Donald LaPlante: We do not simply represent specific schools. We represent specific areas of the community, but we are responsible for the schools everywhere in the school district. When we went to the trustee area election system, board members that are currently serving were very conscious in saying we represent the entire school district. We need to continue that type of philosophy or we will turn into a holy mess like Los Angeles Unified where the board members seem to only be concerned with that little bitty area that they represent. As far as visiting, I visit on a regular basis.
Mark Morris: I try to visit all the schools. I’ve attended all of the PTA meetings at the school sites. I’ve gone to various activities including the sports venues from time to time. Recently, I visited the Downey High School PTA meeting and there were like 60 or more people in my theater. They were there to hear about the AG requirement and how they could get their children on this college-based learning system. If a parent knows and sets the course, the child will follow. I think our PTAs are doing a fantastic job.
Common Core requires our kids to have strong computer skills. How do you propose increasing access to computers both at home and at school?
Linda Salomon Saldana: Well, Common Core doesn’t necessarily ask for more computer time. The testing is now being done on the computer and all of our schools are equipped with enough computers for the testing to occur. As for Common Core, I’ve got to say, they’re going from just using a formula to now explaining how they get to the answer. It’s not about overthinking, it’s about think about it, figure it out, and come back and tell me. It’s happening at Price, they’re having math morning and reading morning where parents are coming out at 8:15 a.m. We’re letting the parents go into the classroom and explaining what Common Core is.
Vanessa Rodriguez: Working at Cerritos College, I’d use the same method that they use, seeking finances from grants for computers. I used to work in the library, now I work in research and planning, and we got some grants that helped us to provide computers for students and computers for the public. We have tutors and those evaluating the needs, but I feel that iPads are necessary. At least a few in the classroom that everyone has access to.
How would you deal with teachers that don’t care enough to help struggling students in their classrooms?
Tod Corrin: We have very good teachers, but there are some that probably need to move on to something else. We need to supervise and get our administrators into the classroom so our principals and vice principals know what’s going on in each classroom so we don’t lose those students. Teachers that are successful put in tons of hours both at school and at home to make a difference in the life of kids.
Is there any hope of reducing the price of the bus ride to Williams Elementary School? We are 1.5 miles away and I see parents walking their kids to school in the rain and heat because they don’t qualify for help and they can’t afford the annual fee.
Mark Morris: We would like to do a ton of things that we’re not doing, but we can only afford to do certain things. We made the decision years ago that walking area was increased because we saved money. While it may be inconvenient for some it’s needful for the budget to balance. When I went to school, we had buses rolling all the time even to high school. The fact is, we just don’t have the money. We put our resources where they matter most and I don’t think it’s such a bad thing for a parent to walk their kid to class.
With the recent lockdowns at some of the schools, do you believe it’s time to have an armed guard/police officer at each school, not just at the high schools?
Donald LaPlante: No. I don’t think it’s time for that at all. We don’t need to turn our schools into armed camps. The lockdowns that occurred have been related to outside activity. None of the lockdowns that I’m aware of have anything to do with what was happening on campus. We lock down and close the campus for the safety of our students so an armed guard isn’t going to change that one bit. The reason we have police at the high school campuses is so that the kids can have an interaction with them. So they see the police as not these mean guys driving around in cars, but as someone they can communicate with and they know what’s going on. Obviously on these campuses, you’re dealing with 14-18 year olds so you’re going to have people who do bad things and it helps there too.
Why are we spending money on an election with only one item on the ballot? Will you ever commit to rescheduling elections like this to even years to maximize our money?
Mark Morris: Personally I think it’s fine the way it is because the people interested in schools will vote. During the general election, a lot of people don’t understand the issues or don’t care to be informed on the issues revolving around the schools. I do think we can do a better job of informing parents about the issues in their schools. It’s astonishing that you can talk to someone whose kids graduated from the school district and then they say, it doesn’t matter to me. Yes, it does. You have grandkids, neighbor kids, every child in Downey is your responsibility.
Donald LaPlante: It’s important to note that when you go through all of L.A. County, you see that nearly all school districts are having an election. It’s because Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder won’t allow us to move those elections. There’s a reason. Years ago, people asked can we go to even year elections. They said, “Nope, don’t have the ballot capacity. Have a nice day. Goodbye.” The only districts that were able to do it were charter school cities that they weren’t able to turn down. You’ll find that in other parts of the state, school boards do have their elections in even years, but that’s because those counties can handle the capacity.
Do you support or oppose term limits for the Downey Unified School District board members?
Tod Corrin: I oppose term limits. I used to support term limits years ago for the city, but I learned that it really takes so long to become aware of all the little nuances. It makes us a much stronger school board than we would be if we did not have term limits. We know what’s going on in the schools because we’ve been there and seen it for a number of years.
Willie Gutierrez: I agree with Mr. Corrin. It does take time, but I feel like everyone here feels like Downey is doing a great job. We’re not stagnant. We’re moving forward because of the existing school board that we have and we know the issues the students are facing so we know what to do. Experience counts so I would be opposed to term limits.
Linda Salomon Saldana: I am for term limits. I think that a position should be held for the right intentions, with the right investment, if it’s 12 or 16 years. Yes, maybe my kids won’t be there and another parent who’s coming in needs to take that role. Yes, it’s hard to get through all of the information and jargon, but if you’re learning it, living it, and there at the campus, it’s not rocket science. I think a new person can come in every so often and do a good job.
Donald LaPlante: No shock, I’m opposed to term limits. All we have to do is look at what term limits have done to the legislature and this state. A state that was semi-functional is now a dysfunctional mess in Sacramento because of term limits. The city has term limits [eight years] because someone got mad at someone and wanted to get them out of the door. Term limits don’t function in the way they were intended. They’re a mess and actually end up driving out the people who are the best.
Vanessa Rodriguez: I’m for term limits. I think that you need fresh perspective. Things are constantly changing. We can’t do things by ourselves.
Mark Morris: I’m against term limits, that’s what you have elections for. It’s just another way around the election cycle. If someone needs to be replaced, trust me, the election is the place to do it.