By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Left, Glenn Dickie. Lou Russo did not respond to our request for a candidate photo.
October 25, 2014 (Alpine) – Six candidates are running for the Alpine Union School District: Michael Beraud, Glenn Dickie, Nina Gould, Al Guerra, Lou Russo, and Eric Wray. We sent a questionnaire to all six of them over a week ago. Only two responded by deadline: Lou Russo and incumebent Glenn Dickie. (If others respond later, we will post their replies at the end of this story, so check back.)
Dickie says he strongly backs building an Alpine High School and wants to help the AUSD through unification with the Grossmont District to build the Alpine High School. Russo says he would only support unification if it is the only way for Alpine to meet its goals.
Both candidates have had children ho attended district schools. Both platforms include financial accountability. Both candidates are conservatives though Dickie has the County Republican Party endorsement. Dickie has a degree in finance and career experience that includes accounting and information technology. Russo, a former Marine and ex-teacher, has made school safety the number one plank in his platform and called for armed guards on campuses. Dickie also supports safe schools but has other approaches in mind. Dickie wants to start a summer learning program and sees declining enrollment, implementing Common Core standards and increasing technology in the classroom as important issues.
Below are their responses in full.
1. What is your educational background? Are you an educator?
My Linkedin profile shows my education (a BA in Political Science, an MA in education, a California teaching credential, a California administrative credential, military/public school/corporate education and training experience). I have been an educator, in one of those roles for forty years, far out surpassing any other candidate. www.linkedin.com/pub/louis-russo/34/b02/3b7/
2. Do you have children and if so have they attended public schools? Are any in this district?
My daughter, Bella, is currently in 7th grade at Joan McQueen Middle School. My son Sean attended Alpine Elementary, JMMS and Granite Hills HS, graduating this last year. He will be attending CSU Monterey Bay to pursue a degree in oceanography.
3. What other experience, qualifications and strengths do you have? Do you have experience working to improve education locally?
Once again, my LinkedIn profile details my experience, qualification and strengths. My overall strength is that I am not beholden to ANY special interest or group. My SOLE dedication is toward improving AUSD. I, with the help of the new AUSD Superintendent Bruce Corchane and the special education department, have worked to provide mainstreaming to the maximum extent possible for special needs children. When a teacher at JMMS needed money to support her engineering curriculum and was not able to acquire it from other sources, I provided it from own funds.
4. Why are you running for the Alpine board?
Here is my platform:
My campaign slogan is "SAFE Alpine Schools" and consists of four major planks:
Safe schools - Our children's safety will be my first and overriding priority. I have been acquiring, using my own funds, and donating Knox Boxes for use by law enforcement to quickly and efficiently enter our Alpine campuses in the event of any threat to our children. I have also been working with the district and law enforcement on additional enhancements to our children's security. I will continue this as a Governing Board Member.
Academic excellence - Except for safety, my top priority for the children of Alpine is a rigorous, relevant curriculum to prepare them for the move to high school and the world. My background, training, education, current employment and experience enable me to address this need as few others can.
Financial responsibility - As you are all aware, Alpine schools face financial challenges in the years ahead. I will help lead a respectful, collaborative effort to bring our district back to financial stability. We are far from out of the woods and a concerted, continuing effort is needed to restore the financial state we in Alpine are used to. As part of this effort, I will forgo any financial gain from Alpine Union School District, including turning down all benefits, reimbursements, and buyouts for my term of office.
Equal access - As many of you are aware, I have a Special Needs daughter in the district. With the help of our new Superintendent, the former Director of Special Education, Bruce Cochrane, I will ensure that Alpine schools provide our Special Needs students and parents with access to quality, relevant education unsurpassed in the County.
5. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the Alpine district, and what are your goals if elected? How would you address these issues?
Please see above.
6. For incumbents, what are your main accomplishments on the board?
For challengers, on what issues do you most differ from your opponent(s)?
First, my training, education, and experience show a lifetime of dedication to education. I am not an education "supporter" or once a month interested party. Even my current position, working on courseware and curriculum for U.S. Navy helicopter and unmanned aerial vehicle crewman is in the education field. As I stated above, I have 40 years of education experience in military, public school and corporate education and training.
