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Few disagreements at candidate forum

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By Don Pace

There wasn’t a lot of disagreement among candidates running for the West Las Vegas School Board.

Many of the regular questions were asked — about what they thought about consolidation of school districts, nepotism, and a willingness to be open with the press and public.

The candidates running for Position 4 in Tuesday’s election are Michael Adams, David G. Romero and John Trujillo. Vying for Position 5 are incumbent Christine Ludi, Manuel Lucero, Jose R. Salazar and Yvette Arellanes.

A question concerning assaults during a football camp in the Las Vegas City Schools, which resulted in criminal charges for players, brought a defense from candidates that while it was a horrible thing for everyone in Las Vegas, it wasn’t representative of students in either district.

Armed police in the schools (referred to as resource officers) also brought some agreement among the candidates, most of whom said they were against the idea.

Generally all candidates supported the bond issue, which is on the Feb. 3 ballot, that would continue to support infrastructure and technology improvements at district schools.

There was only minor differences in how they would approach the always-asked nepotism question. Candidates said family should go through the same hiring process as anyone else and all said it’s the superintendent’s job to hire and fire.

The forum, which took place at West Las Vegas Middle School, was sponsored by the watchdog group, the Committee for the People, and the Las Vegas Optic.

Question

What specific lessons have you learned from the alleged Robertson High School assaults and how will you apply them in the West district?

Position 5

Yvette Arellanes — “I think the unfortunate incident at Robertson has left the whole community of Las Vegas with a black-eye, and that’s unfortunate because I don’t think that it is representative of our community. We need to teach our students that you treat people the way you want to be treated – with humility, dignity and respect, that’s the most important thing we can take from this. There should also be a no tolerance against any type of bullying.”

Manuel Lucero — “When you have a large amount of students you have to have enough chaperones to help the instructors. While the instructors are planning the next event or the next day’s schedule, the key is getting parental involvement.”

Christine Ludi — “At West Las Vegas we do have the anti-hazing, anti-gang and anti-graffiti policies in place. We also need to give the superintendent, principals, teachers and staff all the backing they need to prevent this type of thing. We have had no incidents of any type of hazing or gang-related incidents in our schools. So we have a good grip on taking care of those issues immediately and I believe they are being handled in the proper manner right now.”

Jose R. Salazar — “It’s a sad deal that has happened to our school system; maybe we will have to get tougher on our rules and regulations. We also needed to get our parents involved. I know there are a lot of people who have that ‘green and gold blood’ so they should volunteer, whether it’s football, basketball, baseball, you name it because our children are number one.”

Position 4

Michael Adams — “It’s a sad thing that happened, it happens all over the country, but I think the big problem with this is transparency when it happened. I think the whole media thing wouldn’t have been blown out of proportion if there was transparency. With coaches (in the past) this would have never happened. We have to bring back some respect, respect young people and they’ll respect you back. If everyone is involved, things like this will not happen.”

John Trujillo — “We need to enforce the same policies on coaches and even teachers, and there should be a zero tolerance for bullying and hazing. I remember our coaches used to go to our rooms and check on us and were always supervising us. I think we need to get a little more strict with our athletes and any function that kids are attending.”

David G. Romero — “Currently I think our teachers and coaches are taking care of our students. You never expect the worst, but you’ve got to prepare for it. I think that is what the district is working hard at, and if there are enough volunteers, parents and dedicated West fans out there looking out for our kids, something like that will not happen here.”

Question

What is your position on armed officers, called resource officers, in our schools?

Position 4

Michael Adams — “It’s a tough issue because of what we’ve seen at Columbine and other things that have happened in our countries’ high schools and colleges. When I was growing up, we didn’t have fences at our schools. Now guns are more accessible to young people. As a board member, I would really like to look at this issue and meet with local officials to see what we can do to stop the violence in middle and high schools.”

David G. Romero — “I don’t think an armed officer is necessary. I know that there are problems, but maybe an unarmed officer that is on the school grounds is as far as I’ll go.”

John Trujillo — “There should be zero tolerance for guns in any school. We should enforce our policies and update our manuals. We have good students, and yes, we can have security guards, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to have an armed officer on school grounds.”

Position 5

Jose R. Salazar — “I don’t like guns on school grounds. I think our law enforcement agencies are well-equipped and will have a quick response to something when we have an issue on school grounds. You just bring more problems instead of reducing it by bringing guns into schools, and I feel there shouldn’t be any guns on the school grounds.”

Christine Ludi — “We as a board had that presented to us, but I think we have close relations with the emergency preparedness committee and if we had an emergency, we have all the resources to be able to take care of any situation. We have been fortunate in the West Las Vegas district to not have had any type of incident. We have had lockdowns that have been taken care of and the district has been transparent about all incidents. Whether resource officers come to the school district will have to be determined by a lot of research and input by parents and the faculty to determine if it’s a good thing or not.”

Yvette Arellanes — “I don’t want to see guns brought into the school. It brings a fear factor into the school where everybody is aware of this and brings a different element to the school that the students don’t need to deal with. There should be drills going on to show kids what to do if there is a crisis situation.”

