Few disagreements in priorities surfaced among five candidates for three seats on the Coast Unified School District board in Cambria at a forum Tuesday.
The contenders answered 11 wide-ranging questions, mostly agreeing about topics such as the role of a trustee; improving the high school; better community relations and interacting with parents of English-language learners; shop classes; the importance of music and art and cooperative programs with Cuesta College.
Candidates were less specific about handling the fiscal impact if Cayucos high schoolers are transferred to another district; whether the district needs its $112,000-a-year assistant superintendent (who also replaced the district’s full-time fiscal officer); and whether the Allied Arts Association, which rents part of the Old Grammar School facility from the district, should be able to serve wine at its functions. And one panelist disagreed about the use of technology in the schools.
The questions presented by moderator Marguerite Bader of the League of Women Voters had been distilled from those submitted by some of the more than 70 people in the audience.
On the school district’s Nov. 6 ballot are:
• Board of Trustees President Cindy Fratto, who has served on the board since 2004.
• Judith Hillen, a math-and-science education consultant with more than 20 years of teaching experience at the elementary and university levels.
• Jack Mettier, who retired (mostly) after teaching for 33 years at middle school, high school, college and university levels.
• Sue Nash, a Hearst Castle guide and art-appreciation teacher at Cuesta College who also has taught internationally and done substitute stints at Coast.
Registered write-in candidate Steve Kniffen, a Cambria restaurant manager who grew up in Cayucos, is not on the ballot but did participate.
Election winners will have to cope with a number of issues: slashes in the district’s income from the state; integrating iPad technology into the middle and high school curriculum and culture; and having the district’s 765 students continue to increase scores in state and federal benchmark tests when about a third are English-language learners and about 14 percent are special education students.
Trustees also must keep an eye on the appeal of a county committee’s denial of a petition to transfer Cayucos high school students out of Coast Union High School to campuses in San Luis Coastal School District.
Kniffen’s answers about technology differ from the others, who said they support the district’s use of iPads for teachers and all students in the middle and high schools. Kniffen said he’s not a fan of technology, prefers teaching kids with the written word rather than lessons on monitors, doesn’t even have a laptop at home and that “there’s no proof computers are making anybody smarter.”
Mettier, who is a potter, a coach and substitute teacher, said industrial arts, music and art classes are especially important because they are “what interest some of the kids, keep them in and bring them to school.”
If elected, he’d give up any substitute teaching or coaching at Coast Unified, he said after the forum, because he couldn’t be paid for working at the district while representing it on the board.
Fratto said she’s lived in Cambria for 23 years, is a “fierce advocate for the children” and joined the board because “I was so impressed with the education my two daughters got, I wanted to do something to give back.”
Nash, who also is a printmaker, advocated strongly for Coast becoming an International Baccalaureate World School, and said communication between the district and community is a “critical area of need.”
Hillen, a mathematics education consultant, echoed both those opinions and said, “We need lavish communication,” the quality of which “depends on the questions we ask.” Her focus is on math and science, two subjects she’s taught teachers how to teach and students how to learn.
The terms of trustees Dianne Brooke and Del Clegg run through 2014. Incumbents Robert Gong and Victoria Dandurand opted not to run again, but Dandurand is running for a seat on the Cayucos Elementary School District board.