A community cross section gathered Tuesday evening as the three candidates vying for two seats on Carpinteria Unified School District’s five-member Board of Education offered their knowledge of the district’s funding structure, its connection to parents and students, and how, moving forward, they would prioritize the district’s roughly $23 million annual budget. Spending roughly $8,300 per student — much less than the state average — the district faces challenges associated with 68 percent of its 2,300 students categorized as “disadvantaged,” burnt bridges between its existing board and the community, and differences of opinion on a dual-language immersion program that’s been put on hold until next fall. While candidate Maureen Foley Claffey is looking forward to immersing her young daughter in bilingual education, ballot rivals Gary Blair and Rogelio Delgado were more cautious, the former concerned with cost and community interest, the latter preferring to wait for performance results from nearby districts that have the program already underway.

All three candidates were supportive of recruiting highly qualified teachers and keeping them in Carpinteria with competitive paychecks. Delgado in particular laments that more than 20 teachers have left for better pay in Santa Barbara and Ventura during the past 18 months alone. A native speaker of SpanishTK with two daughters in the district and one alum, Delgado added that of the three candidates, he could best reach out to fellow Hispanics, the ethnic group comprising roughly three quarters of student households in the agriculturally rich beach town.

Blair, a retired Santa Barbara Superior Court executive officer who oversaw a multimillion-dollar budget, pointed out his strengths as a number cruncher and — with twin daughters at Carpinteria High — said he would also be a Title IX advocate. Foley Claffey placed emphasis on “scouring the budget” for wasteful spending and marking it for disposal. She also pledged to work toward “an immediate change in the philosophy” of the board, which longtime observers say has grown increasingly disconnected from students, teachers, and families.

In related news, after months of impasse, the existing board and the teachers union have settled on a one percent salary increase, retroactive to April of this year. Also, the district’s search for a new superintendent will be taken up by the newly installed board, to be sworn in on December 13.


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