Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pleasanton school board candidates answers questions at forum

Five of the six people seeking the three open seats in November's Pleasanton school board election took 90 minutes of questions during a candidates forum Tuesday.

No one theme dominated the event, which will be televised at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on Comcast Channel 26. It was held at the board meeting room at school district offices.

Topics included the biggest issues facing schools, areas of study that should be emphasized and dealing with student stress. Three school board seats are up for election. Chris Grant, 43, senior vice president of corporate development and investments for Kaiser Permanente, is the only incumbent running. School board members Kris Weaver and Steve Brozosky are not running. Grant was appointed to fill a vacancy in February 2007.

The other candidates are Valerie Arkin, 44, a stay-at-home parent; Jeff Bowser, 46, a client director for AT&T; Jamie Yee Hintzke, 47, a school health consultant for Alameda County Health Care Services; Prasad Rallapalli, 52, a database architect for Yahoo; and Stephen Page, 51, who did not attend.

The candidates did not criticize each other, nor the district.

Asked what he would change about the district and what should be kept, Bowser said:

"To answer the question, I wouldn't change much."

Arkin said she wants to continue the district's high standards but to also serve those who are not high-achieving. She said it will be important to maintain Advertisementstaff and programs despite the bad economy.

Grant, who before joining the board was part of the Excellence Committee, which came up with ways to improve the district, wants to keep moving forward with the plan, including such items as reducing class sizes and intervention for students in science, math and reading.

Hintzke, also on the committee, agreed: "I would really like for us to chip away at that list," she said.

Rallapalli said he believes the schools are excellent and would increase community involvement to assist the schools. He said that is especially important in bad economic times.

Candidates were also asked about the biggest problems facing the schools.

Bowser and Grant both said the biggest problem is providing teachers the resources they need. Hintzke cited the need for teachers to have more time to cover the wide curriculum.

Rallapalli, as he did many times during the discussion, said the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law put too much emphasis on passing tests.

"I think we need to have the goals clear," Rallapalli said. "The goal is to learn."

Arkin said the biggest problems are the budget and the testing emphasis.

The forum was sponsored by the Livermore-Amador Valley League of Women Voters, the Pleasanton PTA Council and the American Association of University Women.