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WVUSD Candidate Q and A: Sean Monemi

Walnut Valley Unified school board candidates answer questions from Patch.

Photo courtesy of Sean Monemi
Photo courtesy of Sean Monemi
Walnut Valley Unified School Board Candidate Questions

Name: Sean Monemi

Age: 56

Occupation:  Professor

1.    Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background and why you should be elected or reelected to the Walnut Valley Unified School District Board of Education. 

Hello, my name is Sean Monemi and I’m a Tenured Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cal Poly Pomona. I received my Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.   My family and I have been a proud, caring, and responsible resident of Walnut for more than 12 years and our two children currently attend elementary school in the WVUSD.

I am running for WVUSD school board because I believe in high academic standards and school accountability. I will work hard to ensure that our school district continues to improve test scores and that every dollar benefits our children’s education.  I will continue to work very hard to expand our public and private partnerships to promote technology based education. 

My knowledge and experience in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as a longtime university professor (Ph.D. in Electrical & Computer Engineering) and my involvement as a Senator member of the Academic Senate in California State University overseeing 23 different universities, has prepared me to establish solid shared governance in decision-making process by all. I am very familiar with course and curriculum design. I am very eager and qualified to provide responsive leadership on the School Board. I will insure that our student achievement remains our highest priority by working collaboratively with parents, teachers, staff and board members.  Please refer to my website at: www.seanmonemi.com

2.    What do you see as the primary role of the school board? 

To have a vision, and set goals and direction for the school district, nurture quality instruction, highest student achievement, and continually monitor goals toward that vision.  

To implement policies that improves educational offerings and programs for children and maintain fiscal control.  The school board is accountable for ensuring responsible spending practices. 

The school board members are elected to represent and be responsive to the needs of our students, parents, teachers, staff, families, and community.

3.    One key thing school board members are tasked with is voting on budgets and making sure the district is spending wisely. What kind of experience do you have working with budgets? 

I hold a combined leadership and management position for over 25 years in Industry and academia. 

In Industry, I worked for one the largest power company (TVA/NES) as the supervisor.  I was responsible for a complex budget creation and allocation for a large section. 

In Academia, as the former department chair I was managing the budget for a very large department with over 40 faculty and 1500 students.  In result, I understand the necessity to allocate and spend all available fund wisely. 

4.    If elected or re-elected to the board, what will be your top 3 priorities for the upcoming term?

-       To promote fiscal transparency and responsible budgets based on laws and facts.  A well balanced allocation of funds among all entities of the district. 

-       To provide our students with quality education, critical thinking, offering a rich and innovative curriculum to include STEM and arts.

-       To provide safe, modernized campuses, improved counseling,  and increase transfer rate to universities, career opportunities, and better communication with parents 

5.    What are your thoughts on WVUSD’s District of Choice Program? Do you support it? If so, why? If no, why not?

The Walnut School District is nationally recognized as one the best in education and among the Distinguished and National Blue Ribbon Schools. This recognition must be preserved.   In my opinion, WVUSD as the District of Choice could offer benefits to a community that seeks high quality education.  The children who live in the district should always have the first choice.  As enrollment declines, the district may seek alternative solutions until enrollment grows back to normal. 

6.    Do you have any specific changes you want to make in school district policies, programs, or the various school curricula being offered? If so, what changes do you want to make and why?

I have already began to look into our school polices since I am a parent of two kids currently enrolled in WVUSD.  I continually communicate with other parents and I am well aware of some issues and needs.  Our kid’s safety in school is number one on my list.  Proper student counseling can eliminate some future problems.  Various school curricula must be reviewed and updated periodically.  A balanced food, proper gymnasium, modern classroom equipped with adequate technology is a must.   Teachers must be rewarded for their endless work. Staff must be recognized for their hard work.   Hopefully, after I become a Board member, I will have a chance to review all related school policies.

7.    School districts, including WVUSD, are rolling out new standards known as common core.  What are your thoughts on common core? What are some key issues, if any, you see with implementing it? 

In my opinion, adoption of the Common Core Standards could be a plus for California students and families.  Having a pilot program in place could be a clear signal of what it takes to be ready for college and other career as well as what it will take to make it happen.  This new standards for Mathematics and English, will better prepare students for college level academics, and ultimately, will speed their progress to a college degree.   

Transition to common core are as follows: awareness and dissemination (building readiness), Transition (moving to the new standards), Implementation (making meaning), Transformation (changing teaching and learning).  This transition will include teacher’s training and readiness, new materials, and parental involvements. 

This new implementation will also present some exciting challenges and opportunities to our district.  The state has allocated funding for common core standards in some specific areas such as: Technology in classrooms, professional development, curriculum and instructional materials.  The full implementation of K-12 Common Core Standards is expected by 2014-15.

8.    What are your thoughts on how the district’s test scores are trending year to year? How important of a measure do you feel test scores are in determining student achievement? How important do you think they are in evaluating teacher performance?

