Santa Paula Times

Santa Paula Elementary School Board candidates answer questions at the Candidates Forum. Left to right are Rick Cadman, Ginger Gherardi, Tim Hicks, Ofelia De La Torre, and Gary Marshall. (Photo by Brian D. Wilson)

School Board candidates from elementary and high school at Forum

October 08, 2008
Santa Paula Elementary School Board
Santa Paula News
By Brian D. Wilson Santa Paula TimesCandidates for the Santa Paula Elementary School District board faced off in a forum last week at the Community Center. The League of Women Voters and the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce sponsored the forum.Rick Cadman, who retired as a school principal from the Santa Paula School District, introduced himself first. Cadman was a teacher for 30 years and an administrator the last 11 years. He said he’s running because many people believe the district needs an experienced educators’ voice. “As an educator I realized early on if we continue to do the same things in the same way we’ll get the same results,” he added.Ginger Gherardi, recently retired as executive director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission. Before that she was a teacher for many years. She currently serves on the Ventura County Fair Board, and is a member of Santa Paula Rotary. Gherardi said she believes every child deserves a quality education.Tim Hicks was up next. He said he’s lived in Santa Paula for 28 years. He got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He currently works for Western Farm Service in Oxnard. He’s involved with the Santa Paula Optimist’s Club and AYSO, and sits as a member of the Santa Paula Mobile Home Park Rent Review Commission and a member of the Recreation Commission.Ofelia De La Torre, one of two incumbents, was born and raised in Santa Paula. She said continuity is essential at this time. “We do have ongoing legal cases that knowing the background will help,” she said. “Test scores have gone up considerably. The teachers, the site personnel and the children have worked very hard. With our change in administration, we’ll continue progressing more and more.”The other incumbent on the ballot is the current Board President Gary Marshall. He has served on the board for one four-year term. “We have faced challenges during my first term in office,” Marshall said. “We have worked well together as a board to overcome them and find solutions. I’m excited that one of the Board’s most recent achievements was the hiring of Dr. Winston Braham as our chief executive officer.” He said that by hiring Dr. Braham and eliminating two other top positions, they are saving about $218,000 a year.The first question to the candidates asked what could be done to increase student fluency in English.
Gherardi said she believes the schools are doing a tremendous job in dealing with non-English speaking children. “From my position, every child deserves a quality education and I think our teachers are really making tremendous progress,” she said. “The academic scores have gone up, and my concern is that they’re working in adverse conditions. I think the important thing that Santa Paulans need to know is that the economic challenge facing this community is the quality of our education system.”Hicks said non-English speaking students may be needed to be placed in extra classes, and support is needed for teachers who have a number of students who are deficient in English. He also said parents need to help by learning English. “Essentially it’s a foreign language for them, and you just have to keep training and training and training.”De La Torre noted they already have a special program to help parents decide whether they want their children to learn in either language or both. “I can honestly say that our teachers and staff are doing a wonderful job and are trying to the best they can with these children,” she added.Marshall told the gathering that this is one of the major challenges facing the District today. “Over 50 percent of our students are English language learners,” he said. He added that over 50 percent of the parents did not finish high school. “That makes it much more difficult for them to help their children with their homework. I congratulate our teachers, our counselors and the rest of the staff on the tremendous job they’ve done in overcoming the obstacles they face.”Cadman disagreed with two incumbents. “I don’t think we’re doing a good enough job with the ELD classes,” he noted. “When I did a survey of the parents and our teachers, we ended up having a new position created at Glen City two years ago. In my 11 years I only had one parent ever even sign for a waiver to have their kid go into Spanish instead of English. The parents, even though they don’t speak a lot of English themselves or none, do not want them to go through, so what we’ve done is give them the extra help. We need that across the District.”The issue of unification was also presented to the candidates. All of them said they would look at unifying into one district with the high school district, with or without the outlying small districts.