🗳 Election 2022: Los Alamitos School Board candidates answer questions about what they would do if they win

Election marks first time voters will cast ballots for candidates in Trustee Areas 1 and 3

🗳 Election 2022: Los Alamitos School Board candidates answer questions about what they would do if they win
Map of Trustee Areas for the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education courtesy of the Los Alamitos USD website.

Two seats are on the Nov. 8, 2022 General Election ballot for the  Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education which sets policy for roughly 9,000 students at nine schools in Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, and Rossmoor.

This is the second time voters have cast ballots under the district's new election system. In 2020, the school district  changed from district-wide elections to trustee area elections. Instead of voters selecting from all of the candidates on the ballot, now voters pick one candidate living in their trustee area to represent them. There are five trustee areas. Not sure which trustee area you live in? Search an interactive map here.

For the first time, seats for Trustee Area 1 and Trustee Area 3 are on the ballot. In Trustee Area 1, incumbent and former teacher Marlys Davidson is facing Colin Edwards, a parent and former staffer for a number of elected officials. In Trustee Area 3, current Board President Diana Hill, a former district parent who's been on the board since 2010, is up against district parent Rona Goldberg.

You can visit a candidate’s campaign website by clicking on their names below. The candidates are listed in reverse alphabetical order. (Spotlight Schools is alternating between listing candidates in alphabetical and reverse alphabetical order in these stories.) Each candidate was emailed the same five questions and given a maximum of 250 words to respond to each one. Here’s how the two candidates in each race responded to the same five questions.

Trustee Area 1

See the Map.

Candidates

Colin Edwards, Parent/Orange County Business Owner

Marlys Davidson, Los Alamitos USD Board of Education Trustee

Trustee Area profile: Trustee Area 1 covers part of Los Alamitos and includes Los Alamitos Elementary and McAuliffe Middle schools. There are about 5,500 registered voters in this trustee area, according to  data from the Orange County Registrar of Voters office last updated in mid-September. School board races are nonpartisan. Trustee Area 1 has around 2,000 registered Democrats, about 1,700 registered Republicans and around 1,300 voters registered as no party preference. The remaining voters are registered with smaller parties.

Colin Edwards

Colin Edwards, a parent of two young children and former staffer to state lawmakers, is running to represent Trustee Area 1 on the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education. Photo courtesy of the Edwards campaign website.
Colin Edwards, a parent of two young children and former staffer to state lawmakers, is running to represent Trustee Area 1 on the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education. Photo courtesy of the Edwards campaign website.

1) Why are you running for the Los Alamitos USD Board of Education?

As a parent, I’m running because I want a better future for my children. I graduated from Los Alamitos High School and have deep roots in our community. I think I can make a difference by putting our students first, not special interests.

I  commit to respecting parents and giving them a voice when they come to address our school board meetings. Citizens have a constitutional right to address governmental bodies and I am committed to upholding that fundamental right by respectfully listening.

2) If elected, what is the first thing that you would like to do?

Once I’m elected, I want to hit the ground running and meet with stakeholders from around the district.

Throughout my campaign, I’ve heard a lot of great suggestions but also some concerns about the direction of the district and I want to be able to bring those issues forward for discussion at board meetings.

I consider myself open and transparent and would be available to meet with anyone on how we can partner to strengthen academic proficiency and improve the well-being of our student population.

Student mental health and school safety are priorities for me and I look forward to working with my colleagues to make improvements in those areas so our students and campuses are safe.

3) What is the biggest challenge facing public school families in your school district right now?

I think one of the biggest challenges in our school district is getting our math proficiency numbers higher. Schools everywhere experienced a Covid slump in academic performance, and we have an opportunity now to renew emphasis on math and science so that our kids meet or exceed proficiency levels. I want every student to be competitive in their college applications or for their career field after high school. In order to do this, we need strong academics at every grade, including elementary levels.

4) What is something that makes you excited about public education right now?

