2010-08-26 / Community

Changes in store for the Oak Park school board

By Stephanie Bertholdo bertholdo@theacorn.com

IN, OUT—Marie Panec, left, will run, but Cindy Vinson will not. IN, OUT—Marie Panec, left, will run, but Cindy Vinson will not. Of the seven Oak Park residents who expressed interest in running for the Oak Park Unified School District Board of Education, only four have filed the necessary documents in order to run.

Incumbent Marie Panec is seeking reelection, but longtime board members Cindy Vinson and Mary Rees announced they will not return.

The race for the three open seats will include Panec and Mary Pallant, both former candidates for U.S. Congress; Allen Rosen, a technology professional; and Sepideh Yeoh, a life and career coach

School volunteer Keyla Treitman, United Teachers Los Angeles executive Edward Kaz and business consultant Bill Shaner pulled candidacy papers but didn’t file documents with the Ventura County registrar.

Panec’s second term on the school board ends this year. She initially was hesitant to run for a third term, but said many residents told her that they were wor- ried about too many experienced board members leaving.

“People by and large are very happy with the way the district is being run, and they want to see it continue,” Panec said.

The 56-year-old Panec, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in the 24th Congressional District earlier this year, said the problems facing Oak Park schools are “incredible” and that school board members will face tough decisions in coming years.

Controlling employee benefits; maintaining music, art and educational programs; and the possibility of using furlough days to replace money lost from the state budget are among the issues the new school board must address, she said.

Panec also wants to keep residents informed about how the district operates. People often ask her why money used to refurbish buildings can’t be used to pay teachers or create new programs.

“People don’t understand funding,” Panec said. School funding is made up of various streams of revenue. The $29-million Measure R bonds passed by voters in November 2008 can only be used for construction or remodeling projects.

Rosen, a 46-year-old father of two boys, has lived in Oak Park for 16 years. One son attends Brookside Elementary and the other Medea Creek Middle School.

As a director of information technology in Los Angeles, Rosen has some ideas on how technology money should be spent.

He said he would have liked further discussion on ways to expand technology in the district and wondered if the board has metrics in place to see if goals have been met. Rosen also wants the board to improve its communication methods with the community.

“We have to get the information out to people, especially on controversial issues like budget or students coming in from other districts.”

Mary Pallant, 49, has lived in Oak Park since 2004. She ran for the Democratic nomination in the 24th Congressional District in 2008 and lost.

Pallant chaired the Ventura County Commission for Women and helped form the Ventura County chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America.

She sees the budget constraints as the board’s biggest challenge.

“We have to do the best we can with the money we have,” Pallant said.

A native Californian who grew up in San Diego, Pallant has two children, one attending Medea Creek Middle School and the other a senior at Oak Park High School.

Yeoh, 40, moved to Oak Park from New York in 2006.

“A contributor to our decision to live in Oak Park was the strength of the public school system,” Yeoh said.

Since moving to the community, Yeoh has been active with the parent-faculty association at Red Oak Elementary, which her daughter, 10, and son, 8, attend.

“If elected, my goal is to preserve and enhance the quality of education in Oak Park by staying informed about the issues that affect the education of our students and by actively and creatively looking for resources and solutions to ensure the quality of education in our district,” Yeoh said.

As a certified life and career coach, Yeoh uses her skills to help children set goals, gain focus and overcome fears. She believes her experience will help her as a member of the school board.

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