LANCASTER – Eight candidates are seeking three seats on the Antelope Valley Union High School District board in the Nov. 8 election. Incumbents Al Beattie and Jim Lott are facing challengers Diana Beard-Williams, D. Elena Kolbengston, Bernie Longjohn, Roger Price, James Shanbrom and Ira Simonds. Incumbent Calvin Robinson did not seek re-election. Beard-Williams, 51, is a Realtor, notary public, author and owner of an education and social service consulting business. She ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2003. She was fired in April 1999 from her job as public relations director for the Palmdale School District. School officials said she mishandled district foundation financial records, but Beard-Williams said she was discriminated against because she is an African-American woman and because she complained about what she called fraudulent spending on the district’s Head Start preschool program. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Beard-Williams said she is concerned about the academic standing of the district and the number of students who do not go on to college or technical schools. “My thing has to do with culture and atmosphere,” she said. “School districts tend to be insulated. They fear opening up windows and looking for other solutions. I will meet with administrators and the teachers union and hear what they have to say about what needs to be done to improve performance and prioritize that.” Beard-Williams said she is concerned about the shuffling of administrators among school sites, teacher morale and compensation, the level of services given special-education students, and students who get caught up in the blanket punishment of zero tolerance for fighting. She also stressed the need for more open communication between schools and parents. Beattie, 61, of Palmdale, is a teacher at Desert Willow Intermediate School in the Palmdale School District. He is seeking his second term. Beattie said he will continue efforts to build more schools and align curriculum with what students are tested on in state standardized testing. “I believe we need to come full circle with testing and the curriculum so that we are teaching students what they need to know to pass the test,” Beattie said. “One thing we did was start school earlier. By the time they are ready to take the test in the spring, most of the curriculum that they need for the tests will have been given to them.” To deal with student population growth, Beattie said going for a school construction bond measure is highly likely. “We have 600 more students than we expected this year. On that basis, every two years we will need a new school. Unless there is some other way to fund it, I don’t know if we can get around asking for a bond. I hate saying that, (but) that’s just the reality of things,” Beattie said. Kolbengston, a resident of Quartz Hill, works as a loan administrator for a mortgage company. She’s new to the area, having lived in the Antelope Valley for a year, but she said that should not deter voters from supporting her. “Change is fresh and good for everyone,” she said. “The primary reason (I’m running) is because I love kids. I think I can do a great job for them. School and education is important, and we really need a lot of help in that area,” Kolbengston said. Kolbengston said she would work to improve test scores and staff schools with quality teachers to create a better learning environment. “I think the current board is doing a great job, but there’s always room for improvement. I want to be a part of helping getting them where they need to go. The kids are our future,” Kolbengston said. Longjohn, 65, of Palmdale, is the owner of Los Angeles County Raceway and NAPA auto parts stores in Lancaster and Palmdale. He ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 2003. Citing his business background and service on the district’s budget advisory committee, Longjohn said he can bring needed experience to the board. “I’m on the budget committee and know the difficulties we have,” he said. “I bring to the board something that’s a little bit unique. I operate businesses, have to work within budgets, have to evaluate cost-cutting measures. I think’s it’s desperately needed, not just on our board but all boards. We need to spend the best way we can.” Longjohn said the two incumbents are effective trustees and lauded the security measures that have been implemented at the schools. “The board is working well. I would like to be a part of the board and bring to the board my expertise on budgeting. We are talking millions of dollars and thousands of students affected by our budget,” Longjohn said. Lott, 68, of Palmdale, worked 39 years in education. He retired in 2001 as an assistant superintendent at Keppel Union School District. He is seeking his second term on the school board. Lott said the board and district have accomplished many things during his tenure, including safer schools, increases in test scores, making technology a high priority, fostering a relationship with parents, and having a board that works as a team, though there are philosophical differences. “We have a solvent budget. No pink slips in four years. That’s a tribute to our staff,” Lott said. “One of my campaign issues was to establish a district budget committee. We did that.” Lott said he would work to further improve test scores, increase parent involvement, and focus on building schools – but look at other options before approving a bond measure. “I cringe when I even think about it. If we can prove that we have exhausted all of our resources, including busing, which is a painful idea, then I probably would go for it, but beyond that, I would not be supportive of one,” Lott said. Price, 50, of Lancaster, is a Church of God and Christ minister. “I’m running because of the problems and concerns that I have with the high school district. I’d like to see a change. If I can be a part of that change, that would be great,” Price said. Price said the schools need a safer environment and should provide more supervision on campuses. “Maybe the school district doesn’t focus enough on safety and doesn’t have enough prevention measures. As a result, there’s a large number of expulsions and suspensions,” Price said. He said the district needs to come up with a program to help at-risk children before they get into trouble. He also questioned whether the district has been able to deal with students moving to the Antelope Valley from the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas. “I don’t know if the administration has been able to adapt to the large influx of minority populations,” Price said. “They are probably dealt with more harshly or not understood.” Price said he would work to give parents more representation. “Parents don’t have the voice that they need. Parents are upset because they don’t have communication and (are) not treated with the respect they should be treated with. They should be partners in efforts to educate children,” Price said. Shanbrom, 44, could not be reached for comment. He ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2003. According to his ballot statement, he said he will be the “conservative, intelligent voice our high school board needs as a watchdog for the interests of students, parents, educators and taxpayers.” He said he supports greater teacher influence over curriculum, involvement of parents, and opportunities provided by well-run charter schools. “Success must be rewarded and encouraged, failures will no longer go unnoticed, and innovation will be encouraged,” he said. Simonds, 60, of Lancaster, retired in June after 37 years of teaching U.S. history and American literature at Quartz Hill High School. The 2000 Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year, he said he was asked to run by residents and former colleagues. Simonds said he will work to ensure that money is spent on classrooms and students in the face of budgetary challenges and maintain safe and secure campuses. “We have an excellent security system. I want to maintain that system. If we have to make cuts, I do not want security cut. It’s not only for students, but for teachers and classified (workers). Everyone on campus needs to feel secure,” Simonds said. Simonds said the district needs to increase career technical education and promote classes that can train students for jobs right after school. “There are a lot of businesses in the community that would like to hire our students. We need to make sure they have the skills,” Simonds said. “Even college-prep students need to work their way through college in this day and age.” Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744 firstname.lastname@example.orgWant local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!