Hart district candidates lay it all out ahead of election

Moderator Ed Masterson, right, begins the 2022 School Board Candidate Forum held at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, 101222, Dan Watson/The Signal
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Elementary school board candidates issue statements at Signal-hosted forum 

Four of the six candidates running for three available seats on the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board answered questions as to why they deserve to lead the district and its students toward the future.  

The Signal and Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita hosted the Hart district candidate forum Wednesday evening at the church. Candidates gave two-minute responses to a total of eight questions related to school safety, areas of improvements, fiscal responsibility and more.  

Incumbents Joe Messina, who represents Trustee Area No. 5, and Bob Jensen, who represents Trustee Area No. 2, attended the forum alongside Rebecca Hindman and Teresa Todd, who are running for Trustee Areas No. 5 and No. 3, respectively. 

Incumbent Cherise Moore, who represents Trustee Area No. 3, and Andrew Taban, who is running for Trustee Area No. 2, were unavailable to attend the forum.  

The four candidates each gave an opening statement and described themselves — family, how long they’ve been a resident of the Santa Clarita Valley, education and other qualifications. 

Moderator Ed Masterson, right, asks questions during the 2022 School Board Candidate Forum held at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, 101222, Dan Watson/The Signal

Candidates then dove right in to the first question: identifying one area of improvement in the district and how they would ensure that improvement occurs. 

Hindman said there were several different areas of improvement including special education, hiring more teachers, hiring a grant writer to bring in more federal grant money and introducing more opportunities for students to engage with professionals. 

“I would like to work on our CTE [Career and Technical Education] program,” Hindman said. “I have a child who is currently in the engineering program. But what is missing are opportunities with all the companies that we have here in the valley.” 

“By having these mentors, we could really inspire our next generation and contribute to our community in more ways than just, ‘Here’s a diploma. Carry on.’” 

The second question discussed whether candidates think critical race theory should be taught in schools. All candidates reiterated that critical race theory is not taught at the high school levels and it is curriculum typically taught in universities for students pursuing law degrees.  

“We need to get back to the basics,” Messina said. “We have kids who don’t even know what the three forms of government are. We need to teach the truth of history, science and math.” 

Attendees during the 2022 School Board Candidate Forum held at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, 101222, Dan Watson/The Signal

There’s a national trend of declining enrollment, which in turn affects how much funding a school district receives from the state. Candidates were asked how they would approach spending and ensure the Hart district remains fiscally responsible. 

Jensen, who is a certified public accountant, said the district has been doing some deficit spending, but overall, the fund balance is intact. It’s a responsibility he does not take lightly, he added.  

“We have a strong budget. We are doing well fiscally. Our revenues are up and our expenditures have actually been down,” Jensen said. “We’re doing all that we can to spend our money appropriately and to have proper accountability.” 

Candidate Bob Jensen during the 2022 School Board Candidate Forum held at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, 101222, Dan Watson/The Signal

School safety is an important issue for parents in the SCV. With concerns growing over fentanyl, candidates were asked how they would keep students safe and drug-free in school. 

Todd, who is a communications professional, said communication is important to handling these issues. She applauded the Hart district’s safety symposium to inform parents about the dangers of fentanyl. 

“We can do everything that we can, and we might not be able to get it right 100% of the time, but we can do our best to ensure that everything is in place as far as communications and safety measures,” Todd said. 

Candidate Teresa Todd during the 2022 School Board Candidate Forum held at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, 101222, Dan Watson/The Signal

Candidates also responded on how to prevent self-harm and bullying among students, the controversial issue of allowing or preventing transgender students from participating in sports teams that reflect their gender identity, increasing or decreasing instruction, and, lastly, discussed the role equity and equality play in education. 

After the four Hart district candidates gave their closing remarks, candidates running for Saugus Union School District, Newhall School District and Castaic Union School District went on stage to describe their goals and qualifications.  

Thirty minutes were set aside for attendees to talk to all candidates in a meet and greet, too.  

Virginia Ryan, who lives in Newhall, said she came in hopes to see all Hart district candidates and hear their viewpoints. Her takeaway from the forum was that Messina, Jensen and Todd’s ideals and leadership were aligned with her priorities. 

But she hopes SCV residents will listen and vote for themselves.  

“I hope that everyone does go out to vote because if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to sit around and complain,” Ryan said. “If you don’t like what’s going on at the school board meetings, attend, do not yell, and speak at the school board meetings. Ask questions and offer solutions.” 

The Hart district candidate forum and K-12 greet-and-meet can be viewed online on The Signal’s Facebook page at bit.ly/3UqVRWp.  

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