Something About Elaine Litster, Candidate for School Board

homecoming

In the last few days I had the chance to meet Elaine Litster, candidate for Trustee on the Simi Valley School Board. I didn’t get to speak with her for long, but in the five minutes or so that we conversed she came across as very intelligent, well educated and approachable. And then she told me she was from Idaho and that was it, I was intrigued. You see, I am from Eastern Oregon and my dad and younger sister and her family currently reside in Boise Idaho. Eastern Oregon and Idaho border each other and the people there tend to be kindred souls, if not distant kin.

A day or two after we spoke I checked into Elaine’s background on the internet. That’s when I learned that she has succeeded in one accomplishment after the next since young adulthood. She obtained an Associates in Art degree in Interpersonal Communications from Ricks College in 1983, where she was also Homecoming Queen in 1982, causing quite a stir by landing in a helicopter mid football field. She was Miss Idaho National Guard and then Miss Idaho in 1983 and finished in the top 18 at Miss America 1984, the year Vanessa Williams won. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Economics from BYU in 1986 and later obtained her Masters in Urban Planning from UCLA.

Clearly she is well educated. But what has she done in education that may give her a background for School Board Trustee?

Her employment record shows that after college she worked as an Admissions Counselor at Boise State University (Go Broncos!), seven years as a middle school and high school teacher teaching choir, band and harp ensemble. Harp ensemble? It would seem I forgot to mention she is also an accomplished harpist who has played on stage at Carnegie Hall and she was at one time principle harpist for the Boise Philharmonic and she has appeared on camera as a harpist on day time television The Bold and the Beautiful (I was more into the Edge of Night).

Elaine has worked with the music department for Royal High School since 2007 classified as an “Assistant Coach.” She is past President of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Harp Society and served since 2008 as a Board Member for the American Harp Society Foundation. She was PTA President for Justin Elementary in 2010 to 2012.

In her personal life Elaine and her husband Greg have been married for 26 years and they are the proud parents of five children. Elaine and her family are active in their local church where Elaine works with a group for 12 to 18 year old young women and where she coordinates Sunday and mid week faith meetings. Quite the roll model she is for those young women, no doubt.

If you would like to learn more about Elaine Litster’s background, her goals and her stand on issues relevant to the Simi Valley School Board, check her out at http://electelainelitster.com.

I am sure you will be just as impressed with Elaine as I am once you’ve checked out her background and credentials. Myself, I think she is eminently qualified to be a Simi Valley School Board Trustee. Disclosure: I live in the school district and I know who I am going to vote for.

Mitch

PS: Elaine is the one in the middle wearing the crown as 1982 Ricks College Homecoming Queen. Nice Firebird!

 

SVPD Officer Bill Daniels to run for School Board

Bill Daniels announced his intent to run for School Board on Facebook this past weekend. Long time Simi Valley resident, Simi Valley Police Officer, and father of a Simi Valley High School, Daniels brings a valuable perspective to the race. His announcement is below:

It is with great pleasure that I announce I am officially entering the race for a position as a School Board Trustee with the Simi Valley Unified School District.

I have been a resident of Simi Valley since 1975 and had the privilege of attending Justin Elementary School, Sequoia Junior High, and Simi Valley High School. For the past 26 years, I have been employed as a Police Officer for the City of Simi Valley. I have been married to my wife, Linda for the past 17 years and we are the proud parents of our son, Michael, who will begin his freshman year at Simi Valley High School in a couple of weeks.

Unfortunately, over the past several years, it appears that the Simi Valley Unified School District has been spiraling in a downward direction with no plan or vision to correct the fiscal imbalances and the drastically declining enrollment that were created by the current leadership.

It was not long ago when the Teachers voted “no confidence” in the Superintendent. What was the outcome? To the surprise of many, the majority of current school board elected to ignore the concerns of the teachers and left the Superintendent in place. Recently, the school board allowed the Superintendent to retire and collect over $100,000 in a retirement incentive and then re-hired her back on an interim basis until a new Superintendent is found and hired.

I believe the Simi Valley Unified School District has been stuck in a culture that has not been willing to keep up with the times. Until such time when the school board is willing to hire a new Superintendent that can bring fresh, new ideas on how to run a school district, they will remain frozen in a culture that can’t compete with other educational institutions. 