One of my favorite things about Los Al is the wide variety of extracurricular activities offered to students. Whether it’s singing in an award-winning choir, competing in a CIF sport, or joining the Robotics Club, there is an opportunity to suit every interest.  Students should feel a connection to their campus, and activities like these build camaraderie with their peers and help learn a new skill or build their confidence.

I’m a firm believer in strong after-school programs where students can create bonds with their fellow students and faculty advisors in a setting less stressful than a classroom. I hope to enhance the school district’s relationship with some of their non-profit partners to make these programs even more accessible to everyone.

5) Most can’t vote, but your leadership will impact pupils in numerous ways. What do you want students to know about your candidacy?

As a Los Alamitos High School graduate myself, I am committed to each student’s success in school and for life after high school. I want to amplify core academic subjects that are proven to create well-rounded students and adequately prepare them for college or career readiness, including vocational education if they so choose.   I will always prioritize student success and will dedicate district dollars to help achieve that goal.

Marlys Davidson

First elected in a district-wide ballot in 2018, Marlys Davidson is running for reelection to represent Trustee Area 1 on the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education. Photo courtesy of the Davidson campaign website.
First elected in a district-wide ballot in 2018, Marlys Davidson is running for reelection to represent Trustee Area 1 on the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education. Photo courtesy of the Davidson campaign website.

1) Why are you running for reelection to the Los Alamitos USD Board of Education?

For nearly all my life, my heart has been in this community. Whether as a student, parent, teacher, or currently as a School Board member, I have always treasured being part of a community that encourages each of us to be engaged. I seek reelection to continue to do the important work of the district alongside our powerful community that is fiercely dedicated to the well-being of our children and to the excellence of our schools.

The past 4 years challenged us in a multitude of ways on numerous fronts. Our Board and district stood strong against the challenges of the pandemic by providing online learning, being the first to safely open public schools in Orange County, assessing student needs once schools opened, hiring intervention teachers for support, enhancing mental health programs, and much more.

This is a new year. Great work is underway. Our three-story STEM building is open at Los Alamitos High School with state-of-the-art science labs, Career Technical Education classrooms, and a huge space dedicated to engineering and robotics. STEM programs enrich the education of K-12 students across the district. Whether it is kindergartners being taught phonics, middle schoolers analyzing complex classic books, or history students researching and debating primary sources, our classrooms are filled with students deeply engaged in learning.

However, our work is not done! If you reelect me, I will commit to working together as we continue to create an even more powerful educational environment that embraces every child as they define their dreams.

2) If reelected, what is the first thing that you would like to do?

If reelected, the first thing I will do is what I did the day before. That would be to continue to build upon the ongoing work of the district. The difference would be the realization that I have been entrusted with 4 more years to expand this work.

As the only candidate with a decades-long background in education, I bring a unique perspective to decision making. When considering campus safety, I know what questions to ask to keep students as safe as possible within our classrooms. When the introduction of new curricula is on the horizon, my leadership in staff development reminds me how important it is to fund teacher training as well as provide time for collaboration, lesson planning and development of effective assessments. When it comes to the mental health of our students, experience tells me that support systems must include ongoing training and resources for teachers, full time mental health counselors and psychologists on every campus, and continuation of parent nights to provide support to families. Teaching at McAuliffe was my passion. However, I understood that not every child rushed to school for American history. Many rose every morning for music, choir, art, or drama. Others found their passion building robots or launching rockets. With another term on the Board, I will advocate for enhancing STEAM programs on every campus. Having been a Los Alamitos teacher for 25 years, I will bring the unique perspective of knowledge looking from inside the classroom out into our world.

3) What is the biggest challenge facing public school families in your school district right now?

When I speak with our families about the challenges they face, a common thread is the challenge to create the best life possible for our children in a fast-paced, complex, and competitive world. Some share that there is never enough time for family. Others fear their children are not finding connections and seem to be isolated and alone.

