Two school board candidates in the hot seat | SierraSun.com

Two school board candidates in the hot seat

Christine StanleySierra Sun

The face of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Board will soon have a much younger look. Trustees Pat Gibbons-Johnson and Mel Cone have both decided not to run for re-election next month, giving the school board a 100 percent turnover in less than two years.The only board seat being contested is Gibbons-Johnsons Area 1 seat, for which Truckee residents Vince Deveney and Bill Kraus are both running. Cones Area 4 seat was grabbed by Truckee resident Vicki Isacowitz without opposition, and incumbent Bev Ducey maintained uncontested custody of her Area 5 seat, which was also up for re-election.Board members Kristy Olk and Monty Folsom were elected in 2004 and will remain until 2008. The challenge will be to fill that void of history and to be able to continue in the direction that the current board has set with the strategic priorities, said Superintendent Dennis Williams. But thats not to say that the incoming board members are not well versed on district history and happenings. As a district employee for nearly 15 years, and the son of former superintendent Vincent C. Deveney, who worked nearly 15 years in the 1980s through the mid-90s, the young Deveney has been on the inside and said that he understands first had what teachers and employees are dealing with both financially, politically and emotionally.I have a keen understanding of the external issues that are driving some of the districts problems, such as affordable housing. Its having a direct effect on employee recruitment and retention and on attendance, Deveney said. I was also deeply embroiled in labor relations and I understand the needs of staff.

Deveney was formerly the president of the California State Employees Association, the union that represents the districts bus drivers, custodians, maintenance workers and other non-certificated employees. During his six years of service he was involved annually with contract negotiations. – Kraus too has been involved with the district for quite some time, and is well versed in educational programming and partnerships at the community level. He also has 15 years of experience in the private sector.I want a school board that takes a more professional approach so that we can look at all options objectively. We need a board of consensus builders, Kraus said. We need to come together to work energetically and innovatively, but we also have to be clever enough so that our education system is not just about testing.The current board has been working for months to develop a strategic plan that will set a path and goals for the district to pursue over the next three to five years. Five key priorities were approved late last month.

Challenges facing the incoming board will likely be different than the issues of years past, Williams said.Former boards dealt largely with the planning and building of facilities, and a district budget that at some points seemed to be just eking it out. But things have changed, Williams said. The budget is more robust than it has been in years, thanks in large part to Basic Aid funding from property taxes, and options for spending and investing are on the rise. Rather than stressing about where to find more money, board members will now be determining how to spend it.Likewise, the board is wrapping up its construction phase.We need to maintain those facilities and we dont have a plan for that, Williams said. Two other huge issues, which incumbent board members have been dealing with for some time now, are the districts program improvement status and the glaring need to recruit and retain more teachers as a number of educators near retirement. Program Improvement is an issue that we need to address with as much energy as we can muster, Kraus said. Because, unfortunately, we have sanctions and restrictions imposed on us by [No Child Left Behind] that will be increasingly restrictive if we don’t address the problem.Elections for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board will take place on Nov. 7, and new members will take their seats after the first of the year.We have so many perspectives that we’re going to be able to bring to the table, Ducey said. I am extraordinarily excited about the opportunities that we will have in front of us in the next five to ten years.

Three county board members are up for re-election, and all are running again unopposed. Those candidates include Bob Tomasini in Area 1 for the southwestern portion of Placer County, Richard E. Colwell in Area 2 for the countys northwestern area, and Ken Tokutomi in Area 4, the southeastern portion of the county that includes Tahoes west shore.

Dave Ferrari is running unopposed to maintain his seat on the Sierra College Board of Trustees for Area 1, which encompasses the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.