Mt. Empire Unified School District


The Mountain Empire Unified School District has six elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and four alternative schools.

Note from Jim Banks: My slate of candidates for the Mountain Empire Unified School District is Kamper, Stover, Banks, and Romero. We are all union supporters and oppose the fiscally conservative leadership that is currently running the district.

Jim Banks

Mountian Empire Unified School District, Board President

Area 1. - The Area 1 seat, representing Jacumba, has 299 registered voters.

  • Ralph Davis (R)
Davis, an inspector at Viejas Casino and a former Border Patrol agent, was a member of the board for 16 years until he was defeated in 2002 by Georgette Gallardo. Davis said he wouldn't be running for election if Gallardo had decided to run again.

Declining enrollment, he said, is due in part to some parents deciding to take their children to schools elsewhere.

“The best thing we can do for ourselves is to make this a desirable place,” he said.

Davis is a supporter of Judd, the superintendent, noting that test scores have gone up in recent years. From 2003 to 2006, Mountain Empire High School's Academic Performance Index score rose from 654 to 698.

“I like the present administration, I like the stability they bring,” he said. “It's good to come to work every day and know your boss well enough to know what they want.”

Davis also expressed concerns about a recent lawsuit against his opponent, Kamper, and the school district. The district paid $30,000 to the family of a 9-year-old girl who alleged Kamper inappropriately touched her while he was her math teacher. Kamper resigned from the district in June.

Kamper's resignation agreement requires him to quit all district committees and organizations, including his post as head of the teachers association.

Kamper did not respond to numerous calls and e-mails from a reporter.

(NOTE: Endorsed by SD County Republican Party)

  • Fred Kamper - No additional information

Area 3. - In Campo, with 847 voters

  • Kenneth Northcote (R - incumbent)
Northcote, who owns a 100-acre ranch in Campo, is being challenged by Romero, an audio-video technician. Northcote has been a board member for 12 years. He also supports Judd, saying that the superintendent has brought capable people to the district.

“He's been out in the schools and a positive role model,” Northcote said.

Northcote said the board needs to find ways to encourage students to attend school so that the district can increase state funding for attendance.

He said it is common for parents to take students out of school for a morning doctor's appointment – often a drive of 40 miles or more – then spend the rest of the day doing errands “in town.”

“The kid never comes back up the hill and we lose (average daily attendance),” Northcote said.

(NOTE: Endorsed by SD County Republican Party)

  • Rob Romero
Romero, a lifelong Campo resident, said he has been attending school board meetings for two years. He is not impressed by Judd, or the district's direction.

“For 20 years, our district has been going downhill,” he said.

Romero said he became concerned after the district cut back the woodshop classes enjoyed by his son, now an 18-year-old Grossmont College student.

Judd says the district is focusing more on academics and computer training.

But Romero is concerned. “They've got equipment in our woodshop that's 25 years old,” he said. “The basic needs of the students aren't being addressed.”

Area 4. - Lake Morena's 742 voters

  • Stover - a substance abuse counselor at the Rancho del Campo juvenile facility.
Stover favors offering students incentives for good attendance, such as movie passes or Disneyland tickets.

She said some parents are sending their children to schools outside the district because they aren't satisfied with Mountain Empire education.

“Just because you live out in the middle of nowhere doesn't mean your kids deserve less of an education,” she said. “You need to offer teachers a rate of pay that's comparable with other schools our size.”

A countywide survey of salaries for experienced teachers showed the Mountain Empire district at or near the bottom of the scale.

Stover said Judd had done some positive things, but questioned whether the board should have researched more candidates before hiring him.

“If he really wanted to work for the district, he would agree to a year-to-year contract,” she said.
  • Buchanan (R) - Buchanan, supervising park ranger at Lake Morena county park
Buchanan, who founded the fishing club at Mountain Empire Junior/Senior High School, wants to ask students what incentives would motivate them to go to school. He also favors offering incentives to teachers who do well.

Buchanan said he supports Judd.

“I think he's done a great job,” Buchanan said. “It's a better school now. People feel better about it.”

(NOTE: Endorsed by SD County Republican Party)

Area 5. - representing Potrero and Tecate, with 567 voters.

  • Nunez (R) - Deputy Sheriff Danny Nunez, did not return repeated phone calls from a reporter. (NOTE: Endorsed by SD County Republican Party)
  • Jim Banks
incumbent, Banks, voted not to extend Judd's contract. He believes the school district could do better for the $132,000 a year it pays the superintendent.

Judd is “average on everything. I don't settle for average,” Banks said.

Banks, who works with special-education students at the county Office of Education, said he wanted to encourage more parent involvement so more children attend schools.

“The parents would keep the kids here if the schools were better,” he said.
  • Hedlum - (Doesn't expect to be selected).

-- Raymond Lutz - 06 Nov 2006
Topic revision: r2 - 07 Nov 2006, RaymondLutz
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