5 candidates running for 3 seats on school boardBy Bruce Whetten
Five candidates are running for three seats on the Douglas School Board this year.
The incumbents Mario Ramos, Susan Kramer and Mike Ortega are being challenged by Natalio Sabal and Louie Tartaglia.
The Douglas Dispatch asked each of the candidates’ five questions. Four of the five candidates responded. Their responses to those questions are below.
1. How will you approach the District budget, specifically the need to manage expenses yet provide students adequate resources and teacher’s adequate salaries?
KRAMER I will do my best to see that our expenses are kept as low as possible for district funds that do not impact teacher salaries or student resources. I will work hard to continue to look at programs and grants that could provide funding for our students and teachers. I will continue to attend ASBA Conferences and read the ASBA journal l for ideas and programs that are working in other districts that we may be able to use or adapt for DUSD.
ORTEGA The need will be to focus on efficiencies throughout the district. We should be questioning all expenses as we cannot expect the same approach that may have worked in the past to work again in this new budgetary constrained environment. Providing students with adequate resources revolves around providing them with the environment for success which starts with the instruction they receive. We must continue to focus on retaining and recruiting quality teachers and that may mean DUSD may need to pay more competitive salaries. This includes paying existing teachers and staff that assist by carrying a larger load.
RAMOS Everyone knows that all school districts in Arizona have had budget cuts. The DUSD school board has yearly adopted a financial budget. Thus some decisions are made, that don't favor well with all. None the less one must act to the best of one's ability when the time comes; No action at all is not the solution.
To provide the adequate resources for our students, we had to close the Early Leaning Center and remove unnecessary school programs to maintain adequate student curriculum.
I strongly feel and will continue to support the efforts to bring the teachers’ pay scales to the levels they should be, I will work continue to find unnecessary areas of expense and advocating for adequate funding from the state legislature.
SABAL I think in all fairness that I am unable, at this time, to comment on how I would approach the District budget since I am totally unfamiliar with all the provisions and particulars of it. However, if elected, and given the opportunity to study and familiarize myself with the revenue sources, statutory restrictions, limitations, mandates, and all other educational laws that govern school budget and finance— as they relate to board members— then I will be able to use my past experience in dealing with the budget and setting priorities. What is common knowledge in the community is that teacher salaries have not kept up with the rest of the state and nation. We must be competitive in order to draw good teachers and be able to retain them. Every board members priority should be to provide the resources in the classroom in order to give the teacher all that is necessary to provide the students with the best possible educational opportunity. Having competitive teacher salaries is essential in this highly competitive market of recruiting teachers. We must never forget that they are our most valuable asset and variable in educating and dealing with our children.
2. Preparing students for America's jobs of the future is a national priority. What would you do in this district to increase and improve student access to computers and other classroom technology?
KRAMER Our district is technologically in step with much of the state already. I would encourage the continuation of updating the software, classes and instruction available to our teachers. Continuing and expanding the CTE programs as the job market changes. Continuing with the JTED membership for our district and sharing resources with other districts around us.
ORTEGA Providing students with computers and other technology could be part of preparing students for the future, but the more fundamental need is to provide appropriate instruction using technology as a tool. We need to make sure our teachers are appropriately trained in what the future holds for our students. This includes understanding the fundamental parts of the new economy and focusing on those concepts. Technology would help in demonstrating real world situations, but ultimately it is the environment starting with the teachers and their ability to convey concepts that is important in preparing students for the future.
RAMOS We are fortunate to have a very good technology program now that compares to larger districts in Arizona. I would support administration to maintain the highest level of technology available to us and to insure that the funding source comes from grants; we need to be creative to find ways to have more computers for students.
It's just not furnishing computers in class rooms. It's motivating our children at an early age in elementary school to strive for higher academic achievement. This can only come from dedicated effort from the parents, teachers, and all the way to the Superintendent including the Governing Board. A child, who cannot read and comprehend proficiently by the time he or she reaches third grade, will be at a great disadvantage.
SABAL All the available resources possible should be employed in order to provide all the resources necessary to prepare our students for the future.
3. What changes do you feel need to be made in the District?
KRAMER Improving our school rating system with the state. Getting more parents involved with the education of their children through the Family Leadership Institute, PTSO and other parent groups. We recognize the fact that some parents get nervous trying to help at their child’s school after a certain age, so these programs are important. We would continue to hire highly qualified teachers.
ORTEGA The District is on the right track and continuing to focus on accountability at all levels of the organization is key to demonstrating value to the taxpayer. This includes the development of quantifiable measurements for achievement. DUSD could establish a system that can be used to keep track of its achievement locally. This should also translate into DUSD communicating with the Public. Ultimately consumer confidence in the passing of a Budget Override or Bond Election (if needed) could be a measurement of the success of DUSD’s communication with the Public and its employees.
