VUSD board candidates struggle to stand out in an online forum


Eight of the nine candidates vying for seats on the Visalia Unified School District board of directors struggled to stand out in an online forum Wednesday night.

The candidates shared their views on everything from the district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic to how the council should operate amid the ongoing issues the crisis has further sparked in Tulare County.

Many candidates agreed on several key questions during a two-hour virtual forum hosted by the Visalia Times-Delta and the League of Women Voters.

Few have taken bold positions that have shown how they differ from their direct opponents.

Here are a few times when individual candidates stand out from their direct opponents in the public forum.

Zone 5: Foster vs. Casebeer Soleno

Niessen Foster, the Area 5 incumbent, remained optimistic when discussing contentious issues, including the district’s response to COVID-19.

Foster said he was proud of how quickly staff closed schools to prevent deaths, even though not everything was perfect. Visalia Unified was the first district in the county to close.

“We weren’t good the first day, but we’re improving,” Foster said. “I am proud of the steps our superintendent has taken to release Chromebooks.”

Challenger Megan Casebeer Soleno, a public defender from Tulare County, spoke of problems for the future, including a plan to reopen schools that would send students back to school in two teams.

“I think this timetable was lacking in teachers’ input,” said Casebeer Soleno, adding that she shared her concerns with her husband, math teacher, Carlos, who felt that teachers did not have enough time. to prepare for work.

“There have been no student surveys,” she added. “We have to hear them. “

However, some elementary students were asked earlier this summer about their return to school and their preferences.

Zone 6: Vazquez vs. Pope

Lucia Vazquez, the Zone 6 holder, shared similar perspectives on several key issues with her challenger, Christopher Pope.

The two also mentioned sharing the same support from a local community group, but they offered different perspectives on Proposal 15. The measure would increase funding for education, including public schools, and local governments by taxing commercial and industrial real estate based on current market value. .

Pope said he wouldn’t turn down the much-needed money for education and hoped Prop 15 would pass. He was concerned, however, that the proposal would hurt large companies already affected by the pandemic and affect farmers.

“It touches me personally,” he said. “My in-laws own a dairy.

Vazquez didn’t share the same concerns about prop 15. She expressed her full support.

“Our schools are seriously under-budgeted,” she said. “It targets the richest 10% (companies). Small businesses will not be affected.

Crowded area 7

Randy Evans, a challenger for Zone 7, became an outlier when he suggested dividing the unified school district of 30,000 students in half to help improve test scores and early childhood learning.

A businessman, Evans also added that the board should be more than just a “council of educators”.

All of his Zone 7 opponents are educators, including Colijia Feliz, Nora Allstedt and Jacquie Gaebe, a role they saw as beneficial as an administrator. The four candidates are running for the seat that will be vacated by Bill Fulmer, who is not seeking re-election after a series of blunders.

Feliz is a clinical social worker and trainer at the Tulare County Office of Education and works as an assistant professor.

“We need to figure out what is preventing children from learning,” Feliz said. “We can’t move them forward when they fall through the cracks… They learn best when we figure out the obstacles they face. “

Gaebe has been a teacher, principal and administrator during her 20-year career with VUSD. She was the first to throw her hat in the ring for zone 7.

“We need to focus on foundational skills, not short-term gains,” said Gaebe, who added that improving test scores should be focused on each student.

Allstedt worked as a teacher for about 30 years and shared a slightly different perspective than her fellow educators, focusing more on the programs.

“Make sure you have a visual arts program,” Allstedt said, explaining that research has shown children involved in the arts perform better on tests.

“The reason is that they are happy,” she added.

Voting begins in the mail on October 5 when the ballots come out. Election day is November 3.

Contact education reporter Kristan Obeng at [email protected] Follow her on twitter @KrissyObeng.

Support local journalism: Subscribe to the Visalia Times Delta today.