Video: Los Banos Unified School District Candidate Forum

October 11, 2012 

Candidates for the Los Banos Unified School District board squared off in a forum on Monday, Oct. 8. Click on the headline to watch the full video.

The six candidates for school board shared their philosophy on education at a forum Monday at City Hall.

Attorney Dominic Falasco and retiree Carole Duffy answered questions alongside their respective opponents, incumbents Colleen Menefee and Jack Vasquez.

Retired teacher Tommy Jones and engineer Thomas Higby were also at the event. They are competing for a vacant seat on the board.

Retired educator and Enterprise columnist John Spevak, the moderator, began by asking the candidates the No. 1 thing they believe children need to do to succeed.

Vasquez echoed other candidates in stressing the importance of parental involvement.

He said parental involvement tends to fade through the years.

"In the lower grades you see a lot of parents ... and I think we need to find a way to keep that going in the junior high and high school. I'd just like to see more parents," he said.

Said Duffy, Vasquez's opponent: "In the real world, kids need to learn, not just regurgitate."

On the subject of improving test scores, Menefee, who is battling Falasco for the District 4 seat, said activities outside of traditional classroom work may help.

"The more you can get children involved, the more excited they are about life and the more excited they are about learning too. If we could provide art, sports and other opportunities, (there are) so many things," she said.

Falasco said a tutoring program that allows children in the higher grades to assist struggling younger students is a good idea.

Finances were also a topic of discussion at the forum.

The school district has faced payment deferrals, budget cuts and furlough days in recent years.

Higby said what he would do to further trim the budget, if necessary, is explore technological advances.

"I happen to think that technology is useful for that.

"Online, schools nowadays have classes. We can move them towards that," he said

Jones also endorsed technology.

"We're trying to run schools in 2012 in an antiquated system. We've got to look at new things," Jones said.

"We can start training kids right in school with jobs. Jobs are waiting for them with technology on the computer. We can change this antiquated ship to a modern ship a lot more effectively to move forward," Jones said.

All candidates agreed more can and should be done to make sure Spanish-speaking pupils, who make up a large portion of the district's student population, succeed in school.

The candidates also agreed on the most controversial issue the board has faced this year -- the superintendent's reassignment of former Los Banos High Principal Dan Martin.

Candidates were asked if they would reinstate Martin as principal and replace Superintendent Steve Tietjen. Each candidate said no. Jones went as far as saying the question was "inappropriate and he was "baffled" as to how it could be asked.

The entire candidates forum for the school board race can be viewed at and Comcast Channel 96.

On Monday, a second forum will be held at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 520 J St.

That forum will feature candidates running for mayor and City Council. It will air live on Comcast Channel 96.

The forums are sponsored by the Los Banos Enterprise.

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