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Two hope to fill Richard Jones’ seat on Lodi Unified School District board

George Neely, Dana Ann Baker running to represent Area 3

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Dana Ann Baker

George Neely

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 6:10 am, Tue Oct 12, 2010.

Both Dana Ann Baker and George Neely hope Lodi Unified School District voters want to see change.

The two candidates are vying for the Area 3 seat on the school board.

Incumbent Richard Jones decided not to run, despite filing the appropriate paperwork and paying hundreds in fees. Because of this, his name will still appear on the upcoming ballot.

Baker, who works as a senior lab technician at San Joaquin Delta College and serves as the school’s California School Employees Association president, decided to run because she believes there needs to be a change on the board. Even before Jones announced his withdrawal from the race, she said Neely had always been her biggest competition.

“I feel that because of my experience and the advocacy that I have done, I am a better candidate. I feel I am a very good leader. I’m known for that, and I don’t have a problem being transparent or (speaking) up,” Baker said this week. “If I win this election, I want to do so on my positive attributes.”

Neely is a native of the Stockton and Lodi areas and a product of Lodi schools. He is a retired military officer who has held two careers since leaving the armed forces.

“I have studied and practiced leadership my entire adult life and have received many awards for my accomplishments as a leader,” he said.

He currently teaches sixth grade at Oakwood Elementary School in North Stockton.

The candidate, known for declaring his intentions to run early and launching both a website and Facebook page to communicate with his peers, believes he is the best person for the board position. If elected, he said he will dedicate himself to returning the district to its previously touted stature, when living in Lodi Unified School District enhanced property values.

He also plans to redirect the focus of the board’s efforts from the district office to the classroom.

“Yes, I’ve spoken about the budgets publicly, but I have a lot of ideas about programs. I want to get us out of program improvement,” he said.

He also has a three-step plan to address test scores, including teaching students how to better take examinations.

“There are test-taking strategies, and we should have a districtwide program that starts students young. When you take a standardized test, you have to be aware of words like ‘always,’” he said.

As an advocate who regularly travels to Sacramento, Baker will continue to rally against education cuts, she said.

“Because of the way the funding has come down from Sacramento, I feel that there needs to be people on the board who know how to deal with budgets, especially related to the California school system,” she said, adding that the right candidate needs to know where to cut. “I’ve gone to many, many trainings from the Community College League and the Classified Leadership Institute, plus I sit on the planning and budget committee at Delta College.”

As the CSEA president, Baker also said she has to understand budgets, as well as union contracts and bargaining.

As for the budget, Neely thinks Lodi Unified is worse off than others in the area, partly because it has started new programs, then abandoned them.

“Administrators’ salaries are higher than average, and teachers’ salaries are lower than average,” he said, citing a recent study by Pepperdine University that included Lodi Unified.

He says he has the knowledge to change that.

“I know more about the financials than some of our board members,” he said, adding that he not only has background in business law, but he has scrutinized the district’s budget document for hours.

“I feel like I have more background than anyone else running, and I’m ready to do this job. I’m ready to step in right now,” he said.

He said he knows how the school board works, especially when it comes to open meeting laws, since he is the president of Lodi Library board.

Baker believes the local budget problems have been inherited from the state.

“We really need to make a change in Sacramento. Education has been cut over and over at the state level,” Baker said, adding that district cuts will not make everyone happy.

“You have to look at what will be in the best interest of the children. That’s what Lodi Unified is there to do, to teach these children,” she said.

Neely agreed and said trustees must restore education to the classroom and improve district office leadership.

He points toward the length of time it took for the teachers union and the district to come to a tentative labor agreement, and also believes the current board should not have approved Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer’s contract the way it was written, he said, adding that there were flaws in the process.

Neely is running because, he said, he’s put a lot of work into trying to get the elected officials to do what’s right.

“They continue down the same path. I decided when I couldn’t get the board to change, it was time to change the board. Bottom line is, I want to make a change,” he said.

Baker, who attended Lodi elementary schools but graduated from Calaveras High School, is endorsed by the Central Labor Council, local California State Education Association, the San Joaquin County Republican Party and Delta College trustee Janet Rivera.

Neely has received the support of the Lodi Education Association, as well as Congressman Jerry McNerney and the Democratic Central Committee of San Joaquin County.

Trustee Area 3 includes the following schools: Beckman Elementary, Borchardt Elementary, Nichols Elementary and Tokay High.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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  • Bob Silvano posted at 1:43 pm on Sun, Oct 24, 2010.

