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Election season heats up

Denair Unified School District fields four candidates

Election season heats up

Carolyn Brown


POSTED October 4, 2011 7:32 p.m.

 

The 2011 election season is in full swing with candidate posters popping up in yards and business windows around the area. The Nov. 8 Consolidated District Election will feature five local races including: Denair Unified School Board, Keyes Community Service District, Turlock Irrigation District, Keyes Union School District and Turlock Unified School District.

Throughout the month of October, the Journal will feature each local race and its candidates. Today’s coverage is of the Denair Unified School District race, which has four candidates vying for three open seats. The candidates include one incumbent, Carolyn Brown, and three challengers — John Plett, Don Smith, Jr., and Julian Wren.

 

Carolyn Brown (Incumbent)

Bio: I have lived in Denair for 36 years and I am a driving school instructor. We have two daughters who are both graduates of the Denair School District, attending from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Journal: Why are you running for the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees?

Brown: To make a positive difference in the lives of the students, making opportunities available and educational needs met.  I enjoy what I do as a board member and feel that I have the qualities of a good board member.  I have shown proven commitment, leadership and integrity.  I am a good listener and have a love to see children succeed.

Journal: What do you feel is the most important issue affecting DUSD?

Brown: Trying to stay financially solvent while offering the education that our students need.  We need to constantly try to make sure that our students see minimal effects from the budget crisis that our district, as well as others, is facing and will continue to face in future years.

Journal: What are ways in which you as a board member could help bring up test scores throughout DUSD?

Brown: Work on communication between the district and the parents of our students to bring all stakeholders together to unite and support the education of all our students.  Find ways to address the needs of the students who are struggling and see what additional programs that we can offer. 

We need to make sure all our parents have a vested interest in their children to do the best they can and to work with the teachers and the district to excel and take pride in their children's education.  It is a proven fact that parents who take the time to become involved and are active in their child's education help to improve their child's test scores, which in turn helps raise test scores of the district as a whole.  This is why so many private schools and schools which have so much hands-on support from parents score higher. We as a district need to continue to assess the curriculum areas where we need to focus for improvement.

Journal: Do you feel children in Denair are getting a good education, and if not, how can you help ensure that they do?

Brown: I believe that the students do get a good education but there is always, and I mean always, room for improvement.  A small district such as ours often has difficulty offering some of the programs that the larger districts offer, the larger the enrollment the more funding the district receives.  We do a great job of offering as many opportunities as possible and work hard at finding ways to increase opportunities.

Journal: How can DUSD create and sustain a balanced budget?

Brown: I feel that the district has been very creative in keeping our budget balanced with the cuts that we are continually receiving.  We need to continually work on finding areas where reductions can be made without having to sacrifice a quality and safe learning environment. 

The total school community needs to work together to make adjustments in order to keep everyone employed and keep the budget balanced, while keeping our students as our number one priority.  We need to expend the flexibility to use our employees in positions, sometimes wearing many hats, to benefit the whole district's needs, which include moving employees to different positions to make it all work.  This has helped our district immensely. 

All stakeholders, whether it be our school community or our public community, need to step up and be willing to help our schools get through this difficult budget time. 

 

 

Don G. Smith

Bio: I have lived in Denair for 39 years with my wife Carol. We have two children, Anne Sanders and Donnie Smith, who both graduated from Denair High School 15 years ago.

I retired from the Turlock Irrigation District after 36 years of service as an equipment operator.

Journal: Why are you running for the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees?

Smith: I have decided to run for the DUSD school board because I feel that I have the knowledge and commitment that would help to improve an already outstanding school district.

Journal: What do you feel is the most important issue affecting DUSD?

Smith: The most important issue affecting DUSD is obviously the financial crisis, and as a small community and school district we have to do more with less.

Journal: What are ways in which you as a board member could help bring up test scores throughout DUSD?

Smith: Success doesn’t just happen. It takes all of us school personnel with a vision for excellence, families who are involved and student success, all working together as one.

Journal: Do you feel children in Denair are getting a good education, and if not, how can you help ensure that they do?

