Turlock School board candidates meet in forum

Spending city money on Turlock stadium is divider

October 1, 2009 

TURLOCK — School board candidates agreed on most of the issues presented to them at a forum Thursday night:

There isn't enough money. Vocational and college preparatory courses should be expanded. The Turlock Unified School District is better off than many, but there's nothing left to cut. A proposal by President Barack Obama to lengthen the school day and the school year is a good idea, if he sends the money to pay for it.

About 50 people attended the forum at Walnut Elementary Education Center, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Walnut Parent-Teacher Association.

About the only issue that brought out any differences among the five candidates in attendance — incumbent Felica Renshaw, on a long-planned trip out of state, sent in a statement — was the idea of taking city money for track and field improvements at Turlock High's Joe Debely Stadium.

Though all of the candidates said they would take $2.8 million in redevelopment funds if the city authorizes it, incumbents Timm LaVelle and Tami Muniz expressed some reservations about the idea.

"As a citizen of this community, I have a real issue with the city spending $2.8 million on a football field when we have schools without sidewalks," LaVelle said. "I feel there are higher priorities for that money within the city."

"As a school board member, I'd be foolish to not take money from the city. We can't afford (it) on our own," Muniz said. Though she does see other needs for the money, "that's not my call."

Challenger Lori Crivelli said her son played football, and by the second or third week of the season, the field became dangerous. Refurbishing the field and track also brings money-making opportunities.

"We will as a community be able to bring a lot of programs into our town we haven't been able to do — band events, track and field events. That will generate more revenue into our city."

Bob Weaver said he thinks a partnership with the city could work out well for both entities. "We have the Turlock Turf Crew (a private group) raising money to improve Joe Debely and Pitman High," he said. "If we got this money, they could concentrate on Pitman."

Josh Bernard said the risk to student athletes is too great to turn the money away.

"I would hate to see someone get hurt," he said.

Bernard was the only challenger to raise an issue with a current board policy. He said he reviewed Turlock's policy on confidential medical services, an issue that has been controversial in Modesto City Schools.

Like many districts, "Turlock has the policy in place that allows seventh- to 12th-graders to leave campus without parental permission," he said. "I don't think that really represents our community."

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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