Santa Paula Times

City Council and school boards hold joint meeting on education

January 16, 2009
Santa Paula News

Stronger communication between the City Council and area school boards as well as more highlighting of the accomplishments were two areas discussed at the Jan. 12 joint meeting, the first of its kind.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesStronger communication between the City Council and area school boards as well as more highlighting of the accomplishments were two areas discussed at the Jan. 12 joint meeting, the first of its kind.The meeting was prompted by a manufacturer who has signaled their interest in relocating to the city but questioned the quality of area schools.The full City Council and Santa Paula Elementary School District Trustees as well as three members of the Santa Paula Union High School District met at the Community Center for an almost three-hour long discussion of issues.Mayor Ralph Fernandez said the session is “Beneficial to the community to get together as a team and work as a team” to develop a strategy that would benefit all including potential new businesses.During public comment Tim Hicks said it is important to “Stress all the positives or our school systems” to counter negative perceptions and highlight their many accomplishments.When making contact with potential businesses Hicks suggested that the positive aspects of the city - including its array of activities - also be emphasized.Ginger Gherardi thanked the Council and Trustees for taking a “Real step to address real problems or perceived problems” of local schools.She noted there must be an understanding that the effectiveness and quality of area schools is “everybody’s business” as the quality of education impacts everything from property values and a desire to live in the city, to attracting new business as well as its “tremendous impact on our youth.” She said that campuses do need upgrading and district unification should be studied to gauge cost-savings that would benefit improvements. In the interim Gherardi said the boards should work together on issues such as joint purchasing and scheduling.Overall, the districts “Need to do a better job in promoting the good things,” that are occurring and, Gherardi suggested, “like the city, the boards must be open” and meetings televised.City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the goal is to demonstrate dedication to education and create a White Paper that would be utilized for business attraction.SPESD Trustee Dan Robles noted that Continental Wind Power, whose concerns about local education led them to question a proposed move to Santa Paula which led to the joint meeting, manufactures wind turbines.“Environmentalists are concerned about turbines and the destruction” of birds and, he noted, the lack of technology that would prevent same.
“It’s important to bring companies to Santa Paula,” said SPESD Trustee Michelle Kolbeck, “but I think we should focus on the 5,000 students we have each year first and foremost, we owe it them” to ensure they receive the best education.SPESD Trustee Tony Perez read a statement into the record affirming the board’s desire to work collaboratively on educational issues.SPESD Superintendent Winston Braham and SPUHS Superintendent Dr. David Gomez oversaw presentations on programs and projects as well as the impressive and continuing academic accomplishments of the districts.Former Chamber Board Chairwoman Connie Tushla said the business organization, “As a part of the community team effort to focus on educational issues...offers its assistance to help lead, by way of a committee, a ‘Community Discussion on Education In The 21st Century.’ “ Tushla said such a committee would be composed of “Respected, independent individuals, City Council members, school administrators, school board members, teachers, and parents.”The Chamber, she added, “Could help bring the expertise of our business community to educational issues. We have gathered together tonight because of a business. The Chamber as a part of a team effort could identify educational programs to help develop job skills required to operate companies such as Continental Wind Power” and others who Tushla said “would like to support schools and help develop programs that target the job skills needed in their particular business. I personally feel that it is critical to involve business owners in discussions about education.”Limoneira Marketing Director John Chamberlain gave an update on the company’s plans for the learning center it plans for East Area 1.Chamberlain noted that Limoneira President/CEO Harold Edwards was present and that the company seeks to support “Economic development to make our community stronger” and identify educational needs for high-paying jobs.The learning center could offer career technical, vocational and adult education to focus on most needed workers of the future in the fields of medical/healthcare, alternative energy, entertainment and agriculture among others.Chamberlain said that in coming months exploratory meetings will be held to “Gauge interest in and develop the best model for the learning center...”During discussions Vice Mayor Jim Tovias urged that interaction between potential business, teachers and students be considered to highlight how the latter two “Really enjoy the Santa Paula experience...”“I feel the schools are moving forward in a very positive manner,” said Councilman Dr. Gabino Aguirre.Kolbeck challenged both school boards to “Remember students and parents are our clients” and the districts need to “look outside the box” while developing programs. “I don’t think,” she added, “we’ve looked outside the box enough to meet all the needs” of students.Mayor Fernandez urged that the issue continue to be pursued “Until we have schools that will be a model...”