All three of the candidates for Galt Joint Union High School District (GJUGSD) Trustees have years of experience on the board. Terry Parker, Pat Maple and Daniel Denier answered questions on current issues faced by the district. Parker and Denier are current trustees.
Top Three Goals
All three candidates listed returning students to the classroom as a top priority.
Parker also listed equal opportunity for every student with no student left behind. Her third priority is to add classes that will better prepare students with job skills and to add more rigorous classes for students planning on college.
Maple said he thinks too much emphasis is placed on just getting students into college. He would like to see practical life skills taught more.
“(We need to) Start leaning a bit more towards work learning and stop promoting only a college education,” Maple said. “Bringing more teachings of history, family, society, how to work and learning about how to be on your own in the real world. Bring back the necessary hands-on life skills lacking in our children today.”
Maintaining fiscal responsibility and continuing the high level of education made Denier’s top priorities along with working smoothly with other board members. He added, “To lead by example.”
On Distance Learning
Both Parker and Denier acknowledged how hard staff and teachers worked to improve the distance learning from last spring. Both were concerned with students falling behind and becoming depressed. Again, all three candidates hope to have students back on campus as soon as possible.
Denier said concern about both students and faculty continues to be a top priority, offering services to both for physical and mental health.
Parker said safety features are already in place when students are allowed to return, including purchased masks, sanitizer, janitorial plan and desks six feet apart. They plan to start with 50% of the students on campus at a time.
“We are willing to do whatever it takes, we just need to know what that is so we can open up,” Parker said. “It is very frustrating.”
Maple called distance learning a “waste of time” and that it was “stealing our children’s history.” He added, there are ways to keep students and faculty safe.
“I would get rid of it (distance learning) and go back to the classrooms, be it on a time basis, daily basis, three days per week or full time,” Maple said. “There is too much evidence that COVID does not affect the student populations as much as is being reported today.”
On the Budget
All three candidates indicate that state funding needs to be increased and doing what is best for the students the top priority. Denier sees looking at all the details, such as turning off heat and air in empty classrooms, is important but feels the big picture is in the hands of legislators.
“Our schools (need) to receive full and fair funding from the state,” Denier said. “(That’s) something that doesn’t even happen in good years, which is why I will continue to also reach out to our state legislators and continue to pressure them for better funding.”
Reaching out to alternative financial backing is what Maple suggests.
“Funding is based on our ADA (average daily attendance) and what we pursue through other financial avenues, like grants,” Maple said. “I was able to obtain enough funding from the State Critical Hardship funds to build Estrellita by simply asking a few questions and following through with the process. That is our job!”
On Career & Technical Education (CTE)
The candidates were asked about plans for CTE. All three believe CTE is a crucial part of a good high school education.
Denier said the board is currently seeking a grant to add to CTE classes. Both Denier and Parker said the CTE classes have been very successful at both high schools.
Denier and Maple both mention practical learning in regard to CTE.
“Not every student will go to college but the skills and knowledge they can pick up in our CTE classes will help them be better prepared to enter the job market,” Denier said.
Maple believes that Estrellita could pave the way for many students.
“Again Estrellita … how about renewing our nursing program, engineering studies, shop classes, diesel mechanics and others,” Maple said. “Contractors, companies, shops and equipment operations are all begging for apprentices and students. Possibly seek minor funding from businesses to help promote the CTE course of education.”
On Joint Powers of Authority (JPA)
The current JPA is about to expire. Candidates were asked if they were interested in a new JPA. Parker said the district is looking into a new JPA.
“Our superintendent is currently working with the new city manager on this very thing,” Parker said. “We feel the high school is sometimes overlooked so we have a priority in making our voice heard so we are never overlooked again. It is a huge benefit to developers to have a very successful school district in their neighborhood and we need to remind of that and advocate for ourselves.”
Denier served on the board for the JPA starting in 2016. He said they spent a lot of time examining the options for the current CFD, which ended the JPA. He’s not sure if another JPA is “the right direction.”
“We made a decision that will actually end up ending the JPA a year earlier than if we did nothing,” Denier said. “This decision leads to a savings of $1.7 million for those residents who have been paying into the current CFD. I would want to make sure whatever direction we go, it will be what is best for our schools and our community.”
Transitioning incoming freshmen
Denier and Parker said the district has a “Link Crew” where upperclassmen mentor incoming freshmen.
“In a normal school year, the upperclassmen would meet the incoming freshmen on the first day of school and show them where their classes are, exchange contact information and keep in contact,” Parker said. “There are events and gatherings planned throughout the year to give support to our new students. This year is different, but I do see that the upperclassmen are still reaching out with their paired student and they are planning online events.”
On Bullying & Racism
Parker and Denier said the district has a Zero Tolerance for bullying.
“I believe all three principals take bullying and racism very seriously, and we have had staff training on this,” Parker said. “It is so hard because a lot of this is done outside of school. Social media has really escalated this.”
Denier said the message of Zero Tolerance has to be clear to students and their parents.
“No one should ever be made to feel as if they are less of a person by anyone,” Denier said. “It is not right. It will not be tolerated. As a district, it is important that we take a stand against bullying and racism. We must make it clear to our students that we will not tolerate it. We must also make sure that our students know who they can turn to and who they can talk to if they ever feel that they are the victims of bullying or racism.”
Editor’s note: To see the candidates full answers to these and additional topics, log on to The Galt Herald website at www.galtherald.com.