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Students quiz GUSD board hopefuls

GUSD board candidates field questions from students during school campaign forum.

March 11, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • Clark Magnet High School students listen to Glendale Unified School District School Board candidates square off during forum at the La Crescenta school on Friday, March 11, 2011. Five candiates, from let Mary Boger, Dan Cabrera, Jennifer Freemon, Todd Hunt and Vahik Satoorian, running for two spots in the GUSDSB showed up for the Q&A session. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Clark Magnet High School students listen to Glendale…

Clark Magnet High School students injected a bit of color into the Glendale Unified School Board race, quizzing candidates during a forum on Friday about program cuts, creationism in the classroom and tuition-based summer school.

The questions came during a biannual forum hosted by Clark Magnet history teacher Nick Doom and his students. Launched during the 2005 school board race, it allows students direct access to those who will be setting the policy that shapes their educational experience in Glendale, Doom said.

The forum also generates creative, student-specific prompts that aren’t typically aired at traditional events.

Six of the eight school board candidates — including incumbents Nayiri Nahabedian and Mary Boger, and challengers Jennifer Freemon, Daniel Cabrera, Todd Hunt, Vahik Satoorian — participated. Challengers Ingrid Gunnell and Ami Fox did not attend.

With Glendale Unified facing as much as $8 million in funding cuts to its 2011-12 budget, the conversation returned again and again to financial management. Candidates were asked to prioritize extracurricular activities, arts programs or sports teams for elimination. None of the six directly answered the question, stating instead that they would hate to lose any of the three.

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“I am not interested in our students graduating as one-dimensional widgets,” Boger said. “I want you all to be multidirectional.”

More than 80% of the district’s expenditures go to salaries and benefits, Cabrera pointed out. It will be hard to make further cuts without touching employee contracts. Collective bargaining with employee unions needs to be structured to withstand financial instability, he said.

“If things get worse, then build into the bargaining agreement some way to deal with that,” Cabrera said. “If things get better, on the other hand, then they have to receive the benefit of that as well.”

Candidates were also asked to identify the single most pressing non-budget-related issue facing the district.

Satoorian proposed expanding teacher and administrator evaluations to gather input from students and parents. Freemon said she would work on improving communication between Glendale Unified leadership and the public.

Hunt said he would like to see a better relationship between the district and the city. There have been times when various stakeholders were pulling in different directions, he added.

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