School Board Candidates

Candidates for Carpinteria Unified School District Board of Trustees are, top row from left: Craig Cook and incumbent Rogelio Delgado, and bottom row from left: Jaime Diamond, Aaron Smith and Jeff Weinbender.

In this year’s election for Carpinteria Unified School District Board of Trustees, incumbent Rogelio Delgado faces four challengers in a race for two seats on the school board. In our final installation of a three-part Q & A series with the candidates, we learn more about the top priorities of incumbent Delgado and challenger candidates Jaime Diamond, Aaron Smith, Jeff Weinbender and Craig Cook. 

This week’s question: School board members have the opportunity to influence and decide funding allocations for school programs including physical education, special education, gifted programs, dual language programs, English language learning programs, afterschool enrichment programs, enhanced nutrition programs, garden programs, field trips, mental health & counseling programs, drug prevention programs, college readiness programs, and more. If you were the deciding vote in allocating additional funds to only three of these programs, which three would you choose and why? (You can name a program that is not listed in this question.)

Jaime Diamond

This is a fairly loaded question as it gives no context.  Have they all been fully funded and is there still a deficit? Have grant funding opportunities been exhausted? Was there some type of increased cost or need? What is the need for additional funding? How are the district’s reserves? Have teachers received bonuses yet? This seems over simplified. Also, are we looking through the lens of a “normal” school year, or is this a year in a pandemic? Context is important. 

First off, I am not choosing Special Ed for a reason. It is legally required to be fully funded in categorical restricted funds. In fact, so is GATE, Nutrition and English Learning. If more funds are required, the district must transfer funds, it is not an option. Also, I would like people to know my choices do not reflect the notion that I don’t value the other programs mentioned in the question.  

Under the assumption of a “normal” year, I would bolster our reading intervention programs. If you cannot read, you cannot learn; this is paramount to student success. I would allocate extra money for school site funds—supplies and materials above and beyond what is provided. This gives principals the ability to purchase items as needed, which covers and may be used in many of the other programs.   

Finally, I would give additional funds for required but under-supported programs such as PE, art and music. It is proven students, especially younger students, need more physical activity. This is for their health, of course, but also studies have shown a direct correlation between a schools offering more recess time and increased academic performance and focus in class; art and music go hand in hand unlocking parts of the adolescent brain and opening up other opportunities for students.

  

Craig Cook

School boards have considerable influence over educational decisions and provide a key social and informative connection to the schooling process. For this question, the three programs would be: after school, English Language Learner (ELL) and Physical Education.  

High-quality after-school programs—which offer multi-faceted academic, social-emotional and behavioral supports—help students retain and develop concepts they learn in the classroom through academic enrichment led by dedicated mentors. Moreover, they represent a lifeline for students who are otherwise left unsupervised after school ends. These programs offer healthy meals, organized physical activity and supportive staff to help students navigate the struggles they may face outside the classroom.

ELL learners are the fastest growing student population. It’s estimated that one-fourth of all students in public school by 2025 will be ELLs. While some students may speak English on a basic level, these students may need extra help in learning English academically. Importantly, they can also participate in social activities and have the ability to communicate with their peers and teachers.

Students receive many benefits from physical education classes. Besides being fun and serving as a stress relief, they help students to become more aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. As expected, this knowledge assists students to make smart decisions concerning their safety, health and wellbeing. Furthermore, participation in PE has a positive influence on our student’s personality, character and self-esteem. 

In closing, school boards provide leadership for our school system, adopting a unifying vision and mission, soliciting and balancing the participation and input of members of the community and advocating on behalf of the educational needs of all students. The board must do its homework and look at where there is the most need and usage by our students. Budget management responsibilities offer potential for more strategic management at the school level, but the effective use of funds requires well-functioning school board leadership and management structures.

Aaron Smith

The Board of Education’s greatest responsibility is to make educated, informed and often difficult decisions related to the district’s budget. These decisions should never be made based on personal preferences or interests. Every penny spent at CUSD needs to be stretched as far as possible. Our student population and our limited funding requires us to identify needs and maximize benefits.  

In every budgetary decision, I will consider how to do the most good with precious district dollars. How can we most effectively increase equity for our students? How can we meet the needs of families across the socioeconomic spectrum? How can we get creative in our use of funds? 

I am prepared to do the research before board meetings. I will work with administrators and teachers to fully understand each of the programs needs and wants. Then I will work with our community to find funding from other sources to supplement programs. Grant availability and support from Carpinteria Education Foundation and many other great local organizations and families have been critical to our district’s programming. We have such a wonderful, generous community and must continue to foster these resources. 

Only after considering all the information and exploring all options would I be ready to make my vote. We need board members who are willing to do their homework, come prepared to meetings and be prepared to make decisions. 

Entering a board meeting educated and prepared is not the same as entering a meeting with a decision already made. The voice of the public matters to me, and I will listen carefully during public comment and consider that input in my vote.  

I promise to work hard for the students and the future of our district.  I promise to be an advocate for all children regardless of ethnicity or socioeconomic status.  Make sure you vote! 

Jeff Weinbender

How to spend additional funds for our students?  I wish we had that issue more often! Without having to eliminate any existing programs, I would choose to allocate the monies towards the greatest needs. 

The recent impact of school shutdowns and the coronavirus have had a major emotional impact on many of our students and families. I would first increase funding for counseling and mental health. These resources could also be directed to help combat some of the chronic absenteeism in our schools. Additionally, I believe a strong academic counseling connection can really help personalize education and increase student equity. 

The second area I would support would be English-language learning and English skills. When the California Department of Education cites the majority of students in a school below state standards in ELA in Carpinteria, this becomes a gaping need that cannot be ignored. Giving students the supports they need for language development will only lead to greater successes across academic disciplines and throughout life. As a junior high history teacher, I see students succeed and struggle based on their reading abilities. I believe spending extra resources in English skills, specifically at the elementary level, will lead to greater results for students in middle school. We cannot create the critical-thinking students we seek as graduates without solid academic foundations built in our primary schools.

Finally, I would seek effective drug prevention resources. I have lived long enough to see the devastating effects drugs and alcohol can have on people from all walks of life. Carpinteria has seen increases in life limiting drug addiction. While we have avoided a full-scale epidemic like other towns have experienced, any life saved from addiction is worth our care.

Rogelio Delgado

1) The city of Carpinteria is 60-70% Hispanic. A lot of parents do not speak English and they do not read the Coastal View News or Santa Barbara NewsPress; they read La Opinion or El Latino. Their children are monolingual, learning how to survive with their limited English ability. Funding for this program cannot stop the dream of a college education. Our kids need the funding for the English-speaking program. Funding should be allocated on the annual budget. 

2) Mental health and counseling programs should always be considered a priority in our school district. Psychologists and counselors are hired through UCSB. Nowadays, a lot of problems affect students’ lives that interfere with their studies. Examples are violence at home, early exposure to drug use through friends at school or at home. All of these can lead to students failing in school, attempting suicide, and destroying families. Funding is essential for mental health and counseling programs in our schools. 

3) Nowadays, a college education is vital for students. They need to have proper academic orientation to graduate from high school with a good GPA. Students need to talk to their counselors if they are experiencing problems so that they can receive proper help. Parents also need to talk with teachers and counselors about any concerns and that is the way to move forward. A high school diploma is the first step to get into Santa Barbara City College or to a university. College readiness programs are essential to parents and students, because they help families know about FAFSA deadlines, financial aid options, and other vital information to be college ready. Funding for college readiness programs in our school district should never be stopped.

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