The candidates for the Poway Unified School District’s Board of Education answered questions at a public forum at Painted Rock Elementary School Wednesday night, the second and last chance for voters to hear them side by side.
Questions were chosen by the Poway Chamber of Commerce and the Green Valley Civic Association, with a few questions from the audience added as time allowed.
The candidates delivered short opening statements before discussing issues ranging from the controversial bond that has attracted much media attention to teacher evaluation.
Two board seats will be filled in the November election, with three candidates competing: Kimberley Beatty, Andy Patapow and Linda Vanderveen.
Beatty, the lone challenger against the two incumbents, has served on various PTAs and currently serves as Palomar Council PTA vice president of legislation. She honored the service of the current school board members, but said a proactive board is needed to defend public schools, which are threatened by severe budget cuts.
“Our kids’ education piggy bank has been raided by well-paid corporate lobbyists and state and local politicians. City redevelopment agencies took property tax money from the kids so cities could fund projects without raising taxes,” Beatty said. “Our school board should have spoken out against these special interests.”
Vanderveen said that during the 14 years she has served on the school board the district has make significant strides and students have been recognized for their achievements statewide and nationally. She noted that more students are taking AP classes, graduation requirements have been tightened and test scores continue to rise.
Poway Unified has rebuilt or renovated 24 of the oldest schools in the district, opened seven new schools including two new high schools and a new K-8 school is planned, Vanderveen said.
“The continuity and stability of the administration and the school board has been a key factor in building and maintaining the stellar reputation of the Poway Unified School District,” she said.
Patapow has been in education for 50 years, including 28 years as principal of Abraxas High. He has also been a teacher and vice principal and has served on various committees devoted to education. Patapow has been on the PUSD Board of Education for 16 years, and said his cumulative experience qualifies him to continue serving on the board.
“Continuing to educate all of our students with the limited funding received from the state of California is always our biggest challenge,” he said. “We have to work with peer and advocate groups and professional organizations and legislators to re-write our existing laws. I fail to understand why our children are always put aside or ranked at the bottom as far as funding goes.”
Candidates were asked how they would address the concern over a capital appreciation bond that borrowed $105 million last year. Incumbents Vanderveen and Patapow defended the board’s actions.
“When we made that decision on the bonds, we used all the information we had from all available resources, our experts in the field, and we wanted to follow the mandate of the voters,” Patapow said. “They didn’t want their taxes raised, so what we did, we thought we had the best possible way to finish our building program. And we wanted to finish our building program so we’d have a level field for all of the students.”
Vanderveen said the district had few options, as bridge loans were coming due when the national economy cratered. She said it is important to look at the entire bond package, not just one deal.
“When you look at the entire bond re-payment rate for the entire package, it’s 2.95 times the re-payment rate,” Vanderveen said.
Beatty said the bond was not a smart deal and she would have handled financing school construction differently.
“I was also upset because this poisons the well with respect to raising additional revenues to get our class sizes down and restore quality programs and services, which are more important than shiny new buildings,” Beatty said.
Beatty said she has consulted with a financial advisor who has taken an interest in PUSD’s complex bond issue. An option they are exploring would include the passage of a bond measure raising current tax assessments $38 per $100,000 of assessed value. She said it could save taxpayers $500 million or more.