West County Times editorial: We recommend Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg and Audrey Miles for West County school board
WEST COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: Incumbents should earn voters support for a job well done
Posted: 10/13/2010 12:01:00 AM PDT
WE DON'T always agree with the trustees of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, but we understand the difficult choices they have had to make and respect the way they have stood up for the interest of the students and the solvency of the district.
It's for that reason that we endorse the three incumbents seeking re-election on Nov. 2: Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg and Audrey Miles. They have faced tough decisions, and they, along with one of their two other colleagues, have performed admirably.
They stood firm in the face of threatened strikes and insisted that employees and retirees share in the cost of their health care benefits. Without the change, the district faced an unfunded liability for retiree health care of $454 million, a sum that threatened to bankrupt the district.
The trustees also pressed for cost-savings through furlough days, but preserved the length of the school year by making sure those days were not ones in which students would be in class. The trustees had the courage to make the difficult, but unavoidable, call to close five schools to reduce costs.
When making these tough decisions, they faced angry teachers and parents. But they recognized that their first responsibility was to preserve education for the students. They recognized that there wasn't enough money to please everyone. The district fought back from the brink of bankruptcy in the early 1990s. The trustees wisely opted to protect the district from a return to the edge of that cliff.
Going forward, trustees will face more difficult times. They are likely to face more state cuts. They are banking on passage next month of an ill-advised parcel tax that asks district property owners to dig deep into their pockets one too many times.
District residents already pay for two other parcel taxes to supplement revenues for school operations. They pay some of the largest property tax bills in the state to cover the cost of school construction bonds.
We disagree with the trustees' decision to place the latest parcel tax on the ballot just six months after voters were asked, and agreed, to approve issuance of still more school construction bonds.
That said, all six candidates running for the three seats available support the parcel tax. While we disagree with them all, we are deeply appreciative of the courageous decisions the incumbents have made and endorse them because of it.
Of the challengers, we were impressed by Charles Cowens, a software technical writer whose two children grew up in the district's schools. Cowens has long been active in the PTA and on district committees, including five years as chair of the budget advisory committee.
He understands district finances and should be actively encouraged by district trustees to remain active, perhaps with a seat on the bond advisory committee, where he could keep a close eye on the community's hundreds of millions of dollars of construction money.
Jason Freeman has good ideas about promoting science and math education it the classroom, but we don't see him as an alternative to the hardworking incumbents on the board.
Finally, Elaine Merriweather, a teacher and union leader in the San Francisco schools, provided little clear reason for her decision to run. While she has been active at the district schools her children have attended, she didn't make a convincing case for her candidacy.
For us, it's clear that, as the district faces the next round of challenges, it needs leaders who have proven experience.