Wednesday, October 21, 2015

North Torrance Homeowners Association Debate Forum: Reflection

I was fortunate enough to attend the North Torrance Homeowners (NTHA) debate forums twice in the last year.

First, the 2014 Torrance City Council elections, in which sixteen candidates were vying for four seats on the city council. A huge turnover in leadership and representation took place that year.

Then the 2015 Torrance School Board election, with four candidates running for two spots.

I noticed that a number of the city councilmembers attended the meeting, including Mayor Pat Furey,  as well as prior Torrance PTA President Janet Tajii.

From the outset, though, I suspected that the NTHA debate questions would be slanted or biased, in part because Terry Ragins lives in North Torrance, and so does Mayor Pat Furey, who has endorsed the incumbents.

Some of the questions were deliberately intended to throw off the challengers. One question asked the candidates what they had accomplished with implementing California's new Local Control Funding Formula.

What would Rick Marshall or Clint Paulson have to say about any of that?

Another question asked if the candidates had children in the school district. This question was designed to attack Rick Marshall, who has enrolled his kids in private schools after taking them to Adams Elementary in South East Torrance.

Another bias poked through in regards to the questions which the moderators did NOT ask.

There was no question about the safety and well-being of the students, particularly in regards to the allegations of lewd conduct and molestation against two people, the Torrance High wrestling coach and the chess tutor. who have worked in and for the school district (plus a basketball coach who was almost hired) within the last year.

No questions asked anything substantive about Common Core.


No questions addressed the lease/lease-back controversies, either.

I expected that the North Torrance moderators would discuss the disparity of test scores and student flight from North Torrance schools, particularly North High. Those issues do no need to be addressed. Should all the permit kids from other districts go to North High? Do they go only to that school?

I agreed with Terry Ragins, that Yukon and Edison Elementary should not be closed down. I do not opposed small elementary schools for the K-5 set. It should be that way.

Final Reflection

On the whole, the NTHA moderators asked basic questions, and most were non-descript and inoffensive. It was troubling, however, that no questions discussed the rising controversies on which the two challengers are running. I also think that Clint Paulson's presence at the forum highlighted the importance of stronger local control for all schools, as well as the federal funding disparity among Torrance schools. North Torrance has more Title One kids because of poverty levels, while South and West Torrance schools are getting less money from the state, and yet the parents work hard to raise money to supplement their children's education.

I also think that these debates would be better if residents or members of the audience could submit questions to the moderator during the forum.

* Disclaimer: I am endorsing Rick Marshall and Clint Paulson for Torrance School Board *


  1. Questions very specifically picked from the stack of questions to make sure the incumbents looked good!

  2. Uh, the West and South areas do not receive less money from the state. Title I funds are federal funds. All students of TUSD are given the same base grant amount. Supplemental grant funds are based upon populations of free, reduced lunch students, foster students, and English learners. The supplemental grant moneys are used at the discretion of the local school board and are not tied directly to students.Anyone vying for a school board seat need not know details of inner workings of school finance, but they should at least understand the basics of how it works. They should also know that as parents and community members they have the ability to give input in the LCAP. Have either Marshall or Paulson investigated to learn what LCFF is or what role they could have in it?