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November 8, 2016 — California General Election
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Vista Unified School DistrictCandidate for Trustee, Trustee Area 1

Photo of Elizabeth Jaka

Elizabeth Jaka

Trustee, Vista Unified School District
3,641 votes (37.16%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Expand and accelerate our efforts to provide students with a quality, well-rounded education, assuring that students are proficient in reading, writing and mathematics.
  • Continue developing student appropriate pathways to ensure that they graduate from high school prepared for college and/or career.
  • Make sure our students receive all the tools and support they need so that they become successful, contributors and supporters of our community as a whole.



Profession:Board of Education Trustee and Community Volunteer
President, San Diego County School Boards Association — Elected position (2016–current)
Region 17 Delegate, California School Boards Association — Elected position (2013–current)
Governing Board Member, Vista Unified School District Board of Trustees — Elected position (2008–current)
President, Kiwanis Club of Sunrise Vista — Elected position (2015–2016)
Chair, VUSD District Parent Advisory Committee — Elected position (2002–2008)
Owner/Operator, Teddy Bears' Picinic Licensed Home Childcare (1988–1995)
Office Services Manage, Sentra Securities (1983–1988)
Sales Representative/Office Manager, Central Distributors (1981–1983)
Sales - Assistant Area Manager, Sears Roebuck Westwood - Houston (1973–1981)

Community Activities

Member, San Diego North County Safe Routes to School Committee (2013–current)
Board Member Representative, North Coastal Coalition for Special Education (2009–current)
Member & Chairperson (2002-2008), VUSD District Parent Advisory Council (2001–2008)

Who supports this candidate?

Elected Officials (5)

  • Rich Alderson Trustee, Vista Unified School District
  • John Aguilera Vista City Council Member
  • Mark Anderson San Diego County Office of Education
  • Carol Herrera Trustee, Vista Unified School District
  • Angela Chunka Trustee, Vista Unified School District

Individuals (2)

  • Joe Green Realtor & Candidate for Vista City Council
  • Ron Briseno Manager Vista Entertainment Center, Community Service Advocate

Questions & Answers

Questions from League of Women Voters of California Education Fund (1)

A recent law made major changes in the way that the state allocates funding to schools. What will you do to ensure that the public understands your local control formula for school spending and your plan to measure outcomes?
Answer from Elizabeth Jaka:

Well before the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) took effect, our district actively pursued parent and community involvement in guiding our decision-making process. We used community forums to reach out and find out what people wanted education to look like for our students.

We continue to hold regular community forums and reach out to anyone who might be interested in having a voice in our district. This process includes requests for input on the LCFF. We also have a committee made up of community members, parents, students, teachers, classified staff and administrators. The LCFF committee reviews the information that comes in and sets the direction of our spending. We share information on our website and in the local online paper to reach as many people as possible. We are recognized as one of the most proactive districts for our efforts.

We began making changes in outreach and planning about four years. As part of the process, we developed a Blueprint program that allows us to create materials that can be shared at PTA, DELAC (District English Learner Advisory Council), Chamber of Commerce and community outreach events. We also regularly open surveys to anyone interested in participating. We want to gauge their understanding of the process, and ask for additional input. In speaking with representatives from other districts, I know that our outreach is more successful than many others in drawing in participants.


I believe we are already on the right track. I want to continue what we’re currently doing, and expand our efforts where we can. We still sometimes find pockets of people who don’t know what LCFF and the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) are and it’s important to make sure everyone is informed. 

Questions from League of Women Voters of North County San Diego (1)

What is the most significant challenge facing the Vista Unified School District, and if you are elected, what steps will you take to address it?
Answer from Elizabeth Jaka:

A large percentage of our students cannot read at grade level. This is not a new problem, but it is one that has been difficult to resolve. We have eliminated expensive, ineffective programs. We updated our technology and in the process provided teachers with a variety of tools to help teach reading. We have made some progress, but we need to move faster.

The biggest key for teaching reading is to hire quality teachers. Fortunately, with recent changes in the district, we’ve had far more teachers apply to work here. Having a good pool of candidates makes it easier to hire the best.

Training for all teachers would be the next step. Some things don’t change when it comes to teaching reading, but tools and programs do. We provide training through a variety of sources, including regular Professional Development, mentor teachers and opportunities for teachers to get together to share what’s working and where they’re struggling.

