A Basic Aid Future Frames Hope District Board Race

by Ethan Stewart

Looking to secure the financial future of the three elementary
schools in its district, the Hope School District Board of Trustees
voted earlier this spring to do away with a long-standing tradition
of accepting inter-district transfers. By doing so, they hoped to
attain the coveted status necessary for Basic Aid funding, whereby
the district derives its funding from in-district property taxes,
rather than typical state funding based on average daily attendance
numbers. Given the fact that nearly 400 of the district’s 1,300
students transfer in from outside district boundaries, the decision
to embrace Basic Aid has not been without detractors, who point to
the inevitable faculty layoffs that downsizing the number of
students by nearly a third is sure to require. Über-successful on
standardized tests and no longer a haven for “white flight”
transfer students coming from Santa Barbara’s attendance-challenged
elementary district (in 2005-06, Santa Barbara elementary schools
lost 239 students to Hope schools), the Hope district faces a
crucial election this November, as three seats on its five-member
board of trustees are up for grabs. With a four-year term of
service attached to the position, whoever fills these seats will
play an integral part in ushering in the age of Basic Aid. All the
candidates acknowledge that Basic Aid is where the district is
heading, though they have different ideas about how to approach the
uncertain future ahead.

With current board president Mike Underwood and trustees Steve
Weintraub and Joe Liebman all terming out, six candidates have
joined the race to replace them. The rundown of candidates goes
like this: Rebecca Bjork is the mother of a second-grader and a
kindergartner at Vieja Valley Elementary School and has a
background in public administration. She considers board
communication with parents and long-range financial planning to be
essential in the coming years for the Hope School District. Next up
is Patricia Hiles, a retired attorney, former probation officer,
and California public school teacher off and on for 45 years. Hiles
says she is committed to continued academic success and truly free
public schools (i.e. no expectation of financial contributions from
parents). Scott Orlosky is the father of two girls in the Hope
district, and feels he has a solid understanding of the district,
its facilities, its faculty, and the issues facing them.
Orlosky — who has received endorsements from Underwood, Weintraub,
and former Hope boardmember Gregg Faulkner — considers focusing on
student and staff needs while continuing to gather public input on
the downsizing necessary for Basic Aid essential to the continued
success of the district. Neil Rabin, retired CEO of Miramar
Systems, has had children at Vieja Valley for nine years. Like many
of his fellow candidates, Rabin says he understands the importance
of community involvement, as well as the importance of having a
transparent decision-making process. Carl Still is also the father
of two students in the district, as well as an active member of the
Hope PTA and the three-years-running editor of the Vieja Valley
yearbook. Still lists as his top priorities high educational
standards, social responsibility, and the fostering of a healthy
and amicable relationship among the district’s three schools,
associated PTAs, and parents. The final candidate is Tony
Winterbauer, a father of two current and one future Hope district
students. A current member of the Hope School Site Council,
Winterbauer has received the seal of approval from the Hope
District Teachers Association for his resolve to make tough
decisions and provide an open ear for concerned staff and parents
in the coming years.

Speaking this week about the various issues facing the new board
of trustees, Superintendent Gerrie Fausett echoed the unifying
theme of all the candidates’ platforms when she said, “I think what
it comes down to is the management of resources, as we downsize and
then — through lots of community and parent meetings — determining
what type of district we want to be in five years when we get the
Basic Aid funding.” In a district known for its community input and
celebrated for its success, board meetings will no doubt be a
battleground of sorts in coming years, with the ability to
compromise and listen having just as much impact on the future of
the Hope district as the payday promised by Basic Aid.


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