Turning the tables

We ask the school board candidates to take a pop quiz

We all know the presidential race has divided the country and even has neighbors angry with each other. But right here in Chico we’ve got an equally heated race—for the school board, no less.

Because of the bad taste left in the mouths of those affected by “Marshgate,” the mini-scandal that led to the reassignment of popular Marsh Junior High School Principal Jeff Sloan, the race for the Chico Unified District Board of Trustees has become quite intense.

More important, perhaps, there’s a looming $970,000 deficit that could result in the closure of popular neighborhood schools. And let’s not forget the proposed Canyon View High School, which has been delayed for years and will be going on a decade before it sees the light of day.

The good news is that the candidates all seem to agree that old wounds need to be healed to build trust among board members and parents so they can concentrate on what really matters—the kids.

In that spirit, the News & Review is doing something for the students. We’re turning the tables on the eight candidates and giving them a pop quiz on information we think they should know—no crib sheets allowed. So here it is—eight candidates, eight questions and a lot of different answers.

(Candidate S. Casey Aplanand failed to get back to us before deadline.)

Pop quiz questions and answers:
1. What is the annual budget of the CUSD? Answer: $99 million

2. What percentage of the state’s budget goes to fund K-12 schools? Answer: 40 percent

3. Name the five current board members. Answer: Steve O’Bryan, Rick Anderson, Anthony Watts, Rick Rees and Scott Huber

4. What defines a “Title 1” school? Answer: The percentage of students receiving free lunch and thus coming from low-income families

5. What percentage of the total CUSD budget goes toward salaries and benefits? Answer: 83 percent unrestricted, 87 percent restricted and unrestricted

Nesto De La Torre

Photo By Tom Angel

6. How much money does the district say closing one in-town elementary school would save? Answer: $480,000

7. Which elementary campuses offer Spanish-language dual-immersion programs? Answer: Rosedale, Chapman and Parkview

8. What does the Ralph M. Brown Act cover? Answer: Openness of public meetings

Nesto De La Torre
Nesto De La Torre is the assistant director of activity fees for the Associated Students at Chico State. When his son started kindergarten at Rosedale, De La Torre wanted to get involved and became a member of the PTA and the school site committee. He believes he has the necessary tools to contribute to the school board.

“What I do every day is sit with boards, sit with committees and teach the students sitting on those how to be efficient, how to manage budgets, how to provide vision.”

De La La Torre has lived in Chico since 1993 and has two children, ages 6 and 4.

His answers:

1. “Oh geez. I want to say it’s in the low 20 millions. I thought it was like 23, 24 million.” Wrong. “Oh well … [laughing] lost that one.”

2. “That’s low. … I think it’s like 5 to 7 percent.” Wrong. “Forty percent? Oh wow.”

3. “Oh I got that one at least, hopefully. Rick Rees, Rick Anderson, Steve O’Bryan … umm … Anthony Watts and Huber, Scott Huber.” Correct. “Cool, at least I got one [laughing].”

4. “If I remember correctly, it’s the formula between the socio-economic status and the scores that the school gets. If you have a certain number of students, or a certain percentage of students, that are within an income range and combine that with scores, that makes you Title 1 status.” Correct.

5. “I want to say that’s like 85 percent.” Correct.

Dale Penne

Photo By Tom Angel

6. “I think they were estimating around $400,000.” Close but wrong.

7. “Chapman, Rosedale and Parkview.” Correct.

8. “The Brown Act covers open disclosure of documents and meetings. Basically people can go in and ask for documents and the school district has to give them as a public agency. And also if there’s a meeting, it has to be properly disclosed in advance with an opportunity for the public to attend.” Correct.

Score: 5 out of 8

Dale Penne
Dale Penne is a local businessman who has been very vocal at past board meetings, especially on the Marsh issue. He said barriers must be brought down before any other actions are taken.

“Without trust and relationship,” Penne said, “everything else is numeric and quantitative and just doesn’t have a positive effect on the lives of the people, especially when you’re talking about education.”

After graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, in 1982, Penne moved to Chico, where he lives with his wife Danielle and their three children. He’s the former owner of Orchard Lanes bowling alley.

1. “It’s about $95 million.” Correct.

2. “Hmm, good question. I don’t know but I’d have to say in the 25 percent, 20 percent range.” Wrong.

3. “I can do that. I’ve got Steve O’Bryan, Rick Anderson, Anthony Watts, Scott Huber and Rick Rees.” Correct.

