Readers comments 11-01-13
From the mouths of babes
Before Claremont got its present-day hustle, the college kids referred to it as sleepy Clareville. My 4-year-old great-grandson’s miscue fits the town better, I think: Clevermont.
Claremont isn’t Walmart
Following the lead of some private employers who value money more than people, on October 22, our city council voted for the recommendations by the Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor, to cut the hours of part-time city employees in order to exclude them from group health insurance. Also included in his recommendation was the hiring of a consultant to further study the issue at a maximum cost of $40,000!
During the Village Venture, we confronted Councilman Larry Schroeder about this. He said that most of the affected employees don’t need city insurance anyway, because they have it through a family member. If that’s so, it was unnecessary to cut their hours. How about the remaining few who do need it? It was unkind to deny them.
This action cannot avoid having a negative effect on the morale, loyalty and work quality of city employees, both those affected and the rest who saw it and now question the city’s loyalty to them. In addition, the cost of resulting high turnover will add to city costs in the long run. That’s not the best way to serve Claremont’s residents nor its employees.
We call upon the council to reconsider, and to do either of the following:
1. Restore the employees’ hours and thereby their eligibility for group health insurance.
2. Ensure that the consultant includes actual costs of those employees who will use city insurance and exclude estimated costs of those who will select to use the insurance coverage provided by their spouse. The consultant must also add long-range costs to the city resulting from expected turnovers.
3. If the city doesn’t need all of the hours anyway for other reasons, offer group health insurance to these employees even though it isn’t mandated by law. We all want our workers to be healthy and the best way to keep them healthy is to provide them health insurance.
Claremont isn’t Walmart. It shouldn’t treat its employees the way Walmart does. That doesn’t reflect the values of most Claremont residents and, frankly, it is the right thing to do.
Bob Gerecke, Sandy Hester
Nothing ‘substandard’ about CUSD schools
I find it necessary to respond to the Reader Comment submitted by Jack Sultze (October 18, 2013). Mr. Sultze states that, “We have elementary schools in the Claremont school district that are substandard. Everybody knows it.”
I would disagree with this statement. In the past eight years, test scores at all seven of Claremont’s elementary schools have shown incredible growth. The lowest Academic Performance Index (API) score for an elementary school in 2005-06 was 691 and the highest that year was 881. The scores for 2012-13 that were recently published have shown that all elementary schools scored between 858 and 932, well above the state’s target score of 800.
These scores are determined by the Department of Education, based on the results of the STAR tests that all students in grades 2-11 take each spring. Test scores measuring academic performance do not increase if children are attending “substandard” schools. Children in Claremont are fortunate to have highly-qualified, devoted teachers and staff who go above and beyond in meeting the needs of all of our students.
The “substandard school” attitude is a myth that needs to be dispelled. There was a time when certain schools did not perform as well as others. However, recent history has shown that all of our elementary schools prepare our students for the challenges and rigor of secondary education.
Each school prepares a Single Plan for Student Achievement that addresses the district’s goal of closing the achievement gap. Student data and performance is analyzed on an ongoing basis and students that are faced with academic challenges are provided opportunities for intervention to ensure we are meeting the needs of all students. The most recent data for Claremont students reflects a high school graduation rate of 97.6 percent. Many of our students are enrolling in prestigious four-year colleges, having been equipped academically, prepared socially and empowered to participate and thrive in a challenging, diverse world.
Claremont residents can be proud of all our schools. The district has worked very hard, through some challenging economic times, to provide a quality education that has focused our goals on improving performance and ensuring the success of all of our students at all of our schools.
As a retiring school board member and current president of the school board, I appreciate the work being done in our schools. When I travel and interact with board members from other communities, both in California and beyond, I learn how fortunate we are to have teachers, staff and administrators whose first priorities are always focused on the safety and education of all students.
I am grateful that all the children of Claremont Unified School District attend schools that challenge them academically and nurture them to be ready for their next steps upon graduation, whether that be career or college.
Mary Caenepeel, President
Claremont Unified School District Board of Education
Perception is not reality
This letter is written in response to Jack Sultze. I understand your claim that families within the Claremont School District feel that some elementary schools are superior to others, using whatever measuring stick to determine this supposed superiority. Usually the most widely used criteria for assessing success is the annual state benchmark. For example, Vista Elementary School now has the third best API score in the district with an 889. With like school comparisons, Vista rates 8 out of 10. Credit for raising these test scores can be given to the entire Vista community. (i.e. Mr. Stewart: teachers, staff, parents and the learners). However, parents and educators know test scores are not the only measure of a quality education.
Rigorous instruction, relevant curriculum, engaging programs and nurturing environments are better barometers for measuring a quality education. Many Claremont families choose our two most northern schools.
Chaparral and Condit schools are the largest elementary schools in the CUSD. Chaparral has 646 learners and Condit has 624 learners. These campuses probably cannot grow anymore. More modular classrooms at these schools mean less space for outside learning and fewer places for play.
