The Monrovia Unified PTA candidates’ forum, run by the League of Women Voters, was held in the school district boardroom. The four vying for two seats in the Nov. 5 election include incumbent Alexandra Zucco, Scott Pomrehn, Terrence Williams, and Ruhiyyih Yuille.
The candidates were quizzed with quick questions to test their knowledge of the district, including being asked the number of students served and the amount of money spent per pupil.
The forum also enabled them to answer more in-depth questions on the budget, class-size reduction, and whether the district needs to lobby for another bond measure.
Zucco said her biggest concern about the district’s budget was working in the new local control formula for funding.
Yuille, a speech pathologist and teacher who grew up in Monrovia, said training teachers and getting them the resources they need with a tight budget is her biggest concern.
Pomrehn, who has worked in city government and is a parent of children who attended Monrovia schools, said funding is an issue and the district needs to look outside of Sacramento and Washington D.C. for money.
Williams, a parent and local business owner, said that as a Chamber of Commerce member, he would challenge other owners to invest in Monrovia schools.
“We need to gather all of Monrovia businesses to prioritize Monrovia money,” he said. “The budget is what it is. We need to utilize what we have and be prudent about it.”
Asked about the most pressing issue the district is facing, Williams said the lack of cohesiveness and communication among board members.
Zucco said facilities. The high school has been revamped, but other campuses need work, she said.
Yuille said how to roll out of the standards of Common Core is the most pressing.
Pomrehn also cited the implementation of Common Core and the testing that goes along with it as a key concern.
Implementing the new nationwide standards is going to be tough because it is underfunded, Zucco said, adding that the district has been given $1 million for a program that will cost it $3 million to get underway.
Yuille said she is concerned that the state has adopted a set of standards but districts do not have a set curriculum yet.
Pomrehn also said the lack of curriculum is a problem.
Williams said he likes the Common Core and sees it as a return back to basics.As far as proposals to reduce student class sizes, Yuille said the district would need to find a way to increase revenue.
“Without getting more money in the budget, we would have to do creative scheduling,” she said.Pomrehn said that with independent study and online schools becoming more popular, traditional classrooms may not be the way students learn in the future.
Williams said that a decrease in class size is monetary and that he would try to get funds needed to help with that from local businesses.
Zucco said the district needs to use its funds to put more teachers in the classroom.
The candidates were asked if they felt the district should try for another bond measure.
Pomrehn said he wasn’t sure and needed to get educated on the options. If that is a solution to funding needs, then he could support it, he said.Williams said he too feels it’s an option.
Zucco said she thinks the restoration of funding promised by
the state will materialize and a bond might not be necessary.
“We have been able to hold out longer than most districts,” she said. “I would really like to think we weathered the worst of the storm and the funds are coming back.”
Yuille said she too is hopeful that funding will be restored.
All agreed that more counselors are needed in district schools and that career education is important. Each also answered yes when asked if they consider themselves independent thinkers.
They also all pledged to represent unincorporated Monrovia and reach out to residents there.
The candidates also were asked where they would spend Proposition 30 funds to help schools.
Williams said he would spend the money on the teachers in the classroom.
Zucco said besides rescinding future furlough days, she would use funds to replace programs cut due to budget woes.
Yuille said her top priorities would be to use funds for teacher training, reducing class size, crafting curriculum, and negotiating with teachers for a raise.
Pomrehn said he would work with teachers to see what their priorities for spending would be and that he also would like to give them a raise.
“I’ve seen good teachers leave this district,” he said. “You can either be a training ground and teachers can come here and get trained and find their dream job or you can be the dream job. We need to be the dream job.”