Historically, the students of WVUSD scores well in testing such as API of 908 for this year, and similar scores in prior years, which we are very proud of.  This credit goes to students, teachers and parents. However, assessment of a program or evaluation of a teacher is a complex process and entirely two separate issues.  The performance indicators must be known in each area so that we know what to measure and what to assess.  Having the proper rubrics designed will aid to an accurate assessment.  The assessment is an ongoing process and the results must be perfected from year to year with lessons learned to close the loop.  Test scores may not always be the best indicator of performance for both students and teachers.  It should be noted that standardized tests cannot evaluate all skills such as critical thinking or teacher’s performance. 

9.    The WVUSD recently hired a new superintendent. What do you think the board’s role is in working with a superintendent? 

The superintendent oversees and directs the district's educational objectives.   The superintendent must ensure that the board is informed of all district operations and activities.

The superintendent and board must communicate effectively about all the needs of the district.  The main focus must be on student learning and achievement.

There should be a structured process in place to check and balance the successful operation of district lead by the superintendent, and closely monitored by the board, working collectively towards the common goals and vision.

10.  What are your thoughts on the importance of parental involvement in helping students achieve. How will you engage the community to improve public schools in the district?

As a parent of two kids currently enrolled in WVUSD, I understand and encourage the involvement of parent in helping students’ achievement.  The day starts with student and teacher and it will end with student and parent.  Parental involvement is one of the most important factors in educating our children.

We must encourage and provide a dialogue with parents, teachers, board, and others to discuss student’s progress, issues, and initiate creative activities, programs and other services with parent participation.    Parents should be able to voice their opinions, be heard by authorities and be provided with solutions. 

As a teacher at Cal Poly Pomona, I am in classroom every day, working with students and monitoring their progress.  Students are conducting great research and projects with me in the areas of power, energy, smart grid, and renewables.  We work very closely with industry and government agencies such as Southern California Edison, Microsoft, Department of Energy, National Security Agency, Air Force, etc. 

I encourage the early involvement of high school students with colleges. This will help our children to make a calculated decision for selecting the proper college career path when they are ready to transfer to college.  I advise and present new student orientation for our new freshman students.

