Rickey McGill, Michael Scheid and Charlene West proclaim they have the experience and knowledge to serve as school members for Modesto City Schools.
As the November election approaches, they’re competing for the newly created Area 5 seat after the school district was split into voting areas this year to comply with the California Voting Rights Act, which strives to make it easier for minority communities to elect trustees.
West, a middle school counselor for Sylvan Union School District, is making her first run for public office. It’s a second attempt for Scheid, a criminal defense attorney, while McGill, a retired administrator for the California Youth Authority, has run three previous campaigns for school board.
West, 60, would add “school board member” to a resume that boasts a doctorate degree, teaching experience at Brandman University and acting credits in local theater productions. She’s endorsed by the Modesto Teachers Association.
“I have a passion for helping students,” West said. “We need school board members who understand the system and have experience in public education.”
Scheid, 56, was a deputy district attorney for 12 years and switched over to criminal defense in 2003. His priorities include an intervention program to lower drop-out rates by identifying and assisting students who show early warning signs such as attendance gaps and classroom behavior.
He favors counseling, outreach and other interventions to get them to attend school and cultivate an interest in art, music or a vocation, if they’re not attracted to science and math.
His other priorities are student safety and making sure students have access to a full range of subjects. Scheid and his wife, Marilyn, have been active in supporting their four sons’ education, including volunteering in their classrooms. Scheid was not successful in a 2013 bid for school board.
McGill, 67, has been an assistant principal and taught at Sierra Conservation Center near Jamestown. He finished second to Bill Zoslocki in a four-way race for a Modesto City Council seat in 2013 and fell short in school board elections in 2001, 2003 and 2007.
McGill said that, with the change to elections by trustee area, Modesto City Schools needs culturally competent school board members. He said his broad experience in teaching and education sets him apart from the other two candidates.
“If you visit the school grounds, you see all this diversity but it’s not reflected on the school board and the administrative staff,” McGill said.
He said the school district issues too many emergency credentials for staff to teach certain classes, and he would work to make sure classes are taught by those with appropriate credentials.
A month before the Nov. 7 election, a potential bond issue appeared on the Oct. 9 school board agenda.
McGill suggested that district leaders have been reluctant to inform the public about the need for a bond to pay for renovating and modernizing schools that are 50 to 60 years old.
“They need to get these schools repaired,” said McGill, noting that Turlock and Ceres have surpassed Modesto with the quality of school facilities.
Scheid said he has yet to explore the possibility of a bond issue. “It might depend on what the needs are for the district. What the consultants have told the board is the needs of the district are significant,” he said.
With any bond proposal, West said, the district needs to know what specific improvements are needed. “I understand many schools are older and in need of repairs, but we also need to be fiscally responsible with our money,” she said. “They have already done improvements to many schools, but a lot more improvements are necessary. There was discussion at the meeting pro and con. I think we need more information.”
Modesto City Schools has four board seats on the Nov. 7 ballot. Incumbent Cindy Marks (Salida-Del Rio) and appointed incumbent Chad Brown (north Modesto-east Riverbank) are not opposed in Area 1 and Area 3, respectively. Three men are running for the Area 7 seat representing south Modesto. Trustee areas 2 (central Modesto), 4 (northeast Modesto) and 6 (west Modesto) are slated for the 2019 election.
Area 5 lies on both sides of Yosemite Boulevard and includes the unincorporated town of Empire.
West said she will work on closing the achievement gap for disadvantaged students. “We need to look at why students are struggling and individualize the instruction to give them help where they need it,” she said.
Another concern for West is school safety. “There have been changes in discipline policy,” she said. “In theory the policies are good, but some are not always working effectively.”
On the issue of Common Core, the much-disputed English and math initiative, McGill likes that it comes with teaching standards and lesson plans, but he sees problems.
“It’s a state-approved program and there is nothing that anyone can do about it,” McGill said. “Common Core is not integrated in the university system, so why are we teaching it in junior high and high school? When the students get to college it is not taught that way.”
Scheid said, “there has been difficulty from what I understand,” but Common Core is not a major issue for him.
West said the theory behind Common Core is good in that students are taught to analyze subjects and think critically. “It is not perfect,” she said. “It takes away the autonomy that teachers have in the classroom. The data collection can become cumbersome, taking time away from the students.”
On a candidates questionnaire, West and McGill each divulged they have a bankruptcy in their past. West noted that more than 20 years ago her husband had large medical expenses and they filed for bankruptcy.
According to his questionnaire, McGill and his former wife filed for bankruptcy in 1986 following his wife’s difficult pregnancy. McGill noted that a doctor suggested they consider an abortion due to complications, but she continued with the pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. They were unable to pay more than $36,000 in medical bills, McGill said.
Scheid disclosed that American General Finance brought suit against him in Small Claims Court in 2000 over an alleged debt. The matter was settled out of court, he said.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16