4. “A Title 1 school is a school that has over 35 percent, I believe, of children on the free and reduced lunch program.” Correct.

5. “It is, umm, total, about 85 percent.” Correct.

Rick Anderson

Photo By Tom Angel

6. “Four hundred and fifty thousand dollars. And the out-of-town ones are about $150,000. And they say they could close Nord, Cohasset and Forest Ranch, they’re each about $150,000, and they’ll equal the closing of one of the in-town schools.” Correct.

7. “Well, I know the Spanish-language immersion is Park View. I believe that Chapman has it. And…umm…it might be Citrus.” Wrong.

8.It covers any committee or board that is elected by the public or that serves at the discretion of a public board, and it requires open meetings and that all deliberations are held in open settings and that citizens are given proper notice to meetings.” Correct.

Score: 6 out of 8

Rick Anderson
Rick Anderson has the most experience of the candidates, having been a member of the board since 1995. Anderson said facing budgetary issues is not an easy topic for the community but that options must at least be considered.

“It’s kind of like when a family sits around the table and says, ‘The breadwinner in the family might get laid off, we don’t know for sure, but it looks like work is slowing up and we need to think about what we’d do.'”

Anderson said he believes the recommendation of the board-appointed Campus Consolidation Committee needs to be carried out, even though school closure is not something he wants to do.

Anderson has a wife and three children and has lived in Chico for 15 years.

1. “It’s about $100 million.” Correct.

2. “About 40 percent. Proposition 98 guarantees 40 percent, but there are three tests in Prop. 98. Depending on what’s happening in the state’s economy, the governor and the Legislature will use one of those three tests, and it can edge up or down a little bit depending upon which one of those they put into play in any given year.” Correct.

3. “In order of reverse seniority, it would be, from the lowest vote-getter in the last election, Anthony Watts, to the middle vote-getter, which was Rick Rees, to the top vote getter, which was Scott Huber, to the next senior person on the board which would be Steve O’Bryan with four years, and then myself, with nine years of experience.” Correct.

4. “Title 1 is a designation from the federal government. And the federal government determines whether or not a school should be designated as Title 1 based on the socio-economic and ethnic make-up of a given school.” Correct.

Steve O’Bryan

Photo By Tom Angel

5. “If you’re talking about the total of unrestricted and restricted, it’s about 87 to 89 percent in any given year. If you’re looking at just unrestricted moneys, it ratchets down to about 84 percent.” Correct.

6. “Four-hundred and eighty thousand dollars.” Correct.

7. “Parkview and Rosedale …oh, and Chapman.” Correct.

8. “The intention of the Brown Act is that the public has a right to listen and to understand our discussion, to understand our reasoning. Not just that we sunshine our decision. It’s good and right that those discussions develop and simmer in the public.” Correct.

Score: 8 out of 8.

Steve O’Bryan
Incumbent Steve O’Bryan was born in Chico in 1955 and believes that if the board members stay together that they, along with people in the district and union officials, can handle contentious issues like renegotiating health benefits to district employees.

“I’m all for trying to take care of these folks,” O’Bryan said. “Because as the budget’s been cut, they’ve been taking on a lot more responsibilities in a lot of different aspects.”

O’Bryan said the current school board also makes a strong effort to make it to school sites to find out “what’s going on.”

1. “It’s currently at about $90 million.” Close but wrong.

2. “Sixty percent?” Wrong. “Doggonit. That was going to be my first answer. It should be 60 percent [laughing].

3.Anthony Watts, Rick Rees, Scott Huber, Rick Anderson and Steve O ‘Bryan.” Correct.

4. “Title 1 schools are generally classified by how many free and reduced-lunch programs there are. It’s an entitlement program from the federal government to try to add more programs and opportunities to kids at those schools.” Correct.

Melissa Davis

Photo By Tom Angel

5. “Eighty-seven percent. … That’s the number that sticks in my head, but again, no regrets because those folks earn their money.” Correct.

6. “Four-hundred and fifty thousand dollars.” Close enough to be correct.

7. “Rosedale, Parkview and Chapman.” Correct.

8. “It’s an open-meeting law to try and keep the public aware of decision making on elected bodies or government-elected bodies, for that matter.” Correct.

Score: 6 out of 8

Melissa Davis
Melissa Davis’ parents were both teachers, and her husband currently teaches in Oroville. She said her understanding of the profession is part of the reason she decided to run.

