Latinos, second homeowners, and others. By using local expertise we can ensure appropriate educational programs that serve our unique community within a tight budget.
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