Napa Valley Updates

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

This is from Today's Napa Register Editorial Page

St. Helena schools on the upswing

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

In a tight-knit community such as St. Helena, political races that might attract little attention in a big town generate a lot of activity.

This year, the race for three seats on the St. Helena Unified School District board has been contentious.

Six candidates are vying for three posts. The candidates include incumbent board members Ines DeLuna-Macias, Carolyn Martini and Monty Reedy. The challengers include Elizabeth Clark, a St. Helena Unified parent and regular participant in school board meetings; Jim Haslip, a former superintendent of other California school districts who relocated to St. Helena a few years ago; and Jodi Hill, who worked for the local schools for several years.

Recently, the Register editorial board met with all six candidates, addressing issues from the state of library materials to how board meetings are conducted. In our view, the incumbents have helped the school district make strides towards excellence in recent years, and the criticisms put forward by their opponents do not merit a regime change. We endorse Reedy, Martini and DeLuna-Macias for re-election.

DeLuna-Macias is a product of the St. Helena schools, and her story — with deep roots in the Napa Valley and ancestry in Mexico — is typical of many of the students in the district. DeLuna-Macias has sensible idea on a range of issues, and she plays the critical role of being in close contact with school families and their concerns.

Martini also attended local schools and has long-standing, deep ties in St. Helena. Her business background and analytical view of issues such as the extended winter break and improving curriculum suggest she brings a lot to the board.

Reedy is engaged in the schools in many respects, from having coached football to bringing his business background to bear on the district’s $19 million budget.

The rivals each had something to offer. Clark, a Berryessa area resident, wants to be a voice for the minority of district students who live far from town and see their educational opportunities limited as a result. Hill’s experience in the schools has taught her the board needs to improve communication with faculty and parents, a challenge that was perhaps even more evident at the St. Helena schools several years ago.

Haslip, the most direct critic of the current board, has mixed legitimate issues — such as the need to improve libraries — with concerns that are less substantial.

Some issues raised by Clark, Haslip and Hill — connecting the board to faculty and parents, the opportunities for rural students, the need to acquire technology and tools to improve education — are legitimate concerns for the board.

But we see no reason the rivals are in a better position than the incumbents to address these issues. St. Helena schools are on the upswing. In our view, the board members up for re-election — DeLuna-Macias, Martini and Reedy — have earned the right to return to office.