Three seats on the Hemet Unified School Board are up for filling on the November ballot. Five candidates will be on the ballot. This week, the Town Crier presents incumbent Lisa DeForest and challengers Boyd Lachlan Roberts and Jim Smith.
In the Oct. 11 issue, incumbent Marilyn Forst and challenger John Graham were profiled.
Hemet chiropractor Lisa DeForest is, by her admission, a multi-tasker of necessity. She has a husband, two boys, ages 8 and 12, a full-time medical practice, is president of the Western Science Center Museum, a PTA member, and also serves on the Hemet Unified School District Board of Trustees. She has completed one term on the HUSD board and is running for her second four-year term.
In that capacity she has sought to improve school safety by introducing closed campuses and the only active shooter drill held on a Riverside County school campus. DeForest’s husband Lance is a law enforcement officer. With his help and connections, DeForest organized a Saturday drill on the Hemet High School campus involving 25 professional law enforcement personnel, student actors and the school resource officer.
The drill involved three scenarios in each of which there was a live shooter. Each scenario focused on a different set of facts and different campus locations to which professional responders had to quickly respond. “The drill connected police with those who knew the campus and helped familiarize law enforcement with the HHS campus,” said DeForest.
DeForest said she brings a deep connection to the wider community as part of what she contributes to the board. As president of the Western Center Science Museum, a facility that has attendance of 40,000 people a year, many of them children, DeForest brings her experience of seeing what the museum experience means to the visitors. DeForest, who is a businesswoman, is a chief fundraiser for the Western Center and brings her budget knowledge and expertise to the board. “What our community is asking for is the sciences and they have the resources there [at the Western Center].”
She’d like to take the successes of the Western Center Academy and the Hemet Academy for Applied Academics and Technology charter schools and incorporate some of the technology and approaches of those schools in other district schools.
“I’m the one who pushed for using the Kahn Academy technology,” she said, referring to the online non-profit founded by Bangladeshi-American educator Salman Khan. It provides free online education to students using an extensive video library, interactive challenges and assessments that can be accessed from any computer with access to the web, anywhere in the world.
“I also pushed to get more computers and software into classrooms to make use of the latest educational technology,” she said. “These kinds of innovations help the kids go forward.” She also supports the Cornell Note Taking system and believes it should be introduced into earlier grades to ensure that students are better able to capture information.
DeForest said she has a vested interest in serving on the district board, given that both her children attend district schools. She is also active in the PTA and regularly visits classrooms and school athletic events.
She and her husband have a cabin in Idyllwild and get here as often as they can. She said she is very familiar with Idyllwild School, the support it receives from the community and the infectious positive attitude that teachers and administrators exude. “It’s a wonderful community hub,” said DeForest, “and I think Principal Matt Kraemer is doing a very good job. We [the board] have looked at Idyllwild and what they’re doing as a model for other district schools.”
As to why Hill voters should mark her ballot, DeForest said she has background as a teacher (at Cal Poly Pomona and Mt. San Jacinto Junior College) but has never been employed in the Hemet district. “I understand what’s going on in the district and also bring a neutrality that is helpful,” she said. “I’m committed to securing a safe and effective learning environment for our students. I have a track record from my one term and I’m not afraid to get things done.”
As to why she became so involved in the life of the Hemet Valley communities, DeForest said, “I didn’t want to be an outsider looking in.”
DeForest completed her bachelor’s degree at Cal Poly Pomona and also a master’s in microbiology. After Cal Poly she attended and graduated from the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic.
She has also served the community as co-founder of ValleyWatch.org, has chaired the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council and served on the Ramona Animal Shelter board. She has served on the Hemet/San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce, which voted her Woman of the Year in 2007. The Riverside Press-Enterprise voted her the number one chiropractor in the Inland Empire.
Boyd Lachlan Roberts
Real estate broker Boyd Lachlan Roberts said he is running for a seat on the Hemet Unified School District Board to help correct what he views as an underperforming district. “It’s obvious the district is underperforming compared to Temecula and Menifee that receive the same money. HUSD is below average,” said Roberts, “ and I believe it needs a fresh set of eyes on the board.”
Based on 2011 Academic Performance Index scores released in June 2012, Roberts is generally correct about the Temecula and Menifee districts scoring higher overall than Hemet — 2011/2012 API targets for HUSD were 750 in 2011 to 758 in 2012 at end of school year; for Menifee, from 843 to 848 and for Temecula from 858 to 870. Many of Temecula’s elementary schools scored above 900 in June 2012 API results.
