ELECTION 2014

 

Local school board members are entrusted to set the policies of the community’s most treasured institution: Three Rivers Union School. The board meets every month on the second Wednesday, at 6 p.m. in the TRUS library. The meetings are open to the public.

The meetings range from rubber-stamping sessions to intense discussions where controversial issues are debated and landmark decisions are made.

The TRUS board of trustees is nonpartisan. The five members serve four-year terms, and terms are staggered so seats don’t become open all at once. 

To run for school board, a candidate must be at least 18 years old, a citizen of the state, a resident of the district, a registered voter, and eligible under the state constitution to be elected to public office.

School board members are responsible for hiring and evaluating a superintendent, evaluating and adopting policies that affect the school, serving as a judicial and appeals body when conflicts go unresolved, monitoring and adjusting district finances, and managing the collective bargaining process in the district.

On the Tuesday, Nov. 4, ballot, voters will select from four candidates which three will be best suited to represent and make decisions on behalf of Three Rivers Union School.

Meet the candidates:

 

GEORGE KULICK, INCUMBENT

What motivates you to be a school board member? 

I have several reasons for wanting to serve as a trustee on the Three Rivers School Board. I hold fond memories of my time attending Three Rivers School from fourth through eighth grades. I am privileged to have been able to support our school these past four years and feel there is more work to do that I can constructively be a part of.  There is nothing better in my life than seeing children be successful. I believe my previous experience as a federal manager of staff and infrastructure makes me well suited to continue to support our school.   

What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

The board has several broad responsibilities. First, the board must provide timely oversight, guidance, and supervision for the superintendent. In the current term, the board has made providing yearly feedback and evaluations a priority for the superintendent. Second, the board must provide oversight and accountability for all school fiscal transactions. Third, the board’s role is to actively support school staff and all who attend our school and to ensure that required state and federal programs are effectively implemented.  Fourth, it’s to be the sounding board and ultimately where the buck stops to provide timely management decisions on key issues. Fifth, the board needs to set broad goals and priorities for the operation of the school. We must be part of all staffing and infrastructure decisions, but we also must let the staff do their jobs and to respect the chain of command within our school’s management structure. 

What is your vision for education in this community?

My view is pretty simple: We must hire the best teachers possible. To that end, I have personally been involved in the selection of all teachers hired during my tenure by participating in the application reviews and interviews of all finalist applicants. We have a dedicated, creative, and energetic staff. I want us to embrace the unique opportunities that Three Rivers and our surrounding areas have to offer in teaching our children about these rich and varied ecosystems. I support getting students out of the classroom to learn about local history and the treasures of our national parks and national forests. I enjoy reviewing and approving the school’s field trip lists each year and to see staff’s ingenuity to provide unique and cost-conscious activities for learning. I also support existing and expanding team and individual projects like the Rube Goldberg challenge, Cyberquest, Science Fair, and the egg drop contests. I strongly support the arts and am pleased to see the ongoing support from the Three Rivers School Foundation for music and information technology. 

What kind of relationship should a district/the board, have with its community? With parents and students?

The current increase in partnerships between the community, parents, and the school is important to our success. We have made limited progress in funding this past year, but by no means are we able to address all the needs of our school. Our partnerships with the community to help with things like new playground equipment, having a music program, funding key teacher needs, and providing both the staff and students with current IT hardware adds so much. The board’s role is to foster and support these good works and to help prioritize the big issues. We are not necessarily there to pick the colors for the playground or the model of laptops, but we had better ensure the playground is safe and is installed by those qualified to do so. 

I hope more parents and interested community members will attend our regular board meetings. The board needs more feedback and interaction on issues important to parents. We welcome students as well as it’s their school! I know the board, as a whole, looks forward to hearing student project presentations at the meetings and when attending school events. I, for one, have learned some key information from our students, like the seriousness of our ongoing yellow star thistle infestation in Three Rivers. 

What are the current challenges facing education/school boards? 

First and foremost is our budgetary situation. We have made some progress in obtaining additional Local Control Funding for our school. This has allowed us to add 1.5 additional teaching staff for this year, but we still are not able to fund a full K-8 teaching staff and have been forced to reduce other staff at the school as well, asking those who remain to take on different duties and learn new skills.  

Of course, money is the root of many issues and the board has worked closely with the superintendent to make strategic fiscal decisions that have affected both students and staff. We voted to allow a higher insurance cap for staff. When we offered a small cost-of-living increase, it was more than used up by increased insurance costs, so we struggle overall to pay a reasonable wage for a great staff.

