School board candidates sparred on issues that included employee relations, school funding and salaries at a candidates' night in Elk Grove yesterday hosted by The Bee, Elk Grove Patch and Elk Grove News.Net.
Candidates spelled out their positions and answered questions from a panel of journalists, including myself.
The lone incumbent Al Rowlett found himself defending the actions of the current board, as challengers tried to convince the audience they could do better.
Many of the candidates - Tony Perez, Steve Ly, Carmine Forcina and James Letoa - have been educators. Most of the candidates at the forum said the district hadn't done a good job of working with its employee unions.
Candidate James Letoa said Superintendent Steven Ladd was being paid too much. He said Ladd and his wife were getting lifetime health benefits and that he'd like a job like that.
He wouldn't have to be a superintendent in the Elk Grove Unified District to get lifetime health benefits, however. The district offers lifetime health benefits to all its employees, including teachers. As a matter of fact, one school board member - elected or appointed before 1995 - is still eligible for lifetime health benefits. In 1995 the state eliminated that perk for board members.
The most vigorous exchanges last night were in the Area 6 race that includes Jake Rambo, the appointed incumbent, and Steve Ly, a teacher at the Sacramento County Office of Education. When Rambo mentioned a conflict, Ly announced that his wife works for the district and that he would vote on employee contracts. He said the law allows it.
But all the candidates agreed on one issue - teacher evaluations. An audience member asked whether teacher evaluations should be based entirely on student tests. No one thought that was a good idea.
The candidates are:
Area 1: Susan Parvis, parent; James Letoa, educator and non-profit director; Tony Perez, retired teacher.
Area 6: Jake Rambo, appointed incumbent; Steve Ly, teacher.
Area 7: Alfred Rowlett: Incumbent; Carmine Forcina. retired teacher; Theresa Beals, parent.