October 11, 2008

Four Seeking Two Seats on Livermore School Board

By Eric Louie

While Livermore school officials and teachers fight over a contract, voters are pondering who among two incumbents and two union-supported candidates should get the two open school board steats.

Other issues facing the district include a parcel tax measure on the Nov. 4 ballot and an achievement gap to address.

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 later elected to a four-year term. McLaughlin was 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.

Kathleen Reardon, president of the Livermore Education Association, said the teachers union has not been involved in school board races for several years but is participating now to create change.

"We don't feel they support the teachers at all," Reardon said, referring to Morrison and McLaughlin. She said the union did not give money to Rogge or Gary but is supporting them as well as the parcel tax through fliers, campaign phone calls and precinct walking.

The district and the union are at odds over pay and benefits in a three-year contract that would be retroactive to the 2007-08 school year. The union believes the district can dip into its reserves to fund their proposal while the district says the money is needed for other things, and it's offering all it can. A mediator tried working with the parties, but they are now in "fact-finding," a process where one person from each side meets with a third party who makes a nonbinding recommendation. The recommendation is expected in mid- November, after the election.

McLaughlin, who said he was a former San Leandro teachers union president, said the district has offered everything it can afford. He said the rest of the board members feel the same. Morrison, whose son is a teacher in the district, said he would give teachers more if the district could. He also accused the union of distorting the facts about the district's finances.

"It's the union leadership that is incompetent," Morrison said. He also criticized the candidates the union is supporting. "I saw people bought and paid for by LEA."

Gary and Rogge have said they decided to run before receiving the union's support and denied being inappropriately influenced.

Gary said it would be inappropriate for someone outside the process to comment on which side is right. Rogge said he doesn't know enough to take a position. Yet both said they would like to see changes in relations between management and the staff. Rogge said many times staff members aren't included in the decision making.

"The school board is more a top-down organization," he said. "I see (that) decisions need to be made at local schools."

Among Gary's top priorities is better labor relations. He said he had good relations as a manager with organized labor, including merging two departments into the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department.

On other issues, all four support Measure M, a parcel tax which would charge property owners an annual $138 per parcel beginning in July 2010. That would be just after the current $120 per parcel tax expires.

When asked about the gap in test scores between lower-income, English-learner and Latino students in the district and their peers, Morrison said he wants to leave finding the solutions to those directly involved with students. He and McLaughlin both point to rising test scores at Marylin Avenue Elementary and also take credit for helping students perform better academically with the new high school trimester schedules, intended to give more class options.

Gary also said the district is doing well.

"In many respects, the attention is already being placed," Gary said. "I think the teachers are getting a handle on it."

Rogge said many times high- and low- achieving students at one school both need attention. He suggested separating the groups but giving more resources, such as an extra teacher, to the latter.

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

Name: Stewart Gary

Age: 53

Occupation/Public service: Retired Fire Chief, Livermore- Pleasanton Fire Department

Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees in public administration from San Diego State University

Statement: Proven leader of positive change. Listening to all views, especially from those doing the work. Change is partnerships, not dictated.

Web site: www.stugaryforlivermoreschools.com

Name: Thomas McLaughlin

Age: 77

Occupation/Public service: Retired public school teacher

Education: Bachelor's from Cal State Chico in business administration, various teaching credentials

Statement: I want to help the Livermore school district become the best place for a child to receive an education.

Web site: None

Name: Bill Morrison

Age: 57

Occupation/Public service: Graduate school of business faculty/ real estate broker, five years on Livermore school board

Education: BSEE (Electrical Engineering, General Motors Institute), MBA (Golden Gate University, Management and International Business focus) and doctoral work in business administration. Multiple professional certifications in real estate and business. In process of completing the California School Boards Association's Masters In Governance

Statement: I am running as an independent thinker who wants continue to provide the very best education opportunities for our students and the community.

Web site: www.billmorrison.us

Name: Chuck Rogge

Age: 56

Occupation/Public service: Worked in the tech industry in project management. Also a volunteer firefighter with Alameda County Office of Emergency Services and Alameda County Fire Department. Currently volunteering at daughter's school and coaching track and field at Livermore High. Also volunteering with Christmas in April/ Rebuilding Together, which involves fixing or rebuilding homes when owners are unable to.

Education: Attended Livermore schools from kindergarten through high school. Also attended Chabot College and Cal State Hayward

Statement: I want advance change within the board/senior staff so that schools staff, teachers and parents are empowered and supported to implement positive changes based on observations and needs.

Web site: None

Originally published by Eric Louie , Valley Times.

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