Finally, I will push for the selection of a few successful reading programs. We went from one, lock-step way of doing things to an overabundance of options. Teachers are picking and choosing from a variety of choices and in the process, continuity is being lost. The answer is somewhere in-between. Now that we’ve had a chance to test out the different programs available, it’s time to focus on one or two programs appropriate for each grade level.


We face similar problems in the area of math. In math, continuity from one grade level to the next is critical for student success. If a child doesn’t learn what they should in second grade, they will not be prepared for the next steps in third grade. The process to improve in this area will be to make sure that teachers have the tools and programs they need so that each grade level is teaching the appropriate steps to prepare students for the next. 

Political Beliefs

Position Papers

Student Success-


We are in the business of educating children and we have an obligation to do it well. The programs we have put in place are just now beginning to take effect and as a result we are seeing higher graduation and attendance rates and rising test scores. 

Our number one job is student success. We must ensure that our students can read and write and that they are proficient in mathematics. We must also ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and career.

To make this happen, we have to focus on the basics from the start. High quality teachers supported with successful programs, dedicated staff and effective tools are the pieces we must have in place to teach anything. Reading is the starting point, the foundation for all other learning, so our primary focus begins with building reading skills.  

In recent years we eliminated the one-size-fits-all programs that were in place. One size definitely does not fit all. Every child is different and successful education requires a multi-pronged approach to reach the whole child.

Our district has initiated a variety of programs to serve students. We have brought the arts back to the schools because studies continue to show that the brains of children grow faster when exposed to the arts. Different disciplines in the arts have been linked to better learning, as well as the development of soft skills such as teamwork, self-discipline and creative thinking.

We have created Personal Learning Challenge schools. These schools are not only doing a good job of keeping kids in the classroom, but they’re keeping those kids engaged in learning. Kids who are in the classroom and interested in learning will be more successful students. The Personal Learning Challenge has garnered state and national awards for our district, and is attracting international attention and visitors.

It has taken time, but we have deconstructed the ineffective practices that the district was using. We have updated equipment, hired new teachers and support staff and focused on giving our students the best education possible.

 It takes 4 to 6 years for a superintendent’s programs to begin to take effect and show progress. Our present superintendent has only held the position for four years, so we are just starting to see results. It’s important that we give the current practices time to fully develop.


School boards do not decide what programs are used or what staff to hire. We do set policy for the district. We can support the efforts of the superintendent and staff, or we can throw up roadblocks and impede their efforts. We need to continue to support current efforts to make education effective for all of our students. 

Fiscal Responsiblity


We are charged with keeping the district on solid financial footing, while ensuring that funds are spent effectively on behalf of our students. 

From 2008 to 2012 we faced a devastating budget crisis. We had to work through multiple budget cuts to keep our district solvent. This was a very difficult process that involved balancing the needs of everyone involved, while keeping the primary focus on educating our kids. We faced this crisis with fewer layoffs while still maintaining smaller class sizes than most similar districts. We were able to meet our financial obligations and keep a Positive rating for the district at a time when many districts were Qualified (possibly not able to meet obligations) and Negative (deemed unable to meet obligations). When the budget crisis ended and funding began to come back to the district, we were able to hire new teachers, reduce class sizes and give staff a raise while some districts were still struggling to get back to a Positive ranking. 

Our budget is $240M this year. By law, we have a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) that is developed by members of the community, parents, students, teachers, classified staff and administrators. They work with the state mandates to address focus areas and make sure that we are meeting the needs of our students. We finish fine-tuning the budget and then send it to the county and the state for review. The county looks at the budget to make sure we will have the funds available to meet the obligations. The state looks at it to make sure we are addressing the issues and mandates set forth by the states Local Control Funding Formula. 

We continue to use caution in handling district funds. We have accessed outside agencies and programs to update our technology and provide training through donations and grants. This leaves more of our funds free to use for other expenses in the district. We also have a reserve for any future budget crisis because we know there will be one. That reserve has several different components. Most of the money has to be used in designated areas, such as facilities or for specialty groups, but it's there to cover emergencies. It's also important to note that this is not money in the bank. It's money that the district expects to receive over the next fiscal year. 

I believe we must continue to use caution in setting our budget, to make sure we use funds in a way that best serves our students. It requires analysis and study every year and includes review and adjustment throughout the year. Every step must include the question: "What's best for our students?"

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