According to research done by Stanford University of over 200,000 middle and high school students nationwide:

  • 95% are sleep deprived
  • 77% experience stress-related health symptoms
  • 63% are constantly worried about academics
  • 62% say workload is a major source of stress
  • 47% are disengaged or simply “doing school”

On this Board, I am dedicated to working with the district and families to address the challenges our students face and to create an environment that supports and engages every student. Our work includes:

  • instituting a policy limiting the length of time for homework assignments during the week and honoring family time on weekends and holidays
  • providing free online tutoring for grades 6th-12th covering 60 academic subjects and on campus tutoring by many of our teachers
  • providing parent education workshops for support

Our campuses have wide varieties of clubs and organizations to engage every student. WellSpace centers provide welcoming places, so no child is left alone at recess or lunch. Assemblies and activities are dedicated to reaching a broad base of our student population. The Stanford study tells us that “it’s time to embrace a broader definition of success and transform the student experience.”

4) What is something that makes you excited about public education right now?

As a trustee, it is exciting for me to envision incredible growth opportunities for our students. Everyday our exemplary educators transform classrooms into magical places of exploration. The focused work of our Board and District must be to truly “ignite unlimited possibilities.”

For me as a Board member that includes working to:

  • Develop partnerships with surrounding communities to open doors for mentorships in science, engineering, medicine, education, business, and the arts. We can provide glimpses into the future for our students before they ever leave high school. In south O.C., students have interned in hospitals learning how to operate the DaVinci Robotic Arm. In Los Angeles, students interned with experts from places of exploration like NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We are surrounded by opportunities to engage our students in experiencing real life possibilities for their future.
  • Move forward with the implementation of the K-5 instrumental music program that was tabled with the COVID shutdown and work to enhance all arts programs across all grade levels.
  • Continue to expand professional development and collaboration for all our teachers. For instance, although our district ranks second highest in the county for math, our secondary math teachers chose to attend Stanford University’s YouCubed Conference and committed to ongoing teaming that focuses on instruction and lesson development. Strong instructional practices come from expanding opportunities for dedicated educators.
  • Enhance TK-12 STEM programs. To watch our young students excitedly work together to engineer a bridge or create a flying machine puts pure joy in your heart.

5) Most cannot vote, but your leadership will impact pupils in numerous ways. What do you want students to know about your candidacy?

For 25 years I spent the better part of every day in conversation with young people. They spoke with passion, honesty, and heart as we explored literature, history, and the art of healthy discourse together. When we studied the concept of “civic republicanism,” I challenged them to consider that active engagement in a democratic society was not a right but a responsibility of every citizen. During my 2018 campaign, a group of my former students took me up on that challenge and asked me to meet them for lunch at the high school. They shared challenges students were facing with the hope that I would listen and help. Those carrying heavy academic loads were getting no sleep, eating poorly, and experiencing high levels of stress. Others felt disengaged with little sense of purpose or connection. Their voices played a powerful role in moving mental health to the top of my list for work on the Board. As a Board member, I listened to nearly 100 students who came to numerous Board meetings to express the need for greater focus on diversity and inclusion on our campuses. Bravely, they shared their stories. Ultimately, we listened and directed the creation of an Ethnic Studies elective and development of an instructional program that embraced diversity and inclusion. I want students to know that they are truly powerful voices in the whole community I serve. Their perspectives can change what we do, and I am always ready to listen.

Trustee Area 3

See the Map.

Candidates

Diana Hill, Los Alamitos USD Board of Education Trustee

Rona Goldberg, Parent

Trustee Area profile: Trustee Area 3 covers parts of Rossmoor and Seal Beach and includes Rossmoor and Hopkinson Elementary schools. There are about 7,400 registered voters in this trustee area, according to  data from the Orange County Registrar of Voters’ office last updated in mid-September. School board races are nonpartisan. Trustee Area 3 has around 3,000 registered Republicans, around 2,600 registered Democrats and 1,400 voters registered as no party preference. The remaining voters are registered with smaller parties.

