Monday, 10 May 2021

Gonzales: Make your decision about LUSD School Board election based on facts, not deception

With the development of recent events directly linked to the school board elections, and having attended the Sept. 6 Lakeport Unified School Board meeting, I feel that I must speak up and say something.

I have had my own children graduate from Clear Lake High School and currently have grandchildren attending both Lakeport Elementary School and Terrace Middle School. I chose to attend the last LUSD Board meeting to hear both sides of the pool issue and to get a better sense of how our schools are currently operating. My family and I have always felt that our schools are strong and have provided support to our children.

I was glad that I attended the last LUSD Board meeting as it provided me with information on where I could start doing my own research, as both sides seem to be saying something different around similar topics. After my initial research, I feel even stronger that our current LUSD Board, the school administration and staff have the best interest of all of our students. It is unfortunate that the candidates that are running against our current board members are not being upfront on the real issues, but choose to lead with emotion and partial facts.

It seems like there are three main platforms that Carly Alvord, Dan Buffalo and Jennifer Hanson are running off of: 1. School safety; 2. Teacher retention; and 3. Mismanagement of bond funds, primarily for pool construction. I might be overgeneralizing these, but from my social interactions, I have narrowed it down to these three.

Over the past month, my friends and family have experienced excessive pressure from the Alvord, Buffalo, Hanson team; pushing to place campaign signs in their yards, being shown pictures of classroom destruction from last year at public meet and greet events, and sharing their views stating that our schools need to make sure that the special education children are not placed in the same classroom with the general education students as it may cause undue disruptions. All of which is strengthening the support for our current LUSD Board members in my opinion.

Where are the boundaries of this campaign and is it not the responsibility of the LUSD Board to be protecting and serving all the students of our community? This breach of confidence from the Alvord, Buffalo, Hanson team in how our public schools should be operating reassures me that my vote will be for the incumbents, Dennis Darling and Tom Powers.

The tipping point for me in writing this letter to the editor is from the statements made at the Sept. 6 LUSD Board meeting when Alvord, Buffalo and Hanson stated that they knew nothing about the facilities master plan priority list that was created by the school district once the Measure T Bond was approved on the November 2014 ballot by voters.

Since that meeting, I have visited the LUSD Web site and found information provided regarding the bond, along with minutes from each Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, or CBOC, meeting.

During this research, I have found that two of the three candidates are on that committee. Not only are Dan Buffalo and Jen Hanson both members of the CBOC, Dan was voted in as the clerk and Jen as the secretary at the very first meeting held on May 18, 2015.

According to the CBOC meeting minutes from Oct. 15, 2015, former LUSD Superintendent “Erin Smith-Hagberg reported that the Facilities Master Plan would be presented to the community on October 29th at 6:00 pm in the District Office. The CBO Committee is invited to attend this meeting.” As further evidence, it was again mentioned during the next meeting of the CBOC held on Jan. 21, 2016, which was led by Dan Buffalo, as the current president was not in attendance, that “Erin Smith-Hagberg reported that the Facilities Master Plan has been completed and is available for review on the website,” as was printed in the meeting minutes.

For the campaign of Alvord, Buffalo and Hanson to be standing on the platform of mismanagement of bond funds and that a “new set of eyes” is needed for the bond oversight, I find it extremely interesting that “a draft of the CBOC Annual Report was developed and submitted for review by Dan Buffalo” as was directly reported in the meeting minutes from January 5, 2017. Furthermore, during the approval of expenses at this same meeting it was written that, “The committee would also like to note that all expenditure reports are clear, concise, and accomplish an outstanding job in informing the committee on current, past and future bond expenditures.”

Finally, during the CBOC meeting held on Jan. 23, 2018, it was reported in the meeting minutes that “CBOC board member Dan Buffalo developed a draft of the Annual Report for the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee. Committee members reviewed the draft and had no suggestions for change. Board members commended Mr. Buffalo on a job well done.”

How could both candidate Dan Buffalo and candidate Jen Hanson state, in a public meeting, that they knew nothing about the facts that were being presented from the project list that was part of the facilities master plan during the LUSD Board meeting held on Sept. 6? Especially given that both of them have been members of the CBOC since its inception and are still active members of the committee. If I had not taken the time to research information on the bond, I would have believed that what they were saying was true, as there was a lot of emotion being used to create a feeling of mistrust of our current LUSD Board members. I now know that emotions and politically charged jargon are being used to persuade our community to NOT look at the facts, but rather to make decisions driven by emotions.

I encourage each of you to do some research, ask questions, and be leary of overarching statements that seem to be riddled in emotion. Our current school district is consistently being transparent, has answered all of my current questions when I have reached out, and has a clear mission on meeting the needs of all of our students in our community.

The positive changes that I have noticed in this school district over the past year and a half can be directly attributed to the hard work of our current board members and superintendent. In order to continue seeing these positive changes grow and develop, it is imperative that both Dennis Darling and Tom Powers be re-elected to the LUSD Governing Board.

Kathy Gonzales lives in Lakeport, Calif.

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