School board candidate forum focus is on goals

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There were no fireworks at Tuesday's school board candidate forum, only a thoughtful discussion of questions asked.

Running for Socorro school board positions Feb. 5 are James Chaves and Linda Perdue in Position 4 and Pauline Jaramillo and Juan Trujillo in Position 5. School board positions are at large, which means everyone can vote for both positions.

Moderator Jean Truesdell quoted the Socorro Consolidated Schools website saying, "'The primary role of the board is to govern and oversee the school district.'" The school board also hires the superintendent, she said.

Jaramillo and Chavez, incumbents, were unable to attend the meeting due to previous commitments they had but Truesdell read letters from both to address the first questions posed during the forum.

The first question posed by the Socorro chapter of American Association of University Women, which hosted the forum, asked the candidates to describe their experience with financial planning.

Chavez replied, in his letter, he serves on the audit committee for the schools and works on the school budget.

Jaramillo, in her letter, said she has been a member of the finance committee since she has been on the board and is the owner of Socorro Curves on the Plaza as well as owns Jaramillo's Plumbing with her husband. She is the financial manager of those businesses.

Perdue said she has very limited experience with financial planning, other than her own on a retiree's income. But, she said, as a teacher at Midway Elementary School, she was responsible for taking care of the line item budget for the teachers' things.

Trujillo said he also has a very limited experience with financial planning, but in 2005 he began working at a local consulting firm where part of his job was to take the budget of a government agency, develop formulas and process them, then return the values to the agency that were needed to create that budget.

The second question asked by the AAUW was "What type of teacher compensation model do you support and why?"

Chavez said the only model used now is providing raises based on years of service.

"The superintendent may have some good ideas for different models," he said.

"I do know our teachers have not seen a raise in over five years," Jaramillo responded in her letter. "And it is time that we take a serious, good hard look at our budget and see what we can do for them."

Perdue said she would support an across-the-board kind of model over a merit pay model for a variety of reasons.

"There are so many variables in student success, I don't see how there could be a level playing field to provide merit pay for certain teachers," she said. She gave examples of students who had numerous absences and incidents of classrooms with particularly disruptive students, which would affect a teacher's ability to be judged for merit pay raises.

Perdue said when she was teaching, it did irritate her that she was paid the same as those who just "read the book and passed the test" while she spent hours developing creative ways to instill information in her students, but said, "I just can't see a level playing field for something like merit pay."

"I know the governor is looking at math and science bonuses, but reading is just as important," she said.

Trujillo said he thinks teacher compensation should be the same throughout the state. Teachers' level of training should be taken into account.

"We need the ability to compensate teachers who go above and beyond," he said.

The third AAUW question was about how board members would be directly involved with the schools outside of board meetings if they won the election.

In their letters, both incumbents said they would continue visiting the schools and participating and helping in various school events over the year from award ceremonies to parent involvement meetings.

Perdue said she already volunteers at San Antonio School several times a week and will visit all the schools several times a month.

"I would be involved as much as possible," she said. "They might get sick of me after a while."

Trujillo said he is a parent of two at Parkview Elementary School.

"It's important to be involved in schools' activities," he said.

During the questions from the audience portion of the event, Perdue and Chavez were able to make their positions clear on a number of issues.

After spending her teaching career entirely at Socorro schools with the last six years before retirement at Midway as head teacher, Perdue hopes to be a liaison for teachers in the classroom.

"Every school district has difficult situations to deal with, and we are not different," she said.

Her priorities include teacher morale, graduation rates and student success.

Parent involvement is crucial to the schools, she said.

Trujillo said he is running on an increased access platform. He wants to help promote communication among all parties.

His strength is in technology and his goal is to bring the school district up to date in computers and develop a technology plan.

"We need to incorporate and have our technology involved with the curriculum," he said.

Within the next two years it will become mandatory for students to take the common core standards P.A.R.K. tests online, Trujillo said.

"How will the school district be ready?" he asked. "First we have to build that into our technology plan. P.A.R.K. is completely online. We need bandwidth, faster computers and enough computers. We need to upgrade and get funded."