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Why You Should Vote for Santee School Board

Elana Levens-Craig: "The Santee School Board is in charge of a budget of nearly $45 million (even larger than that of the City of Santee’s budget) and our city’s largest employer."

To the editor:

Why should you vote in the Santee School Board election?

Your local School Board has a huge influence on the quality of our schools and policies they make, and your local vote is just as important as your vote in the national elections. 

The Santee School Board is in charge of a budget of nearly $45 million (even larger than that of the City of Santee’s budget) and our city’s largest employer.  Not only does the Board hire the Superintendent, but they set the priorities and budget to determine how your tax dollars are spent over a complex range of areas: facilities and modernization, instructional materials/curriculum, class size, educational technology, student performance goals, length of school day/year, employee contracts, charter schools, and more.  

Although parents of school age children are more likely to vote in School Board elections, many voters may not understand that all citizens have a vital stake in the excellence of local schools. 

Based on the quality of local schools families decide where to live; educated citizens are less likely to commit crimes and therefore create safer neighborhoods; and corporations and businesses factor school excellence in deciding where to bring higher-paying jobs. This cycle then influences home values and the community’s overall economy.  

Therefore the makeup of the School Board is critical. We need the most informed, skilled and thoughtful citizens serving our students and community. 

Learn about your candidates’ qualifications and where they stand on the issues that concern you on Santee Patch.  

You can learn more about School Boards at www.centerforpubliceducation.org or www.csba.org.

