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Q&A:Meet the RSF School Board candidates

There are seven candidates vying for three open spots on the Rancho Santa Fe School District board. The election is Nov. 8. Below are biographies on each candidate and their answers to questions.

Christopher Blatt
Christopher Blatt

Name: Christopher Blatt

Occupation: Housing homeless and disabled veterans http://bit.ly/2dvoaQU

Education: Chemical Engineering

Community Service: Supporting homeless veterans

1.) What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Rancho Santa Fe School District?

The most important issue that needs to be addressed is improving the communication lines between the parents, teachers, school board and superintendent. All parties have great ideas to better the school and our children, but there is an improved symbiosis that could be achieved. Through this unification, we will achieve greatness and become the educational platform that we deserve to be for our children.

2.) How would you propose to address those issues?

In order to improve communications and the exchange of information, it is critical to get parent involvement on issues affecting the educational growth of our children. Open and honest discussions with no hidden ideas, which put our children first, is the path towards this goal. We have the resources, aptitude, dedication and desire from all members, and there is no reason why this school cannot be the “gold standard” by which all schools are measured.

3.) Do you agree with the way the Rancho Santa Fe School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.

The school board has many challenges on a daily basis and has accomplished many great things. They can further this road to success through allowing more parent involvement with two-way communication paving a path towards success.

Elise Dufresne
Elise Dufresne

Name: Elise L. Dufresne

Occupation: Businesswoman/Mother

Education: Pre-Doctoral Scholar, University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Center for Comparative Immigration Studies. Graduate Paralegal Program (Certificate), Business and Litigation Specialization, University of San Diego (USD). Bachelor’s degree, International Security and Conflict Resolution with a double minor in Arabic and Hebrew, San Diego State University (SDSU).

Community Service: Board member and chair of Government Relations, “I Stand With My Pack,” a nonprofit organization that advocates for human and animal rights across the country and around the globe.

Volunteer, pro bono legal services, Casa Cornelia Law Center, a nonprofit organization that offers legal assistance to economically disadvantaged victims of human rights and civil rights violations, specifically refugee and asylum claims.

Volunteer, Father Joe’s Villages, a nonprofit organization that services San Diego’s homeless population, including women, children and veterans. I do this with my daughter because I feel it’s important to instill the responsibility to give back as early, and as much, as possible.

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Rancho Santa Fe School District? 2.) How would you propose to address those issues?

First, the need for the modernization and possible expansion of the district’s facilities.

Future planning is a necessary component of any institution. Ultimately, the district will need to modernize and expand. However, it should do so in collaboration with all stakeholders. Additionally, it should be on a timeline that allows for public discourse, the justifiable allocation of funds and as little disruption to district operations and the community as possible.

Second, competing for high academic rankings and enrollment.

Our district is slipping in academic rank in comparison to other districts – including our neighboring districts. We need to find out why and do better. Additionally, our district competes for enrollment with many area private schools and we have to ensure that we are a viable choice for parents considering their children’s academic futures.

Third, protecting parental control and increasing parental decision-making.

Many parents feel that they’re losing the battle when it comes to having any control over their children’s future, particularly with regard to their education. Parents should have a say as to what they feel endangers the sanctity of their children’s emotional well-being or their health, and parents should also feel that their children are treated fairly and with compassion. As a district, we need to ensure that parents have as much decision-making power over their children as possible.

3. Do you agree with the way the Rancho Santa Fe School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.

It’s necessary to constantly self-assess as a district and make sure we’re moving forward - in the right direction - for our children and our community. We live in a unique school district with an outstanding reputation. However, we could always be more competitive. It’s imperative that we provide cutting-edge curriculum, learning tools, technology, programs and facilities that will help our children compete academically and help build the foundation necessary for them to compete globally as adults. In a district steeped in tradition and nostalgia, it would be easy slip into stagnation. We need to persistently ask ourselves: How can we do better?

Kyle Jones
Kyle Jones

Name: Kyle Jones

Occupation: Director, Board of Directors, Community Bank

Education: B.S. Business Administration/Management, M.Ed., Ca. State Teaching Credential - Secondary Education

Community Service: Volunteer at the CRC in Encinitas, Active at R. Roger Rowe elementary (including past robotics coach, Ocean week, various other events) and active at my church .

1.) What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Rancho Santa Fe School District?

A. One issue that our district faces is communication. Within our school system, there are approximately seven different methods of communication from the school to families. In addition, members of our community feel as though there is room for improvement in how and why the district communicates with them. Another issue is the continual need to provide outstanding academic programs to our students. If we look at surrounding districts, the bar is being raised continually and we need to be ahead of that bar to insure that our students are as prepared as possible not only for high school, but college and beyond.

