MEET THE CANDIDATES: Four vie for Penn Valley Elementary School District | TheUnion.com

MEET THE CANDIDATES: Four vie for Penn Valley Elementary School District

The Union staff

Four candidates are vying for three open seats on the Penn Valley Union Elementary School District Board of Trustees.

The Union reached out to the candidates through a Q&A survey, asking why they are running for office, what's the biggest challenge their district faces and how they would address it.

Teresa Eckerling

Age: 52

Hometown: Chatsworth, CA (Suburb in Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley)

Occupation: Financial Administrator

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Website: Facebook page – Teresa Eckerling

Why are you running for office?

I am running for the school board because I believe in the importance of public education. I feel that each student deserves the best opportunity to succeed in school. I was asked to run by numerous and various stakeholders who appreciated what I was able to accomplish while president of the Pleasant Valley School Board prior to consolidation. My honesty and communication style brought all parties together, working as a team, with successful outcomes. I want to work with all stakeholders to help give our kids the foundation they need to grow, learn, and succeed to become their best self to provide an outstanding 21st century education that all of our students deserve.

What is the most important issue your district faces and how would you address it?

The biggest issue facing our district is fiscal management. Today's schools face ongoing funding cuts, which impact student education, building renovations, school safety, and retention of our amazing teachers and staff. School boards must be able to see the large picture, as a puzzle, with insight into each piece and how they fit together. The Board's job is to balance revenue from the student population and stretch those dollars to ensure that each piece of the puzzle is allocated an amount to successfully serve all of our students.

Mike Hodson

Age: 50

Hometown: Penn Valley

Occupation: Retired USMC LtCol, school business executive, rancher

Website: https://www.hodsonforpennvalleyschools.com/

Why are you running for office?

Do you know much about school operations or your school board trustees? Most don't, which is certainly understandable – and I certainly never did until a few years ago when I retired from the Marines and began a second career running the financial and logistical operations of a school district. I've also seen how a school board can positively, or negatively, impact instruction and student outcomes. I'm running because I care, and because I think I can help.

What is the most important issue your district faces and how would you address it?

The most important issue is the budget deficit. With the Local Control Funding Formula fully implemented, schools can't expect more revenue growth while mandatory costs (PERS/STRS, e.g.) will nearly double over the next several years. Despite that, the district projects a deficit this year of over $485,000, or over 8.5 percent of revenues. This is clearly unsustainable and I will not see the district follow so many others around the state into receivership. To address it, the district simply needs to live within its means; just as I've done at each of the districts in which I've been the chief business officer. As a trustee, I will ask the tough questions, and vote only for those budgets and agenda items which best position the district for long-term success.

Robert Moen

Age: 49

Hometown: Rough and Ready

Occupation: Accountant

(Photo not provided)

Why are you running for office?

Student success is the most important task assigned to a school district. The fiscal oversight provided by school board trustees determines the most effective means of keeping funds in the classroom where they have the most impact on students. I am a parent in this district and feel it is important to be involved in the education of children. As a seasoned member of the school board it has been my privilege to use my education and experience as a corporate controller to share in the many changes this district has weathered in the last decade. There have been many changes from the Federal and State government in how we educate and how we are funded. It is important to incorporate these changes into the positive educational momentum provided by this district.

What is the most important issue your district faces and how would you address it?

As with many districts in California, we are faced with declining enrollment and unfunded governmental mandates leaving us in a deficit spending situation. In the past few years we have consolidated districts and closed one of three school sites. Many difficult decisions, but when you are looking at 2,400 seats and 800 students, tough choices have to be made. Mandated retirement contributions to underfunded programs and the lack of state funds to support facility maintenance further drain the resources and short change students in the classroom. While many of these issues need to be changed at the state level, there needs to be community-minded people at the local level protecting the needs of the students. We need to keep a close eye on our spending, cut where we can but not at the students' detriment.

Kyle Whitman

Age: 42

Hometown: Penn Valley

Occupation: Water System Repairperson

Website: Facebook — Whitman for Penn Valley Union Elementary School District

Why are you running for office?

I feel it is important to have the best teachers and schools to provide our kids a safe place to get the best education possible and that starts with the school board. Our kids need a good foundation to get started in life and one of the pieces of that foundation is a good education. We owe it to our kids and community to provide the safest and best education to our kids.

What is the most important issue your district faces and how would you address it?

One of the issues the district faces is an aging infrastructure. Along with the challenges of an aging infrastructure is the fact that the district went from three schools down to two last year and enrollment is up this year. These are challenges that are not easy to fix but watching the budget and prioritizing how and where to use the budget is the first step. We need to be sure the kids have a comfortable learning environment and provide the teachers with the best tools we can to educate our kids.

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