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Candidates preview answers for forum

At 6 Thursday, the three school board candidates for Area C will answer questions from the La Jolla Cluster Association and the public at a forum in the Parker Auditorium at La Jolla High School, 750 Nautilus St.

Financial analyst Scott Barnett, school psychologist Michelle Crisci and incumbent John De Beck, seeking to represent the voters in La Jolla, Mission Beach, Point Loma, Linda Vista, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach, will face off in the June 8 primary. The top two vote-getters will advance to the November election, when all voters in the district will have a say.

We asked the cluster group’s organizers if we could get a sampling of their questions and asked the candidates to respond to a few. Here’s a little about those seeking the seat and answers to some of the questions we asked. To learn more, go to Thursday’s free event.

What are your three priorities and how would you accomplish them?

  • Barnett:
(1) Implementing an efficient management and financial structure. As a budget analyst and former executive director of the SD County Taxpayers Association, I have the skills to get this done. (2) Give greater autonomy to each individual subdistrict, clusters and schools sites in determining their budget priorities, curriculum and extracurricular activities. As a parent of two children in our schools and a former PTA president, I have seen firsthand how neighborhood-based schools serve both our children and the community best. (3) More resources directed to classroom: music, arts, sports and facilities. There is so much waste and inefficiency which can be redirected to the classrooms.

  • Crisci:
Increase student learning and streamline spending: This can be done by coupling teachers with technology as both an instructional tool and as a remedial application. With the accessibility of affordable technology, we are free to move away from the false assumption that one teacher in a class of 36 learners can meet the curricular needs of every student every day. SDUSD has already committed millions of dollars to our classrooms and will soon have the hardware to personalize curriculum. To be effective, professional development will need to prove how this new technology can and will change teaching and learning forever.

  • De Beck:
(1) Improving student achievement, (2) keeping a balanced budget and (3) attracting and retaining talented staff.

Some say San Diego Unified, the second-largest district in the state, needs to be split in two. Others say it needs to be reorganized into “mini-districts” made up of high school clusters. What is your view?

  • Barnett:
Splitting SDUSD in half as Mr. de Beck has advocated won’t solve the basic management problems and will cost more money, as each district will have its own school board, central administration and staff. I support divesting the central offices’ authority and giving as much autonomy as is legally possible in budgeting and curriculum to the individual school sites, the high school clusters and the individual subdistricts.

  • Crisci:
The sheer size of SDUSD does frequently complicate the flow of information and give the impression of conflicting district priorities. I believe SDUSD needs to be organized into cluster communities to respond to the individual cluster needs. In the past, SDUSD has had limited success when organized into “high school clusters” because these high school “mini-districts” were essentially driven by the changing SDUSD leadership. Today our cluster communities are organizing themselves and making their cluster priorities known.

  • De Beck:
I proposed splitting the district. I believe that option provides a long-range solution to many of the disturbing events that seem to reappear when the board power shifts. It puts an emphasis on cluster control by having a single cluster election for a board member and combining clusters that have common interests. I can work within the current environment, but believe that a split would provide coastal communities a chance for more influence in their students’ education.

Can art and music instruction be integrated into the regular curriculum? Why or why not?

  • Barnett:
Absolutely it can. Last year when the school board planned to cut visual and performing arts (VAPA) programs, I helped organize a rally that resulted in the funding being maintained. Integrating the arts into student curriculum is a key component of an educational system that prepares students for becoming part of the 21st century work force as well as a way to re-engage young people in their own learning and helps to strengthen student learning with measurable outcomes.

  • Crisci:
Art and music can and are integrated into the general education framework. The arts are an important vehicle which can help students learn to connect emotionally to curriculum and their communities.

  • De Beck:
Of course, these are part of our history, and when studying any culture, you need to understand their music and art. A balanced curriculum must include these things.