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4 CANDIDATES SEEK 3 SAUGUS BOARD SEATS TEACHERS, FUNDS ON HOPEFULS' AGENDA.

Byline: Sue Doyle Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - Teachers, parents and funding are high on the radar with four candidates vying for three seats on the Saugus Union School District board.

But the hopefuls also have their own school issues - from special education to physical education - that they want to bring to the five-member board if elected.

Two-time incumbent Judy Umeck, 48, of Valencia, director of admissions at Providence High School in Burbank, has her eyes on community schools. The facilities would be within walking distance of students' homes and ideally would mean the end of school busing. But Umeck said her vision is a challenge in today's world, because of where students live throughout the district.

In some cases, children have to take the bus because facilities aren't close by in their neighborhoods. In other situations, schools have plenty of room but not enough students to fill it, so pupils are bused in to fill the desks.

``We're torn between having classes at capacity, which is fiscally responsible, but we're still addressing the need for community schools,'' Umeck said.

In addition, Umeck wants to focus on children with special needs and school funding.

Parental participation in schools has Doug Bryce fired up. He wants to make sure that parents have a voice in their children's education and can speak with the district about it. He said the relationship between parents and the district already exists, but he wants to make sure it continues.

``Parents are very influential in classrooms and have a lot of say about what goes on in them,'' Bryce said. ``That's a good thing because it keeps them involved in their kids' education.''

Bryce also is concerned about what will happen to school funding when the area's real estate boom slows down. The flood of new homes has contributed to the district's budget and Bryce wants to make sure the school district is prepared when construction comes to an end.

The 47-year-old Bryce has worked in the aerospace industry for 20 years. He served on the school board from 1994-1998, has two children and lives in Saugus.

Teachers and their resources weigh on the mind of Paul De La Cerda. The 30-year-old Saugus resident said the district attracts high-quality teachers, but he wants to make sure these skilled professionals are retained.

The teaching industry is a competitive business and there are many other opportunities that are attractive to teachers, De La Cerda said.

He wants to create an environment where teachers could make lifelong careers at the district.

De La Cerda also wants to get more creative with funding for school materials. With eight years of grant-writing experience, he wants to help the district find more resources.

In addition, De La Cerda hopes to focus on physical education in the district. He said there's not enough of it at schools, and in the end, students lose out.

``I see how athletics, when coupled with academics, can really shape a child to succeed,'' said De La Cerda, who has identical twin girls in kindergarten.

Fred Tazartes is concerned that costly housing in the area prevents teachers from living where they work. He said commuting takes a toll on teachers, especially those who have to fight traffic to get to school.

To change that, Tazartes is considering programs that other cities have that give housing incentives to teachers, firefighters and police.

He also wants to review school boundaries and student population to create more community-based schools, so students aren't riding buses to other schools miles away because the ones nearby are overcrowded.

``We have to work with developers and work on growth,'' Tazartes said. ``I think Saugus has done a good job, but I just want to make sure they keep doing it.''

After his wife died in April from a five-year battle with cancer, Tazartes quit his full-time information technology job to be home for his two children, ages 9 and 6. He's pursuing a real estate license and doing eBay sales.

Sue Doyle, (661) 257-5254

sue.doyle(at)dailynews.com

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4 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) UMECK

(2 -- color) BRYCE

(3 -- color) DE LA CERDA

(4 -- color) TAZARTES
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 5, 2005
Words:692
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