Five candidates are competing for three open seats on the Martinez Unified School District board of education. They include incumbents Kathi McLaughlin, John Fuller, and Denise Elsken; Dena Betti, who fell short of winning a seat in 2010, and Ron Skrehot, a former board member who left his seat two years ago after an eight-year tenure.
As elsewhere in the state and county, money for schools looms large on the November ballot – in Martinez specifically, how to spend $45 million in bond funds given a lengthy list of demanding projects. The bond was originally earmarked for solar panels, a performing arts center at Alhambra High School, upgraded school classrooms and room for vocational programs, including technology and culinary arts, among others. The board has been at odds over whether to plow the remaining funds into repairing the aging Martinez High and Briones Independent Study schools, or to construct a new facility to serve both.
I think the most important issue we will be facing this coming year, and probably for the foreseeable future, is the State budget.
We've done a good job locally at maintaining a positive certification but it has cost us dearly in terms of personnel and programs. We've tried to keep the cuts as far away from the classroom as possible, but when more than 80 percent of your budget is personnel and associated costs, that isn't always possible.
The second most important issue is passing an extension of the parcel tax -- which is obviously related to the first issue.
The other really important issue is ensuring that the bond money our community approved two years ago is spent fairly and equitably to benefit ALL of our students and sites, that it is used in ways that benefit the general fund (such as solar, which reduces our PG&E costs and puts that money back in the general fund to support our programs, students, and staff) and that we maintain constant oversight to ensure that we "get the most for the least" so that the money goes as far as possible.