Vic Scavarda just completed a year as president of the Hemet Unified School District Board of Trustees. He spent more than 30 years teaching, mostly at Idyllwild School. The following is an interview with him about his experience as board president.
“I was impressed with how good we have it up here,” he said in response to what he did learn. “It’s a small school but test scores are high. From the time the kids start here, we know where they’re at until they start ninth grade.”
Scavarda emphasized the ability of the Idyllwild community, school staff, parents, and students to build relationships that help and last. For example, at several HUSD programs, adults approached him to talk about their experiences as students when he was on the Idyllwild faculty.
“It’s about the whole program here,” he said. “Matt [Kraemer, Idyllwild School principal] says we send a message that we try to educate the whole kid.” While the other district schools are trying to do this, too, Scavarda said it appears to be much more successful here.
After a career in the classroom 25 miles from the district offices, Scavarda met and discovered many talented people on the district’s staff in many roles.
Another important perspective to which he had to adjust was the funding levels.
“I’m used to a household budget. But the purchase orders at the district may be for several million dollars. There are 21,000 students in the district compared to 300 at Idyllwild,” he said. “It boggles my mind the amount of money we’re in charge of — it’s very humbling.” The current fiscal year HUSD budget is about $275 million.
“We have to look at how to pay for many programs. They are all good, but where does the money come from?” he posed. “The are no major state grants. We have to pay for it and that is not a popular position.”
“Vince [Chistakos, assistant superintendent for business services] and I laugh that we never see a program we don’t like,” Scavarda smiled and added. “But sooner or later, we have to pick and choose a program because the funding is not unlimited.”
He also expressed praise for his fellow trustees. “We all come together for what we hope is the good of the kids.” And Scavarda added that although they often are not unanimous, the disagreements end and do not carry forward or over into other issues.
“I ran the meetings, but we worked together,” he said.
One of the changes going forward is the use of the Local Control Accountability Plan. As the state has eliminated many categorical grants and moved toward lump-sum funding for districts, the LCAP is “truly local control now.”
While the district permits community use of many school sites and facilities, Scavarda said it is much more prevalent and important to the Hill communities — Idyllwild and Anza. He pointed to Idyllwild School hosting the warming and comfort center during the power outage Thursday night.
“It is a neighborhood school,” he said proudly, and referred to the district’s eliminating the bus fee for the high school students going to Hemet.
Being board president, “I was a very happy to do it,” Scavarda said. “It was an amazing journey, incredible.”
Ross Valenzuela is the new HUSD board president and Megan Haley of Anza is the new vice president.