Three key points that I want to focus on are:

  • School Safety
  • Financial Sustainability
  • Transparency / Trust

If provided the opportunity to serve as a School Board Trustee with the Simi Valley Unified School District, I will do everything possible to make the necessary changes to return the Simi Valley Unified School District back to its potential as a premier school district within Ventura County. I look forward to further sharing my thoughts and ideas.

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Bill Daniels

Arleigh Kidd Goes Online!

The Simi Valley School Board candidates are not only racing for a seat on the board, they’re racing to stake their claim in cyberspace. Arleigh Kidd, candidate for the Simi Valley School Board, has taken his campaign online with a new website. He sent me a link to his website via Facebook, the social media network that is reshaping the online landscape of campaigning on the internet.

From 1990 until 2005 I worked as a social studies teacher at Valley View. While there I continued coaching basketball as well as being a department chair, Quiz Bowl coach, peer mediation coordinator and member of the School Site Council. From 2002 to 2005 I was also elected by my fellow educators to be the President of the local association. Also in 2005 I received an Honorary Service Award from the Simi Valley PTA for my work on behalf of the children of Simi Valley, it was a great honor for me.

In 2005 I was offered a job as a staff person for the state teachers association. I now work consulting with educators and assisting them in long term strategic planning. I also do trainings for educators in areas like the Brown Act and School Site Councils and in reading school district budgets. I am not a member of the local teachers association or state teachers association and I do not work for the local teachers association. I am also not management and not a part of governance.

According to his website, he’ll be joining Jeanne Davis and Bob Huber at an event in Simi Valley at 3:00pm. Brian Dennert will be covering the event, conducting interviews and likely including pictures and video. To find out more about this event, upcoming events, or for more general information about Arleigh Kidd’s campaign for Simi Valley School Board, check out his new website:

http://www.arleighkiddforschoolboard.com/

Greg Stratton Speaks!

Last week, I read an article describing Debbie Sandland as being “visibly perturbed” about being passed up for the nomination of school board president.  Evidently, there’s an unwritten rule among trustees that the previous year’s clerk be nominated as the current year’s board president.  Last year’s clerk was Sandland.

But protocol was broken last week when Eric Lundstrom, a first term trustee, received the majority vote.  Uh oh!  Protocol was broken?  Yikes!  And Sandland doesn’t like that at all according to last week’s article in the Acorn:

“I think it’s my turn,” she said. “It’s a natural progression.”

DiFatta agreed with her fellow board member.

“There shouldn’t be any debate,” DiFatta said. “The clerk of the board (Sandland) has done a great job, and unless she’s not interested in being president, we should move the clerk to president. I certainly hope this board doesn’t go toward the culture of previous boards that were divisive and mean-spirited.”

I love that!  Breaking away from tradition gets this old timer to utter the words “divisive” and “mean-spirited!”  Really Janice??

What really moved me was the response from former Simi Valley Mayor and former School Board Trustee Greg Stratton.  I like Mr. Stratton for several reasons that I’m not afraid to admit.  1) I bought a condo from him about 10 years ago, 2) he used to work with my father, 3) he’s a well respected member of the community and 4) he was never afraid to openly voice his concerns about the school district and our board of trustees.  He speaks openly in a letter to the Acorn this week:

Obviously their definition of “recent memory” does not go all the way back to 2004, when they broke protocol and denied me and Carla Kurachi our turns as board president and clerk. They taught Rob (Collins) well that the leadership decision is purely political. I’m sure he remembers back that far.

By the protocol, Eric (Lundstrom) should have been clerk last year. Apparently they forgot that part of it then, but now they conveniently remember the rules.

I don’t know how they each can make the statements they made without being afraid of being struck by lightning for twisting the truth.

Read his letter by clicking here.

Update: Brian Dennert discusses the issue here.

Simi Valley Headlines – December 5, 2008

Simi Valley Police Get a Pay Raise

Simi residents Al and Nan Kay believe that Simi police work hard for their money and the couple has no problem with the community’s cops getting a raise.

“I think it’s great,” Al Kay, 42, said. “They deserve all the money. They do a good job.”

