October 1, 2008

Livermore School Board Candidates Answer Questions in Forum

By Eric Louie

LIVERMORE -- The four people seeking two open seats in November's Livermore school board election answered a wide range of questions during a candidates forum Monday night.

No one theme dominated the hourlong event, which will be televised at 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on Comcast Channel 26.

Questions they faced included how to encourage students, their level of support for vocational education, how to keep down special education costs and their support for Measure M, a parcel tax measure in the same election.

If passed, Measure M would charge property owners an annual $138 per parcel for five years starting in July 2010, which is when the district's current $120 per year tax expires.

The incumbents are Bill Morrison, 57, a real estate broker who teaches at the University of Phoenix, and Tom McLaughlin, 77, a retired public school teacher. Morrison was appointed in 2003 and elected to a four-year term a year later, and McLaughlin was first elected in 2000.

The challengers are Stewart Gary, 53, a fire planning consultant and retired Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department chief; and Chuck Rogge, 56, a former high-tech project manager who is now a homemaker.

Both cited their current involvement with schools. Gary serves on the oversight committee for the existing parcel tax and volunteers with the fundraising Livermore Valley Education Foundation. Rogge has volunteered at his daughter's school and is also a track coach at Livermore High.

There are five members on the board.

At the forum, held at school district offices, the candidates talked about their views and qualities they would bring to the job. They agreed on support for the parcel tax measure and for more vocational education. They all named money as a top issue for the district, with Gary also mentioning facility needs. A two-part question asked the candidates how they would change the district's relationship with teachers and if the district does enough to encourage innovation.

Rogge sees the management making "top down" decisions and says he wants to see students, parents and teachers more involved in decisionmaking.

"The district has to listen to teachers. It's been very contentious and it's done more damage than good," said Rogge. He also said he doesn't think innovation is encouraged. "Everything seems to be cookie cutter."

Gary, who among his top issues cited labor relations, called for more communication within the district. He also said there is innovation. In closing remarks, he said the incumbents have had time to make a difference and that it is time for change, although he said they should be thanked for the job they do.

McLaughlin also said the district has been innovative. He pointed out the trimester schedule started this school year in the high schools, which the district said has students taking more but shorter-length classes that meet daily. McLaughlin said teachers aren't paid enough but that there isn't money enough to give them. He also disagreed with those who say district leaders don't work with others in making their decisions.

Morrison accused teacher union leaders of misrepresenting the facts to its membership. His son teaches in the district.

The school district and the Livermore Education Association, the teachers union, are at an impasse and have called in an outside mediator over contract negotiations covering the 2007-08 school year.

The forum was put on by the Livermore-Amador Valley League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women.

Reach Eric Louie at 925-847-2123 or [email protected]

Livermore school candidates

The televised candidates forum for Livermore school board candidates will be shown at 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on Comcast Channel 26.

Originally published by Eric Louie , Valley Times.

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