October 18, 2013

Four seek three seats on Oakdale school board

Four candidates are seeking three seats on the Oakdale Joint Unified School District board. It is a low-key race in a district that weathered the economic downturn relatively well.

Four people, all of them with close ties to the Oakdale Joint Unified School District, are seeking three seats on its board in the Nov. 5 election.

Twenty-year incumbent Mike House and four-year incumbent Diane Gilbert are joined by Barbara Shook, who recently retired as an assistant superintendent in the district, and Joe Peterson, a frequent volunteer in the schools.

Incumbent Bill Dyer is not seeking another term.

It is a low-key race in a district that got through the recent economic troubles with fewer cuts than many other districts in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. It also has fairly stable enrollment at its nine campuses, impressive scores on standardized tests and several recent and pending construction projects.

Diane Gilbert

Gilbert, a self-employed fund-raising consultant, said she is proud that the districtwide score on the Academic Performance Index reached 807 last year, topping the goal of 800 set by the federal government.

She also said that despite tight finances, the district maintained 20-to-1 student-teacher ratios in kindergarten through third grade, as well as art, music and gifted-student programs. The staff reductions that were needed were achieved through attrition rather than layoffs, she added.

“I feel that our district is moving in a positive direction,” she said.

Gilbert noted that the district will soon have a new central kitchen, along with multipurpose rooms at Cloverland and Fair Oaks schools.

The candidate credited parents for taking part in the education of their children.

“We have a great level of parent involvement, and that is very much part of why we are successful,” she said.

Mike House

House, a real estate salesman at Touchdown Properties in Oakdale, said the school district weathered recent lean years by following “some really good advice” and working with the concerned parties.

“I’m just really pleased with the way we’ve been able to work with the union,” he said. “That was critical to getting through the financial situation everyone is in.”

House said he would like to end furlough days, which had been imposed because of a tight budget, a move that would increase class time while raising teacher pay.

He said the district has maintained strong agriculture and music programs. He noted the 2010 completion of the Oakdale High School pool and the upcoming central kitchen and two multipurpose rooms.

House, an Oakdale High graduate, praised the level of parent involvement in the schools, notably jogathons that raised substantial money in recent days.

Joe Peterson

Peterson, a salesman and project manager at Crown Painting Inc. in Oakdale, said his business skills and school volunteer work, about 700 hours a year, would make him a good board member.

He noted his work in setting up a districtwide physical education program that has high school students mentoring first through third-graders. He also is assistant varsity baseball coach at Oakdale High School, his alma mater, and has volunteered in classrooms.

“I am in the schools every day, and the kids talk to me,” he said.

The district is in good financial shape and has added programs, such as a culinary academy, that enhance education, he said.

“I would like to see an indoor training facility for all sports, and I would like to see more investment in trade school activities like plumbing and electrical,” he said.

Barbara Shook

Shook is seeking a board seat after a 32-year career in teaching and administration, most recently as assistant superintendent for curriculum.

She said her top priority as a board member would be keeping campuses safe. She also said the district needs to take care in carrying out the new Common Core curriculum standards.

“The board must look at possible alternatives to teacher training rather than pulling teachers from classrooms,” she said. “It also means expanding the technology within the district and providing teachers and students the skills to be successful with technology.”

Shook said she would work on alternatives to the Magnolia School auditorium, which is too small for performing arts programs, and expanding volunteerism in the schools.

“We are fortunate to have parents involved in classrooms at the primary level,” she said. “I would like to see the district reach out to senior volunteers who might help support students throughout the grade levels.”

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