Denise Rusiecki, 62, had mixed feelings though.

“I realize we need them but these are tight times,” said Rusiecki, who has lived in Simi for 35 years. “It’s tough justifying them getting raises when there are people that can’t afford to buy food and are losing their homes. It’s a tough call.”

Read more here…

School District Employees Lose Their Jobs

Simi Valley Unified School District, which has already shed $187,577 from this year’s budget, notified 16 classified employees this week they will be fired.

The 16 employees—including 11 custodians, four clerical workers and one information technology staff member—were given 45-day notices that their jobs have been terminated.

And more cuts may be on the way soon.

This is awful. While this opinion may not be well received, I think it’s hard to justify pay increases for (already well-paid) police officers while school employees get terminated.

Read more here…

City Council says ‘Wait a minute’ to Simi Couple’s farm animals

Miller explained that the Bridle Path HOA has covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that prohibit homeowners from keeping certain animals and that just because the planning commission approved a conditional-use permit does not make it OK.

“The CUP doesn’t trump the CC&Rs,” he said.

Williamson, who serves as treasurer for her own HOA, agreed.

If I can possibly get away with it, I will never again live in a community that is governed by an HOA. Then again, I wouldn’t have 8 cows and 2 pigs living in my backyard either.

Read more here…

Barbra Williamson Campaign Finances Challenged by The Star

Glen Gerson donated $3,000 under the names of three separate corporations, including The Vineyards, in this year’s council race. He said he gave money to Williamson after she asked him for support in her bid for a fifth term.

“When a local politician comes up and says ‘Donate to my campaign,’ I’m going to do it,” Gerson said. “We make donations to have people leave us alone.”

I’m fascinated that the Simi Valley Acorn doesn’t touch this story. It makes me wonder if they think it’s a wild goose chase.

Read more here…

If you have some SImi Valley government news that you’d like to share with my or publish for my readers, please contact me.

Simi Valley Headlines and Issues

In the Simi Valley Acorn this morning:

In response to the idea of a $100 donation from every household for the schools, I think it is a start, but not enough.

Meanwhile, we all wonder how the C4 Bond Funds are being spent and people like me wonder if they’ll have the chance to sit on the oversight committee.  Learn more about that by clicking here.

Also in the Acorn: City will hear latest findings on Runkle Canyon

According to a letter sent to the city in October, the agency has concluded that “additional work is necessary to better define environmental conditions at the site and to address one or more potential threats to public health and the environment.”

From what I’ve read so far, the so-called Radiation Rangers that are protesting the development of Runkle Canyon strike me as hysterical people attempting to sell fear.  I’ve seen no solid evidence to support either claim of clean or contaminated.

I had originally planned to be there with my camera on documenting the happenings on Monday night.  Unfortunately, I’ll be flying out to Cincinnati on business that day.  I’ll have to catch the “re-run” on the city’s website.

Oaks Mall Expansion Opens Tomorrow

Holiday shoppers will want to load up their wallets and put on their comfortable walking shoes because the two-level, open-air expansion at The Oaks mall will be awaiting them tomorrow, Nov. 15

This is bad news for those who are heavily invested in the Shop Simi Valley First campaign.  I’ve heard the new mall is gorgeous.  I’m curious to know how the city’s $100,000 Shop Simi budget is going to keep holiday shoppers in Simi Valley Town Center this holiday season.

School Board Disappointment

I have to admit some level of disappointment with the election results, specifically related to the School Board. From the teachers’ standpoint, apparently status quo is preferred. However, from the standpoint of a parent with school age kids, I’m not satisfied.

I can’t pretend to know all the details, but my understanding is that housing developers are required to contribute funding to the school district when large housing developments are built out. The school district can then decide whether to put that toward building another school or increasing an existing school’s capacity. Judging by all the temporary classrooms assembled on the basketball court at Atherwood Elementary, our school district opts to take the money over building another school.

I found Brad Jashinsky’s comments about the C4 Bond spending compelling. Evidently, I was the only one. I firmly believe the results of the election, specifically regarding the school board, were because of the voting public’s lack of knowledge on the issues.

Am I the only one who’s disappointed?