Diana Hill

First elected in 2010, current Board President Diana Hill is running for reelection to represent Trustee Area 3 on the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education.
First elected in 2010, current Board President Diana Hill is running for reelection to represent Trustee Area 3 on the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education.

1) Why are you running for reelection to the Los Alamitos USD Board of Education?

This district and community provided my sons with an excellent education that has been a great launching pad for their lives and careers. My children also had a safe, amazing community to call home. I want to continue to strive to help our district to be the best in O.C., and the state. This will allow the next generations to have the same experience as my children. I love serving our students, families, and staff.

2) If reelected, what is the first thing that you would like to do?

I have been having coffee chats in our parks and inviting families and community members to come and chat. I would like to continue this informal way of connecting with my constituents.  I also want to ensure that we are committed to both addressing the genuine concerns of parents and sharing the good news of the district.

3) What is the biggest challenge facing public school families in your school district right now?

There are many issues that our families face today, and they differ by family. Issues of mental health, equity, inclusion, and safe environments are the most pressing. Also, schools have become a political hotbed – that is not fair to our children. I believe in providing parents with support and choices in their children’s education.  We want parents in our community to know they have a say in their children’s education.  The state often gives local school districts mandates. We here in Los Alamitos USD work very hard to ensure we stay compliant with the laws while still allowing choice to students and parents.  This is often a difficult balance, but I firmly believe we must listen to all parents and find options for them.  All children are important.

4) What is something that makes you excited about public education right now?

Mental health has come out of the shadows, and we have the opportunity to help our students and families find ways to have healthy minds and relationships. When we have a healthy heart and mind, we can achieve our goals better. If we want our children to thrive in the Arts, Academics, Athletics, and Activities, they need to be ready to do so.  Our job is to educate the whole child. I’m excited that we have the opportunity to make an impact in this area now.

5) Most can’t vote, but your leadership will impact pupils in numerous ways. What do you want students to know about your candidacy?

I care deeply about their journey in our schools, and I know they have only one chance at whatever grade they are in. It needs to be the best it can be.  Our students are unique. Our students deserve every opportunity to explore unlimited options while being safe and supported.

Rona Goldberg

Parent and former teacher Rona Goldberg is running to represent Trustee Area 3 on the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education. Photo courtesy of the Goldberg campaign website.
Parent and former teacher Rona Goldberg is running to represent Trustee Area 3 on the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education. Photo courtesy of the Goldberg campaign website.

1) Why are you running for the Los Alamitos USD Board of Education?

I’m running for the Los Alamitos School Board because I believe in parental rights and representative government and after observing board meetings, it became evident that those concepts are missing from the current school board. I can bring practical judgment and balance to the board. My goals are to listen, learn, and use my life experiences as a community member, licensed teacher, and parent of one recent Los Alamitos High School graduate and two currently enrolled students, to make a difference by serving in a way that will unite and support parents, students, and faculty.

In 2020 school board elections changed from at-large elected positions to five unique representative trustee areas. This is the first year that voters will be electing a school board member to represent Los Alamitos School Board, Trustee Area 3. Although my opponent is an incumbent, she has never been elected solely by the voters of the new Trustee Area 3. It is my desire to serve my community by representing the common-sense values of the voters in Trustee Area 3 on our school board.

2) If elected, what is the first thing that you would like to do?

My number one goal for the board is transparency, not only in board affairs but across all aspects of our schools. Let’s get book review and curriculum syllabuses via the school district’s website.* School Board agenda needs to be available online at least one week before the school board meeting which enables parents to adequately prepare and contribute. Currently, agendas are posted on Friday night before the Tuesday meeting. If elected with a significant majority, the current board members should respect that I will be the voice for parents, students, and taxpayers in Trustee Area 3, even if my vote stands alone as the only voice of a common-sense conservative.

