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  • Michael Baker

  • Michelle Rivas

  • John Berchielli

  • Janis R. Green

  • John Dexter

  • Christine Jefferson

  • Walter Garcia Kawamoto

Twin Rivers school board hopefuls spell out views

Published: Friday, Apr. 27, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 1, 2012 - 10:01 am

The direction Twin Rivers Unified School District is headed will be decided June 5 when six of seven seats are up for grabs by candidates with differing views on how to best serve north area students.

Candidates responded to three questions, including their position on Measure G, an initiative that would change the way Twin Rivers elects its trustees.

Board members now represent an area of the school district where they live, but are elected by all residents within Twin Rivers' boundaries.

If Measure G passes, board members would be elected solely by voters in the neighborhoods where they live, instead of at large.

Below is information about candidates in Areas 1-4. This weekend's Bee will feature the remaining three races.


Michael Baker, finance director.

>How well is Twin Rivers serving its students?

Our students are being served at the school site level. Where we are losing our grasp is at the district office level. We need to spend less money on legal fees and more on educating our kids.

>How do you propose improving students' success?

We must put much more into the classrooms. We must give students a clean, healthy environment to learn, more classroom supplies and updated technology. Twin Rivers needs to get back into the business of educating kids.

>What is your position on Measure G?

For. I think that Measure G will allow each community area to elect its own representative to the school board.

Janis R. Green, incumbent, Twin Rivers Unified School District trustee.

>How well is Twin Rivers serving its students?

We have started strong, but there is more to do. We have implemented programs that have dramatically improved academic performance. We have expanded preschool and after-school programs while maintaining a balanced budget. Our families are noticing the changes, and we have a growing enrollment for the first time in decades.

>How do you propose improving students' success?

We have to bring more technology and arts into classrooms and ensure that students are engaged. We have to support staff with increased autonomy and the freedom to innovate. We have to keep listening to families and build partnerships that allow us to offer a wide variety of academic choices.

>What is your position on Measure G?

Against. Measure G would make it easier for local politicians to run. They wouldn't have to get to know other neighborhoods or understand their needs, though. As a voter, it would limit my ability to vote for all board candidates, as I could only vote the one.

AREA 2 (short term)

John Dexter, public health manager.

>How well is Twin Rivers serving its students?

In the last two years Twin Rivers has faced district police scandals, allegations of improprieties, communities feeling disenfranchised and district employees at all levels feeling unappreciated. The results are flat API scores and dropping enrollment.

>How do you propose improving students' success?

Hire a superintendent with a strong curriculum background; enhance early intervention and credit recovery programs for all high school students; stronger emphasis on K-3 reading and learning skills; promote more parent involvement in the classroom and employ a grant writer to bring in additional funds for technology expansion and upgrades.

>What is your position on Measure G?

For. Measure G ensures that every area will be able to elect its own trustee to the board without the influence of large voter turnouts in other areas. Under the current system, you could win your area but not get elected to the board.

Michelle Rivas, incumbent, Twin Rivers Unified School District trustee.>

How well is Twin Rivers serving its students?

Our people have done remarkable things in difficult times. Our focus on career academies provides more options for families and more engaging courses for students. As a result of responsible decisions, academic scores are improving across the district, graduation rates are up, and our budget is balanced.

>How do you propose improving students' success?

High standards, program consistency and follow-through are important for student achievement. We need to look at results, continue successful programs, and work with families to strengthen relationships. We also need to support our staff in their efforts to make positive changes in schools and communities.

>What is your position on Measure G?

Against. Trustees will be required to make decisions affecting all schools and all neighborhoods. It is important to preserve the rights of our families and community members to choose all the trustees that represent them. Measure G may be good for politicians, but it is bad for kids.


Christine Jefferson, retired school employee.

>How well is Twin Rivers serving its students?

There is need for improvement in many areas in the district, such as reducing the student dropout and suspension rates. There is a shortage of counseling and social support at all schools in the district. Classrooms are overcrowded, and facility cleanliness needs to be addressed.

>How do you propose improving students' success?

As a board member I will hold the superintendent accountable for providing quality education and support for all students, parents, teachers and staff. Fiscal accountability is the No. 1 issue that will be reviewed. Monies that are currently being misused by Twin Rivers will be directed to services for students throughout the district.

>What is your position on Measure G?

For. I will vote yes on Measure G because school board members should be elected by local residents and not people outside of their neighborhoods. It is unfair for a candidate to be the top vote-getter in their area and not be elected because of the voting at-large process currently in effect.

>Walter Garcia Kawamoto, teacher.

>How well is Twin Rivers serving its students?

For almost 30 years I have been a teacher to students of all ages. My philosophy is that the work does not stop until every single student has succeeded. My assessment is that the district has many students who are not achieving their full potential. So we have lots of work to do.

>How do you propose improving students' success?

By taking the same approach that has worked with students in my classroom: Start by teaching the basics (reading, writing, and speaking) and then prepare them with the skills they'll need to succeed in life – respect, manners and how to work well and communicate effectively with others.

>What is your position on Measure G?

For. Measure G will help families of modest means get better representation on the school board. The current system benefits those with ties to big money and special interests. That is why I am proud to have worked extremely hard to gather signatures to get Measure G on the ballot.

John Berchielli, school volunteer.>

How well is Twin Rivers serving its students?

In my experience as a parent leader, Twin Rivers provides many opportunities to become part of the solution. I've seen a lot of improvements to school programs and buildings in every neighborhood. It's not perfect, but it is amazing what they have done with more than $100 million in state cuts.

>How do you propose improving students' success?

The budget may not get better soon. The district must grow parent and community partnerships to make good things happen for kids. Our communities must come together, heal some of the acrimony, and understand how much we have in common when it comes to what we want for kids.

>What is your position on Measure G?

Against. We need to consider what is best for kids. The current method of election allows all who choose to vote to elect all seven trustees. Our trustees should be representing all the children in our district, not just the ones that live in their neighborhood.

Area 4 (short term)

Bob Bastian, unopposed incumbent, Twin Rivers Unified School District trustee.

>How well is Twin Rivers serving its students?

Our career academies give students and parents more choices and are contributing toward our increased enrollment. Graduation rates are up because of the partnerships between staff, students and families. In three years, 22 schools have benefited from major construction projects. All this was done while maintaining a positive budget.

>How do you propose improving students' performance?

We must continue to work toward continuity so that all our students have the same opportunities and all staff members throughout our district have the best support.

We must increase preschools which provide an educational foundation, and we must increase our support staff numbers.

>What is your position on Measure G?

Against. Measure G would take the unity out of our unified district. Under Measure G, families would have children attending schools in more than one trustee area yet have no voice in selecting those trustees. We need our leadership to think about all children and be accountable to all families.

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