Meet the Solana Beach School District board candidate: James Summers
Three candidates are vying for two open seats on the Solana Beach School District Board of Education in the Nov. 6 election: Richard Leib (incumbent), James Summers and Julie Union. Below are candidate photos, bios and answers to two questions given to them by this newspaper. Solana Santa Fe Elementary School in Rancho Santa Fe is located in this district.
Name: James Summers
Years living in Solana Beach School District: I have lived in both Carmel Valley and Solana Beach for a total of 28 years
Profession/education: Retired teacher, 26 years in Solana Beach School District, at Skyline School and Solana Highlands Elementary.
Community activities: Past President of Solana Beach Teachers Association, former member of California Teachers Association State Council, former CTA Political Involvement Chair for San Diego County, founding member of San Diego Veterans for Peace (and current member of VFP Executive Committee),member and former Presiding Clerk of La Jolla Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing Solana Beach School District?
Education, whether at the classroom or the district level, is a function of community. The best way to insure the continued success of our schools and students is to strengthen that community. As elected representatives of the parents, children and taxpayers of Solana Beach, that task belongs to the school board. While a corps of committed volunteers is one of the district’s greatest strengths, outreach is also necessary, to include those whose involvement may be limited by their life circumstances — single parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, or those who may feel excluded by accent, English skills, ethnicity, or unfamiliarity with life in an American school. Our committed teachers and support staff need strong support as well, from a board that listens carefully to their concerns. We should also be thinking beyond our traditional two neighborhood approach to board representation and make sure we actively represent all parts of our increasingly diverse community.
Education finances are in the news daily. The current board has managed prudently, financed quality programs, and built a large reserve. That, however, is not enough in the current political climate. The district’s financial status as a “basic aid district” (receiving substantially more per-pupil funding than most San Diego County schools) can no longer be preserved by flying under the radar. The problem requires more than a large reserve. That reserve will either trickle away with time, or be seized for another purpose. It’s time to look for long-term funding solutions by putting the political clout of our whole community behind the search for larger solutions to California’s educational funding debacle. We have a lot to offer.
2. Do you have any suggestions as to how the biggest issue in your answer for #1 should be addressed by the board?
The board needs to reach out to the community by scheduling regular activities designed to provide two-way communication between the various parts of the community and the board. These might include informal coffees at the various school sites, meetings with groups of teachers and other support staff, volunteering in classrooms, house parties hosted within various ethnic communities, (with translators if necessary), and perhaps evening meetings with childcare provided. If I am elected, you will see me out there in the community, either alone or with other board members.
The board also needs to take a leadership role in involving the community in seeking long-range solutions to school funding shortfalls at both the local and the state level. This means educating themselves and the community, at a deeper level, about the realities of state education funding, including the status and politics of Basic Aid district funding. I was asked to run by the Solana Beach Teachers Association, partly because of my experience in doing this with the teachers of Solana Beach and surrounding districts. The education funding crisis in California has already begun to affect our district. Our financial reserves, while keeping us functioning at a high level now, are not a long-term solution. Both our concern for our own children, and our knowledge that the children of other, less wealthy districts are as precious and full of promise as our own, demand nothing less than our full participation as citizens. If there is one thing I have learned in 26 years of teaching the children of Solana Beach, it is that the kids are worth the effort!
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