Mr. Sultze is correct that we need a higher discourse in this election. Candidates need to have a plan so parents have more choices for their children. One example of this was the proposal for Oakmont Elementary to become an Outdoor Science School. This thematic-educational focus helped attract other parents from around the district. Parents have a greater sense of ownership because they choose a specific elementary with a unique program.
I believe that there are other ideas that will complement the already great work Claremont elementary schools are doing. There are so many educational programs happening outside the district which merit consideration for adoption into Claremont Schools.
1. Claremont should adopt a dual-immersion language program at one or several elementary schools. A Spanish- English program might be most beneficial. If the program succeeds, then a Mandarin-English program could be instituted. The entire school does not have to be a language school. Parents would choose for their child to learn in a kindergarten class where instruction is given in a foreign language for a certain percentage of the day.
2. We need to extend the International Baccalaureate (IB) program to selected elementary schools and El Roble. Ask families who have enrolled their students in IB program at CHS, it has been a game-changer for CHS, and it did not dramatically change the high school. It complimented the good work already done by the school. IB gave learners a new perspective on how to comprehend the world and provided a new path to careers and college.
3. Finally, Claremont needs to adopt an early college education program in conjunction with Citrus College. There are about 200 of these programs in the United States. Duarte Unified created this program several years ago and it has been a positive experience for over 150 students who have earned up to 37 credits to enter college. An ambitious learner earned 56 semester credits. This allowed the graduate to enter into UCLA as a junior. If this was a private institution such as USC, if would have saved a family $130,000.
Also, participants do not pay any tuition for the early college program. This program is also another way for a learner to start a path towards a career. Matriculated students would also have access to Citrus College’s award-winning automotive, theatre and cosmetology programs. Students do not have to be at the mercy of for-profit schools, which sometimes do not have accredited programs and saddle graduates with unnecessary debt.
Today’s ideas can become tomorrow’s reality. The seeds for making a good school district great have fertile soil in Claremont. Claremont has the best gardeners (our fine Claremont teachers and staff) to help nurture these seeds.
Claremont schools need a problem-solver like Paul Steffen. His many years in property management and real estate will be a valuable asset.
Paul is a numbers guy, making sure that we set aside the right amounts for the critical upkeep of our assets. His experience with dealing with diverse property owners, coupled with his leadership and volunteerism, makes him an ideal choice for a position on the school board.
Paul and Maureen Wheeler
Support Treser Osgood
I am a teacher at Chaparral Elementary School and I enthusiastically support Nancy Treser Osgood for the Claremont school board. I have known Nancy as a Chaparral volunteer and a member of the Claremont Educational Foundation.
Though I was not fortunate to have taught her two children, I have always found Nancy to be approachable, easy to talk with and a dedicated volunteer. Her experience as a board member of both CEF and CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) exhibit her commitment to education.
Without reservation, I support Nancy Treser Osgood for the Claremont school board.
Steffen for school board
There are some excellent candidates vying for the three open positions on the school board. Paul Steffen gives us an opportunity to have a balance among board members. Most candidates have a rich educational background whereas Paul’s experience is primarily in business.
Over the years, he has demonstrated strong analytical skills and has garnered a wealth of experience in the fields of facilities management, accounting and strategic planning. These strengths will be critical in the near future as the board makes decisions concerning the allocation of state and property sale funds to upgrade our school physical plants and to address the needs of teachers and students. Our teachers and students deserve to have facilities that are safe and conducive to learning.
In addition, Paul has demonstrated his ability to provide leadership in his businesses and in nonprofit organizations. Currently, he serves as chair of the Claremont Community Foundation and recently was president of the Rotary Club of Claremont. In these roles, as well as in several other groups, he has proven to be a collaborative problem-solver and a forward-thinking person. Paul knows how to get things done through his personal dedication and through others.
I encourage you to vote for Paul on November 5. He will be an excellent member of the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education.
Dennis J. Smith
Nemer is dedicated
My name is Barbara Bilderback, and I am a teacher at Claremont High School, a parent of two children (one at CHS and one in college) and a Claremont resident.
I’ve known Dave Nemer for seven years as a colleague at Claremont High School and as a community member in Claremont. It is without hesitation that I endorse Dave as a school board member for Claremont Unified School District.
Dave has been a committed Claremont teacher for more than 20 years and educated countless students at San Antonio High School, Claremont High School and, most recently, as a substitute teacher. His life’s work has been the children of Claremont and his dedication to education in our community has prepared him to continue to serve as an outstanding school board member.
I hope that you join me in voting for Dave Nemer on Tuesday, November 5.
Vote Steffen and Llanusa
Well, I’ve finally begun looking at the slate of candidates for Claremont’s upcoming November 5 school board election. The primary criteria I use in evaluating the candidates are (1) willingness to question and challenge the status quo, and (2) breadth of perspective, from a wider societal standpoint, they would be able to bring to the supervision of our school district.
Too often, in my opinion, the Claremont school board gets filled with people who are already professionally involved in the education field. Now, don’t misunderstand, it’s fine to be professionally involved in the education field but, to be properly balanced, our school board members need to bring a greater variety of experiences and perspectives to the governance of our local schools than just being an education insider.
