Saddleback Valley USD incumbents split votes three ways

MaryAnne Shults

Incumbents Suzie Swartz, Ginny Fay Aitkens and Don Sedgwick outflanked contender Joel Quisenberry and will sit on the board of the Saddleback Valley Unified school district for another four-year term.

Swartz, Sedgwick and Aitkens all received about one third of the votes for a smooth win, in contrast to the drama in adjacent Capistrano Unified school district. This shows that the community is satisfied with the way the current trustees handled some of the difficult issues that K-12 schools throughout California have been forced to deal with this past year.

“I think the voters of Saddleback Valley are comfortable with the leadership in our school district. They are confident that are neighborhood schools are providing all of the opportunities for success that are children deserve, in a safe and nurturing environment,” said Sedgwick. “As long as we continue to strengthen that opportunity, I think the voters will support the Board.”

Aitkens and Swartz also said that they have earned a reputation within the community as being hard working and dedicated to the schools and students.

“Not only have I taken a leadership role in advocating for our local schools, people know that I am accessible, accountable and will put our students first,” added Swartz.

With severe budget cuts at the state level, SVUSD trustees have faced the challenge of having to cut over $30 million from the district’s budget. This includes keeping the core programs intact as well as other programs and extra-curricular activities.

However, this requires outside financial support to maintain the high standards of the district and a savvy and consistent focus on advocacy and communications with legislators in Sacramento who control the money flow.

“As inconceivable as it seems, the governor has said that things will only get worse,” said Aitkens.

“It is vital that we continue to advocate for flexibility and more local control of funding decisions so we can direct the money to where it will do the most good for our students,” said Swartz.” We must also continue to fight to change California’s archaic and unequal funding formula which shortchanges our local schools. Currently our district receives less than the state average in per pupil funding and that is not acceptable.” All three candidates agree that the district must continue to pursue grants and corporate support and partnerships with area businesses.

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