Community, candidates talk issues

Education board hopefuls discuss problems, successes of local schools
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Elinor Petuskey said she’s relieved she can finally mail in her absentee ballot. The Newcastle resident was unsure of who to select for her local education boards, but a candidate forum held in Newcastle Tuesday night helped her make her vote. Petuskey was one of the Newcastle Community Association board members who organized an education night for residents to meet local education board candidates. The question-and-answer forum included Sierra College Board of Trustee hopefuls Aaron Klein, Elaine Rowen, John Vodonick and Dennis Cota. Placer County Board of Education candidates Don Brophy and Pam Robie Hart were also present. “One of the reasons we pushed this forum is people don’t know a lot about education candidates,” Petuskey said. Throughout the evening, each of the candidates fielded questions from the audience of about 40 attendants. Community members asked Sierra College candidates about issues facing the college, such as the school’s accreditation status, crumbling infrastructure, finances and more. One resident stood to ask each candidate what their specific plan was to repair the aged buildings at the college’s Rocklin campus. Each candidate had two minutes to respond. Cota said he would draw upon his experience as the president of the Chaffey College Foundation and look to private industry and alumni to raise funds. Vodonick said he would want to increase community support in the college to help find funding. Rowen replied she’d like to have all of the stakeholders involved and as many ideas presented as possible so the college could select the best idea. Klein responded that he believes the college should look at federal funding, matching state grants, support from the community college foundation and development of undeveloped land. During the question-and-answer session for Placer County Board of Education candidates, one resident asked Brophy and Hart what they thought about consolidating local school districts or leaving them as separate entities. Hart said she thinks it’s important for school districts to look at the advantages, such as more resources and cutting down on administrative costs. She said she thinks it’s important for districts to use the county office of education as a resource in mulling over that decision. Brophy responded that he believes consolidation is a local school board issue. He said too often people are presented with the advantages and don’t weigh the disadvantages. Newcastle residents Mo and Mary Stevens said they came to the forum to get a better idea of whom they should vote for. Mo Stevens, who teaches art history part-time at Sierra College, said he thought some candidates presented their ideas better than others. “It’s important to hear the words and connect them to a face,” Mo Stevens said. “This definitely helped me make my decision as to who to vote for.” Mary Stevens agreed saying she thought some questions were left unanswered but overall was impressed with the forum’s format and the mutual politeness between the candidates and the audience. “I felt some issues were stepped around and they weren’t direct,” Mary Stevens said. “In general, though, I thought it was very well-handled.” At the end of the night, as the candidates were answering lingering questions from audience members, Petuskey said she thought the night was a success. “I came here not really knowing who I would vote for,” Petuskey said. “But now I know exactly who I’ll vote for.” The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment.