Poway Unified candidate forum draws little interest
(Editor’s note: This story was late in being posted as we were without computer service all day Thursday.)
By Emily Sorensen
Despite a small public turnout, the three candidates running for seats on the Poway Unified School District’s school board held a calm and respectful forum Wednesday night, introducing themselves and answering submitted questions.
Jointly hosted by the Palomar Council PTA and the League of Women Voters, the candidate forum attracted only 13 concerned citizens in the audience, 11 of whom asked questions, ranging from the candidates’ backgrounds in financial matters and accounting, to what they would do to deal with bullying and drug use in schools. Only one question was about the controversial Proposition C capital appreciation bond.
Incumbents Linda Vanderveen and Andy Patapow were joined by Kimberley Beatty, who is running in hopes to win a seat away from one of the two current board members.
All three candidates began by giving a short, two-minute opening statement, introducing themselves and giving their backgrounds in education and the school district.
“I think I can make a difference,” said Beatty in her opening statement, citing her experience as a lawyer and as the mother of four children in the PUSD. Beatty’s main concerns seemed to be the overcrowding in PUSD schools, the elimination of student services and the lack of funds for new textbooks and technology. “We need a proactive school board to defend this attack on public education,” she said.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the forum was the lack of questions about the controversial bond passed by the school board that will cost Poway taxpayers nearly $1 billion over the next 40 years. Only one question was asked about the bond, questioning where the additional $31 million premium tacked onto the $105 million bond went., Vanderveen answered by saying the premium had been used to pay fees for the bond, as the board had promised the voters all $105 million of the bond money would be used for schools. “This is very normal,” Vanderveen said. Patapow agreed with Vanderveen, saying that bonds were very complicated and often used to pay for other bonds.
Beatty said that according to board member Marc Davis, the premium had indeed been used to pay for fees, and also for the board’s bridge loan. “That’s an awful lot of money for fees,” said Beatty. “It came at a significant cost.”
Another question was raised about the candidates’ financial and accounting backgrounds. Both Patapow and Vanderveen acknowledged that they had no accounting or financial backgrounds, as Vanderveen was a nurse by profession, and Patapow a teacher, then a principal.
“I rely on the financial experts hired by the district,” said Vanderveen.
Patapow said his experience with budgeting came from being principal for Abraxas High School for nearly 30 years, and that he too relies on district personnel for budgetary matters.
Beatty cited her education in law, her skill in reading and understanding legal documents, and her experience working as a loan officer for a financial company. “I have a natural proclivity to do due diligence whenever we make a major financial decision,” said Beatty.
Other questions asked the candidates included two about how the school board planned to handle serious issues students face in schools today: bullying, and drug use in schools.
Beatty said that she has personally dealt with bullying with her own children, and from her experience, the official response to bullying depends on the principal of the school. “I’ve heard horrendous stories,” said Beatty. “There’s definitely room for improvement.”
Both Patapow and Vanderveen explained the district’s process for dealing with bullying, which begins with the teacher and moves up the ranks to the school board. “We are tackling this problem from different areas,” said Vanderveen.
Their responses were similar on the issue of drug use, citing the success of the drug use forums the PUSD helped put on, and the importance of getting students and parents involved in the education about the dangers of drug use. “It’s a horrendous and ongoing problem that isn’t going away,’ said Patapow.
All three candidates were in agreement about term limits, stating that they were unnecessary. “Every four years, the public can vote out people they don’t like,” said Vanderveen, saying she felt there was a learning curve to the position. Patapow was in agreement, saying that qualified board members should be left on the board, and parents could vote out anyone they didn’t like. While Beatty agreed about term limits, she said that she would like to see the board consider electing by district, as all current board members are from Poway, which leaves the numerous other areas in the PUSD without true representation.
The candidates were also mostly in agreement about what the school board’s top priority should be during this school year. “We have to service the needs of all students, despite budget cuts,” said Patapow. “We have to put the emphasis on the students.” Beatty stressed the importance of outreach to the community, as two-thirds of taxpaying citizens in the PUSD don’t have students in the schools. She also wanted to bring state senators in to help, especially with overcrowding in classrooms. Vanderveen said that the board was going to have to learn how to do more with less. “Until education becomes a priority to the state we’ll have to find other ways to educate our children,” said Vanderveen.
The forum was held at the district office in Carmel Mountain Ranch.
- Poway Unified candidate forum is Wednesday, Oct. 10
- Challenger enters PUSD board race
- Two incumbents to seek re-election to Poway Unified school board
- Mangum, Vaus clash at Poway forum over PUSD bonds
- County Grand Jury commends Poway Unified School District
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