“I want to bring more teacher input and really support the teachers,” Davis said.

Davis, who has a 6-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son, said she also wants to be a part of her own children’s education. If elected Davis said she will make sure the budget is readable by all board members. She recommends holding some meetings at school sites and having them broadcast on NPR or KZFR.

1. “I read, when I signed up for the election, that it’s like $12 million.” Wrong.

2. “You know, I honestly don’t know. I’m not really good … this is why I want people to learn about the budget process. I’m sure everybody else that came in probably knew or had an idea. I know they do the ADA funding. They do some of the categorical funding. I’m not sure what percentage it is, though.” Wrong. “I was going to say 45 percent.”

3. “It’s Steve O’ Bryan and Rick Anderson, who are re-running, and then there’s Scott Huber, Rick Rees and Anthony Watts.” Correct.

4. “It’s defined by the people who have to fill out forms for free lunches based on the economic background of the families.” Correct.

Jann Reed

Photo By Tom Angel

5. “I don’t know that one either. I’m going to say 15 percent maybe.” Wrong.

6. “You know, I went to that consolidation meeting and they had two different schools listed. One of them, I think, was like $148,000 and the other one was like $97,000.” Wrong.

7. “That’s Chapman, Rosedale and Parkview.” Correct.

8. “Isn’t that the one that you can’t talk about things? Is that the one? Things have to be talked about in public forums. The group isn’t supposed to get together behind closed doors and talk about types of public issues.” More or less correct.

Score: 4 out of 8

Jann Reed
Jann Reed graduated from Chico State in 1979 and has been volunteering in the schools since her oldest daughter started school. Reed said there are bigger issues, such as the budget and the planned high school, to be addressed and that the Marsh issue should be put to rest.

“I don’t know how this personnel decision got so out of whack,” Reed said.

Reed said she has learned the definition of having thick skin since deciding to run. She’s been PTA president at Chico Junior High School and co-moderator for the Open-Structure program. She has three children.

1. “The number that I recall from the meeting with all the candidates is $100 million.” Correct.

2. “I do not know that. I’m guessing not as much as we need in order to do all the things we want to do in education. My guess is less than 10 percent.” Wrong.

3. “OK, Rick Anderson and Steve O’Bryan are the two incumbents. … Rick Rees, Anthony Watts and Scott Huber.” Correct.

4. “That is a school where a certain number of the population’s socio-economic level is below a state mandated level so that they are entitled to have a free or reduced lunch program.” Correct.

Margo Chappell

Photo By Tom Angel

5. “The majority. I know it’s enormous. It’s probably in the 70-80 percent.” Wrong.

6. “I have seen that figure. It’s around $400,000.” Wrong. “I know there were two schools that they called city schools. One was a larger city school and one was a smaller city school. It probably depends on, of course, the population of schools, the number of classrooms and the number of teachers. I guess it’s between $400,000 and $500, 000.

7. “Parkview, Rosedale and Chapman.” Correct.

8. “It covers how you can conduct a public meeting and how many people can gather from a public entity before you have to have to put it on an agenda and have it open to the public.” Correct.

Score: 5 out of 8

Margo Chappell
Margo Chappell said the school board needs to communicate better and that she wants to get Canyon View moving a little faster. Chappell said she is a good mediator that will offer balanced decision making to the CUSD board.

“I don’t have a negative campaign,” Chappell said. “I’m not angry enough to be ranting and raving about different things.”

She added that she finally has the time to dedicate to the school board since her chauffeuring days are over. Her son is a junior at Pleasant Valley High School. Chappell has lived in Chico for 20 years and was president of the PTA at Little Chico Creek from 1998 to 2000.

1. “The annual budget of the Chico Unified School District is—don’t take this for gospel—$99 million?” Correct.

2. “Oh God, 35 percent.” Close but wrong.

3. “Rick Rees, Steve O’Bryan, Scott Huber, Rick Anderson and Anthony Watts.” Correct. “Anthony Watts is doing an outstanding job as a trustee. I’m very impressed.”

4. “A Title 1 school is determined by the number of students that sign up for the free-lunch program.” Correct.

5. “Eighty-three percent.” Correct.

6. “Four hundred and eighty thousand dollars.” Correct.

7. “Parkview, Chapman and Sierra View?” Wrong.

8. “It limits the school board from having closed-session meetings. All meetings have to be available to the public.” Correct.

Score: 6 out of 8.