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TUSD board candidates field questions on the budget and Joe Debely Stadium

POSTED October 14, 2009 12:09 a.m.

The budget, accepting money from the city’s Redevelopment Agency to refurbish Joe Debely Stadium and the achievement gap were all issues brought up by attendees of the second Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees candidate debate held on Monday at Turlock High School.
Four of the six candidates — new candidates Lori Crivelli and Josh Bernard were absent due to illness — attended the debate hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Turlock and the Journal. Bob Weaver was the only new candidate in attendance, with incumbents Felica Renshaw, Tami Muniz and Timm LaVelle.  
The first question asked of the candidates was why do you think the district is in program improvement and how would you held improve test scores in the future?
TUSD board of trustees president Timm LaVelle said there was a fallacy in the way the state and federal requirements judge scores. He said he plans to improve test scores through the strategic plan. Incumbent Felica Renshaw also said she plans to fix the scores through the strategic plan. Challenger Bob Weaver agreed with LaVelle’s statement about the state and federal standards being too high for the students, while incumbent Tami Muniz said she plans to raise test scores through collaboration through the schools to mirror the good schools that are meeting the requirements.  
A concern about budget cuts was brought to the candidates, but it wasn’t about taking money away from programs and the students, the concern was how to bring additional income to help keep a positive balance in the district’s funding.  
All candidates agreed that increasing attendance would increase funds through the schools average daily attendance money they get every year.  
“Every percentage point we raise in attendance raises $700,000 dollars by kids just being in school,” said Renshaw.  
LaVelle and Muniz mentioned grants to bring in money for the district.  
Renshaw also mentioned the energy saving program the district has implemented and cuts in special education as a way for the district to save money.  
At the last debate, held on Oct. 1 at Walnut Elementary, candidate Josh Bernard mentioned a problem going on in the Modesto Unified School District with kids leaving campus without parental consent. At Monday’s debate, a community member mentioned Hilmar kids leaving campus without parental consent and asked what Turlock’s policy is on the subject.  
All candidates cited a current district policy that prohibits students from leaving campus without parental consent and expressed a desire to keep the policy as is.
Another issue brought up by an audience question at Monday’s debate was the use of RDA funds to refurbish Turlock High’s Joe Debely stadium. Each candidate expressed their own views on the money, but they all agreed they would take the money from the city if it was offered. All candidates stated that it was up to the city council whether or not to offer the district the funds.
“I feel like I need to do what’s best for the district, if those funds are even available,” Muniz said.
Renshaw said she has wanted to get Debely stadium redone for a while but now she wants to “shoot for the moon” and build a new stadium that is not on either campus so there is no rivalry.  
Weaver said he would rather the RDA funds be used toward a stadium for Pitman High School.
“As a citizen I think there are better places to spend $2.8 million,” LaVelle said. “As a board member, if that money does come to us, we will spend it.”   
LaVelle said he would also like to see a stadium at Pitman High as well.  
Each candidate ended the debate with a two-minute closing statement.
Weaver cited his experience as a parent with a child currently in different levels in the school district — one being in elementary school, one in middle school and one in high school — and spoke of it being a time for change on the board.
LaVelle, Muniz and Renshaw all touted their previous experience on the board.  
“It is not a good time for change with the economy,” Muniz said. “It is a time for consistency with the board.”  
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015. 

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