RAMOS In the past two years some key changes have been made. The District must be innovative, to be able to keep up with the new technology and teaching methods. It's simple, you can't teach students with methods and technology from the past and we aren't. We will find and use whatever is necessary to improve the quality of education.
We must all be accountable, not just the teachers and school administrators: the community and parents have to do their part, by supporting the teachers and participating in their school meetings and activities. Parents need to make sure their child doesn't fall through the cracks and falls behind.
SABAL In order for me to comment on this item, I must first become familiar with the total picture as a board member. I have no preconceived notions or ideas about present necessary changes since they may be based on misinformation, rumor and prejudice. If elected and afforded the opportunity to become familiar with the issues which confront board members, then I will have a better perception and understanding of what changes need to be done—if any. In all fairness, to comment on any changes which are unknown to me now would be premature, unfair and unadvisable.
4. Why should I vote for you?
KRAMER I was a teacher for 26 years at Ray Borane Middle School. I have a good understanding of how policy affects teachers and students in the classroom on a daily basis. I have a child who attends DHS and like other parents in Douglas I want her to have the best education possible. I will continue to attend trainings to stay updated on new mandates and laws affecting our schools and students.
ORTEGA I am uniquely qualified to be a member of the Board of Trustees of DUSD based on my formal education from Cochise College, and the University of Arizona, and my work experience in running large engineering projects and the administration of large organizations. These experiences have given me the opportunity to solve complex problems including successfully leading a large organization through unprecedented budget constraints and cutbacks. As a parent and longtime Douglas resident that understand the issues our community and School District face, I would like to use my education and experience to address these issues.
RAMOS I was born and raised in Douglas and have lived here for sixty one years. I care deeply for our community. Seeing Douglas flourish gives me a great feeling of pride. My first and greatest satisfaction is seeing our students excel academically and succeeding in life. I can't guaranty, we can get our schools to the levels of excellence in the next four years. 1 can assure you, I will do all with in my capacity to keep the District moving in a precise and constructive direction. Enabling us to strive forward, and reach the highest level of academic quality possible.
SABAL I have 22 years of experience as a governing board at the junior college level and am generally familiar with the duties, responsibilities, and limitations, of a governing board member. I have worked in the Douglas school for many years and am already familiar with the students and staff at all levels. I am a past business man and realize the fiscal responsibility and stewardship entrusted to board members.
5. What experience do you have in education that you feel would make you a good board member?
KRAMER I moved to Douglas to teach middle school Home Economics in 1981. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science Secondary Education and a Master of Arts in Elementary Education, both from NAU. I also held an endorsement in English as a Second Language and CTE Home Economics. I was a member of the Douglas Education Association until my retirement in 2007, holding several offices including negotiations.
ORTEGA I have participated in all aspects of my children’s education including PTSO, parent-teacher conferences, and various other activities in support of DUSD. As a former part-time teacher for Western International University, I understand the challenges associated with classroom instruction. In addition, I was involved in developing the relationships necessary to construct joint City/DUSD projects such as the Aquatic Center and 3rd Street Recreation Center. I will use my experiences, understanding of the importance of strong relationships and ability to work through solutions in partnership with other members of the Board and the community to make DUSD an “A+” District.
RAMOS I graduated from Douglas High School in 1970, and attended Cochise College; my studies were in business administration. I worked for Phelps Dodge for thirteen years, and retired as a mill wright with a four year correspondence course. I volunteered at Loreto Catholic School as a physical education instructor 1985 - 86 school years. From 2000 - 2004 I volunteered at the Douglas Area Food Bank as the vice president. I am also the current president of the Douglas Noon Lions; I have been a member since 2000, and have attended several Lions District - 21 leadership conferences. Having been appointed to the Governing Board in 2008,1 have taken advantage of and have attended all of the Arizona School Board Association conferences, on leadership, and Arizona State and Federal statues and mandates; I also have four years of experience in working with school policies and administration.
SABAL I don't know that experience in education, per se, equates to being a good board member. I feel that an open mind and willingness to learn and understand the responsibilities of being in such a position is more important. I strongly believe that a good board needs to be diversified in order to fully and competently represent a much diversified community such as Douglas. This means that an ideal board which is representative of such a community should be comprised of individuals from all the different areas and levels of the community. I feel that I would represent one of those unique components with my diversified background. The diversity of the board ultimately provides the positive balance and understanding required when making the many decisions that affect this diversified community— especially the students, that not only reflect, but are the product of these circumstances.