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School Board Candidates Show Much Common Ground in Forum

Hopefuls unanimously support the local school funding measures on the November ballot and agree on some other issues during a Saturday gathering.

The four candidates in the West County school board election appeared to be general agreement on most issues during a forum hosted on Saturday by the El Cerrito Democratic Club.

Incumbent Antonio Medrano and challengers Robert Studdiford, Randy Enos and Todd Groves all said they support a school bond measure for school reconstruction and the extension of a parcel tax, .

All of the candidates advocated more open use of school facilities by the communities in which they're located and support for adult education programs, school safety and teaching evolution in schools.

The candidates are running for the two seats on the five-member board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Each of them gave three-minute opening statements, followed by a session with questions submitted from among the 100 or so members of the audience at El Cerrito High School.

The group presented individual nuances on some issues, such as how to improve student performance, and tailored their messages in opening statements.

In his introductory remarks, incumbent Medrano said that the district needs to address the high number of graduating students who attend community colleges, only to take remedial English and math classes. He said schools such as Collins and Lake elementary schools remain in need of reconstruction and he praised some "gems" in programs like the Ivy League Connection and the academy system with its emphasis on multi-media, performance arts, environmental studies and hospitality.

Medrano lauded the district's emergence from the burden of state loans earlier this year and said the bond debt used to reconstruct district schools has been managed well.

Studdiford, an active PTA president and member of the district's Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee, said in his statement that he's attended every school board meeting for the past six years. He said he understands "where our tax dollars go" for infrastructure and the intricacies of the revenue that the state gives to the district. He emphasized his knowledge, leadership and willingness to listen to staff and teachers and constituents.

Enos, a retired school teacher and principal, said a lot of work is needed to improve school safety, student performance and "community collaboration" needed to make improvements. He called these "affect our students greatly." He commended the school board out the debt owed to the state, which he called "a huge accomplishments for all of our students."

Groves, a parent and El Cerrito schools volunteer for 16 years, said has worked to fill gaps in student learning by introducing effective programs, such as individual student support in "writing and critical thinking skills." He'd also like to improve achievement levels in math and science at the middle schools and treat children as "individual learners than our current approach of a one-size-fits-all curriculum."

Groves also drew wide applause and laughter after answering a question about teaching evolution to students. The audience chuckled at the question, the last among several in a "lightning round" that allowed for one-word or one-sentence.

"I support evolution in our schools, not only teaching evolution," Groves said.

The Democratic club members cast votes for election endorsements following the forum. Only Groves received the necessary 60 percent of votes cast to receive an endorsement, getting 68 percent from voting members. Medrano and Studdiford both received support of 45 percent, followed by Enos with 21 percent.

