Incumbent Gloria Mercado-Fortine and challenger Linda Storli fielded questions Saturday from journalists Saturday as KHTS AM-1220, SCVTV, The Signal and Cougar News hosted a candidate forum for the William S. Hart Union High School District Trustee Area 1 seat.
The forum will be televised beginning this week and will run through the Nov. 3 election on SCVTV (Time Warner Channel 20, AT&T U-verse 99, and online 24/7 at SCVTV.com).
The trustee area includes Castaic, Val Verde and parts of Valencia and Tesoro del Valle.
Moderated by Leon Worden, president and CEO of SCVTV, the forum started off with a 90-second opening statement from each candidate.
Storli was a teacher at Canyon High School for 30 years, “I left a job that I loved every single day so I could serve on the school board.”
“I’m a teacher that has seen decisions made in the board room, not always work in the classroom,” Storli said. “I’m a working realtor, I’m a classroom teacher that, when I work, or in the classroom, deadlines are not suggestions, cheating is never tolerated, bullying was never allowed and that’s the ethic that I will bring to the board.”
Mercado-Fortine has been on the Hart School District governing board for 16 years.
“We are a big district, a little under 23,000 students and with a budget of over $200 million. We have a $300 million-plus school bond measure and it takes a lot of experience and understanding of school finance and understanding of how to roll out these projects,” said Mercado-Fortine. “Much has been accomplished and there’s so much more to do.”
With many of the questions asked, there was mutuality between the two candidates.
For example, Storli and Mercado-Fortine both said they did not agree with the district’s new trustee area voting system.
Mercado-Fortine voted against the change in the district’s voting system.
“I really felt, personally, that it took away the rights of voters to be able to vote for whom they wanted. I think that really eliminates their voters options,” said Mercado-Fortine. “Regardless of trustee areas, I represent all students across this valley.”
Although Storli agreed that the change to the voting system was unnecessary, she said she did not agree with Mercado-Fortine’s decision to vote against the change to the voting system.
The district’s previous at-large voting system put the district at risk for the California Voting Rights Act lawsuit, which could have cost the district “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Storli.
The candidates were also allowed to ask each other one question near the end of the forum.
“In my 16 years of being on and running for election, I’ve never received a hit piece on a candidate,” said Mercado-Fortine. “My question is why would you do that as a teacher and a role model for students, why would you do that.”
Storli responded to Mercado-Fortine’s question by saying, “the piece you’re talking about is only a hit piece if it’s not true.”
Storli then said she opened up her personnel file to the public, “would you like to open up your personnel file and have people see how your teaching career ended?”
Mercado-Fortine responded to the question by saying she retired “with distinction.”
The Hart School District governing board election for both Trustee Area 1 and 4 will take place on Nov. 3, 2015.
Trustee Area 4 incumbent Steve Sturgeon is being challenged by Andrew Taban in the November election, as well.