Santa Paula High School Board of Trustees Candidates

October 31, 2008
Five candidates running for two seats on SPUHSD board
Santa Paula News

Catherine Sepulveda is the only incumbent on the ballot.

By: Brian D. WilsonSanta Paula TimesCatherine SepulvedaCatherine Sepulveda is the only incumbent on the ballot. She says she’s running because of her long history with the high school and her passion for education.“It is through education that we safeguard democracy and a free society,” she said. “The individual is enriched when the mind is developed and critical thinking has an opportunity to mature.”Sepulveda notes test scores have been going up during her tenure on the board. She notes that about half the high schools in the state are in what’s called “Program Improvement”, which means they’re being watched closely by the state. Neither Santa Paula High nor Renaissance is in program improvement. “The board constantly prioritizes to support programs and interventions that will be the best for student achievement,” Sepulveda said.She supports Measure Q, the high school bond measure on the ballot. “The priority is for excellent teaching and learning,” she added. “Quality schools are the schools that will best prepare their students for the 21st century.”What does she see as the most pressing issue facing the district? She lists three issues: the achievement gap, the budget, and an excellent learning environment.As for dealing with the state budget and cuts in education spending, Sepulveda says the district has a fiscally sound budget. She notes they don’t have any fat to cut. “We eliminated our Adult Education to accommodate budget cuts in the state,” she added. “The priority is student achievement, and programs are prioritized according to what is best for student achievement.”She says between 25 and 30 percent of incoming students are not adequately prepared. “This year we have approximately 125 students not at adequate reading level,” she said.Sepulveda said that, as a child advocate, she believes in adequately funding public education. “I am very active as a board member and have had several opportunities to lead educational committees to enhance the learning and well-being of our students,” Sepulveda added.Andrew CastanedaAndrew Castaneda says he’s running because he wants to better the future of our children through better education. He said that recent test results may suggest positive changes, but added that one test result is never enough to reach a definitive conclusion. “Education is a continuing process, and there is always room for improvements,” he said.When it comes to the Measure Q bond measure, Castaneda said passing the burden to the people with the current economic downturn might alienate some supporters. “Let’s look for other sources of funding, and if taxation was the last choice, a sales or utility tax would be more equitable than property tax,” he said.He believes that addressing the disrepair of schools is a pressing issue. “While fixing our schools appears to be pressing, we must also do self examination and render an accounting on how we manage funds and other resources,” he added. “If we can show people that we have shown good judgment, then they will be more supportive of the schools.”As for state budget cuts, Castaneda says everyone is in the same predicament and will feel the sting for quite sometime. He also said, “Part of being a good and trusted steward is making sure resources made available to us are used toward specific and intended purpose(s).”He said he’s not in favor of the social promotion program instituted by elementary schools in the state. “I do not want to take away the students’ sense of responsibility and accountability, much less the incentive for them to do their best and excel,” he noted.Castaneda said people may disagree on many things, but he’s sure they all agree about one thing, “With good education, our children will have stronger self confidence. With close parental guidance the young ones will gain momentum in pursuing productive careers, making them well equipped to face life’s challenges.”Yolie CerdaYolie Cerda said she’s running because she’d like to see the high school district more thoroughly supported by the community. “I know a lot of the students on a personal basis, and I would like to see them better prepared with careers and futures,” she said. “I’ve written a Master’s thesis on how to get kids off the streets through mentoring programs, and would like to see it implemented in Santa Paula.Regarding improving test scores, Cerda said she finds it very exciting that the test scores of the SPUHS students have been improving.She supports Measure Q. Cerda notes Santa Paula High School is in a dilapidated state. “Compare SP High to most other schools in the county and the results are depressing indeed,” she said.“My difficulty with Measure Q is that I, as a voter, do not know enough about how the money will be spent. Who will be held accountable? At this time, when we must be frugal with our spending, I believe the voters of Santa Paula need more facts and figures before any work is done.”