    Bob Silvano Posts: 145

    As I've asked George many times, unfortunately without a satisfactory answer, I'm still waiting ! I've asked you the same question I've asked George. How EXACTLY do you plan to solve the problems that Lodi Unified has to deal with now, and in the future? I'm impressed that you recognize the issues before you, but we all do. What we don't know is how you intend to solve these issues. I have no trust, at this point, in either one of you, as you are both pro union, and that automatically biases you toward the union position, which is never in the best interest of the public, or education. At least George attempted to give me an answer, which was nothing more than another position paper, but at least he attempted. Can you do any better? WHAT ARE THE EXACT SOLUTIONS YOU WILL APPLY TO SOLVE THE DISTRICT'S ISSUES ?

  • Bob Silvano posted at 6:50 pm on Tue, Oct 19, 2010.

    Bob Silvano Posts: 145

    Neither of these candidates will be representing the best interests of the voters, parents, and students of Lodi Unified. They will simply be providing the unions a puppet to be manipulated at their direction. I’ve asked George Neely many many times for his PLAN to bring the district back to the status it once held as one of the superior school districts in California. The only thing he has ever responded with is reiteration of the problems we all know exist, a position paper, or reference to his website, which he claims has all the answers, but in fact, only restates his position on the problems and provides NO answers whatsoever. Through this media, I would ask his opponent the same question. How EXACTLY do you plan to solve the problems affecting Lodi Unified? I don’t need nor want a position paper. I want to know what your solutions are. If you guys (sorry, generic reference only) REALLY have the answers, we would sure like to know what they are.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 7:41 pm on Thu, Oct 14, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    A leader should distance themselves from anything that even appears to be a conflict of interest
    I this situation is far more than an appearance of conflict of interest.

    To me, this is a conflict of interest because a union president’s interests are contrary to her loyalty to school board. Obviously, unions want money from the board. Dana, having many friends and relationships in the union itself, would have a conflict in making an independent decision especially if it adversely affected the union.

  • David Brown posted at 8:41 am on Thu, Oct 14, 2010.

    David Brown Posts: 4

    A leader should distance themselves from anything that even appears to be a conflict of interest. Being a member of a union or holding a job teaching may not be a conflict of interest or may be one that can be managed. In the grand scheme of things these are both relatively minor as compared to being active in union leadership but it is only a truly naïve leader who believes that they can ‘manage’ any conflict of interest. Mr. Neely intimately understands this and has made it clear to me on several occasions even before all the publicity started that he planned to resign as a teacher if he were to be elected. In order to establish confidence in LUSD again and turn around the current financial situation we need leadership at all levels who are 100% focused on nothing else besides the education of our children. There should be zero conflicts either real or perceived where LUSD leadership has a stake in any other organizations or activities that have financial ties to LUSD in any way. We need someone in place who will set those standards and enforce them throughout the rest of the LUSD leadership team.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 4:43 pm on Wed, Oct 13, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    I think Dana’s friend said it best. Dana's long time commitment to the Union is not a conflict of interest, but rather an experience that George Neely lacks. I am thankful that Mr Neely lacks that experience.
    Can you imagine the bias and favoritism Dana would give the union if Dana’s friend is correct?

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 4:38 pm on Wed, Oct 13, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Good point Linda, however, Mr. Neely has committed publically to resigning his position as teacher if elected, to avoid this conflict of interest and devote his full attention to making the relations between the union and school board more compatible . However, even if Dana resigned her teaching position, which she has not said she will, as president of a union, she is entrenched and is committed to the union in many ways.

  • Linda Kelso posted at 8:33 am on Wed, Oct 13, 2010.

    Linda Kelso Posts: 2

    It was mentioned that Dana had a conflict of interest because she is a member of CSEA.
    George also has a conflict of interest because he works at Oakwood Elementary School in LSU and I can only guess that he is a member of CTA.

  • Micah Muraoka posted at 5:19 pm on Tue, Oct 12, 2010.

    Micah Muraoka Posts: 8

    George and Dana both seem to have exceptional leadership experience; George's as a United States military officer, corporate executive, and classroom teacher, and Dana's as a community college union leader, and both seem to have a grasp of the need for change in the district's leadership, especially with regards to how money is spent. Surely, either one will bring an improvement to our school board!

    Since labor negotiations have been such an issue lately, I hope people don't forget that our school board members also guide how kids are taught in Lodi. We must choose a candidate who understands what works and what doesn't with the real kids in Lodi Unified.

    I worked with George Neely during his first permanent teaching position, and I watched him learn how to use his wide range of experiences toward teaching children. George took every imaginable district training, followed every district program, and met with every consultant, growing as a teacher at every point, but never blindly believing everything he was told. George Neely knows the programs used in our classrooms, and he knows what is a big waste of money. He knows this from the experience of teaching in Lodi Unified classrooms.

