Four residents are running for three seats on the El Nido Elementary School District board.
Each of them sat down with the Sun-Star to answer a few questions.
The candidates are:
Shannon Erickson, 42
An incumbent candidate, Erickson has served on the school board for eight years. She currently works as a teacher at Valley Community School in Merced and has two boys in fifth and eighth grade at El Nido Elementary School.
What do you think qualifies you for this job? “My experience being on the board definitely makes me a better board member. It takes a while to understand how a board works and how the school budget runs and all of those things. In these tough economic times, I think we need experienced leaders on the board and in the school administration.”
“Every decision that I make affects my kids, so that’s very important to me as well.”
What do you think is the biggest issue you will face if elected? “The state financial situation is affecting all districts. I think the state economic situation is not going away soon, so you need people who understand the financial situation of the school and make the decisions – tough ones – that need to be made.”
Given your tenure on the board, are there actions that you are particularly proud of? “We have a wonderful staff and our test scores reflect that. It is one hundred percent due to our teachers and staff.”
“I’m very proud that we (our budget is) in the black and that we do have a certified budget without having to have laid off teachers.”
What areas do you think need continued focus? “I would love our scores to continue to improve. The education of our students is our number one priority. We continue to keep our great staff. Things have been really good in the district and I’d like to keep the status quo. Don’t fix something that’s not broke.”
Amy Hath, 32
Hath is running for school board for the first time. A dairy owner and mother to three-year-old twin boys, she hopes to bring her business and budgeting savvy to the board.
Why did you decide to run for the board? “I decided to run because I believe our children and our public schools are one of our community’s greatest assets. Even though El Nido School is doing OK, there are going to be some big challenges in the coming years. I just decided: my kids are going to be in the schools soon and I really want to be active.”
Which of your qualities would be a benefit to the board? “Budgeting, planning for the future, and spending responsibly.” What do you think is the biggest issue you will face if elected? “It’s going to be finance. It is going to be financial issues, keeping attendance up. Those are the two basics, but it is all around financial concerns. It is going to be critical that El Nido manage its costs and all resources.”
What areas do you think need continued focus? “I believe there is a strong core of teachers at the school. API scores are up and I think we will continue to build on that. El Nido School has been doing some great things.”
Jill Montague, 43
Montague is a lifelong Merced County resident who has served on the El Nido board for 12 years. The mother of a seventh grade son at El Nido and substitute teacher at the campus, Montague graduated from Le Grand High School and attended Fresno State for her teaching credential.
What do you think qualifies you for this job? “With the state the way it is financially, what qualifies me is my 12 years of experience. There wouldn’t have to be any training or any learning process I would have to go through.”
What do you think is the biggest issue you will face if elected? “Were actually lucky. Most of the schools and most of the news stories say that the state is cutting money, but we are doing well. We have saved money for new buses and new buildings. None of those things came about, so we still have a large sum of money in that special fund that we can lean back on in the next few years if we need to. We’ve used the money wisely, but we will still have to concentrate on the allocation of available funds.”
Given your tenure on the board, are there actions that you are particularly proud of? “We are particularly proud of our API scores. We are very proud of that and we are very proud of our teachers. We’ve got a great school out here. We’re really proud of our students, staff, teachers and administration out here.”
Anne Silva-Lewis, 45
A current board member and language arts coach in Planada and Le Grand, Silva-Lewis has one son in second grade at the school and a younger child that will enter the school system in a few years. She also taught language arts at El Nido Elementary for ten years, she said.
Why are you running for re-election? “I wanted to ensure that the money we get from the state is spent wisely and is spent on the students.”
What do you think is the biggest issue you will face if elected? “The budget. Balancing our school budget will be important, given the cutbacks from the state and the forecast for the next few years, which is dismal at best. There are a lot of tough decisions still ahead.”
Given your tenure on the board, are there actions that you are particularly proud of? “I started a parent-teacher club. We raise a lot of money to give to programs for the kids and we recently gave $1,000 to a sporting program for the kids.”
Silva-Lewis also noted that she introduced a resolution that would require members of the board to reimburse the school district for 50 percent of the cost of their health care benefits. Previously, the district covered the entire expense, she said.
Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.