The Black Oak Mine Unified School District has three of its Board of Trustee seats up for election this year. The Area 1 seat is between board incumbent Mel Allen and, former board member Darcy Knight.
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“I am very passionate about what we’re doing at the board level, and I believe that the current board has been making leaps and bounds,” Allen said.
Allen has lived on the Divide for 19 years, and has five children who have attended the local schools.
“The original reason I ran for Black Oak Mine is because I am a member of the Georgetown Rotary, and two years ago, we learned that the current board was trying to eliminate the vocational classes (in the district),” he said. “I am running again with the focus of helping us save our school district from cuts by people at the state level, who don’t understand the value of these programs in a small community.”
Allen has been the owner of Smelly Mel’s Septic Service for 16 years on the Divide.
“I’m not an educated guy,” said Allen. “I graduated from high school and took the rough path to become a business owner. I’ve seen the nature of the economy and hardcore cuts, having had one of the largest businesses on the Divide and being back to a one-man operation.”
Allen said he believes it’s important to keep the board balanced with people who are outside of the educational system, but who are involved, community citizens and parents.
“My biggest concern is making sure that we have people on the board who are separate from the ‘system,’ who offer the perspective of the people who live and raise their children on the Divide — people who are not coming from the same mindset of the people cutting our offerings,” he said. “I have very strong opinions on ensuring vocational options and training as well as aligning our students for college or extended education. If our students learn the vocational skills at the high school level, they will always have these skills to fall back on. Even if they choose to go to college, they will be more well-rounded and have skills to offer the work force. This will protect them financially regardless of the state of the economy.”
Allen is also concerned about the financial aspects of the District.
“We need to keep the school board above water, and protect our teachers and board from the cuts the state wants to pass down,” he said. “The total student body is shrinking and that will greatly impact us financially. We may not be able to increase the population of students, but we need to adjust the classrooms accordingly.”
Knight is a 20-year resident of the Divide. She served on the board for 10 years, and took two years off during last election to care for her ill father, who passed away in April of 2012.
A 26-year veteran in the educational system, Knight currently works as a guidance counselor at Elk Grove Unified School District, and said she believes she brings the educational component back to the board.
“We have a fantastic educational system in BOMUSD. But, right now we have a board of five gentlemen who are primarily business oriented, and the educational component is missing,” she said. “I have attended meetings where things are being reviewed or decided on, and no one considered it from the educational standpoint, from that eye. I don’t believe that filter is there right now and it’s critical.”
Knight has spent the last year getting involved again and attending meetings to get back up to speed on what’s been happening since she left the board in 2010, when she lost her seat in that year’s election.
“Having attended the meetings for the last year, I believe a key objective is a better working relationship between board members,” she said. “Typically we have one meeting, maybe two; there have been months where they are having meetings once a week, and that is an indication that it’s not running efficiently.”
Knight and her husband of 29 years, Louis, have three children, all of whom attended schools in the BOMUSD. Her youngest graduated from Golden Sierra this past year.
“One of my primary objectives is to improve marketing and awareness for all the various options the education system offers parents,” Knight said. “We need to reach out to folks who are currently educating their children in other ways. They may be paying out of pocket for programs we offer their children at no cost.”
“I have a great deal of experience in the education field and, having prior experience is a huge benefit, especially in tough financial times,” she added. “The budget is a beast, and it probably took me a good six to seven years to fully understand it, and by my eighth year, I was able to ask quality questions. The learning curve is huge and I understand the complicated elements.”