School board candidates debate student nutrition, teacher training at PTA forum

on October 7, 2014

The audience laughed as a PTA parent read aloud the following question submitted by a fifth grader, “How are you planning to fix school lunch?”

School lunches, teacher quality, and charter schools were some of the issues discussed at Monday night’s West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) school board candidate forum. The Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA) of Kensington, Hilltop, Harding, Madera, Mira Vista, Fairmont, Washington and Fred T. Korematsu schools sponsored the forum. Nearly 70 people gathered at Harding Elementary School to listen to the ten WCCUSD school board candidates running for election this November.

“The newly elected school board will have tremendous power to change how WCCUSD operates, including class size, teacher quality, charter schools and much more,” said Kari Tindol, Kensington PTA President.

Three school board member seats are up for election this November and ten candidates are running. Incumbent school board members Madeline Kronenberg and Elaine Merriweather are running for re-election.

Attendees were given a pamphlet filled with candidate biographies. Parents, teachers, and students submitted questions. PTA members then read them to the candidates and each one was given a chance to share their thoughts.

In regard to school lunches, school board candidate Raquel Donoso mentioned the presence of school gardens in Berkeley and how that same idea can enrich WCCUSD schools by teaching the students about nutrition and environmental sustainability.

School board candidate Otheree Christian also mentioned that community gardens will teach students how to grow food and even suggested a lunch committee where students can meet and discuss nutritious lunch options.

Candidates were asked how they would improve the quality of teachers throughout the district. School board candidate Peter Chau stated that WCCUSD teachers were only given two professional development days of training for the new implementation of the Common Core standards.

“That is unacceptable. That is why I’m running for school board because it’s time that we set our up teachers for success, and the way we do that is by offering professional development days,” said Chau.

Incumbent school board member Elaine Merriweather said, “Just over the summer we trained 400 teachers, principals, and staff just on technology.” Merriweather believes that an increase in professional development and technology would bring WCCUSD to the next level.

The issue of increasing charter schools without hurting WCCUSD was also discussed. School board candidate Cuevas said, “Parents want alternatives because they’re not happy with the performance of our neighborhood schools.” Cuevas stated that WCCUSD should focus on neighborhood school improvement and learn how to partner with charter schools.

There will be another school board candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of West Contra Costa County and WCCUSD tonight, October 7, at El Cerrito High School at 6:30pm.

 

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