Smith: Yes, I feel our students in DUSD are getting a good education, but there is always room for improvement. I feel that more emphasis should be put on the importance of a college education and students becoming life-long learners.

Journal: How can DUSD create and sustain a balanced budget?

Smith: Creating a balanced budget will be hard. My plan for the budgeting process includes making better financial and program decisions, improve operations and enhance relationships between parents, teachers and students.

 

Julian Wren

Bio: I have lived in Denair since 200, and prior to that I lived in Turlock for 10 years. I currently have two children in DUSD, ages 15 and 9. I am a supervisor for the Stanislaus County Child Services Agency where I supervise social workers that receive and investigate reports of child abuse and neglect.

I have a B.A. degree in Psychology from UC Santa Cruz, an M.S. degree in Social Work from CSU Stanislaus and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from UC Davis.

Journal: Why are you running for the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees?

Wren: I want to make a contribution to the improvement of education in our district and to ensure that DUSD receives the best value for tax dollars spent.

For over 15 years, I have worked directly with various Stanislaus County school personnel to ensure all children are safe and able to take advantage of their educational opportunities. I hope to use my years of public administration experience as a resource to consistently improve the state of DUSD.

Serving as a candidate for DUSD is a logical extension of my commitment to serving my community.

Journal: What do you feel is the most important issue affecting DUSD?

Wren: The most important issue is maintaining the quality of education and standards despite the state budget and funding constraints.

Journal: What are ways in which you as a board member could help bring up test scores throughout DUSD?

Wren: As board members we need to make sure we are using accurate data to make informed decisions so that we can do our job more effectively. However, we also need to value the hard work and dedication that is demonstrated by our teaching and administrative staff. Data can measure test scores but can’t always measure the important life lessons that the DUSD staff strives to teach our children.  Reviewing data and encouraging dialogue would allow us to examine how we are doing, how our students are being supported, and in what areas we must improve.

Journal: Do you feel children in Denair are getting a good education, and if not, how can you help ensure that they do?

Wren: I do feel that our children in Denair are getting a good education but I believe that there is always room for improvement. As a board member, I plan to be objective and open to all strategies we can incorporate despite the difficult budget constraints we are facing.

Journal: How can DUSD create and sustain a balanced budget?

Wren: Balancing a budget requires tough decisions to insure that we are only spending what we have.  As a board member, I would be committed to partnering with the superintendant and fellow board members in using the DUSD strategic plan and mission as our guide.

 

 

John Plett

Bio: I am 60 years old and retired from law enforcement. I have lived with my family in Denair for 31 years. I have four daughters that all went through the Denair school system.

Journal: Why are you running for the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees?

Plett: I am running for school board member to have positive, constructive input into my local school system. I want to be involved in continuing the best possible education for the families in my community. My daughters benefited from the academic, social, and sports opportunities in Denair, and most continued on to college. The small student population in Denair provided activities and close community support that would not be as possible in a large school.

Journal: What do you feel is the most important issue affecting DUSD?

Plett: Clearly, the most pressing current issue in education is the ability to fund the essential programs needed to prepare our children for professional careers, whether they attend college or not. I believe that small school districts have the most difficult challenge, as limited finances make it hard to provide basic required classes, much less a broader range of elective courses that are in demand in a rapidly evolving culture.

Journal: What are ways in which you as a board member could help bring up test scores throughout DUSD?

* Mr. Plett chose to combine questions 3 and 4 in one answer.

Journal: Do you feel children in Denair are getting a good education, and if not, how can you help ensure that they do?

Plett: I feel that the children in Denair are getting a good education, and have a respectable number that continue on to college or professional vocations. It will certainly be an on-going priority of mine to promote the best efforts of our teachers as they prepare these students for that future. I have witnessed firsthand that Denair teachers take a personal interest in the success of their students, despite making personal sacrifices of both time and finances.

Journal: How can DUSD create and sustain a balanced budget?

Plett: I realize that in addition to a difficult economy, much of the educational system is also constrained by state and federal law. I intend to monitor the expected quality and priorities of Denair Schools to maximize the resources that we do have. This will require a close look at medium and long-range goals to sustain the highest level of service. It will be my mission as a school board member to be a good steward of these limited funds.

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