2. How would you propose to address those issues?

I would propose streamlining communication into a singular system by using existing methods to their fullest potential. We are extremely fortunate to have an extraordinary IT team at the school who could maximize the tools in place for parents and teachers to provide only the most pertinent information relative to the individual families. As far as academic programs, I would provide support and direction to the administration to attract and retain only the most qualified teachers, continuous training to stay ahead of where teaching will be, not where it is, and encourage the district to look for ways to improve the wonderful options that we already have, including grade and curriculum synergy and experts that can provide insight and direction.

3. Do you agree with the way the Rancho Santa Fe School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.

I agree with how the district is currently operating. We are benefiting from many years of great leadership, from Roger through Lindy. There is nothing broken in our district, not much needs to be fixed, nor is wholesale change called for.

I believe, while we have had excellent leadership at the board level, that an infusion of new ideas, opinions and insight are necessary to take our school to the next level. What is needed is to implement a few new strategies and fine-tune existing policies and procedures.

With new board members come the opportunity to move our district forward to provide our children all of the best preparation for high school and beyond.

Scott Kahn
Scott Kahn

Name: Scott David Kahn

Occupation: Genomics Executive, Chief Information Officer, Chief Science Officer

Education: PhD in Theoretical Organic Chemistry, BS in Chemistry, Math, and Physics

Community Service: RSF School District Board of Trustees, Rady Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees Information Technology Task Force, Head Coach RSF Little League, Head Coach Friday Night Lights, Entrepreneur mentor

1) What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Rancho Santa Fe School District?

The biggest challenge for the Rancho Santa Fe School District (RSFSD) is to maintain its focus on improving the educational experience for the children across all levels of achievement. This is just as important for the highly performing students as it is for students that require additional aide and attention to achieve all necessary standards. In all cases we need to be striving to help create the leaders that are needed in the future by ensuring that each RSFSD child is well-prepared to transition into high school and beyond.

2) How would you propose to address those issues?

Independent of the district’s successes in the past, we need to use the test and student performance data to monitor how resource investments (extra teachers/aides, changes in curriculum, etc.) contribute to the improvements observed in each child’s ability to excel. We also need to leverage these data throughout the school to individualize each student’s classroom experiences. Much can be accomplished with basic analytic tools that are broadly used in industry to extract insights from data. These insights should be used in the board’s decisions around budgeting and staffing to ensure incremental improvement each scholastic year.

3) Do you agree with the way the Rancho Santa Fe School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made?

We recently hired a new superintendent (David Jaffe) to build upon the successes of his predecessor, and to take the district to the next level. I believe that the district operated extremely well in its recruitment of Mr. Jaffe, and that broadly RSFSD is effective in the way that it operates. The district is moving to formalize parent and community engagement, which I believe will be an optimization of the way that RSFSD functions. Assessment of our Visual Performing Arts (VPA) and our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs are ongoing, and should identify where these programs can be further enhanced.

Jee Manghani
Jee Manghani

Name: Jee Manghani

Occupation: Technology Entrepreneur

Education: Bachelors in Computer Science from UCSD

Community Service: School volunteer, Homeless Outreach, Church, Sponsor Organization for Hope Foundation for Orphanages in India, RSF Attack Soccer Coach

1.) What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Rancho Santa Fe School District?

Technology continues to change quickly. The challenge is to how to incorporate new technologies without them distracting the children. We should continue to update the classrooms and be the technological flagship for the other school districts in the county.

Our gym facility needs to be updated to be safe and aesthetically coherent with the rest of the school. The dirt parking lot needs to be paved at the Dacus property and be brought up to Covenant aesthetics standards.

2.) How would you propose to address those issues?

First and foremost, I will be against any new taxes from the community. We will work within our existing budget.

When new technology is suggested, we should vet it out and have a plan to ensure compliance by the students to avoid wasting money on unused technology. I’d like to start with LED displays in the classrooms. Displays are extremely affordable and bright enough to see with the lights on.

We need to continue the discussion about the gym and the parking lot upgrades. Saving money over the next several years to rehabilitate the gym is the prudent course of action. Let’s decide on the plan that only works within the existing budget. If there is no money for it, the plan must be put on hold.

We should explore if we can pave the lot to route traffic so that we can alleviate the La Granada/El Fuego traffic jams. Please check out my website: ww.jeemanghani.com

3.) Do you agree with the way the Rancho Santa Fe School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.

I believe that the district is the best in the county. This is why we moved here. The superintendents, principals and teachers are all the cream of the crop. I think Tyler Seltzer is doing a stellar job in his role as president of the school board. Overall, I am pleased with the general direction of the board, and I believe I can add that unique technological experience to the board.

