Santa Paula Elementary School Board Candidates

October 29, 2010
Santa Paula News

The incumbents the Santa Paula Elementary School District (SPESD) all filed for re-election, along with one challenger.

Challenger Tim Hicks is once again trying for a seat on the board. He last ran in the 2008 election. Incumbents seeking another term are Tony Perez, Dan Robles and Michelle Kolbeck.


Michelle Kolbeck

Kolbeck has nine children who went through the SPESD K-8 schools. “I have been active in the elementary school district for 25 years,” she said. “I have been room mother, parents’ group president, on school and district site councils, and on the school board for 12 years. I have seen firsthand from a student’s, parent’s, teacher’s and board member’s perspective what education is all about.”

She says she is running again so she can continue to accomplish what she set out to do. “That is to give every student the best education that they deserve,” she said. “We have schools who have reached the 800 mark, yet there are schools that still need to improve and I would like to be able to say ALL of our schools have reached the highest scores possible.”

On the hot issue of unifying the SPESD and the SPUHSD, Kolbeck says when she was a new board member 12 years ago she was instrumental in bringing all of the districts together to discuss unification. “I have only wanted what is best for the students in Santa Paula,” she noted.

“At that time, there was no community or district support of unification. While I do not disagree with unification, I am concerned about the extra costs involved at this time with studies, negotiating new contracts, and merging the two districts. We are still facing the largest budget deficit in the history of the state, and the districts need to keep focused on doing more with less, than taking on something new.”

On the issue of test scores, Kolbeck says the SPESD has a very successful track record. “Our schools are being looked at throughout the state because of the phenomenal growth that we have made,” she said. “We have two schools that were named distinguished schools and we had schools reach the 800 mark. SPESD can be proud of its growth over the years in test scores.”

Concerning the tight budget and cuts in staff and spending, Kolbeck says they have tried to get the most education out of the money they are given. “We have held K-3 class size 20-1 for the last ten years, but have had to raise them to 25,” she said. “However, because of other grants, we are able to keep 20-1 at three schools. Our employees and teachers are doing more for less, but at all times are putting the education of the children first.”

Is the district adequately preparing students for high school? Kolbeck says they use the state standards, and test scores are improving. “We have educational consultants at the program improvement schools to help with assessments,” she added. “We have after school programs. We are doing everything within our power to prepare the students for high school. A school can only do so much. The parents and community also need to help to make learning a priority.”


Anthony (Tony) Perez

Perez has lived in Santa Paula since 1957. He attended Santa Paula schools and graduated from Santa Paula High School in 1963. He has an AA Degree from Ventura College, and served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1969. He is married with three grown children, and he retired from the Gas Company in 2004 after 35 years.

He says he was very involved in the education of his children, as well as the education of children in the community. He was active in teaching religious classes at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, and was a volunteer coach in numerous sports.

“I have always been interested in the education of children,” Perez said. “I have the desire and motivation to continue to serve the children of Santa Paula.”

He says he’s running for re-election because he understands there is still a great deal that he can offer. “I have been a part of a team that understands our mission, and we are focused on how to accomplish our mission. I also understand that our district is faced with financial challenges, which will require some difficult decisions. I am prepared to study, review, and ask the right questions before making decisions which will benefit the District as a whole.”

Perez says his position on unification is neutral. “I firmly believe that an issue as important as this must be left to the voting community,” he said. “I will support the will of the people.”

Concerning test scores, Perez said the teachers and support staff work very hard every day to give their best to provide a quality education to all of their students. “As a board member I applaud and support their hard work.”

On the budget issue Perez notes that school districts throughout the state are facing difficult financial times. He says he’s always based his decisions on how cuts will affect the children.

“I have voted for cuts that will not affect the classroom,” he added. “We must maintain the highest level of service to our children first. We must also be fair to our employees when it comes to cuts; all should share equally when cuts are necessary.”

Perez also noted his primary mission is not only to prepare the children for high school, but, he says, “We must begin to prepare all of our children for college.”


Timothy Hicks

Hicks says his educational background, career, and involvement in Santa Paula’s community have given him the experience he needs so he is qualified and successful as a member of the Santa Paula Elementary School Board. “I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and I began my career overseas in Thailand in the Peace Corp,” Hicks said.

“Through my educational experience, I understand the need for quality education and the positive effect it has had on my life. In my career in agriculture, I manage million dollar budgets and production crews of 250 people while maintaining relationships with bargaining units. Through these experiences I have gained valuable skills in managing budgets, and understand that even in difficult economic times we must maintain a quality product.”

As an invested member of Santa Paula, Hicks says he understands the needs of the families and students and the role the elementary school board plays to help students become successful in the future. “In my 30 years in this community I have been involved with AYSO Soccer, the Knights of Columbus, St. Sebastian and Our Lady of Guadalupe Churches, Optimist Club, and the Santa Paula Recreation Commission,” he added.

He says he’s running because the economic future of Santa Paula and its residents depend on quality schools. He also said, “The challenges facing our students are greater now than ever before, and without the proper foundation we are failing our children. “

On the question of unification he indicates support for the idea. “In a community like Santa Paula unification allows the community to save money and provide better resources to the community. One governing body for the school system saves overhead costs, allowing more funds to go into the classrooms. It also allows one standard calendar for all grades and a curriculum that build on itself from year to year.”

Hicks says the recent test scores reached the minimum API standards, but we should expect more from our education system.... We don’t want our students passing through at a minimum or an education that just focuses on passing a test. We want an education system that educates the whole student. Throughout my campaign I have been talking to residents and found our elementary school’s reputation is satisfactory. That affects our students, parents, teachers, community and local economy negatively. I will work to build a positive reputation by starting with students in the classroom so they have the learning environment they need, and the teachers will have the tools they need to prepare students.”

Concerning the tight budget, Hicks notes the state budget directly impacts our community and our schools. “I have 20 years of budget experience in private industry and know we need to approach our budget troubles from a variety of angles,” he said. “First, we need to take a critical eye to our own budget and set priorities. These decisions are difficult, but we need to remember our students come first. Second, I will lead our community to be activists for the education system by all means necessary; we need to be involved in budget conversations at the state, county and local level on any funds we can secure for our schools.”

Is the district adequately preparing for high school? Hicks says no. “The perception in the community and the data both show our students are not adequately prepared for high school,” he noted. “We have elementary school students and their families for nine years. It is the school district and the community’s responsibility to work together to make sure our students are learning; also work to build stronger relationships with exiting after-school programs and provide workshops that develop increased parental involvement.”


Dan Robles

Incumbent Dan Robles did not respond to the questionnaire.

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.