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November 17, 2018
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In their very own words: Q&A with CRPUSD trustee candidates - Part 2

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
October 19, 2018

In preparation for the local elections Nov. 6 that will decide who will get the board of trustee seats in the Rohnert Park Cotati Unified School District, The Voice reached out to the other three candidates in the race, incumbents Marc Orloff, Tracy Farrell and new comer and former district teacher, Teresa Peterson to get their take on the issues that face the district and what they want to accomplish if elected.

The Voice asked each candidate the same set of questions for fairness and to get a variety of viewpoints so readers can compare and contrast ideas and concepts. 

The other three candidates, incumbent Leff Brown and newcomers Chrissa Gillies and Rohnert Park parent, Joe Cimino were interviewed for an article in the August 31 issue and discussed similar topics such as school safety, special education and goals. The earlier article can be viewed at thecommunityvoice.com by searching “trustee candidates” in our archive section.

This round of candidate profiles, in the form of a question and answer format, have been edited for length and clarity.

 

Trustee candidate, Marc Orloff:

 

What is your campaign platform?

“I have four main items that I think are very important: maintaining student safety, maintaining our fiscal accountability and responsibility, make sure our facilities go to plan as voted by the public and I want to make sure that students and parents have choice in the district in whatever it is… if we don’t offer something here, I want to find a way to offer it here.”

 

How would you increase enrollment and test scores?

“A study that came out indicated that by 2018 we’d be under 5,000 students, but right now we are close to 6,000, so something must have happened in the last eight years and I think (it’s because) we’ve been kid centric, we’ve offered parents choices, we’ve become fiscally responsible and people feel safe here and our facilities are in great shape. That’s great, but how do we increase it? All these houses being built all over Rohnert Park.”

 

What experience can you bring to the table?

“My family have been staunch volunteers in the district for a very long time, my wife is the executive director for the Rohnert Park chamber and I have been involved in the education foundation for a number of years, I currently help run St. Elizabeth basketball here in town and I have been involved in Rohnert Park soccer, baseball and Rancho Cotate baseball. I also served on the site committee for two years at Hahn. I’ve always been a part of the community that I oversee now as a trustee.”

What important qualities do you think a trustee should have?

“You have to have the ability to listen and to be willing to make change. You have to look outside the box. I think a trustee has to be willing to listen to whomever and be transparent.”

 

In regards to special education and school safety in the district is there anything you would want to change?

“On school safety, no doubt I want to be the safest district in the county, but we do employ a couple of things — the two standards of run, hide, fight and observe, think and act. We also have a really good relationship with Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety. What I would change is I would totally advocate for a return of the officer friendly concept. For special ed we have to have a multi-tiered system of support for each student and do the best we can to find highly qualified special ed specialists.” 

 

Why should people vote for you?

“I have a proven track record. I’ve been involved in putting our district in solid track footing, I’ve supported teachers (in the classroom and with increased pay), I’ve been involved in developing facility plans to deal with bonds — we’ve basically rebuilt two schools, I voted to reopen three schools and I have increased and expanded successful programs, like Tech High enrollment, expeditionary learning and pathways. Those are all great successes and I want build on those.”

 

Trustee candidate, Teresa Peterson:

 

What is your campaign platform?

“My platform is pretty much about kids — I was a teacher for 15 years so I am an advocate for kids. I also want to increase our enrollment, keep our test scores number up and address school safety.”

 

How would you increase enrollment and test scores?

“For increasing test scores we want to continue our teacher trainings so that they can deliver the best instruction to kids and maybe we also need to be looking into before or after school programs for the kids who are really struggling. As far as enrollment I think district can shine the light on the great things that are happening in the schools — maybe have more community open houses.”

 

What experience can you bring to the table?

“I’ve lived in this community for 40 years and raised four kids here so I volunteered at the schools. I got my teaching credential and taught for 15 years and been a school principal for four and I have experience in the K-8 and I participated in the design and rebuild of a K-8 school and I’ve probably been on a hundred district committees. The bottom line is that I feel like a student advocate.”

 

What important qualities do you think a trustee should have?

“I think a good quality as well is somebody who is highly educated and familiar with the community and definitely open to change and sometimes ask, ‘what can we do different,’ to make it better.”

 

In regards to special education and school safety in the district is there anything you would want to change?

“With school safety I would add more time and training with the specialists. You can always learn more on everything. As far as special ed, more staff training with special ed practices and inclusion and being able to hire enough ed specialists since I know that has been hard in the past.”

 

Why should people vote for you?

“I want the best schools for the children in our community and I believe that I would support our students and keep them at the forefront of our decision making and I have been a part of education for the past 20 years.”

 

Trustee candidate, Tracy Farrell:

 

What is your campaign platform?

“My campaign platform is our students. Every decision and every vote I have made in the last 4 years is based on that principle. What is best for our students? A “yes” vote to teacher raises and benefits gives our students access to the best, most qualified educators. A “yes” vote to to Technology upgrades gives our students a leg up in the digital world. A “yes” vote to facilities projects gives our students warm, safe, innovated places for them to learn...ect.”

 

How would you increase enrollment and test scores?

“I would work to set policy that gives parents, students and teachers the resources they need to be successful. Academic achievement is not based solely on a number. With common core standards, it is important that students show mastery of the subject matter they are studying. I will continue to actively promote our school district in an effort to get high student enrollment.”

 

What experience can you bring to the table?

“I worked in the education department at Arizona State University and worked with underprivileged kids getting them caught up on academics through an after school program. I have also worked as a substitute teacher in our district before being elected to the board and  I have volunteered in classrooms across the district… I have had Brown Act trainings and I have presided over Board meetings for the past two years. Also, I am a parent in this district at every level.”

 

What important qualities do you think a trustee should have?

“The ability to remain confidential. A trustee should be able to hold information in confidence for the benefit of students and employees in our district. The trustee should be positive about our district in the community and be respectful in dialogue with community members, teachers, staff and each other. Also, the trustee should make sure they have all the facts before they share information with members of the public.”

 

In regards to special education and school safety in the district is there anything you would want to change?

“I believe the district has adequate tactical safety plans and the staff is prepared to enact them if necessary. I also believe that the Run - Hide - Fight ideology that the district has implemented is gaining momentum statewide, will help keep our students safe. (As far as special education goes) I believe Rachel Allen as new Special Education director, along with the ability to increase staffing with behavior specialists, counselors and psychologists will help stabilize the Special Education department.”

 Why should people vote for you?

“Residents should vote for me because I have the experience to help guide the vision of the school district. Residents should also vote for me because as a parent, I understand the challenges facing parents and the pressures facing students, as an educator, I see the work done by teachers and know what it takes to support them in the education of our students. A vote for me will keep the positive momentum in the school district going.”