CCUSD forum plugs K-3 override

By Linda Bentley | October 8, 2008

School Board candidates dead-set against micro-managing
CCUSD – As the public arrived at the Cave Creek Unified School District Fine Arts Center to attend the candidate forum, with seven candidates vying for three four-year terms on the district’s governing board, they were greeted with a large, illegal, campaign sign advocating a yes vote for the K-3 override.

State statute (A.R.S. § 15-511) prohibits the use of school district personnel, equipment, materials, buildings or other resources for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections.

While the sign was clearly a violation, the forum took cheerleading for the override’s passage to new heights throughout the evening.

CCUSD forumSponsored by Cave Creek Support Our Schools (CCSOS), which claims to be an “advocacy group,” the forum began with a short introduction by Juli Blair, the organization’s co-chair, who invited everyone to join CCSOS because “we would like to be able to keep in touch with you year ‘round about issues that will be on the ballot.”

She spoke about the upcoming K-3 override election and said, “We are required, as a community, to renew this override.”

Throughout the nearly three-hour event, all seven candidates expressed support for the override’s passage, with Javier Ledesma, who is seeking reelection, claiming, “We’re a poor district.”

Also seeking reelection, Casey Perkins said, “I’m a strong supporter. The reason we call it a renewal, even though this won’t expire until 2010, we need to renew it now because we’ll need some other things later.”

David Shaefer said he supported the override because the funds go directly to the classroom. “It’s just a renewal. It won’t affect tax rates.”

Mark Warren said, “I wholeheartedly support the override. If we don’t pass it, we’ll have to look for money elsewhere.”

“I’m a full supporter,” said Virgil Cain, “The key word is renewal. No tax increase, it’s simply a renewal.”

Hugo Di Giulio stated, “It does not change the tax rate. It has great benefit to continue. Please tell everyone to vote for the K-3 override.”

Ledesma said, “Look at what this district accomplished with so little money. We have the second lowest tax rate in the county. I do support this override. There’s no reason you shouldn’t support it.”

Thomas Martin said the biggest issue in the district is class size and mentioned a business class that has 35 students, although it most likely was not a K-3 class.

Besides asking straight out about the K-3 override, the pre-selected questions seemed somewhat superficial, beginning with, “What is one attribute about you that you think will best contribute to students?”

Although most rambled on, in a word, Cain stated “sincerity.”

Di Guilio cited “experience,” while Ledesma said “commitment.”

Martin said it was his “ability to work toward consensus,” whereas Perkins said, “I’d like to echo some of that,” then added “integrity” and “perserverance.”

Shaefer said he agreed with everyone there and claimed “integrity” for his attribute.
Warren decided his were “experience” and “passion.”

The next question asked, “What would be an example of how you would put students first, people always?”

Di Giulio said the public needs to trust the judgment of a board that is organized correctly.
Outlining emphasis on gifted programs, nurses, arts and counselors, Ledesma said “committing financially.”

Martin said CCUSD commits to providing the highest education possible with the lowest tax rate, but the district didn’t have a good enough process in place.

Perkins said it was about “protecting student-teacher relationships and preparing students for a 21st century global workplace.”

Shaefer said, “I’m not an educator or school administrator, so the best way to achieve that is to get out of their way.”

Warren said “paying good salaries” plays a part.

An advocate for small class size, claiming the national recommendation is 17 students, Cain said a retired teacher friend of his said any time there are over 30 students in a classroom, “you’re no longer teaching, you’re doing crowd control.”

The next question asked, “Given the present perception of the board, what would you do to correct that?”

Ledesma responded, “Per-ception is reality. We shouldn’t fight that. One of the things the district has done is hire a public information officer to put out factual information about the district, engage the community better and figure out how to communicate.”

Martin said, “We’re all on the same page. Some of the great accomplishments are being overshadowed but what’s on the front page of the newspaper is not that.”

Perkins said, “Perception won’t change overnight … not micro-manage and everything will work out fine.”

“We need to lead by example,” said Shaefer, “AIMS scores were phenomenal but we need to translate that to the taxpayers.”

There was definitely consensus on micro-managing whereas candidates repeatedly made it abundantly clear they were dead-set against micro-managing, which was the underlying theme leading to the demise of the old governing board.

Photo caption: Cave Creek Unified School District governing board candidates Virgil Cain (from left), Thomas Martin and Hugo Di Gulio, appear to be listening intently as Sharon Sammartino, co-chair of Cave Creek Support Our Students, the candidate forum’s sponsor, explains how the forum would be conducted.
Photo by Linda Bentley