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MUSD candidates face tough questions before small crowd
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Alison Ordner admitted she was feeling nervous when she was getting ready to leave for Thursday evening’s Meet the Candidates Night. Her young son’s comment that if there were going to be 500 people in the audience, there would be 1,000 eyes looking at her didn’t help to settle the butterflies in her stomach.

At the end of the evening, Ordner said during her closing statement she was going to tell her son that she only had to face 20 pairs of eyes in the audience.

That was the number of people in the audience who came to listen to the five Manteca Unified School District candidates’ response to some hard-hitting questions posed by those who attended.

Only three of the five were actually vying for one position in the school district. That’s Area 1 which covers the Weston Ranch area. Ordner, Sharon Moore and Sam Fant are all in the race for the position being vacated by incumbent Rex Holiday who is not running for re-election. All three contenders are Weston Ranch residents.

Incumbent Michael Seelye, who is completing his eighth year on the board this year as Area 3’s representative, and Deborah Romero who is running unopposed for the seat of outgoing Trustee Wendy King of Area 5, were also part of the five-member panel Thursday night. Seelye who filed election papers for another four-year term, and Romero will be automatically sworn in as representatives of their respective areas in the district. Their names will not be in the November elections ballot.

Questions thrown to the candidates by members of the audience ranged from budget issues which was the number one hot-button issue discussed, charter schools funded by general funds and transitional kindergarten to what they feel are the “unique challenges” facing the school district, how they feel about parcel taxes which is being considered by some cash-strapped school districts as a possible funding source, and in what areas are they involved in their community.

But the attendance, or lack thereof, in Thursday’s Candidates Night held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the board rooms at the Manteca Unified district facility on West Louise Avenue, was not lost on some of the guests and even some of the candidates like Ordner. At one point, while responding to one of the questions asked by moderator Janet Dyk, Trustee Seelye made known his disappointment that there were not that many parents who came to listen to the discussions that evening. He had hoped to see 200 parents in the audience, he said.

Concerned citizen Karen Pearsall who is a familiar face at school board meetings and a familiar name to readers of the Manteca Bulletin’s Opinion page, didn’t mince words when she voiced her feelings about the evening’s sparse attendance, calling it “pretty crappy.”

Of the 20 people in the audience there were three school board members present: Nancy Teicheira of Area four whose term expires in November 2014, Wendy King who is the outgoing trustee for Area 5, and Don Scholl who is the second of the three trustees representing the most densely populated Area 5 in the school district. The third Area 5 representative is Evelyn Moore, the current president of the board. The fourth sitting board member present at the Candidates Night was Seelye. Representing Area 2 in the district is Manuel Medeiros.

About half a dozen of those in the audience were family members of the candidates. Superintendent Jason Messer was there, as well as East Union High teacher Anthony Liberato.

Meet the Candidates Night hosted by the Manteca CSEA (California School Employees Association) Chapter #50. Moderator Dyk, a retired MUSD employee, is a member of the San Joaquin County Office of Education Board of Education and coordinator of AgVentures program. The candidates and guests in the audience was welcomed by Barbara Grizzle, the current president of CSEA Chapter 50 who succeeded Dyk to that post.