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Winkler, Common Core among topics discussed at Saugus candidate forum

Posted: October 23, 2013 6:23 p.m.
Updated: October 23, 2013 6:23 p.m.

SANTA CLARITA - The results of the November election for the Saugus Union School District board may hinge on whether voters continue to trust multi-term incumbents to address the issues facing the district, or whether they think a different set of eyes may be more valuable.

The matter of experience versus perspective was touched on Sunday during a forum for candidates seeking election to the Saugus district board.

“I believe that experience is still crucial in navigating through the challenges that we’ve had and we will continue to have,” said current board President Judy Umeck, who has served on the board for 18 years.

“I have a fresh perspective to provide renewed leadership to this district,” said Chris Trunkey, a chief financial officer for a movie company who is seeking election to the board for the first time. “My qualifications in business and finance and as a volunteer in education speak for themselves.”

Trunkey and Umeck, along with current board members Doug Bryce and Paul De La Cerda, outlined their qualifications to be elected to one of the three seats up for grabs in November and addressed an array of topics during a forum held by local media outlets in the SCVTV studios in Newhall.

A fifth candidate in the election, Stacie Allegra, was unable to attend as she was out of town attending to a family matter.

One of the topics touched on Sunday was the upcoming implementation of Common Core State Standards, a new education policy that lays out a set of benchmarks and goals designed to emphasize critical thinking and a deeper understanding of subjects.

Part of Common Core is also a greater use of technology in the classroom, something that could be a problem as districts recover from years of crippling budget cuts.

“Technology is absolutely the challenge,” Umeck said. “Economically, we need the funds in order to make sure that we have site equity at the school sites so that technology will be the tool at hand and that they’ll be able to use it effectively in the classroom.”

Bryce agreed, saying the reliance on technology is somewhat of an unfunded mandate in regards to Common Core.
But he said he likes the emphasis Common Core places on applying classroom concepts in a real-world setting.

Another topic discussed during the forum was the controversial departure of former board member Stephen Winkler, whose seat was declared vacant earlier this year after evidence surfaced he may live outside the boundaries of the Saugus district.

In hindsight, Umeck said, the district could have been more proactive in consulting with other agencies, such as the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, during the process.

The decision to vacate Winkler’s seat is still being reviewed by the California Attorney General’s office.

De La Cerda said another lesson to be learned from the Winkler affair is the repercussions of “voter apathy.”

“We must recognize that the community elected Mr. Winkler, and voter apathy in all age groups is a problem in the Santa Clarita Valley,” he said.

The election for the Saugus Union School District board will be held Nov. 5.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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