My campaign is mostly speaking with other parents and grandparents that have children in the schools, going door-to-door, meet and greets, and at other gatherings where I can listen to the concerns of parents and community members. I was told we need another turf field for sports and since the district has ample field space, I will work to develop another turf field through fundraising and private-public partnerships. Many parents feel that they don’t know enough about what is going on in their child’s classroom or have access to finding out. I would work to improve the way information is disseminated to parents. I will also focus on parental rights in education, a return to true academic excellence, and the rights of special education students.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: when books and curriculum are up for consideration by the board they are listed  online for community preview weeks before a final vote. But, in many cases, people must come to the District office to see the texts in person.

3) What is the biggest challenge facing public school families in your school district right now?

The biggest challenge facing families is deciding whether or not to remain in a public school system that is headed in the direction of focusing on non-academic and unacceptable curriculum or lesson plans. According to  U.S. News and World Report our proficiency scores of high school graduates are dropping in math (57%) and science (54%). Instead of spending on consultants whose focus is

“equity vs. equality,” use that funding to provide services for our special needs students, as well as, in-person tutoring so more students can excel academically.

Parents relay examples of classroom activities or assignments that they express concerns about that are not addressed by the teacher or administration. The board continues to insist there is no Critical Race Theory in Los Alamitos schools but uses other names to describe those classroom activities. I do not support banning books; however, teachers’ personal books are not subject to review and adoption process like text books. Such books are available to students from bookshelves in class with no content transparency or parental access. These are areas for further parental and board discussion and policy development.

Parents have brought to the board’s attention that their children won’t use the restroom during school hours because the drug problem is so bad inside the restrooms. This is a major safety issue for our children and adequate security needs to be implemented. These solutions are just common sense.

4) What is something that makes you excited about public education right now?

The thing that makes me most excited about public education right now is the fact that since Covid, more parents and other people in our community are paying attention to what is happening and being taught in public school classrooms. I believe in public education and want to make Los Alamitos School District the desirable and sought-after school district that we all remember and expect. The new and latest trends in education are not necessarily good for our students. I am a licensed teacher and I know what good education is. As a Lead Teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I taught student teachers what should occur in the classroom, like persistence, rigor, character, kindness, grit, etc. And students still want to excel in the basics in an enjoyable environment. During the Covid years, Los Alamitos parents also had the opportunity to see what should and should not be taught in classrooms.

I am excited that this year you have the opportunity to do something about changing the direction of our schools by electing me to the school board. I will represent common-sense values as your Los Alamitos School Board Member for Trustee Area 3. Once I’m on the school board, we can start the process of returning the Los Alamitos Schools to their standard of academic excellence.

5) Most can’t vote, but your leadership will impact pupils in numerous ways. What do you want students to know about your candidacy?

What I want students to know about my candidacy is that I am not a politician but a parent that is concerned about the direction of our schools. I want students to know that I want the best for them and their family and that they are valued and it’s okay to disagree. I will not support a curriculum that seeks to divide us. We have more in common than we are different. I have three children that attend or attended Los Alamitos USD schools. One is a recent graduate of Los Alamitos High School, my second child is a current junior there, and the youngest attends Hopkinson Elementary.

I value education and teaching. I think my background offers me a unique perspective that is missing from the current board. I graduated from Cal State Northridge with a B.A. in Liberal Studies. I also earned a teaching credential and taught in a private school before joining Los Angeles Unified School District, as a classroom teacher. Eventually, I became a lead teacher, training student teachers. So, I know what excellent teaching looks like. I also want special needs students and their parents to know that I understand their rights to a “free appropriate public education.” And I will work so that all students, each of you, receive an excellent education and are prepared to go out in the world to be successful.

Not your school board? See a complete list of all of the candidates running for school boards in Orange County in 2022 here.

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