Top of Jefferson agenda: leasing

Long-term leases of district property could pave the way to improved finances for almost 7,000 students enrolled at elementary schools in Daly City, Colma, Pacifica and Broadmoor Village, according to four candidates for the school district’s governing board.

The candidates, who are vying for two seats in this year’s Jefferson Elementary School District race, all agree that leasing, rather than selling, some of the properties to long-term users would be a better move to generate revenue for the district. Annette Hipona is the only incumbent in the race, looking to retain the seat she won in 2003.

“I think it would be good to keep the properties as an asset for the school district and lease them out,” said hopeful Hitomi Benedetti, a real estate consultant whose children are just now entering the school district.

The leasing of properties — including Christopher Columbus School and some of the field at Daniel Webster Elementary — would help the district avoid the need for a parcel tax, an idea that divides the candidates. Hipona and Benedetti said a parcel tax was not the right option — and a tough sell — for the district, while candidate Adam Duran said they should not rule it out as a possible funding source.

Parent-Teacher Association Parliamentarian Jonathan Trawinski, another candidate, said that if the public is asked to pay for the district, it should be at a simple flat rate to avoid overtaxing seniors and low-income residents on fixed incomes.

That funding could help attract and retain teachers, a battle being fought along the Peninsula as housing prices continue to soar. Trawinski said that along with increasing teacher pay, salaries for administrators need to be adjusted to close the gap.

“If you don’t have enough money to pay the ones who are next to the children in the classrooms, it does you no good in front of the teacher’s unions when you then give raises to the higher-ups,” Hipona said.

Hipona said the board should take a more proactive role in working with its communities to tackle problems that indirectly affect the district, such as lack of affordable housing and better integration with changing demographics.

But Duran, a Foster City preschool teacher, said the board’s focus needs to be first and foremost on education, including the integration of foreign-language programs to prepare students for college admission requirements.

Hitomi Benedetti

» Age: 37

» Occupation: Real estate consultant

» Time in district: More than 30 years

» Board experience: None

» Children: Two

Adam Duran

» Age: 33

» Occupation: Preschool teacher

» Time in district: Daly City native

» Board experience: None

» Children: Three

Annette Hipona

» Age: 45

» Occupation: Family-owned auto-body shop; incumbent

» Time in district: Lifelong Daly City resident

» Board experience: Four years

» Children: Three

Jonathan Trawinski

» Age: 43

» Occupation: Engineer

» Time in district: Six years

» Board experience: None

» Children: Two

jgoldman@examiner.com

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