Second, as a retired USMC Provost Marshal (Military Chief of Police), I am acutely aware of the world we live in and the threats to our children. I am the only candidate who wants to put SAFETY at the top of the priority list for AUSD.
Third, I will NOT kick the can of financial difficulties down the road. AUSD's student population has slipped from 2100 to 1700 students. Burying our heads in the sand will NOT solve the issue of decreased funding due to fewer students.
Fourth, Common Core has distinct issues that MUST be addressed. With my degrees and experience, I am ideally suited to lead AUSD in addressing this issue.
7. Do you support unification with the Grossmont Union High School District – why or why not?
I support it if it is the only way for Alpine to achieve its goals. I can ONLY support it if it does NOT adversely affect the elementary district and the community of Alpine.
8. Do you support building a high school for Alpine?
I have always supported a high school for Alpine.
9. What are your views on school safety?
This is the number one plank in my platform. As a private citizen, I pressed AUSD, under the previous Superintendent, to comply with the provisions of the Ed Code regarding the required Comprehensive School Safety Plan. I have also worked with Tom Myers, the ACPG Circulation Chair and parents to push through a lighted, in pavement, crosswalk at Alpine Elementary. I purchased, with my own funds, a Knox Box, for JMMS for use by first responders to gain access via a master key. As a member of the ACPG Circulation subcommittee, and with Mr. Myers help, I pressed for the number one priority for County circulation issues in Alpine to be a sidewalk for use by JMMS students.
All of that being said, safety needs more attention in AUSD.
10. What are your views on the district’s budget, pensions and labor agreements?
As I stated above, AUSD MUST address its financial difficulties. Unlike others, as a former public school educator, I will work WITH the unions to help achieve this. UNLIKE ANY OTHER CANDIDATE OR INCUMBENT, I WILL REFUSE ANY FINANCIAL GAIN DURING MY TENURE. A district in financial distress needs board members willing to set the example, and I will do that.
11. Have you served on any other elected or appointed boards or commissions, or boards of nonprofit groups? Do you consider yourself a consensus builder, a voice of dissent, or a combination of both?
I have served on both the San Diego Rural Fire District Board and the Alpine Community Planning Group. As my platform states,
"My reputation in Alpine is that I am a tough, determined representative; that I stand up for the people of Alpine, especially the less fortunate, vice special interests. That's absolutely true. Let me stand up for you and your children. Vote for SAFE Alpine schools this fall."
However, as I have shown above with issues like the crosswalk, I am truly a combination of both. In the end, I ALWAYS represent the citizens of Alpine, vice any special interest.
12. Who are your key endorsements?
I am endorsed by State Senator Joel Anderson, State Assemblyman Brian Jones, the Republican Party of San Diego, the San Diego Lincoln Club, the California Republican Assembly and the Fraternal Order of Police of San Diego (Lodge #10)
13. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about your candidacy?
The reason my opponents are fighting so hard to keep me off the AUSD board is that I am a candidate above reproach, willing to work with all but beholden to no one group. In these days of political polarization in our nation, I am the one candidate willing to work with ALL on ALL the issues facing AUSD. Finally, I have refused, and will always refuse, to engage in smear or personal attacks. I will ALWAYS work on the ISSUES.
14. Do you have a website or Facebook page for readers who want to reach you or learn more? https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/LouRussoforAUSD/ and www.linkedin.com/pub/louis-russo/34/b02/3b7/
QUESTIONS FOR ALPINE UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD CANDIDATES
- What is your educational background? Are you an educator?
I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance with 30+ years of professional business management, information technology and accounting experience.
I am not an educator.
- Do you have children and if so have they attended public schools? Are any in this district?
I have one son who completed his elementary education in the Alpine Union School District last year. Similar to many of his Alpine peers, he has gone on to excel in high school.
- What other experience, qualifications and strengths do you have? Do you have experience working to improve education locally?
Four years of experience as Trustee on the Alpine Union School District Board, and three years of experience with corporate foundations supporting our schools. Thirty plus years of professional business management, information technology and accounting experience in the private sector.
- Why are you running for the Alpine board?
Having spent the past four years making difficult decisions regarding district finances, I am running for trustee position again to follow through on the work we have begun. We have a new administration, a renewed spirit, a financial house that is in order, and we have many new programs that I would like to see through:
- Transition the district from State to Local control
- Institute a Summer Learning program
- Rollout of the Differentiated Learning (Pathways) Program at JMMS
- Expand the Pathways program to Shadow Hills
- Continue to expand the Spanish Immersion program
- Unify the District to seamlessly integrate K-8 with high school.
