Bringing harmony back to the school board while fixing fiscal and enrollment issues in the district are top priorities for those running for the three open seats on the San Bruno Park School District Board of Trustees.
The four seeking office — incumbent Henry Sanchez, appointed incumbent Patrick Flynn, John P. Marinos and Charles (Chuck) Zelnik — spoke with the Daily Journal for endorsement interviews. Flynn was appointed this May to replace longtime trustee Skip Henderson, who retired for health reasons. Candidates were also concerned with mistrust of the current school board and adjusting to Common Core curriculum changes.
The district’s fiscal issues was the primary concern for candidates.
“The financial deficit is probably going to be $1.5 million,” Zelnik said. “All the other districts have made adjustments. … We have an unfinished middle school too.”
The $199 Measure G parcel tax for schools failed to garner a two-thirds majority to pass last fall.
A transparent parcel tax, with specifics, would be ideal, Zelnik said.
The Local Control Funding Formula also was a topic of interest for the candidates. The new formula will send $2.1 billion more to school districts that have high numbers of students from lower-income families, who have limited English proficiency or are foster children. During the first year, the formula gives school districts more control over state aid by eliminating earmarks for state-mandated programs, except for special education funding.
“We need to wait and see how the funding comes out [with the new formula],” Marinos said, in regards to whether the district should try to introduce a new education parcel tax.
The district would have to frame a tax in a way to show the beneficial impact of it, Sanchez said. He also added that the district will have to wait and see how the new funding formula will impact the district, but that it should have a positive effect on the district.
There is also concern about the district’s readiness for new curriculum. The state’s new Common Core standards shift to more team collaborative learning, with less time spent on lectures and more of an emphasis on classroom technology. New Smarter Balance assessments align with these new standards and will go into effect during the 2014-15 school year.
The next two to three years will give the district a better idea on how the it can improve on the new standards, Sanchez said. He noted that Common Core is very important and there will be a lot of money going into technology for the change.
A focus on professional development is key to implementing the Common Core, Marinos said.
Concerns with board, administration
Some of the candidates expressed concern about current district officials.
“With the current deficit, the incumbent has not kept his promise to voters of fiscal responsibility, staff morale is low because of not providing compensation through some mechanism because they couldn’t convince voters to do the right thing [pass a parcel tax],” Zelnik said. “The mistrust [with the board] is detrimental to the community.”
In terms of decisions to shut down schools, like Crestmoor Elementary School, Superintendent David Hutt did not act correctly, Flynn said. The board needs to make decisions further ahead of time and compromise, he said.
“If he would have stepped up and just explained why he had to do it earlier rather than later, it would have been a lot better,” Flynn said. “He could have said ‘I’m closing Crestmoor, what can I do for your families?’”
Zelnik and Marinos agreed with Flynn. Marinos called him a “lightning rod” in the district.
“Hutt needs to go,” Zelnik said. “He has been a detriment to the district.”
Sanchez stood on the opposing side, noting that Hutt is very upfront, honest and cares about the children very much.
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