    Yes, leadership and financial responsibility are in need of improvement at the district level, but educational leadership, pointing our educational programs in the right direction and having the courage to stick with them, is also very important. While Dana Baker would surely be a good school board member, George Neely has the hands-on, in-the-trenches knowledge of the curriculum used to teach our kids. For Lodi Unified to improve, we need leaders like George Neely who have an in-depth understanding of how Lodi's kids are taught.

  • shelly reed posted at 3:11 pm on Tue, Oct 12, 2010.

    Shelly Reed Posts: 4

    The first time I saw Dana at a Lodi School Board meeting was in September.....How concern can she really be?

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 3:08 pm on Tue, Oct 12, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Follow up

    Linda and Sarah, I am sure that both Dana and George are good people with good hearts that have appropriate intentions to do the right thing. However, if given a choice of two quality people, and one has a conflict of interest and the other does not, it is more prudent and responsible to select the more neutral or independent person. You may disagree that Dana is not in a conflict of interest, but that defies common sense

  • David Brown posted at 2:53 pm on Tue, Oct 12, 2010.

    David Brown Posts: 4

    I have never been that involved in politics; especially at the local level but now that my daughter is 7 years old and attending Reese school I have been forced to take a hard look at these issues. It absolutely kills me that our kids and the people who are directly responsible for teaching them don't have basic resources such as construction paper.

    I am a business owner and we work with hundreds of companies across the United States on improving their operations; our education system is the most important business in the world. At the core of running an effective business is putting resources at the ground level where they are needed; especially in tight economic times. At the heart of good leadership is making sacrifices and truly leading people by example.

    As a manager in someone else’s business and as a business owner I’ve consistently made sacrifices when times were tough in order for my team to have the necessary resources. Those same traits should apply but even more so in the public sector; especially in education and the military. From my vantage point these seem to be sorely lacking in the Lodi school system yet I see lots of energy at the classroom level. In the myriad of businesses that we manage this problem is always solved by a change in leadership; not by the consistent cutting of resources at the field level.

    George Neely seems to be the only candidate that brings together the selflessness of serving in the military as an officer, operating in a senior level position in one of the best-run businesses of our times (GE) then actively choosing to be a teacher. I’ve talked extensively with him and his plans make sense from both a business and leadership standpoint. We need to tighten the belt in every painful way possible and put as many resources into the classrooms as possible. My belief is that only someone who is use to making tough decisions will be able to execute effectively.

  • David Brown posted at 2:52 pm on Tue, Oct 12, 2010.

    David Brown Posts: 4

    I have never been that involved in politics; especially at the local level but now that my daughter is 7 years old and attending Reese school I have been forced to take a hard look at these issues. It absolutely kills me that our kids and the people who are directly responsible for teaching them don't have basic resources such as construction paper. I am a business owner and we work with hundreds of companies across the United States. At the core of running an effective business is putting resources at the ground level where they are needed; especially in tight economic times.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 2:40 pm on Tue, Oct 12, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    This is blatant conflict of interest. If this is not, then conflict of interest does not exist.
    The union is in a position of getting all they can get from the board. The board gets its funding from the tax payer. The board has an obligation to the tax payer to be a good steward of the tax dollars it spends. She has developed friends and relationships with many union reps and sees the union as a reasonable and essential entity. Many tax payers see the union as an irresponsible and selfish entity that enriches its members at the expense of the tax payer and student’s welfare. According to Sarah Foster, in defending Dana Baker, George Neely lacks experience and commitment to the union as opposed to Dana Baker, who is committed to the union.
    I can think of no better reason to support George Neely who will have a more independent perspective and serve all parties objectively in comparison.

  • Linda Kelso posted at 11:10 am on Tue, Oct 12, 2010.

    Linda Kelso Posts: 2

    Knowing Dana and her family, she would make fair decisions for the District. I've worked with her at Delta College in many capacities and she always looks at all sides before making a decision. She will work with the current Board members to address difficult issues facing the District with conflicts of interest.
    Dana is the Lady for the JOB.

  • Sarah Foster posted at 10:34 am on Tue, Oct 12, 2010.

    Sarah Foster Posts: 1

    As a good friend and colleague of Dana Baker, I believe she would be an ideal Trustee knowing that she is fair and can make intelligent decisions. Her long time commitment to the Union is not a conflict of interest, but rather an experience that George Neely lacks. Dana is committed to helping her community. Dana’s Union work has only strengthened her and she will not let you down! DANA FOR LODI SCHOOLS!!!!!!!!

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:32 am on Tue, Oct 12, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Sigh, groan,… oh my! As the CSEA president, Baker is the ideal candidate to represent the interest of the union. Conflict of interest speaks loudly here than with George. George Neely is looking better by the second.



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