Two challengers are on the Nov. 4 general election ballot with three incumbents in a race for three seats on the Mount Shasta Union Elementary School District Board of Trustees. Incumbents Leslie Cole, John Duncan and Chuck Rosecrantz have served several terms each. They are being challenged by Reinhardt “Ray” Ramas, a mechanical engineer, and construction company owner Chris Marrone.
Two challengers are on the Nov. 4 general election ballot with three incumbents in a race for three seats on the Mount Shasta Union Elementary School District Board of Trustees.
Incumbents Leslie Cole, John Duncan and Chuck Rosecrantz have served several terms each. They are being challenged by Reinhardt “Ray” Ramas, a mechanical engineer, and construction company owner Chris Marrone.
The following information about the candidates is based on interviews and some written material:
Chris Marrone has a long history of community service, owning his own business, and making contributions to the Mount Shasta Union School District.
He sees public education as “a process by which all students of all social, economic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds should be given the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to become informed and productive citizens.”
Marrone believes the best way to achieve that is by “using all available resources in the most cost effective manner possible.”
He sees the school board having “a responsibility to make sure the district is solvent” while also “maximizing and spending all resources available.”
Public input is important to the process, Marrone said. “I would like to see greater trust and accountability between the community, parents, staff and the school district... more transparency involving all stakeholders.”
He thinks public input at board meetings should “expand beyond the start of the meetings and be included on every agenda item.”
Marrone said “human resources and personnel set the tone for the district, and what takes place in the classroom is the key.”
The board, in Marrone’s view, “reviews policy directly related to curriculum, but most policy is state law and most boards cut and paste. Most policy is already a given.”
He said, “Most studies of public schools indicate that the skills of the classroom teacher, and support that teacher receives, impacts student achievement more than anything else.”
The board’s allocation of the district’s limited resources, according to Marrone, “should always focus on what’s best for the student.”
He and his wife Mona Gutierrez, a teacher in the district, have lived here for 25 years and had two children go through district schools.
When their children were young, Marrone served on the facilities committee and helped with playground work and school functions.
More recently, he assisted Mona with the peaceful playground, and his company financially supports the Mount Shasta Education Foundation and Mount Shasta Elementary School’s Title 1 program.
He said he is aware that because his wife is a teacher in the district, there may be times when he would have to recuse himself from voting or participating in discussions, if a board decision was going to impact his own finances.
He has operated Marrone Construction since 1975, which has given him a background dealing with multi-million dollar budgets, interviewing, hiring and managing employees.
As a business owner and operator dealing with 10 to 20 employees and subcontractors, Marrone said, “I’ve learned how to be inclusive; how to deal with a variety of opinions and perspectives and how to include all stakeholders.”
He also points to his experience with public agencies, including federal, state and county agencies, Fish and Game, and Army Corps of Engineers.
As part of his “desire to serve,” Marrone lists his eight years on the Mount Shasta Parks and Recreation District board, 18 years on the Mount Shasta Trail Association board, 24 years on the Sierra Club Foundation Land Committee, and his current role as land manager for the Sierra Club Foundation’s 720 acres on Mt. Shasta.
Before moving to the Mt. Shasta area, he also served for six years on the board for North Coast Cooperatives, which had 200 employees and a $15 million-plus budget. “That was a rich learning environment” that included board training, he said.
Ray Ramas believes “the key to any successful organization is to know who your customer is.”
The school district’s customer, he said, “is the community: the kids, parents, staff, administration. It takes collaboration to be successful. That’s why I’m running and what I want to bring to the board.”
A mechanical engineer, Ramas notes his experience managing a group of people who each had more than 20 years experience working in the industry.
He has a BS in Mechanical Engineering, a Masters of Engineering and Management, and is currently working for the engineering firm CH2M Hill.
He has been part of the school site council for the past three years, has coached youth baseball, basketball and soccer teams, and has helped teacher Eric Fleischmann with computers.
Ramas said he is a mentor for a pilot program called Mt. Shasta Mentors to mentor youth.
His interest in being a school board member revolves around what he refers to as “the three C’s” – children, community and collaboration.
“My heart has always been for the children,” he said. “I think that’s the real reason we’re all running.”
He said he spends time at the school and feels like he has a finger on the pulse of the community, “because I am the community. When I drop my kid off, I walk my kid into school. I know the other kids. I think having a relationship with students and staff is very important; it makes a big difference.”
