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Two new school board members prepare for office

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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For Kris Wyatt and Damian Armitage, the culmination of their campaign efforts has led up to Tuesday. That’s because they start their four-year terms as Western Placer Unified School District school board members that night. Wyatt and Armitage will replace current board members Ana Stevenson and Terry Gage, who end their terms as school board members that night. Stevenson has been on the school board since November 2006 and Gage since March 2009. The News Messenger talked to the two new school board members about what they’re looking forward to and how they are preparing for their new roles. Wyatt said she is looking forward “to serving both the community and the school district that has served me so well.” “It’s kind of my time to give back and promote Western Placer,” Wyatt said. “We have a quality education going on in Lincoln and it seems lots of times to be overlooked.” Wyatt had worked in the district as a teacher and counselor for 37 years. One aspect of her new role she’s not happy about is working on the district’s budget. Wyatt said she’s “been looking through budget information” given out by the district and plans to speak with district administrators to learn more about “how they see the budget.” “Since Measure J didn’t pass, we’re really going to have to look at maintaining our schools,” Wyatt said. “We’re going to have to look at what needs to be done and not what we want to be done, and reach out to different organizations and look at different grants.” Measure J was a $163 million school bond that failed in the recent election. Wyatt said she’s already been approached by residents in places such as the grocery store, who have shared concerns with her. “My ears are wide open and I’m willing to listen to people,” Wyatt said. Armitage said he is “looking forward to being involved and making a difference for students and families in the community.” “I hope to bring to the board fresh ideas that will help get the district though the next several years in good financial health,” Armitage said. Seeing a new elementary school at Lincoln Crossing is high on Armitage’s priority list. That new school would “accommodate both students that are currently being bussed to schools away from their neighborhoods and also new families moving into the district,” according to Armitage. Armitage said he has prepared for being on the school board by reviewing the district’s budget, employment contracts and board bylaws. “There’s no doubt that budget cuts will need to be made. In order for the district to maintain its financial health with moderate reserves, I will expect to see an appropriate level of salary and benefit concessions,” Armitage said. “It is my hope that most cuts will come from discretionary items that affect the classrooms the least.” Stevenson and Gage had words of advice for their successors. “There’s a lot to learn and education is changing so fast, that in order to make informed decisions based on all of this really specialized information, they really have to do their homework,” Stevenson said. “If they can go to a training workshop or conference early in their term, it helps to get an overview of their duties.” Stevenson also said Wyatt and Armitage should “ask lots of questions and don’t try to micromanage.” “Approach all items with an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask questions until you understand something,” Gage said. “I wish them the best of luck.”