Roberts cited his degree in economics (Cal State University, San Bernardino) and his business experience as a real estate and commodities broker as a solid background to confront the most important hurdles facing the district — money and sound budgetary policy.
When pressed for details on how better to use the “same money” other districts receive to improve student performance, Roberts said he didn’t have all the answers but admires the Kahn Academy approach, some of which is currently being used in the district. Bangladeshi-American educator Salman Khan founded the free online education nonprofit. Students come to the website to make use of an extensive video library, interactive challenges and assessments from any computer with access to the web, anywhere in the world. Khan is a Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and a force for providing new methods in contemporary education.
“I’m very intrigued by the Kahn model,” said Roberts. He believes HUSD’s two science and technology-based charter schools, the Western Center Academy and the Hemet Academy for Applied Academics and Technology, are effective and their new ways of delivering curricula using technology should be expanded.
Roberts said he supports Measure U and both education propositions (30 and 38) because of the need for more funds for schools. He prefers Proposition 38 because, as drafted, he said it would ensure more money goes directly to schools.
He also said that to provide more school services and retain good teachers, there has to be more money. “I’m in favor of additional revenue, taxes,” said Roberts. Otherwise, he noted, there is no way to correct what is failing and innovate.
Roberts said he comes from a family of teachers, both at university and elementary teaching levels and that good education is a key to success. But he does not believe teaching to the test, for the money, is good for students. “I don’t believe in all this testing,” he said. “Teaching to the test is a mistake.”
Roberts and family live in French Valley. He has two grandchildren currently in Hemet district schools. He said he is the only candidate for the HUSD board endorsed by the Riverside Democratic Central Committee.
California native Jim Smith makes his first run for elective office after a long career as an educator. In 36 years with the Hemet Unified School District, Smith has served as teacher, founding principal of Alessandro High School and Helen Hunt Jackson School, principal of Hemet Adult School and West Valley High School, and director of public services and alternative education for the district.
Smith entered the race seeking to apply his experience in education, school law, finance and budget administration to the problems facing the HUSD board at this time, he said.
“The biggest challenges the district faces are financial,” said Smith. “I’ve been on both sides of the issues, as a teacher, counselor and administrator. I know the people. I believe I can work with them. I’m not running with any axes to grind. I just want to have schools that are excellent and are totally supported.”
When asked how to achieve those goals, given the pressing financial challenges, expanding class sizes, and need to serve a multilingual school population Smith said, “This may cost me a few votes, but if we want services, we have to pay for them and that means taxes. I’ve urged the [HUSD] board to support Prop. 30 as one of the best options we have right now. We all need to dig deep to see how we want to support our schools. We can only capture the future with our young people.”
Smith said he was also supportive of Measure U although he noted that passage would do nothing to reduce class sizes. “It refinances our building (capital project) debt,” he said. Smith said the district should use all means of delivering curricula, both comprehensive and alternative. “We need to look at technology and how to use it effectively in presenting subject matter.”
He commented approvingly on two district charter schools, the Western Center Academy and the Hemet Academy for Applied Academics and Technology. “I had a hand in writing the HAAAT charter,” he said. “That was the intent of the charter, that students would learn their academics through application and that is a great way to learn.”
Smith admitted the challenges of how to effectively educate district students are daunting and the responsibility is huge. “Public schools are the engine of democracy and we must teach all students. In HUSD we must teach the least and the most able and reach students who are non-English speakers, not just Spanish but also Tagalog and some Arabic languages.”
Smith completed his bachelor’s at Cal State Northridge and master’s at Cal State Fullerton. He has teaching, counseling and administrative credentials, and teaches education law at UCR Extension. He retired from HUSD in 2006. He and his wife Kathy have lived in Hemet since 1970 and their four children attended and graduated from Hemet schools. “I believe in a balanced approach to education that strives to educate the whole child,” he said. “Students need college and career preparation as well as opportunities for athletic participation and artistic expression.”
“I have served many Idyllwild families both through Alessandro and Helen Hunt. I know many of the teachers who have taught at Idyllwild School. My campaign is a word of mouth campaign from families, students and teachers who know me.”
Smith is endorsed by the Hemet Teachers Association.