Sarah Neal
Sarah Neal

Name: Sarah Neal

Occupation: Retired CEO/Parent/Volunteer

Education: B.A U.C Berkeley

Community Service: Co-Chair Village Vibrancy Committee, Rancho Santa Fe Association. Multiple roles on the RSF Education Foundation. Initiated and chaired the Parent Forum 2015-16, committee under the superintendent to research and recommend best practices in parent engagement for the school.

1.) What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Rancho Santa Fe School District?

Rancho Santa Fe School has many qualities to celebrate, including its sense of community, amazing facility and high-quality teachers. At the same time, as in all organizations, we have some important issues to address.

I have a solid understanding of these issues after attending regular school board meetings, leading the Parent Forum committee, which provided a needed platform to raise and discuss pertinent issues, and having reviewed the comprehensive results of the recent superintendent search survey.

Currently, our key issues include: the superintendent and leadership transition, plans for school expansion, construction of a new gym and associated bond measure, need for effective parent and community engagement and collaboration, attracting and retaining high quality teachers, student achievement and enrollment, and student preparedness for both private and public high schools.

2.) How would you propose to address those issues?

As a school board member, I don’t expect to have the answers to these complex issues, nor is that my role. My role will be to represent the collective priorities of our community and support effective principles, processes and practices from which the best, student-centered solutions to these and all issues will emerge.

As a CEO, my expertise is in organizational leadership. I have found that best principles include effective leadership, authentic collaboration and impactful innovation. Best processes and practices include transparency, outreach, proactive communication, collaborative work groups, accountability, fiscal responsibility and recognition for goals accomplished.

3.) Do you agree with the way the Rancho Santa Fe School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.

I believe that we can’t always make everyone happy, but if we rely on the tried and true principles and processes I’ve described above, we will solve these and all issues most effectively and keep moving our school forward for our children and community. For more information about my platform and details on each school issue visit nealforrsf.com.

Tyler Seltzer
Tyler Seltzer

Name: Tyler Seltzer

Occupation: Partner, Watersohn Companies, Inc., a privately held, family investment group with holdings in food, beverage, sports and real estate. Parent of three current R. Roger Rowe students.

Education: B.A. in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Southern California. Graduate of R. Roger Rowe.

Community Service: Member and Current President, Governing Board, RSF School District (2011-Present); Member, RSF Association Trails and Rec Committee (2016-Present); Member and Past President, RSF Little League Board of Directors (2012-Present); Member, RSF Golf Club Membership Committee (2014-Present); Member, RSF Community Center Golf Classic Committee, (2012-Present); Member, Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club; Member, Rancho Santa Fe Riding Club; Scholars’ Circle Member, Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation; Curtain Call and Club 324 Supporter, RSF Performing Arts Center; Volunteer coach, RSF Little League, RSFCC Junior Dunkers, and RSF Soccer

1) What do you think are the biggest issues facing the RSF School District?

A) The most immediate issue is ensuring the successful leadership transition from our long-standing former superintendent, Lindy Delaney, to our new superintendent, David Jaffe. Lindy, and Dr. Rowe before her, helped create and oversee a tremendous legacy of success for our students and district. It is of paramount importance that we build on that work by delivering the kind of excellence that our students, families, and community expect and deserve.

B) The biggest ongoing challenge for the district is to continue to be able to provide and successfully maximize, in a financially responsible way, all of the special items that make our school stand-out: small class sizes, high test scores, individualized instruction, dedicated teachers, subject specialists, advanced and accelerated courses, character development, athletic excellence, cutting-edge technology, robotics, expanded performing arts and foreign language programs, and efficient and effective facilities management.

2) How would you propose to address those issues?

A) The school board is working hard to provide our new superintendent with the guidance, resources, and background that are vital to achieving a smooth and successful transition, along with the flexibility necessary to identify potential opportunities for improvement.

B) From a financial standpoint, as a Basic Aid district, the overwhelming majority of our district revenue comes from local property taxes. The remaining crucial piece is funded by the remarkable support of our RSF Education Foundation. The school board is always focused on allocating these funds in the most responsible way possible, and only on the most effective and successful programs.

The board maintains open and consistent dialogue with our administration, staff, and parents so that all of our programs are under thorough and regular review.

3) Do you agree with the way the Rancho Santa Fe School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made?

At the heart of our community, our school district has a proud and successful history that is decades-long. It is a legacy of success that continues today. That achievement, marked by outstanding student performance, expansive academic and enrichment opportunities, conservative fiscal management, and incredible parent involvement and generosity, has been driven by strong, steady, and stable leadership. As the current President of the RSF School District, and as a former RSF student, I am extremely proud of, and deeply committed to, the exceptional educational experience we deliver for our students, parents, teachers, and community.

 

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