- Elana Levens-Craig, Candidate for Santee School Board Seat #4   

Read more about the candidates for Santee School Board     

Peter October 27, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Well said Elana. It is not just parents of school-aged children that have a vested interest in our local educational system. Aside from wanting our own children, and those of our neighbors, to be safe, well-educated, and prepared for the future, communities are often judged by the success of their local schools. Thank you for focusing your editorial letter on the issue of supporting the school board by voting and avoiding any candidate reference. Congratulations to you, Gabriel, and Robin for stepping up by running for this office.
Dianne October 27, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I would like to hear from the candidates what they will be voting to reduce should Prop 30 not pass? How much will it cost the schools? Thanks
Miriam Iosupovici October 28, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Excellent commentary. Impressed by the links appended, too. If I lived in Santee, I would definitely vote for you!
Elana Levens-Craig October 30, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Dianne, Thank you for your questions. I will have to be upfront and honest in answering them by telling you that until I can take a deeper look into Santee School District's budget, I cannot give you specifics as to what areas may be forced to see reductions. If I win, I plan to have an in-depth meeting with Business Services to look at the budget and learn where there may be areas that can withstand further reductions. The cost to the schools is really an unknown at this point because of the fluctuating state budget. The money that the schools will lose if Prop 30 doesn't pass is the deferred payments that state already owes the schools and has not paid them in the current budget year (and prior years). In addition, there are constitutional changes written into Prop 30 that will shift bond debt from the general fund to Prop 98 and therefore further reduce the amount schools are owed based on Prop 98 guarantees and funding models. While Santee School District is in better financial shape (at this time) than many other districts, budget cuts are always tough and require difficult decisions that will have an effect on everyone involved. Thank you for your interest in your local schools. Sincerely, Elana Levens-Craig
Dianne October 30, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Ok, fair enough...understand you're not in office yet. Do you have a sense of what the dollar amount is for the deferred payments? Hundreds of Thousands? Millions? What are your budget priorities? Will you protect employees? Programs? I'd imagine you will be dealing with these issues right away if elected. Thanks for responding.
TDB October 31, 2012 at 02:45 AM
I am actually very surprised that as employees of the district, we haven't heard much about platforms, policies, or proposals from any of the candidates. i was able to research some, but there hasn't been much outreach to the teachers/ staff in the district. So much at stake with this election!
Dianne October 31, 2012 at 04:07 AM
I'm surprised too. I think that this forum is a good way to drum up exposure (I.e. in the form of a letter to the editor); you'd think there would be better response from the candidates. Honestly, all Districts are bracing for the potential impacts hinging on Prop 30. Ms. Craig, while I commend her for encouraging people to vote for "Santee School Board" (code for "Vote for Me"), didn't show a strong grasp on this issue. To say you'll learn about the issue if elected doesn't inspire confidence. I'd like to hear from the other candidates on this and other topics.
Elana Levens-Craig October 31, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Dianne - I have submitted your question of the dollar figure in deferrals to the district and will let you know when I hear back from them. Every district is different, so I hesitate to answer without the facts. This number can fluctuate as well based on the types of funding each district receives from the state (ADA, Title 1, bond matching dollars, etc). Santee has always been a district that values its teachers and staff and have gone to great lengths to avoid layoffs in the past. I would hope that we could continue doing that, but as you mentioned, there are many upcoming changes in the next week or two. Not only will we have elections that will give us a new school board member (whose term will begin mid-December), we also have a new superintendent starting on Thursday, November 1. In addition, we will be awaiting the outcome of the propositions on the ballot and their effect as well. I am hesitant to answer questions regarding budget priorities and programs until I can meet with business services and my fellow board members. I can't honestly tell you that I am familiar with every current budget category or all of the programs and costs associated with them. I know that sounds like an excuse, but I don't want to say anything that I don't know for sure to be true. I will get back to you with dollar figures soon. Thanks again for your poignant questions.
Elana Levens-Craig October 31, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I reached out to STA on three separate occasions and encouraged them to hold an informational interview with each candidate and was told that there was not enough time to arrange that. I also contacted SMOAC to ask if school board could be included in the city council/mayoral candidate forum and they preferred to keep it limited. I contacted the Chamber of Commerce, Santee Fire Department, Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions to do a forum and these organizations do not do forums for school board races typically. I asked the PTA Council to consider a forum, but they were already very busy with membership, fall carnivals, and programs at specific school sites. I too am extremely disappointed that we were not able to have a forum or venue in which to share information and qualifications. I would be happy to meet with you and/or Dianne (or any other citizen for that matter) about my candidacy. Please feel free to contact me at info@elana4schoolboard.com. I hope to hear from you.
TDB October 31, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Thanks for this response Ms. Craig! Its nice to hear from you. It sounds like it has been frustrating trying to set up formal forums and gain exposure within the community. I have visited your facebook and info pages and commend you for having such a well-thought-out campaign with regard to social media and web presence. As a teacher, I am asked a few times daily by friends, family, and parents of students whom it is that I support for school board. I have been at a loss this year, because with it being such a critical election I really felt like I wanted that personal touch or contact with the candidates, even in an informal way, a campus visit where we could ask questions, or hear your insight maybe. Its great to see that you are active online and keeping track of community concerns. Being in the trenches, I can tell you it is a grim picture, even with prop 30 funds, devastating without. A few years back we hit critical mass with an unprecedented number of layoffs which didn't help morale and was very disheartening to teachers. I think the biggest fear among the teaching community is another round of devastating layoffs, affecting all of our temporary and probationary teachers, possibly even some tenured. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that issue. I'd also like to know where you stand on progressive issues such as prioritizing technology vs. more traditional textbook learning. What ideas do you have about how education should look even in the worst economic times?
Elana Levens-Craig November 01, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Dianne - After hearing back from the district, I am going to try to give you a short version of what I learned about the dollar amount our district is owed through deferrals. There are many factors that go into the budget figures, but cash flow due to deferrals is a constant concern, which at times requires borrowing from the county to bridge the gap. There are two types of deferrals, intra-year and inter-year, with the latter being the most devastating. Approximately $1.8 million of the amount owed for this year to Santee through the end of October has been shifted to future months. In Santee approximately 38% of the amount owed by the State to us for our largest revenue source, that associated with student attendance, is not paid to us until the following fiscal year. For last year, the total owed to us by the State for student attendance was approximately $21.5 million - $8.3 million of that amount was not paid to us until July, August, and September of this year. In a district our size, I am sure that you can imagine how devastating this can be to the overall budget. I hope that helps to answer your question.
TDB November 01, 2012 at 09:51 PM
* Elana: This is definitely consistent with what we know, though it is only part of a very big picture. What are your thoughts on how to navigate these waters? What would you propose as solutions for keeping all of our teachers without these funds, or are you intending to support staffing cuts to bridge the gap? I have been referring lots of teachers and friends to this thread to get a look at your insights. =)
Elana Levens-Craig November 01, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Thank you for taking the time to do research into my experience and qualifications. I do wish that there had been more opportunities for outreach and will make that adjustment in the future. I feel that having taught in the district allows me to have a unique perspective and understanding that my opponents may not have. Having attended school board meetings both in Santee and GUSHD for the past four years has taught me about the wide range of responsibilities and important decisions made by the school board. With year after year of cuts, I can understand how teacher morale can suffer. I have seen firsthand the excitement and energy that some new teachers bring to the classroom, as well as the expertise of veteran teachers. We definitely don't want to lose any of the talented teachers in our district. As for the textbook issue, while I love to touch the pages of a newspaper each morning, technology is the wave of the future (and may also save some kids' backs in the process). It is our obligation to ensure our students are successful in this changing world. Even in the worst of times, I feel it is crucial for our district to ensure a quality education that addresses the needs of the whole child. We may need to be more creative with community partnerships, after school learning opportunities, creative use of volunteers, school supply drives, increasing student enrollment, and more parental support for our teachers and staff.

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