Del Mar Union School District Board candidates hash out hot topic issues during a public forum
By Marlena Chavira-Medford
All five candidates for the Del Mar Union School District Board of Trustees took part in a public televised forum held Sept. 30 at the Del Mar Television Studio.
The forum will air on Thursday, Oct. 7, at 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. and Thursday, Oct. 21, at 8 p.m. The program will be broadcast on Del Mar TV - Time Warner Cable channel 130 or 24 (analog). It will also be streamed at regularly scheduled showtimes on the web at
, and eventually will be made available online to view anytime through
During the hour-long forum — which was sponsored by the Del Mar Television Foundation, the Del Mar Times and Carmel Valley News — candidates fielded questions from longtime education reporters Marsha Sutton and Karen Billing, both of whom write for this newspaper.
The candidates were asked about their stance on everything from imposing a parcel tax to the district's ongoing search for a new headquarters. The responses to those questions were as varied as the five candidates: Kristin Gibson, a former elementary school teacher who is now an educational consultant; Scott Wooden, a director of a local pharmaceutical lab; Doug Rafner, an attorney specializing in mediation; Jason Maletic, a small business owner who provides consulting and inspection services to schools all over the county; and Steven McDowell, a financial consultant and the current school board president.
The lease on the district's current headquarters ends this May, so the quest to secure new office space is a front burner issue, and one that the candidates were asked about.
Wooden, Maletic, and Rafner all said the current board has dragged its feet, with Wooden going as far as saying he'd address the issue within his first six months if he were elected. Wooden also expressed frustrations with the board's frequent dealings behind closed doors, which came up after being asked about the Brown Act.
"The board has seemed to do things that are not out in the open," he said, citing times the board had discussed potential district headquarters in closed sessions. Had they been discussing specific contract terms, that'd be understandable, he added, but said the public should have been involved in the selection process from the beginning.
The district offers art, music, technology, science, and physical education through its extended curriculum program. The candidates were each asked to pick one subject they'd cut if budget constraints forced them to do so. Most of the candidates declined to pick one, saying they'd find other funding or leave it up to individual schools to make that decision.
Maletic was the only candidate to select one, saying though it'd be an unfortunate scenario, he'd pick physical education.
"[Physical education] is very important, but it just seems like it'd be the easiest of those to continue with the help of volunteers," he explained of his decision.
When asked about the rift between the Carmel Valley and Del Mar school communities, all the candidates agreed that one indeed exists.
"I think there clearly is a rift between the east and west sides of the freeway, but after talking to parents, I believe they're at the point were they're ready to look forward and collaborate," Gibson said, adding that joint fundraising projects may help to bridge that divide.
The candidates were also asked if they supported a parcel tax and, if so, how they'd garner support for it in a community where about 44 percent of homeowners' property taxes already go to education. Rafner said he'd support it, and thinks others would too if they realized how that money would be used.
"If you were to ask people to pay an extra $100 to ensure excellent education, I think most people would support that," he said. "It's when you put the 't' word on it that they get all wigged out."
Maletic and Gibson echoed those thoughts, saying they, too, would support it, though Wooden and McDowell said they'd hold off.
"I've only seen [parcel taxes] pass in unified districts, and ours is not unified, so I think [a parcel tax] would not be supported," McDowell said.
Voters will decide which three out of the five candidates get a seat on the board at the Nov. 2 election.