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School Board Candidates Participate in First of Three Forums

Dixon Unified School District School Board Candidates answered a bevy of questions during a special candidate forum that touched on a variety of topics affecting the district.

Last night the votes of Dixon got their first opportunity to see how the candidates stack up against each other during a school board candidate forum put on by Dixon’s chapter of the Solano Taxpayers Association.

The three candidates – current school board president , local attorney and farmer and basketball coach – answered a plethora of questions posed by members of the community as well those from the Taxpayers Association.

Jim Williams, former president of the Solano Taxpayers, served as moderator for the evening. Each candidate was allotted time for an opening statement, in which the three took the opportunity to introduce themselves and tell the audience why they were running for the school board.

After the opening statements, Williams began the series of questions that gave the audience, both inside the and those watching from home, a sense of where the candidates stand on issues affecting the district.

“We have great volunteers in the community, parents who are doing a lot volunteering … I’m curious to get your views on your willingness to embrace those volunteers to potentially help bring back to contribute to some of these programs that you might want to bring back,” asked an audience member.

“It sounds great but it’s a tough thing to do; we have to answer to our unions they don’t like it when we eliminate a program and bring back a volunteer,” Gabby said. “I’m for that philosophy but I am also for working well with our unions.”

“Part of the problem that we are in right now is the incredibly difficult financial situation, so I think when you have those kinds of situations, you must embrace all alternatives and I think you need to do it collectively,” Garcia said.

“I think parents being involved in the process is absolutely critical,” DiPaola said. “There is an education code section that says if you eliminate certain positions, you are not allowed to fill that position with a volunteer.  It’s actually against the law to do that.”

But DiPaola added that they can use volunteers in the same way that the school libraries are using them. Once a week, a library technician visits the schools and its parent volunteers who assist the technician with things such as re-shelving books, he said.

Another member of the community asked “Do you believe there should be separate school and library board and if so, how would you achieve that?”

“I think if there’s more qualified people out there , then two separate boards would be fine, if the current board could handle that correctly then I think that’s fine,” Garcia said.  “I would support two boards if the people that we would have on those boards could do a better job than we could do as a school board , but we also need to ask ourselves if that’s the correct way to do that.”

“I would not necessarily favor a separate board, I think a bigger problem is that this school board has essentially punted when it comes to the library,” DiPaola said. “The library has not had the same attention that the school district has and yet we share those responsibilities. I think that this board has an obligation to this community to be more involved and more proactive in this library district and it’s really a failure of the board at this point in time. Right now, we just appointed three new members of the commission and I don’t see any need to create a whole new board to separately manage that.”

“I fully believe that there should be two boards, one governing the school district and one governing the library,” Gabby said. “I don’t believe anybody runs for the school district and hopes that they get a seat on the library (board), I believe that’s just thrown in there. I hands down believe that there’s quite a bit more qualified people to run the library, people that are more passionate about libraries than our current board and so I would be much in favor of separating the two boards.”

Williams read another question from the audience.

“Having observed the recent sacrifices of the teachers and other unclassified personnel what is your opinion about pursuing more aggressive negotiations with the administrative budget?” he asked on behalf of an audience member.

“My feeling is that at this time I am not asking for a salary cuts from anybody but if there is one I think that the management needs to take the cut first and their cut needs to be bigger,” DiPaola said.

“I believe that our management team has restructured themselves under the management of Mr.  Dolan,” Gabby said. “I think it’s that type of thing that’s going to help us out. Paying teachers less leads to disgruntled teachers and disgruntled teachers don’t make for good educators. I believe that management is taking a lead right now in restructuring themselves to save us money.”

Garcia said: “I think the biggest problem we had is we haven’t been collaborative, we haven’t been open in those negotiations. I think we need to go back and look at our whole budget and find out what is core, what is required, find out how much that costs and then whatever that structural deficit … then I think what we need to do them in an open environment, so that we try to find the best, fairest way to do this appropriately.  This structural deficit that we have, we have to fix it so that we can move forward and put a stake in the ground. But aggressive negotiations? That’s part of the problem.  We need to create a team view.”

The candidates touched on a variety of topics including program improvement, the budget, as well as the reserves of the district. Anyone who missed this forum will have two more opportunities to hear the views of the candidates on the following days:

  • Oct. 5, 2011, at 7 p.m., in Dixon City Council Chambers - Hosted by

  • Oct. 24, 2011, 7 p.m., in Dixon City Council Chambers - Hosted by Solano Taxpayers Assn.
Ian Arnold October 01, 2011 at 03:14 AM
Having been present at the debate, I was very impressed with Joe DiPaola's answers, (Full disclosure: I've endorsed DiPaola and have his sign in my yard.) It was clear that he had done the research and understands the balancing act between fiduciary responsibilities and the responsibility to provide a solid education to our kids. On another note, I do feel that those who spoke out over the last two years about the policies enacted at the recommendation of the former superintendent have been somewhat vindicated. All three candidates mentioned that the relationships among Board members and between the District and its employees are much better. As far as the idea that we're in a deficit spending mode (according to one candidate), we've doubled our cash reserve in a year. We have a budget with a positive cash flow for this year. Based on assumptions that the state will further reduce funding, we would appear to be in trouble in year three. If the state continues to cut funding, every school district in the state will be in the same shape. Let's make a decision right now to provide the best possible education for our kids within the confines of the current year's budget. Let's put our kids first. We have schools that are severely underperforming. Let's address the issue through curriculumn changes. Let's put staff back to work providing assistance to those students who are struggling. Above all, Let's adopt some of Joe's strategies to get parents involved.

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