Much of our infrastructure is old and most of our classrooms are in need of refurbishment, repair, and energy retrofits as our buildings are not well insulated and heating and cooling systems have poor efficiencies. Our restrooms need to be retrofitted for accessibility. The water system is inadequate and failing during these drought times, and we need to pursue additional storage and an additional source for irrigation. 

Our information technology infrastructure and equipment is inadequate to be responsive to the ever changing IT industry.  We are looking now into obtaining increased bandwidth so at least what limited new equipment we do have will be responsive.

The challenges are many for TRUS, as I am sure for other small Tulare County schools, but the benefits of smiling faces, eager to learn and grow, far outweigh these issues. Why else would one want to be involved with a school board?  It’s about helping all our kids be successful.

 

SCOTT SHERWOOD, INCUMBENT

What motivates you to be a school board member? 

When I first
ran for an open board seat, I had three children attending TRUS. I now have seen one graduate and have an eighth-grader and a third-grader at TRUS.  Ensuring that their education is the best it can possibly be is of great interest to me. 

The other motivating factor is finding something of interest to me that ties me to the community. Involvement by residents in the growth and prosperity of a small community is incredibly important. As members of a town as unique as ours, we all have to find our niche — that thing that each of us can contribute to that ensures our success.   

What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

Primarily, our goal is to ensure that every child receives the best possible education available. It is this goal that defines our responsibilities. The board is responsible for everything from student test scores to community relations. Handling these changing roles and responsibilities while remaining focused on our primary goal — to ensure that every child receives the best possible education — can be our greatest challenge.  

What is your vision for education in this community?

I think the school has always been a hub for the community. It is the central focus of our town and one of the things that makes Three Rivers special. My vision would be to see that relationship between residents and the school grow even more. I would feel a great sense of accomplishment as a trustee on the board if every resident of Three Rivers was vested in the success of the school as the school is vested in the success of the community’s children. 

What kind of relationship should a district/the board has with its community? With its parents and students?

Each trustee is elected by the community to represent their interest with the local school system. Every trustee needs to be cognizant of that with every decision made. Balancing your own personal views with the interest of students, staff, and community members can be difficult. At the end of the day we are representatives of the community and are elected to act in their best interest.  

What are the current challenges facing education / school boards?

I believe that there are two distinct challenges for the TRUS board. The first is technology. The board has to find a way to fund the integration of technology into the classrooms and the students’ hands. This is something that is now expected by most parents and teachers but there is no funding for it.  We as a board have to make it a priority if we intend to offer an education that will prepare students for success in a tech world. The second is embracing the new Common Core Standards for all students. These new standards are linked not only to better integration of technology but also new funding from Prop 30.   

 

SUE WINTERS, INCUMBENT

What motivates you to be a school board member?

I have been honored to serve on the Three Rivers Union School board for the past four years with fellow board members who all bring their expertise and experience to the position. We balance each other well. In addition, we have an extremely dedicated superintendent/principal. My own background is in education. I have lived in Three Rivers for 18 years, and my son, Terran, is a graduate of TRUS. Over the years, I have worked and volunteered at TRUS, as an intervention, special education, and music teacher, an Eagle Booster Club member and president, carnival coordinator, and a board member. I support the TRUS and WHS Foundations, and am an active WHS band, sports, drama, and choir mom. I have been an educator for 33 years and taught general and special education in San Diego,Torrance, Irvine, Turlock, and Tulare County. 

I have also been a school administrator. This combination gives me a broad perspective and valuable insight into the requirements and issues of running a local school district.

What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

The school board’s top priority and responsibility is to look out for students. The board is the education watchdog for the community — making sure that students are receiving the best education for the tax dollars spent. The board provides direction and oversight to the staff who see to the day-to-day operation of the school. The board also provides accountability to the community. We are the key advocate for the students, families, and school. We celebrate student achievement and seek resources to expand opportunities.

What is your vision for education in this community?

To continue to provide a high quality education for the children in Three Rivers. I have participated in the hiring process and feel that we have an excellent, caring, and dedicated staff. I believe that one grade level per class greatly benefits students, and I am pleased that we were able to provide that for core instruction this year. The music and art programs are continuing priorities, and I would like to see the new after-school Spanish program expanded. It’s wonderful to have a quality preschool program in Three Rivers to ensure readiness for all youngsters.

What kind of relationship should a district/the board have with its community? With its parents and students?