She believes there are several pressing issues facing the district. One is state cutbacks. Another is a list of issues that students face, including pregnancy, drug use, alcoholism, gang involvement, poor self-image and poor academic performance. Finally, she lists as an issue parent involvement with their kids. “They need to know them better so they can better support them,” she said.She said her three-point platform addresses the issue of state budget cuts. Cerda said that the high school needs to become more connected with the community so the community can play a more supportive role. She adds that during the budget crunch she intends to play a key role in obtaining new monies and/or resources, “to better ground our high school district, its staff and its students.” And, she said she wants to see the business community more actively involved in the teaching, training and mentoring of local students.Cerda said Santa Paula students may be less prepared for high school than other students across the nation because of the number of single parent households, the number of low-income families and the ill preparation of the parents for viable careers. “Academically, however, overall our students seem to be doing well in preparation for high school entrance, better than average,” she added.Cerda wants to see school board meeting televised. “That way our community may be made privy to the issues at hand and those coming up for votes, and who says what,” she said.Diana Ponce-GomezDiana Ponce-Gomez said she’s running to improve the education of our children. “I have a vested interest because I have three children who will be Santa Paula Cardinals before I know it,” she said.“The most important thing to me is our children’s education and I want to make sure that SPHS is doing its best to meet the educational needs of all students in this community. I am also very concerned when I hear fellow alumni struggle with the decision of whether or not to send their children to the high school.”She is happy with the improvement in test scores at the high school, and expects it to continue. “The faculty worked very hard to improve these scores,” she added.Ponce-Gomez has concerns about Measure Q. She said with the current economy, now might not be the best time to ask taxpayers to increase their property taxes. She noted she would feel more comfortable if the district had a priority list instead of asking the public to write them a blank check.She added there has been some reluctance in the past to allow the public to use the facilities on the SPHS campus. “My hope is that this will change,” she said. “If the district is asking the taxpayers to help pay for improved facilities, I would expect the district to implement a fair and consistent policy for use of those facilities.”One of most important issues facing the district in her eyes is that of providing educational opportunities to all students. The current belief is that all graduating students should be qualified to attend a four-year university.“I applaud and support the commitment to college preparation,” she said. “However, at the same time, I realize that not all students are going to attend a four-year college after graduation.” She wants to expand the current vocational offerings to students.As for state budget cuts, Ponce-Gomez said the choice is either to cut spending or increase revenue. She prefers to increase revenue. “As a result, I want to research the possibility of recapturing some of the ADA (Average Daily Attendance) revenue received from the state.”She said SPHS is failing to attract new students, who choose to attend schools outside of Santa Paula. “By increasing our enrollment, we can increase our revenue.” If budget cuts are necessary, she wants to keep them as far away from the classroom as possible.She is also concerned that about one third of incoming freshmen enter SPHS with basic or far below basic skills. She said these students are “socially promoted.” She’d like to see a place created where these children can get individualized remedial instruction, such as an interim school on campus.Chris WilsonChris Wilson said he believes his abilities will help improve the high school. He’s pleased with the improvement in test scores at Santa Paula High School.“The fact that the high school has moved out of Program Improvement is a good step,” he said. “We need to continue to work to improve our students’ education.”Wilson supports Measure Q on Tuesday’s ballot. He feels the measure is a way of sowing local support for the school in this time of reduced state aid.He added that one of the most pressing issues facing the high school is the large number of socially promoted children coming into the school as freshmen. Wilson noted, “We need to work closely with the elementary districts, perhaps through unification, to reduce the number of socially promoted students. This might entail the creation of a freshmen academy to focus efforts on this group.” He also wants to see improved communication between the high school and elementary school districts.Concerning state budget cuts, he feels the effects of the cuts can be softened by hiring a grant writer to search for other sources of income. “I would like to explore the possibility of forming partnerships with area companies to expand vocational and career technical education opportunities,” he added.“We need to work to improve our schools as an important step in the economic development of Santa Paula,” Wilson said. “We need to work to be sure that the improvements and achievements of our schools are made known to the community.”

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