School board candidates discuss views | SierraSun.com

School board candidates discuss views

Kyle Magin
Sierra Sun

The four candidates for the Truckee Tahoe School District Board of Directors showcased their thoughts, plans and ideas before about 20 community members Tuesday night at the Truckee Town Hall.

Challengers Nancy Gisko, Monty Folsom, Kirsten Livak and Lisa Mohun all shared time in a question-and-answer style forum moderated by Lisa Wallace.

Questions were either submitted by e-mail or asked by the attendants.

Every candidate voiced their support for Nov. 4’s Measure U ballot issue, the $93 million bond, which if approved will mean a multitude of structural upgrades for the Truckee schools.

They differed, though, on what they said were the most important issues facing the school district.

Livak said teacher recruitment and retention is important for the board to focus on, as is collaborating with local entities and non-profits to help to provide more educational opportunities for students outside of the classroom.

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Mohun said teachers need a certainty with their contracts, the board needs to have open communication lines with teachers and community members and she stressed the need for creative financing with impending budgetary shortfall issues.

Balancing the school district’s resources more effectively is an important challenge for the board, Folsom said, as is opening a more collaborative atmosphere between the community and schools to increase student performance.

Gisko said student achievement and closing the gap between low- and high-performing students was a point of emphasis for her, as well as greater collaboration within the district and making sure the district’s monetary resources are spent wisely.

The candidates sounded off on the achievement gap which is present in the schools ” especially among English learners ” and how the board could address it.

“I think that a pay for performance plan is something this board should consider,” Gisko said, referring to tying teachers’ raises to classroom performance.

Livak, a social worker who said she has intimate knowledge of the challenges faced by English learners, again stressed looking to the community for support to narrow the divide.

“The achievement gap is one of my prime concerns,” Livak said. “I think I have an in-depth understanding of the risk factors… families face in our community and we need to look beyond the schools to see how we can accomplish some of the goals we set out.”

Mohun agreed with Gisko that a pay for performance scale might be warranted, saying the gap between students is a fundamental problem within the district.

Folsom said it was important to raise the level of performance of English learners to that of the rest of the students by addressing teaching methodology to make sure there is an increase in performance to match the teacher’s increase in salaries.

That wasn’t the only time teacher compensation came up. The candidates were asked how they would address the divisive issue of teacher contract negotiations, which costs both time and money.

“I think short term contracts create uncertainty,” Mohun said. “I think we could create a two- to three-year contract and tie a percentage index raise to certain factors.”

Folsom echoed her sentiments, saying interest-based bargaining and long-term contracts were valuable.

“I think a long-term contract has its benefits, and it would also be a benefit to develop contracts through interest-based negotiations, which have proved viable and successful elsewhere,” Folsom said.

Gisko also supported the interest-based bargaining tactic, though said it would require a significant amount of training and instruction.

Livak also said she supported long-term contracts, but said she wasn’t clear on the issue and said it was an area of ‘future growth’ for her.

Tuesday night’s forum was also supposed to feature an exchange between the attendants and the two candidates for Placer County’s District 5 County Commissioner seat, but challenger Jennifer Montgomery was unable to attend due to a flu, leaving incumbent Bruce Kranz on his own to field questions and state his platform.