In Three Rivers, the board and school staff work hard to maintain a close relationship with the students, parents, and community. Thanks to Isaac Warner, our new website is up and running with a wealth of information easily accessed. Staff and board members are readily available through email, and we welcome input and suggestions. The community of Three Rivers has been extremely supportive of TRUS — ready to lend a hand, donate materials, and support various fundraisers. TRUS serves as a community gathering place for sports, the carnival, and various programs.

What are the current challenges facing education / school boards?

TRUS has several challenges and opportunities to address. Our facilities and water supply drastically need work, and while we have applied for modernization funds, it is doubtful that we will receive anything soon. We operate on a tight budget that doesn’t allow for more than the most essential maintenance on our buildings. So, although we have a long-term plan for the facilities, the staff has to make do on a daily basis. 

Another challenge/opportunity is the need to upgrade and implement our technology plan. Thanks to the TRUS Foundation, Common Core funds, and other donations, we have purchased greatly needed hardware for teacher and student use. However, we have not yet solved the overall infrastructure issues and also need to address digital citizenship concepts with our staff and students.

Financial issues continue to be a challenge. TRUS is in better shape than four years ago, primarily due to increased enrollment and the change to the Local Control Funding Formula, in addition to monies to implement Common Core Standards. However, maintaining close watch on our budget continues to be a top priority. 

 

BRAD BARCLAY, CHALLENGER

What motivates you to be a school board member?

What motivates me most is the love for my young children and the love of children. As it is said, they are our future. It is critical to tend to these young minds and n
urture them properly, educating them and being aware of their spirit. Becoming a member of the school board will allow me to be directly involved in decision-making toward the best of our young ones. My background in business management and accounting, as well as being a father to an eight-year-old and a 10-year-old, and a stepfather to a 26-year-old, has taught me much about what works and what doesn’t for children and for the facilities, programs, and budgets that they are affected by. Education is not a line-item on a set of books; it is the only item, and I am not easily swayed by what people “think” or “believe” works. I am of a conservative mindset, yet I am modern. New systems are not always best. Some old ways need to return and some new ways need to be implemented. We need to get involved in our children’s lives and be willing to do something about it; not just sit back and complain. 

What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

As a board member, we should be responsible to the community’s view of what they would expect their school to provide at the highest level possible by use of the best expenditure of tax dollars.  Fundamentally, we need to be approachable to hearing all views and need to be highly accountable thereto. I have worked on the budgets of some of the wealthiest people in this country. It has been my occupation for over 20 years in the accounting and managing of some extraordinary individuals and corporations. Budgets are my forte. I can see right through them, immediately seeing dollars wasted and dollars effectively spent. It would be a pleasure to analyze the budgets of this district with great conservatism while putting our children first.

What is your vision for education in this community?

I am not a proponent of the Common Core. I understand why states/schools bought into this system. I also understand why educators must now support this system. Many changes have taken place in schools since about the 1970s, and not favorably. The Common Core Standards ultimately will not benefit our children. We are fortunate to be in a small district of California where it is not yet fully implemented. If parents and educators would do their research, they would see that this is a political venture to the gain of few. If they were to truly seek the effects of children and families in states such as New York and Kentucky where testing is fully implemented, they would better understand my view of the not-too-distant future for our district.  Education in this community needs to navigate away from this system being forced upon us.

What kind of relationship should a district/the board have with its community? With its parents and students?

Again, the district/board should have a very open and approachable relationship with its community, which includes staff, parents, and students.  All cannot be considered unless all is heard. Much must be achieved at the time board meetings are taking place. Issues need to be addressed appropriately prior to decisions being made that affect all involved. As the only non-incumbent running, my approach would be a fresh and new approach for the opportunity for all to be heard and considered for the best achievable result.

What are the current challenges facing education / school boards?

Adopting the Common Core Standards is of high priority to the district. Understanding to what end the implementation is required is key to nullify its negative effects. Opening minds instead of individuals following what they think they believe or should think will begin to make a difference to the future of education. We must seek truth above all else or we will fail. Student’s health and safety is also of great concern and a challenge to this district. Bullying is an issue that unattended can grow rampant and dangerous. There is hardly any attention to this issue in this district. Incidents are brushed over and not addressed, and there is no real program in place to reverse thinking in this area. Coming from a large metropolitan city, there are many resources that are available to combat this from becoming a dangerous issue. As this district has many adults/parents that are gun owners, it is even of greater necessity than some big cities that an effective program get into place.

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