Michael October 20, 2013 at 05:35 PM
I met Sean this afternoon and he's addressed my issues. He is the ONLY one I am voting for. He has two young children in Walnut schools so he KNOWS the issues.
Yokozuna October 21, 2013 at 11:22 AM
I like Mr. Monemi's statement on DOC with priorities for student's who live in the district but his endorsement by big labor (LA Co. Fed of Labor - AFL/CIO) indicates trouble.
Concerned Parent October 21, 2013 at 06:53 PM
Our family is voting for Sean, plus our friends from WHS are voting for him. It is time to change things in our district, especially at WHS, which is going down fast like water in the toilet!
alan haskvitz October 21, 2013 at 07:53 PM
I totally support Mr. Monemi. I find the endorsement by a labor union has no bearing on his qualifications for leadership just as I don't think that endorsements by ultraconservative groups adds value. We have lost school days in the past while millions have gone to consultants and even paying for two superintendents at the same time. Do your research and vote intelligently and independently.
Yokozuna October 21, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Yes Alan, the key word is independently. When one is endorsed by big labor you can bet where the independence went. I think the voters in Walnut and Diamond Bar understand this clearly.
Pedro Romero October 23, 2013 at 02:46 AM
If you have any concerns with the word "independently" vote for Cindy Ruiz as she believes in academic excellence for all students.
alan haskvitz October 23, 2013 at 04:00 PM
Pedro, which candidates don't believe in excellence for all students? And, which responses did you find justified your vote? Your stressing the word, "independently" makes me wonder how you would vote for a candidate who accepts money from a political action group or company. How would those endorsements impact your decision making process. I strongly support Sean and I hope those who know me shall share my feelings. I am not against anyone. I am in favor of Sean based on his qualifications and the fact he HAS children in the district.
Scott Bui October 23, 2013 at 04:39 PM
All I care about is how Walnut schools are getting the short end of the stick. Diamond Bar HS is getting a new AQUATIC Center, while Chaparral MS has a new 14 classroom Science Building. Look at Suzanne MS...they have NO GYM for the past 2 decades while the other 2 Middle Schools (Chaparral and South Pointe) have a Basketball Gymnasium and Tennis Courts. I went to the School Board Meeting 4 weeks ago to voice my concerns on behalf of the Suzanne MS Parents who have kids at the school. The kids are playing on a blackcourt top with uneven surfaces where ACL/Concussion has occurred along with sprained ankles. It seems to me that the majority of the Board resides in Diamond Bar and not in Walnut. Walnut is becoming INSIGNIFICANT because of the large immigrant population that are moving in that are UNABLE TO VOTE because they are not U.S. Citizens. We as WALNUT citizens need to stand up and say enough is enough.
alan haskvitz October 23, 2013 at 05:42 PM
Scott, you raise many good points. I only hope the voters do their homework. I believe some are caught up in the conservative-liberal debate and instead should look at the facts. Thanks for your insights.
FormerWalnutHighStudent October 25, 2013 at 05:20 AM
Mr. Haskavitz, glad to hear you voicing your opinion. As a former student of yours, I know that your thoughts come from sound facts. It's no surprise you were such a wonderful teacher who has won numerous awards! I hope you've been doing well! Tell everyone @ Suzzane I say hello!!! :) Citizens of walnut, it's time to implement change into our schools. Walnut is a very affluent community that prides itself on the serene nature of the town, as well as the fantastic school district. Thanks to the affluence of our citizens, in conjunction with the high value of homes, WVUSD gets a larger amount of funds than other districts. The online Encyclopedia states, "The average household income was $106, 996. The median home value was $664, 662" (Wikipedia). The tax dollars that the schools receives from the plethora of multimillion dollar homes in Walnut has given WVUSD a lot of money. However, where is this money going? These funds are not being redistributed to our schools, clearly. Current members of the board (who for my own class and dignity will not mention, though they were mentioned above...) have allocated our tax dollars into corporations. What kind of nonsense is this? WVUSD needs to budget their money properly... Hear me out: Walnut elementary is in portables, as is Suzzane? Suzzane has been in TEMPORARY portables for what now, 10 years? The mansions that lay upon the degraded soil of hills of Lemon. Those homes are selling for over 2 million, according to local listings (Trulia and Redfin). Now calculate the taxes for those properties?? Please do your facts, and get involved in your community. While it is understand that Walnut does have a recent influx of citizens who are unable to vote, it is important fore those who have the given right to vote to make decisions that will benefit your children, as well as theirs. Jump out of the politics of things, and realize this is to aid children in the WVUSD; to give children in all schools an education that others may never have had. As a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona Sean is able to directly connect with educations and students. He will make all of the funds that the district receives will go towards towards the implementation of great programs, funds, and activities. Vote Sean Monemi!
shazaam October 26, 2013 at 01:10 AM
Cindy Ruiz lives in West Covina as stated on the daily bulletin, therefore she does not qualify to run for WVUSD board. How did she get away with this? I believe that you have to be a resident within the district to run for school board. http://www.dailybulletin.com/government-and-politics/20131018/four-candidates-running-for-walnut-valley-unified-board Melanie Johnson- homework for you?
FormerWalnutHighStudent October 26, 2013 at 02:01 AM
A certain part of West Covina is zoned for WVUSD...
shazaam October 26, 2013 at 09:45 AM
I just did a search on the zoning.. It looks like it extends just a hair into West Covina on the west side of Walnut. If a student lives in West Covina, but attends one of the schools in Walnut, I sure hope their parents are paying their property tax into Walnut Valley District.
Yokozuna November 08, 2013 at 01:12 PM
Can the supporters of this candidate tell him to pick up his signs.
alan haskvitz November 08, 2013 at 01:21 PM
I believe that goes for all candidates.
Yokozuna November 08, 2013 at 01:59 PM
True but all are gone except for Monemi.
Yokozuna November 08, 2013 at 02:09 PM
In south DB that is.
Vito Spago November 08, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Monemi is likely still recovering from a hangover. He should realize he is the wrong race for this area to be successful. Also Cal Poly Pomona is essentially a technical junior college. Move to Berkeley and work for a real school: UC Berkeley if you have any brains, whatever. Walnut voters are idiots and 'small potatoes'. They are not worth the trouble and would not be any loss extinguished in a nuclear blast or more likely an Obama food stamp riot.
Ray Russell November 09, 2013 at 02:18 PM
Wow Vito, another mindless rant !
Vito Spago November 09, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Ray: Glad you like my post. I always try to impress. I should not be surprised by the vote. I mean the US elected Obama President and he has not accomplished one thing in his 5 years of being President other than successfully lying to the American people. Even his borderline accomplishment of Obamacare has only succeeded in canceling the insurance of millions of people and signing up only a few. You can thank the low information voter for this. Too busy watching DWTS and believing the 'everything is wonderful' media. Also Do you realize that Obama was WITHIN HOURS OF GOING TO WAR WITH SYRIA!!!. Only Putin was able to bring Obama to reason with an Obvious solution: have Syria dismantle its Chemical weapons. Was Obama too stupid to think of this. YES!
Melanie C. Johnson (Editor) November 09, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Comments are getting off topic. Please keep your comments related to the article.
Vito Spago November 09, 2013 at 10:31 PM
Sorry. My point is that the public is generally not intelligent when it comes to voting for individuals for public office. The public votes in who it thinks are the best candidates only to see outcomes that are not as expected. I am just citing examples.

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