- What do you believe are the most important issues facing the Alpine district, and what are your goals if elected? How would you address these issues?
Declining enrollment is our most pressing issue. We need to continue working to attract new students while keeping the ones we have. Most of the programs mentioned above are in an effort to reverse declining enrollment.
Common Core is our second most important and pressing issue. Many do not understand that this is a state mandate and implementation is not optional for us. We, however, need to ensure we have the best Common Core programs and curriculum for our children, with accompanying tools and support for teachers and parents in our district.
Technology in the classrooms is a pressing issue for AUSD. Education is one place that has escaped the productivity miracle of technology for the last 30 years. We need to keep up the pace of implementing technology in our schools so we can continue to provide our kids with the best educational opportunity available. My wife and I have proactively worked with a technology foundation to provide over 300 computers and monitors for our schools. This ongoing program will continue to provide updated computers for our children for years to come.
- For incumbents, what are your main accomplishments on the board?
For challengers, on what issues do you most differ from your opponent(s)?
• A balanced budget for the first time in over 10 years
• Implementation of the Spanish Immersion Program
• Advanced technology in our classrooms
• High-speed broadband installed in every school
• Programs to bring additional computers into the classroom
(Both these information technology goals are even more imperative now that the state has started testing online)
• Lego Robotics program at JMMS
• A new and invigorated Administration
- Do you support unification with the Grossmont Union High School District – why or why not?
I absolutely support the unification of Alpine Union School District. We, the voters of Alpine, twice approved the funding for our high school. If GUHSD cannot/will not deliver on the promise they made, I believe we need to take matters into our own hands. Unification is the method by which we can have the school we were promised, a school we have paid for twice over.
Unification can and will be accomplished without detriment to the Alpine Union School District (K-8).
- Do you support building a high school for Alpine?
Absolutely. The voters of Alpine have TWICE voiced their opinion. All that remains is to execute the will of the people and build a high school in Alpine.
- What are your views on school safety?
School safety is of utmost importance. I feel it is important for Alpine to continue collaborating with our parents, community and local law enforcement, and to follow their law enforcement's recommendations. I also feel it is important that many of the intricate details of our safety plans are not publicized, but rather kept on a need to know basis. I adamantly oppose armed guards on our Elementary School campuses, and do not equate the presence of guards with school safety as some have purposed.
- What are your views on the district’s budget, pensions and labor agreements?
We now have a balanced budget and fair and equitable labor agreements. We have worked diligently to get to this point, and it is critical that future board members have the fortitude to maintain course and keep the district financially solvent.
- Have you served on any other elected or appointed boards or commissions, or boards of nonprofit groups? Do you consider yourself a consensus builder, a voice of dissent, or a combination of both?
My focus for the past four years has been our schools; I have spent numerous hours working on district issues both on and off our campuses.
I see myself as a consensus builder. I may not agree with my peers on every issue but I believe there is usually a workable solution, and it is my nature to find an agreeable resolution. I also believe it is ok to disagree and dissent on a vote. However, when you do, you need to let it go so it does not affect your relationship with your peers. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and as a Trustee, you are only 1 out of 5 of the “Board Voice”.
- Who are your key endorsements?
•The Honorable Joel Anderson, CA Senator
•Republican Party of San Diego County
- Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about your candidacy?
I am an Alpine resident and property taxpayer with a son who attended kindergarten through 8th grade in the Alpine Union School District.
Having served on the Alpine Union District Board for the past four years, I know the issues and challenges our district is facing, and has been actively involved in identifying and working towards realistic long-term solutions. I have taken the time to visit and observe classrooms at all Alpine schools, and listened to teacher and parent frustrations and requests in a sincere manner, all while actively working towards solutions and improvements.
I believe that I am the individual that can help take our schools to the next level, and I ask for your vote. Allow me to continue to be your representative on the Alpine School Board.
Entrust me with your vote...entrust me with your voice...with our children's futures.
- Do you have a website or Facebook page for readers who want to reach you or learn more?
Feel free to contact me at Glenn.Dickie@att.net