He believes he would bring several important qualities to the board’s decision making process, including his perseverance, analytical and critical thinking, and conflict management skills.
Ramas said one of his first jobs was at an engineering company. His first day on the job he was ready to do engineering work but found out he was hired as a gofer.
“I learned hard work and perseverance, moved my way up to a network administrator and one of the lead designers,” he said.
Ramas said he believes in “leading by serving” and sees building relationships as a big part of leadership.
He said he is aware of the questions that came up about where the money should go when the new principal was hired for Mount Shasta Elementary.
“Leeanna, from what I’ve seen, is very dedicated,” he said of principal Rizzo. “She lives in Weed, and even during the time of the fire, she was there doing her job. She’s doing a great job and is committed to the task she’s taken on.”
He also praised Sisson principal Kale Riccomini and believes that because his attention was previously divided between the two schools, “he was not used to his full potential. I think it’s a good idea to have someone who can focus on one school.”
Ramas said the district has “a great staff and they need support.”
He said, “I wouldn’t be where I am without public schools; now it’s my turn to give back. I volunteer as much time as I can; whatever I can do to help my kids and the other kids, I’m all for it.”
He and his wife, Dr. Marie-Elizabeth Ramas, a family practice doctor who delivers babies, have one child in second grade, one in preschool, and another on the way.
They moved here three years ago because, “we wanted to focus on our family. We’re so happy to be where we’re at right now,” he said.
Chuck Rosecrantz said he is seeking a fourth term on the Mount Shasta Union School District board of trustees so he can continue to give back.
“I love what I’m doing because it benefits the kids. Education is so vital; without it we have nothing,” he said. “I want to help keep the district’s success going.”
Rosecrantz, who taught full time for 34 years and continues to substitute teach, said he takes it seriously that the oath of office includes saying you will defend the constitution: “That’s freedom; that’s America,” he said.
Rosecrantz said he is open to public input and “welcomes people to call me.”
His concerns for the district include state payment delays and classroom size, especially for this year’s sixth graders.
“I hope more money will become available so we can hire another teacher,” he said. “Our goal is 21 to 22 students per class.”
On the positive side, he said, enrollment is growing slightly, he likes the district’s addition of the Strawberry Valley charter school, and he enjoys recognizing students of the month during board meetings. “It thrills me to hear the excitement in the teachers’ voices when they present the students. As an old teacher I can feel their excitement. That’s love.”
Rosecrantz said he believes re-establishing the principal position at Mount Shasta Elementary was a good idea, although he understands teachers’ concerns.
“I’ve always been an advocate for teachers because I am one, but now I can see why board members make the decisions they do,” he said.
He said having principals at both district school sites “takes pressure off” and “builds camaraderie.”
Rosecrantz was “one hundred percent against closing” Mount Shasta Elementary when discussion of that possibility was held last year. He said, “I think that school is so vital; it’s part of our heritage; parents and teachers love it.”
He praised superintendent Kathi Emerson, saying, “She’s part of the success of our school.”
He said the district is “fortunate to have a great staff,” and he “sees the results of what the staff has done” when he substitutes at the high school. “I’m proud of the education in all of south Siskiyou County. I’m proud to be part of it.”
Rosecrantz said, “We have our goals set high; we have high standards.”
He said he tries to bring “a calmness” to his work as a trustee, along with the perspective of a teacher and “how I would feel being on the front lines.”
He appreciates that the trustees bring a variety of experiences, personalities and thoughts to the board and appreciates the opportunities to go to workshops with small school trustees from other areas.
He said he thinks the district has “a wonderful board” and it’s “great to see others running. There’s no grievances held here. We’re each one-twentieth of the vote.”
Rosecrantz taught for 22 years at Sisson, took a break from teaching, then taught 12 more years at Castle Rock. He is proud of the fact that his twin daughters and son are all teachers, and now his granddaughter is a school counselor in Yuba City at the same school where his son works.
“It takes a family to raise a child,” he said.
Incumbent John Duncan describes himself as “hesitantly optimistic and very hopeful” that finances will continue to improve for the Mount Shasta Union School District.
He said things are improving regarding state and federal budgets, and the district is “somewhat better financially” than it has been in the recent past. That has allowed them to “restore some things that we lost.”
He believes re-establishing the full time principal position at Mount Shasta Elementary “helps both school sites with student achievement.”
The big challenge, Duncan said, “is dealing with the state budget and how creative we can be to bring in more teachers with a focus on smaller class sizes and new curriculums.”
