A professor at Pasadena City College for 16 years, Kaitzer Puglia is familiar with being inside a classroom. Now she wants a say in policy decisions at the La Cañada Unified School District. The 51-year-old mother of two teenage daughters is one of eight candidates running for a seat on the board in the Nov. 5 election. At her home in La Cañada, she discussed her campaign.
What is your motivation for running?
It was what was coming ahead for the district. Looking and seeing what is happening from the statewide level, funding-wise, looking about the national level. We’re really being looked at.
Seeing that all these issues are coming and all this talk about Common Core, I’m concerned. I want to make sure someone is there to really understand what Common Core is and what it looks like.
With my background, I can see the legislative issues and how that kind of filters through, and what it looks like in a classroom.
I need to step forward and do this, so my time is a little more flexible, so that was terrific as well. On top of that, service has always been a part of what I do and who I am.
As a parent, is there a main issue or concern that you would bring to the board?
Ultimately no matter what my experience is, I’m a parent first and foremost.
It’s not so much concerns that I have, but the board is going to go through quite a bit of transition in this next year. There are five different issues: one is the introduction of the Common Core curriculum, one is this new funding system from the state of California, one is this evaluation assessment procedure. So we’ve got quite a bit of transition going on.
I can’t honestly, responsibly, say that I’m going to go in there and change so many things. The responsible board member will go in, assess what needs to be done, take a look at what the different perspectives are, and make a really good, solid decision.
As a professor, what have you learned that would help you on the board?
My background is in development and learning. Student learning is a primary focus of research of mine so the field of education itself has given me insight that this isn’t a one-sided deal. There are various perspectives that we really need to consider when making a decision about a board. The board ultimately only makes policy and the policy has to be solid enough to support the superintendent, who can then ask her staff to implement to policy.
It’s not the role of the board to be in day-to-day operations. However, that has to stay focused. But with all of that, student learning has to stay at the center. Student learning has to be the key to our success.
Do you support a high parcel tax rate?
I would support a rate that is going to cover our deficit. That rate, currently at $150, is barely covering the structural deficit that we have. Already, we’re at about a $2,000 deficit, per student, per year. So multiply that by the number of students we have and you have a huge difference.
Based on the funding formula that has been introduced by the governor as has been rolled out, La Cañada in the next few years will be one of the lowest-funded school districts in the state.
Having said that, you’re going to need a higher rate. What that rate is, I’m not really sure at this point. I don’t have all the data.
Personally, it’s a little tough because families are going to have to address this and my husband just retired. So we have to really think this through.
But honestly, if we want to maintain the schools at the levels of the programs, the class sizes and especially in our younger grades, we have to look at a parcel tax and we’re leaning more toward a higher parcel tax.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.