John Brorsen August 26, 2012 at 11:55 PM
I am voting for Mr. Groves based on his sense of humor! He may need it dealing with the many facets of our community!
Ira Sharenow August 27, 2012 at 01:49 AM
ECHS had a 54.65% pass rate on the math exit exam Albany HS had a 90.85% pass rate on the math exit exam (top 250 in state) ECHS had a 54.95% pass rate on the ELA exit exam AHS had an 85.80% pass rate on the ELA exit exam (top 300 in state) ECHS is just a few blocks from AHS. I conclude that the WCC regional school district is not capable of succeeding and it is time to form a local EC-Kensington district. http://www.mercurynews.com/data/ci_21366891/2012-cahsee?appSession=39710450922804&RecordID=&PageID=2&PrevPageID=2&cbNewPageSize=250& I went to graduate school in Madison, Wisconsin. I see that some Madison schools are implementing a teacher evaluation program. I hope the WCCUSD board candidates support such a program. http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/local_schools/big-changes-in-the-works-for---school-year/article_c3076870-ed8b-11e1-b305-0019bb2963f4.html This fall for the first time: … And dozens of schools, including three in Madison, will take part in the state's new teacher evaluation system, which takes into account student test scores.
Giorgio C. August 27, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Todd Groves is a visionary, a real thinks-outside-the box individual who is beholden to no one who will do a lot of good things for our kids. He is quickly becoming knowledgeable of all facets of our education system. His efforts have recently resulted in the adopting of the Middle School Math Initiative that could place our district in the spotlight of success in math education. He is also scrutinizing some of the district management practices. We need him ASAP. Mr. Studdiford is against charter schools, otherwise he has many good qualities. What does he expect parents to do if their local school is failing and there is a chance to send their kids to a charter school? Will he continue to sacrifice our children all in the name of the good fight for public education? He does not understand the urgency that some parents face TODAY. I wanted to vote for him until he dropped this bomb. Medrano and Enos are the status quo, so Mr. Studdiford might still get my vote. In response to the comment about the need for teacher evaluations, we already have them. What we need is a district staff evaluation program. The way this is supposed to work is that the Superintendent gets rid of staff who are not getting the job done. If the Superintendent does not do this, then the school board should mark him down on his yearly evaluation, and if necessary, replace the Superintendent.
Michael O'Connor August 27, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Hundreds of El Cerrito resident students attend Albany schools. The numbers expanded this decade when it became their unofficial district policy to recruit good students to enlarge and expand their AP offerings. Many El Cerrito residents attend other schools, public and private. The terrible API scores produced by all of the WCCUSD high schools result in more families looking elsewhere for schooling. Your proposal for a locally controlled educational system is the only plausible answer I see.
Giorgio C. August 27, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Robert Studdiford's wife is employed by the WCCUSD as a substitute teacher. How can he not be influenced by this relationship? Mr. Studdiford is also a Citizens Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) appointee of Charles Ramsey. President Ramsey adamantly disagrees that there is a potential conflict of interest in having oversight committee members appointed by the board. This issue was cited in a recent Grand Jury report. I adamantly disagree with Mr. Ramsey. Mr. Ramsey is either clueless and-or he lacks the sensitivity of matters pertaining to oversight and accountability that I as a parent and citizen demand. He needs to listen to me, not himself. Where does Mr. Studdiford stand on this? Grand Jury report http://www.cc-courts.org/_data/n_0038/resources/live/rpt12081.pdf There still is no response to the Grand Jury report, the 90 day deadline not met. I want true oversight BEFORE voting on any future bond measure. Mr. Jungherr's previous report cites campaign contributions from Mr. Studdiford's previous election bid. "Robert Studdiford raised $33,595 of which $31,750 was from architects, construction managers and unions that do business with the school district." I agree with Mr. Jungherr that this is unethical. What did Mr. Studdiford think when I stood before the board, asking that they place a limit on campaign contributions? Let's keep doing our homework.
Tamsen August 27, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Todd Groves. Todd Groves. Todd Groves. He WILL put students and teachers first, not architects, contractors, publishers, and so on. He has organized meetings with parents and school officials LONG before he had any plans on running for school board. He means what he says, and he says what he means. Todd Groves, all the way!
Joel Gannotti August 27, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Politicians running for office support extorting money to support a system that has failed generations of young people, while the student population grows smaller, for teachers who don't or are constrained from teaching and unions who don't care about the future of the students... I am shocked... Aren't you... Really!
Mike C August 28, 2012 at 05:48 PM
G.C., can you say a little more about the candidates? Todd Groves I am 1,000% behind; he's an easy choice for my first vote. But the second vote isn't so clear. I feel that Medrano hasn't stepped-up to the challenge in any sufficient way to deserve re-election. So Studdiford vs Enos; I don't know anything about either one. It sounds like maybe Studdiford is in Ramsey's pocket, which is bad; and you say that Enos is for the status quo, which is also bad. Do you have more insights on each?
Rob Williams August 28, 2012 at 08:32 PM
So where does the El Cerrito Democratic Club get off endorsing candidates for non-partisan offices? This would appear to be contrary to California Democratic Party rules.
Rob Williams August 28, 2012 at 09:57 PM
LOL-"status quo" sounds curiously like "groundlings," in EC-code.
Mike C August 28, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Easy there Jan, you're kind of heading out to loopy-land. It's absurd that I'd have to say so, but I am not Todd Groves. I don't think that I implied that any of the other challengers are dishonest; the only thing that I know about them is what GC has written above. In fact, I'm eager to know more about their experience and their goals for the district.
Oru August 29, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Mike C. and Jan Hood. I am also in the shadow of many of the candidates. Maybe instead of insulting each other on this article, you can bide your time doing the research. I have heard many of them give out email addresses , phone numbers, and public meetings. They must have some way to get hold of them if not that. Go hear what the candidates have to say themselves. That is the only way to make a sure choice. You as a voter owe it to the students of the district to find out exactly who and what you are voting for.
Jan Hood August 29, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Oops. My bad! I mixed your comments up with G.C.'s. Sorry
Giorgio C. August 29, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Maybe Randy Enos? I should not have referred to him as the status quo. Incumbent Antonio Medrano would be the status quo as a result of his previous 4 years as a board member. Mr. Enos has taught and has been an administrator and comes from a family of educators. We should not dismiss him just because of the 21% vote at this forum which had its own biases. I want change. I would be elated if Mr. Enos could promise such.
Ira Sharenow August 29, 2012 at 03:02 PM
http://toddgroves.org/ http://robertstuddiford.org/ http://www.baysidepta.org/docs/campaign/StatementMedrano.pdf http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fX770aBy90o Medrano https://sites.google.com/site/randyenosforwccusdschoolboard/contact-us
Oru August 31, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Groves' website is impressive. It has the bells and whistles. It also has the information I was looking for. Some reason though my gut is still skeptical about him. He works well with the El Cerrito students. He seems to only have experience with the El Cerrito community. I have questions. Maybe I'll catch him at a function! That would be great he seems like a great person to talk to! Robert Studdiford seems like he is in Ramsey's pocket. I like that he owns his own business. I think that is good. Where is his education information? I have heard some things about him though, hopefully just negative rumors. GC his wife is a substitute teacher? That is good. If he is not educated then she must be helping him. I look to what he has to say further on because right now I'm a little less than confident about him. Now Medrano has a non current youtube video. I am not impressed with him. He does at least have his education listed on his website and his age and even that he is a homeowner. I hope he is just a little technologically challenged. I have not heard very good things about him. Randy Enos. His website is lacking. But I have his pamphlet and he is the only one I have talked to personally. Right now he is my top vote. He was very straight to the point about what he is going to do. I like him a lot because he grew up in this district. He was not about bells and whistles. He made it clear to me he cares about ALL the children in the district. Not just a section.
Oru August 31, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Right now I'm with Enos and Groves. They have both captured my attention is the best way. I feel very optimistic for once about the WCCUSD if they are involved. Thank you Ira for posting those websites.
Giorgio C. October 05, 2012 at 04:22 AM
Antonio Medrano fails to understand his duties as an "at large" school board member. Board members are "at large", representing the ENTIRE district, not only their city of residence. His comment might explain why some cities feel left out of the district. He stated "I have heard some of the discontent," he said. "Residents of Hercules and Pinole should find someone to run." Wrong answer. The correct response should have been "I have heard of some of the discontent and am looking into addressing their concerns because that is what I was elected to do." It is because of board members like Antonio Medrano who have no interest in taking the time to learn about the concerns of the entire district they represent that we have people feeling left out of the decision-making process regarding OUR school district. His comment is found here http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_21692151/antonio-medrano-and-three-challengers-battle-two-seats?IADID=Search-www.contracostatimes.com-www.contracostatimes.com

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