Greater Idyllwild residents can vote in the Hemet Unified School District Trustee Area 2 election even though the winner will not represent them, unless they have children attending schools in Trustee Area 2.
Running in Trustee Area 2, which covers schools in Aguanga, Pinyon and the Garner and Anza valleys, are former teacher and current business owner Megan Haley and Native American Cultural Preservation Coordinator and long-time volunteer athletics coach Maurice Chacon.
Both are trustee district residents. Chacon, a Mountain Cahuilla tribal member, has lived in the district since birth, and Haley for the last 12 years. Prior to that, Haley lived in the Temecula area.
Chacon, a Hemet High School graduate, studied Indian law and Native American Studies at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. He has worked as yard supervisor in a number of district schools before taking his present position with Torres Martinez Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a social service organization offering temporary financial assistance to Native American families with children — providing educational incentives and work opportunities with the goal of leading to self-sufficiency. Chacon also has volunteered as an assistant coach in football and track at a number of district schools. In 2007, he started a wrestling program at HUSD Tahquitz High School.
Haley, born in San Diego and raised in Temecula, has a bachelor’s degree in history from University of California, Riverside, and a master’s in educational administration from California State University, San Bernardino. She has a teaching certification and has taught both in the Murrieta and Hemet unified school districts — kindergarden, first and sixth grades in Murrieta and third grade in Anza. She also has served as assistant principal at Hamilton Elementary and several other HUSD district schools, and spent 15 years in the educational sector as teacher and administrator.
She said she took a leave of absence from teaching to run for HUSD trustee and currently works in her husband’s business, Heritage Well, a residential and commercial water company in Aguanga.
Asked about key issues facing HUSD and Trustee Area 2 in particular, the candidates expressed similar positions on budget priorities.
Chacon has three children in district schools and a 3-year-old who will join her siblings when she is old enough. “Speaking as a father, I see the need for more funding for after-school activities and for ensuring that teachers have what they need in the classrooms,” said Chacon. “My whole thing is kids first. I’d like to see more music and arts programs in our area schools.” Regarding the current contract impasse between the district and the teachers’ union, Chacon said, “Teachers are the key to the district and I’m open and listening to their side. There needs to be transparency in the negotiations and both sides need to be prepared for those negotiations in advance, having determined key priorities.”
Chacon said he’d work to secure more resources for schools in his district, noting that schools on the valley floor often have more resources owing to larger enrollments. “I think our schools have not gotten the same opportunities as others in the district,” he said.
Asked why voters should choose him, he replied, “I come from ground level as a parent. I see kids struggling with how the curriculum is currently structured. Teaching to the test is not practical. It gives teachers no flexibility.”
He said he has not enough information to comment on Common Core, although he sees merit in having standardized basic subject matter taught in such a way as to be transferable from district to district and state to state.
Haley has a son in second grade at Cottonwood School in Aguanga, one of the higher performing K-8 schools in the district. She noted the close involvement of parents with the school as part of the reason for Cottonwood’s success.
As to the current contract impasse between district and union, Haley faults what she calls backroom deals with the district administration and cabinet members and the “political agenda” of the current superintendent, Barry Kayrell. “The money is there for teacher raises,” she said. “I don’t have an issue with what they’re asking. The superintendent has inappropriately used Parent Link to talk about the negotiations with district parents and has placed videos on the website presenting his side.” She noted that the current HUSD board has been absent in the negotiations. “No board members have been involved,” she said, a lack of involvement she found disturbing.
She said teacher tenure, appropriately evaluated and regulated, is a good thing. “Ninety percent of teachers are dedicated lifelong learners. Administration often does not do due diligence in supervising tenure and they should closely monitor tenure [to ensure the best teachers are retained.]”
She said any new funding sources, any new money, should “first and foremost go back to students — for computers, facilities and student activities.” She supports Common Core. “I saw a lot of flexibility with the introduction of Common Core. It holds students to a greater level of academic necessity and forces them to think outside the box. It also allows teachers more room to bring in subjects that have been pushed to the side.”
Asked why she should be elected, Haley said, “I want to change the face of this board, so that it does not go along with all this superintendent suggests. I know a lot about the system and how it works. My opponent does not have that advantage. It all goes back to my experience in education as both a teacher and administrator.”