“I want to continue to make our campuses safe for students,’ he said. “I’ve been revamping the safety plan and campus security by restructuring our internal school police and offering additional training. A nice, safe environment helps our children do better.’ Garcia believes the key to improving academic performance is to provide good after-school programs funded with help from private businesses. “It’s in the interest of the private forces to create the workers of the future,’ he said. “Families have no affordable after-school programs and are going home to a barrage of social pressures from peers, TV, movies, music. … The whole community should be geared toward academic learning.’ Mota said building more facilities and opening up existing ones to after-school youth groups will help reduce class sizes and offer a place for kids to go after school. “Right now some classes have 48-50 students,’ Mota said. “What happened to caps? It comes down to poor management. We have a great superintendent (Ed Velasquez), but he follows orders from the school board.’ Pam Wight can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029, or by e-mail at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! All five candidates vying for the three open seats on the Montebello Unified School District board have different ideas for how to raise students’ academic performance in the face of increasing budget constraints. Three incumbents Ed Chau, Hector Chacon and Gerri Guzman are campaigning to retain their seats against challengers Robert Mota and Richard Garcia. Montebello Unified is the third- largest school district in Los Angeles County and covers Bell Gardens, Commerce, Monterey Park, Pico Rivera, Rosemead, South San Gabriel, parts of Downey and a large part of East Los Angeles. Incumbents said Academic Performance Index (API) scores increased in 92 percent of the districts’ schools during the current board’s tenure, while raises were granted to staff even amid shrinking budgets, the incumbents point out. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Although only one school reported a state-level API minimum of 800, 26 out of 28 schools had improved test scores over last year’s results, said Chau. “I think we need to identify weaknesses and problem areas by looking at one school at a time, and address each one accordingly,’ he said. “Tutoring and after-school programs are a necessary part that we must allocate funds for.’ Guzman favors a holistic approach to academic performance, saying using a variety of experts could help identify specific problems. “To close the achievement gap, we need to spend more time looking closer at kids with language barriers and the child’s social environment,’ she said. “We want to create well- rounded children, which is a challenge when you have immigrant families with language issues and limited resources.’ Chacon said he wants to focus on the physical aspect of school campuses, as well as security, as ways to improve the learning environment.