He said, “I hope the state will spend money more responsibly on education. They all say they’re pro-education, but they have signed off on significant reductions for education.”
Duncan, who works at Ace Hardware, said he attended district board meetings for six years before he was elected to the first of three consecutive four-year terms as a trustee. He was off the board for two years and is now finishing his fourth term.
His son and daughter (a teacher at Butteville Elementary) both went through the district; now he feels fortunate to have two grandchildren, ages 7 and 5, in the district.
He points to the investments he makes from a family fund set up with the Shasta Regional Community Foundation. Contributions from the fund have been dispersed to the Mount Shasta Union School District, Parks and Recreation District, firefighters, Humane Society and others.
Duncan believes he offers the board historical background, and he is most proud of his work as board president during the process that led to the start of the shared superintendent services agreement with Weed Elementary School District.
He believes both districts have benefited, as the agreement grew to include Mount Shasta doing business services for Weed and Weed providing food services for Mount Shasta.
“The two districts now have three principals who, when they get together and share their expertise, bring more ideas,” Ducan said.
He said during the state’s financial crisis in recent years, teachers had some years with pay raises that “weren’t great” and other years when they took pay cuts.
“We’ve been able to restore some of that,” he said. “Unions need to respect that its the school board’s job to govern the district, to make sure the district is well run. We hire the superintendent, who is our one employee. We act as a team, making a collective decision that sets the vision for the district.”
He believes a principal “is foundational in mentoring staff, which is important for student achievement, and to be a staff advocate.”
He said the state can change the game for when it distributes funds to schools at any time, “that’s why I’m cautious.”
While a four percent reserve is required, Mount Shasta Union School District trustees increased its board designated reserve to eight percent.
“At times we need to spend into reserves, but we need to be aware of how it is going to affect us one year, three years, five years and 10 years down the road,” Duncan said. “We need to look short-term and long-term.”
He said the district adopted a new reading program last year and hopes to see improvements. He expects math curriculum changes in the near future.
“We strive to be a top school in the state, and I think we can be. We have a lot of parental support and some great teachers. Our schools, compared to others I’ve seen, are so neat and clean. We have music programs, and the Strawberry Valley Charter School at Sisson kept some folks who may have left the district.”
He praises the “fantastic” teacher assistants and volunteers that work in the district and said he “would like to get more TA time.”
He sees the district’s student of the month program as “a great way to celebrate and promote the district. It demonstrates the good work we’re doing.”
Incumbent Leslie Cole says now that the state economy is improving, the Mount Shasta Elementary School District is expecting to put some things back in place that previously had to be cut.
She sees it as a success that the district went through tough economic times and held onto its music and PE programs and “a fairly decent teacher-student ratio.”
She said energy efficiency has been improved in the district, and enrollment increased enough to stop the discussion about closing the Mount Shasta Elementary campus. It also “became clear the community was against it.”
Running for a sixth term on the board, Cole said, “I feel like I still have things I can contribute... I’ve always been interested in education. I’ve enjoyed being involved.”
A bookkeeper/CFO for Napa Auto, Cole has a teaching credential. She previously taught in Sacramento and at Siskiyou Christian School.
Because of her teaching background, she said she’s especially interested in curriculum.
She sees positives and negatives to implementing Common Core and wants to be involved in that process and “keep an eye on its implementation.”
She said Common Core involves a “change in the way teachers present material,” although she would prefer if California had joined the other three states holding off on implementing it.
Of the decision to re-establish the principal position at Mount Shasta Elementary, Cole said she believes each campus needs a leader and, “I think we will see improvement in both schools in academic performance. I think it will benefit students.”
She believes the district is open to public input.
“The public is able to go in and open a conversation with our superintendent. I’m more than happy to talk to the public. The public is given an opportunity to make comments on agenda items. We’re looking at where in the meetings comments are made. We’re always willing to look at how to make that better.”
Cole sees herself as 20 percent of a board that “works together and makes decisions together.”
She said they’re working to upgrade technology in the district “to a place where it meets student needs,” and they are “in the process of implementing our new math program,” a process she expects to take a couple years.
Challenges the district faces include staying solvent. “The state was balancing its budget on the backs of the school districts,” Cole said. “We’ve been so focused on the financial part of it and staying afloat; which we did.”
“Mount Shasta has wonderful kids and wonderful schools,” she said. “I feel it is a privilege to be able to serve the community in this way. I appreciate the opportunity.”