OUSD election keys on budget,
by Bret Bradigan
The twin shadows of a tight budget and declining enrollment
look likely to shape the race for the three open four-year terms
on the Ojai Unified School District Board of Trustees.
Two incumbents - Rikki Horne and Kathi Smith - are seeking re-election
to the policy posts for the 3,900-student district, while the
third, Vince France, is hanging up his hat after 24 years.
Challengers who have signed out filing papers so far are Pauline
Mercado, Jeff Ketelsen, Chuck Craig and Donald Humer. Due to
France declining to seek another term, the filing deadline has
been extended to today. Incumbents are profiled in this article;
challengers will be interviewed after the filing deadline.
Rikki Horne isn't taking anything for granted in seeking her
third term on the Ojai Unified School District. She won her first
term as a newcomer to Ojai eight years ago by lots of footwork.
"I walked the district twice," she said. "I will
do the same thing this time, lots of meet and greet. I don't
assume anything. People's votes are very important."
Horne, owner of a medical claims processing business, is also
the mother of an elementary school student in the district. She
said her focus has been on academic achievement. "We've
been able to increase the numbers of students able to attend
four-year schools" and was eager to see how many Nordhoff
High School students were heading off to college this year. Early
indications were that close to 30 percent, compared to, she said,
about 20 percent when she assumed her first term eight years
ago, were bound for four-year colleges.
She also feels the conflict resolution programs began and expanded
at district schools is another point of pride.
The changing situation at the district - both money and enrollment
woes - formed part of her decision to seek a third term. "This
is not the time to leave," she said. "It's a very tough
time." Her budget-cut philosophy is to keep in mind the
"human face of the budget, to keep in mind what's good for
"I spend a lot of time studying the issues, lots of listening
and reading," she said.
Kathi Smith, the other incumbent, is the current board president.
An attorney by trade, her children also attend district schools.
Her motivation to seek a second term "is to continue the
successes we've seen. There are a lot of challenges facing us
in the future," she said. "And I always like a challenge."
Enrollment and budget situations aren't likely to improve, she
said, and will best be handled by an experienced board. She also
brings the experience and perspective of a district volunteer,
having served with the Parent Teacher Organization. "This
helps me understand the issues that are going to come before
the board in the next four years."
Smith said she was proud of navigating through tight budgets,
and her support of teacher salary and benefit increases. She
said "the teachers' union willingness to understand budget
issues," is another sign of progress during her term, as
was "the extremely competent administration."
The contentious calendar issue, which absorbed the board meetings
earlier this year, will be a priority for the next year. "I
hope we can figure out a calendar we can get community consensus
on," she said.
Whatever the issue or decision she makes, Smith said "the
quality I prize is integrity. Ethics are very important to me,
and the way I conduct myself on the board."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
Back to the news