Manuel Lucero — “I am a retired law enforcement officer and the intimidation factor that a gun would bring to the children of our schools would make it that much harder for our children learn. We need to make our schools child safe and kid friendly and if a child does wrong, there are methods to correct their behavior.”

Question

Board members are responsible to the voters. You were elected, so you should answer questions put to you by voters. There seems to be a policy that if someone from the media or the public calls, you say that person would have to talk to the chairman of the board. Should there be a policy whereby you can’t answer questions from the voters and refer all inquiries to the chairman?

Position 4

John Trujillo — “I would go to the superintendent The superintendent should know what’s going on in the schools.”

Michael Adams — “The chairman conducts meetings, the chairman is not the master of all and the answer of all. If a board member is asked a question, they should know everything that pertains to the running of the school. That’s why you have meetings. If you don’t know the answer, you should promise to find the answer and get back to the person. No, I don’t believe the chairman should be the only one answering for the school board.”

David G. Romero — “I do believe in open communication and transparency in order to let people know what’s happening, but there are also legal issues that as a a board we sometimes can’t discuss. So I understand that we have to have someone represent us in legal matters.”

Position 5

Manuel Lucero — “If a parent would come up to me with a question, I would answer because parents are the voters and the taxpayers and without them the school doesn’t have any money. Other than a question about a lawsuit or other litigation I would answer questions about buildings or issues that are coming up in board meetings, then definitely I would answer questions. It doesn’t have to be the chairman to answer taxpayer questions.”

Yvette Arellanes — “As far as questions from the media, I don’t know if the West Las Vegas School district has a PR person or somebody who can field their questions. If the media asks, my opinion is that I don’t think it has to be directed to the chairman, but if there are legal or personnel matters or anything that needs to come out from the board as a whole, then that’s a different story and should be presented to the media from the entire board. If taxpayers come to me personally and ask a question, I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to answer those questions.”

Christine Ludi — “It is not a policy. It was an agreement between the board that we would have one person who would represent the board because we don’t have a public relations person and we as the current board chose to have the chairman speak on our behalf. That doesn’t mean I don’t have constituents coming to me and asking me questions. If I can answer them, then I will. That is true; we elected the elected the chairman to be the spokesperson and represent the board, but we also have a voice and if we disagree, we will speak to the media and as elected officials. We have a right to do that. You know that I am very vocal, so I would speak up if necessary.”

Jose R. Salazar — “As I learned, the pen is mightier than the sword. Whatever you say and how you say it will follow you. The media is strong, so be careful about how you say it because it might not be legal or what you want to say. You’ve got to look at the issue and the facts first.”

Question

If you were presented with exhaustive research that administrative costs would go down, no jobs would be lost and there would be more teachers in the classroom as well as keeping the cultures of the schools intact, would you go along with the consolidation of the two school districts?

Position 4

John Trujillo — “I’m not for it at all if it’s not going to benefit West Las Vegas. Both districts are doing good, and I don’t believe the people of West Las Vegas are ready for it. There has been talk of this since I was a school board member in the 1990s and nothing has ever been done, so I am not in favor of it at all.”

Michael Adams — “I can’t put a price on pride. I came home after 27 years, and while I was out in the world serving in the military, I would brag about my green and gold and brag about my Dons. I think they tried this back in the 1950s, and it didn’t work, so it would be pretty hard for me to want to consolidate the schools, for whatever reason. I believe we are a community, but I believe that most West Las Vegans would not want consolidation and personally I would not (vote for consolidation).”

David G. Romero — “I sort of differ with my opponents. When I decided to run, I wanted what’s in the best interests of our kids, and in the fantasy world that saves us millions of dollars that we could use toward kids and teachers, then I would be for it. But I am not convinced that it will save us millions and currently I don’t support consolidation.”

Position 5

Jose R. Salazar — “We will probably someday be joined together saving money. It’s a big dream, but it will probably be our great, great grandchildren that will see this deal through. But right now I say no.”

Christine Ludi — “This is something I have wrestled with for a long time, but asking an individual whether consolidation is right or wrong would be political suicide. That should be left up to the voters, but I ask if it would save any money, I don’t think so. I am a 1975 graduate from West Las Vegas, and I also bleed green and gold, so it would take extensive research would be necessary. Right after consolidation of the city, it was tried and went all the way up to the Legislature and died in both the House and Senate because the cost to the schools at that time was $3 million. So what would it cost today?”

Yvette Arellanes — “In a perfect world, which doesn’t exist in this community, I don’t see how this would benefit the children. Any type of consolidation would have to be beneficial to the students. It might save some money here and there, but then we might also be limiting accessibility and services to students, and that’s not what a school board member wants. Once we get to the point where everything is accessible to the students, and they have availability to all the services within the district, then maybe we will get to the point where we can consolidate, but if it’s not like that now, then no.”

Manuel Lucero — “If you look at the superintendent’s budget, it’s anywhere from $1 to $2 million dollars, not counting secretaries and everything else in that budget. So you’d be dealing with a combined administrative budget instead of a budget for each district. My answer on consolidation is definitely no.”

 

if you go

What: Las Vegas City Schools board candidates forum.

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Highlands University’s Sininger Hall, Room 100.

Information: Call David Giuliani at the Las Vegas Optic at 425-6796.