Four candidates running for a spot on the Saugus Union School District board met at SCVTV studios Sunday, when local journalists asked them a series of questions about different scenarios regarding the school district.
Of the five total candidates, the four that attended the panel were Saugus Union School District board incumbents Douglas A. Bryce, Paul De La Cerda and Judy Egan Umeck, and challenger Chris Trunkey.
Challenger Stacie Allegra did not attend the candidates forum.
The candidates answered questions on a variety of topics, including the board’s decision to remove Stephen Winkler from office.
Winkler’s removal is a topic that drew media attention to the Saugus Union School District throughout the summer.
The candidates were asked:
“One of the issues that was a high-profile story in the media this past year has been the Saugus Union School District’s effort to remove Stephen Winkler from its board. What have you learned from this situation and is there any aspect of it that you might have handled differently if you could do it over again? Why or why not?”
The challenger questioned the way the current school board members handled the situation.
“I dont know if (the board members) adequately considered what the ramifications would be on how to fill that seat before they removed Mr. Winkler,” Trunkey answered. “And obviously, I think that has created a situation now where there is uncertainty over whether there’ll be a special election or whether there will be an appointment to fill that seat.”
While Trunkey believed there were some issues during the process of Winkler’s removal, Umeck thought otherwise.
“Well, as the board president who had to work very closely with that process,” Umeck responded, “I can say we did do diligence, we examined it thoroughly, we did follow legal counsel, we did site education code and government code in which to remove him because of his lack of proof of domicile in the district.”
Umeck also acknowledged that, with the advantage of hindsight, the district might have proceeded a little differently.
“If we had things to do over again… we probably should have sought out district attorney and, perhaps, attorney general information, but we do have faith in our legal counsel,” Umeck said. “We still feel that what we did was absolutely the most correct thing to do, especially for the health and welfare of the school district.”
The five candidates are running for three positions on the Saugus Union School District board Nov. 5.
The candidates came prepared to answer questions from representatives from Signal Multimedia, COC Cougar News and KHTS AM 1220, but what they did not anticipate was that they would have the opportunity to ask one other candidate a question on the spot.
Challenger Chris Trunkey started off the round of questions with an inquiry of Doug Bryce, asking Bryce why he would “purchase an advertisement in…what purports to be from parent teacher organizations but is in fact from a group called the Parent Teacher Action Association.”
Bryce responded by saying that he did not know the final product would look like a PTA-sponsored flyer, before aiming his own question back at Trunkey.
Bryce questioned why Trunkey had not been to a board meeting since before he decided to run for a position on the Saugus Union School District board, in which Trunkey replied that he did not want his presence at meetings to distract the current board members from their work.
Umeck also used her one question on Trunkey, asking what specific board item he would change were he elected.
Trunkey’s response was that he would want to increase the transparency of the board by posting a master plan that is available to the public.
De La Cerda took a different approach and directed his question towards the absent challenger, Stacie Allegra.
“I do have a question for Ms. Allegra, curious why she’s not here today,” De La Cera said.
“You know, we take this process very seriously, and it would be a question for Ms. Allegra, why she’s not here today so that the voters can learn about why she placed her name on the ballot for this Nov. 5 election.”
In addition to the questions candidates asked each other, they took turns answering questions regarding issues of student social disorders, technology in classrooms, charter schools and communication within the board.
Election for Saugus Union School District board members will be held on Nov. 5.
To watch the candidates forum, go to SCVTV.com.