Interview with Jay Petrek candidate for San Marcos School Board

We sent over the same batch of questions to Jay Petrek and here are his responses.

What suggestions do you have about school drop off traffic and its impact on some neighborhoods in San Elijo Hills?

The spill-over of traffic congestion into area neighborhoods is a frustration to both parents needing to get their children to school, and residents needing to go about their daily business.  When my children attended San Elijo Middle School I dropped them off before heading into Escondido for work so I am familiar with school drop-off challenges experienced by area residents.  A unique quality about San Elijo is that it’s the only place in the school district where a public middle school and elementary school are constructed adjacent to each other relying on the same roadway for access, so the issue of school drop-off is particularly important.

Positive ways to reduce the daily flow of traffic include parents maximizing their carpooling efforts and following school drop-off protocol.  The district’s decision to stagger elementary and middle school start times has been effective in avoiding exacerbating an already frustrating situation.  If the district’s plan to eliminate busing is permanent it may be appropriate to re-evaluate and modify the former bus loading areas to better accommodate parents dropping off students.  I also believe school board members and district staff should foster open and effective communication with city council and city staff regarding traffic impacts on public streets that are beyond the district’s control.  Traffic signals around the schools need to be monitored on a yearly basis to ensure that the lengths of their red and green cycles are appropriate to accommodate the changes to traffic patterns associated with the number of student drop-offs.

How can San Elijo Hills schools plan for the 300-400 more homes to be eventually built?

Concerns about overcrowded schools in the district are valid.  The school district’s attendance area boundaries are intended to distribute student population for schools based on each site’s capacity.  The school district monitors construction activity within each school’s attendance area to plan for anticipated growth.  Eight new schools have been constructed in the past eleven years to keep up with our growing student population. Unfortunate but necessary adjustments to school attendance area boundaries may be in order to accommodate future growth in San Elijo Hills.  Having served on the School Board in the past I’m familiar with the sensitivity in adjusting school boundaries and would seek to minimize any impacts to San Elijo families with students currently attending schools in their community.

Could San Marcos School District build another school as originally envisioned in San Elijo Hills to help with crowding?

San Marcos Unified is the fastest growing school district in North San Diego County so the need to plan for growth is critical.  Negotiating/purchasing property, designing a school, performing environmental analysis,  funding construction, and providing staffing is a costly, multi-year process.  Generally it takes several thousand homes to generate enough student population for a single elementary school.  The addition of 300-400 more homes in San Elijo Hills wouldn’t create sufficient demand for constructing a second elementary school in the area.

This month the City of San Marcos announced the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report to evaluate the University District Project near Cal State San Marcos that includes a 10-acre elementary school site closest to the most northern and un-built portions of San Elijo Hills.  With the planning of new schools comes the opportunity to evaluate attendance areas, which typically draws upon several schools’ boundaries, effectively reducing the overall student population at schools throughout the district.

With the economic crisis further impacting the California budget how can San Marcos School District keep its budget in line and survive the crisis?

Our schools’ ability to educate children hinges on decisions and financial support at the state and federal levels of government, placing enormous pressures on our budget. San Marcos School District has experienced yearly increases in student enrollment.  This growth has been a positive factor for the district by providing increased revenues from the state, a situation not shared by surrounding school districts with declining enrollments. Because of the current economic crisis, our school district will need to monitor its operating budget more closely than ever to ensure the primary objective of educating students can be fulfilled.  I support fiscally conservative budgets and will ensure that the District’s long and short term financial decisions are prudent and targeted for maximum student and classroom benefit as we weather economic uncertainty.

How can more of our tax dollars make it in the class rooms?

It is not just a matter of getting more tax dollars into the classroom, but ensuring our dollars are spent the most effectively.  Our costliest classroom expenditure is the instructor who leads the learning process.  Retaining and hiring top-notch educators who have a life-long love of learning and are dedicated to utilizing teaching techniques that reach all students are critical for academic achievement.  Ensuring that teachers are supported by their administration and the school board with programs that foster collaboration, provide effective training, involve a leading-edge curriculum, and include state-of-the art technology will be dollars well spent.  In order to further our recent successes in student academic achievement, and in light of the current economic crisis, all district programs that do not have direct classroom benefit will need to be heavily scrutinized and potentially scaled back or eliminated.

What are your goals for your term?

My goals for my term are:
Maintaining higher academic expectations;
Hiring and retaining excellent educators;
Constructing needed facilities to serve our students;
Providing safe and secure campuses;
Ensuring prudent financial decisions; and,
Promoting effective communication between the School District and the community

Three important considerations include:

Challenging Curriculum –
Student test scores are improving.  When compared with students of similar socio-economic backgrounds most San Marcos schools stand head and shoulders above the rest.  Continued emphasis must be placed on educating every student to be fully prepared for their choice of seeking a college/university education or vocational training. I will promote higher academic standards and encourage educators to use a variety of teaching techniques to reach all students in the pursuit of higher education or a chosen vocation.

Fiscal Responsibility –
I support fiscally conservative budgets and will ensure that the District’s long and short term financial decisions are prudent to maintain financial solvency as we weather economic uncertainty.

School Construction –
San Marcos Unified is the fastest growing school district in North County.  The District has constructed eight new schools in the past eleven years to keep pace with the influx of students in the community.  Extensive renovations have been made to several older facilities, but more renovations are critically needed.  San Marcos High School is an older facility and high on my list of campuses requiring renovation. I will ensure that rebuilding and modernizing older facilities stay on track to meet growing needs.

What can San Elijo Hills parents do to make the city of San Marcos and the San Elijo Hills area one of the best for education in the state?

My answer to the question above is: VOLUNTEER! During my 14 years as a resident in San Marocs I’ve been passionate about education.   I currently serve as Co-President (formerly President) of the San Marcos High School Parent Club.  I have also served as President of the Discovery Elementary School Parent Club, a volunteer at several elementary and middle schools, and a committee member of several school district committees.  I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with parent club presidents and volunteers all over the district and it is clear to me that one way to positively impact students’ educational experience is to increase volunteer involvement in our schools. Research shows that the most accurate predictor of a child’s academic achievement is not income or social status, but the extent to which that student’s family stays involved.  Being an involved parent or community member is an important factor in ensuring the success of today’s schools. Studies show that when schools, families, and communities work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.

Please visit my website as www.jaypetrek.com to learn more about me and my candidacy.

Editors note all San Marco candidates are welcome to contact us to conduct an interview.

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