So, my assessment is shaping up something like this. I believe that Steven Llanusa, through his own demonstrated willingness to question and challenge the status quo, has earned re-election.
As for the rest of the field, it consists of two teachers, one college official and one private businessman. So, for me, based upon my criteria, there’s really only one other candidate that attracts my interest, and that is Paul Steffen. His experience as a local businessman offers the possibility of a private business-oriented as well as an education-consumer’s perspective on the board, knowledge and experience that would be a valuable asset.
Therefore, I’m voting for Llanusa and Steffen, only.
Support for Salas and Nemer
This year Joe Salas and Dave Nemer are two of my three picks for school board.
I have known Dave Nemer as a friend, the teaching assistant for my statistics class at the graduate school, an investment advisor and as an active contributor to the Claremont education scene for nearly four decades. Dave could have kept his career in the private sector but gave it up in favor of his passion for teaching math to the students at the San Antonio continuation high school and later at Claremont High. Dave knows the school district inside out—what makes our kids tick, what makes a school work, what teachers need to be effective. We need his sharp, analytical mind on the board, his caring for students from all backgrounds, and his good sense about what works and what does not.
Joe Salas will bring energy and enthusiasm to the school board. A graduate of Claremont schools and a teacher himself, Joe will have a good feeling for how to preserve the things we love about our schools. Like Dave, Joe is an inquisitive and deep thinker who will push for innovations that could help students compete in this new world.
Ten years ago, there was a great deal of excitement about the potential for devoting at least one elementary school to foreign language immersion—a school where roles would switch and English language learners would become the experts while everyone would gain the communication skills we need to thrive in a global economy. Tight money and other priorities got in the way. Maybe someone with Joe’s drive and commitment to innovate could help us get there.
Please join me in voting for Dave Nemer and Joe Salas for the Claremont board of education this Tuesday, November 5.
Vote Nemer on Tuesday
The foundation of a strong democracy is an informed electorate; thus, a robust public educational system is vital to our society. Having said that, I can’t image why anyone who has already given his or her life to teaching would then voluntarily submit to becoming a school board member—one of the most thankless, arduous and contentious jobs imaginable. Thankfully, however, Dave Nemer has consented to do it for us.
Dave is one of the good guys! While his yard signs in my neighborhood—characteristically modest and accurate—cite his traits as experience, integrity, and commitment, I’d like to add three more. On the basis of teaching side-by-side with Dave in difficult circumstances and watching him champion the schools in a variety of community contexts for over 30 years, I would suggest judgement, fairness and effectiveness.
Judgement: Dave knows the district and its issues well and brings insight and perceptiveness to his decisions. He is savvy enough to see through political maneuvering and facile leadership.
Fairness: He strives to take everyone’s needs, concerns and circumstances into account when determining actions. As a math teacher, Dave is big on basics; one basic includes always asking, “Is it right for all involved?”
Effectiveness: Dave consistently works toward building consensus and in doing so builds sustainability. He knows and avoids the damage that can be done by narrow thinking and simplistic posturing.
As one who is similarly dedicated to a healthy public educational system in Claremont, I strongly support Dave Nemer for school board membership, knowing that our children and our future will be in good hands!
We need Llanusa
During this election period for the CUSD school board, I have heard untrue statements about Steven Llanusa. And I feel that I must correct any belief that he is contentious and controversial.
Often elected officials “go along to get along” when they realize that they will be the lone dissenting vote. Steven, though, speaks up for what he believes is right. He has been outspoken on two past issues, going against the board’s original stance. Thank goodness for all of us that he did. In each instance, it turned out that Steven had reached the correct choice, to which the board eventually agreed.
Also, Steven’s plans to discuss neighborhood school boundaries will not make “less freedom of choice” as Mark Merritt wrongly stated in his October 4 letter. This plan will save some district resources by eliminating the processing of paperwork parents currently complete to send their children to the school closest to their homes. More importantly, parents will not have to suffer the annual worry that their children won’t be able to attend the school that they can walk to.
Steven continues to be falsely described as an obstructionist despite a collaborative atmosphere since the hiring of Dr. Jim Elsasser as superintendent. But don’t just take my word for it. The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin endorsed Steven for his cooperative methods. When he won his seat four years ago, that was not the case. This new endorsement states, “things have changed for the better” with Steven serving the past four years adding, “he is still one to ask many questions, but the controversial aspect has disappeared.”
The teachers of Claremont have also endorsed Steven. They realize that as an incumbent, Steven’s presence on the board is crucial. All of the principals at our schools are relatively new. With a superintendent who is also coming off his rookie year, it is extremely important that the majority of the board have experience. As the only incumbent, Steven has that voice and he uses it in a cooperative manner. Board member Sam Mowbry also stated that, over the past two years, the “tensions have passed.”
Every city should have someone like Steven Llanusa serve on its school board. His is the valuable, cooperative voice of experience.
Campaign manager for Steven Llanusa’s re-election