Conejo Valley Unified School District school board candidate Tony Dolz spends some time with his daughter, Sienna, 7, at Conejo Community Park on Oct. 9. Dolz is seeking a seat on the CVUSD Board of Education.

Born in Cuba, Dolz came to the United States with his family when he was 14. Dolz, who runs an online business selling homeopathic remedies, wants to represent the parents of private, charter, public and home schooling families on the school board. – IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers

Fleeing Cuba’s Communist dictatorship in 1961 taught Tony Dolz to cherish individual freedom, he says.

He and his family left the country hidden on a Swedish cargo ship headed for Miami Beach, Fla., after his father received death threats for opposing the regime.
“Some people when they spoke out were put in prison for 30 years,” said Dolz, who was 14 when he escaped. “At the time I did not understand that people are born free – but I knew in my heard that individual freedom is not negotiable.”

The candidate for the Conejo Valley Unified School District Board of Education said he has a right to choose what his children read at school. Dolz, whose daughter attends Weathersfield Elementary and whose son attends Los Cerritos Middle School in Thousand Oaks, decided to run for the school board after the current trustees voted in February to approve “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini as an option on 12th-grade reading lists. A large percentage of 12 graders do not reach 18 years of age and are therefore the responsibility of their parents.  The award-winning novel had been requested by teachers from Thousand Oaks, Westlake and Newbury Park high schools, but not by the parents.

He agreed with trustee Mike Dunn, who voted to exclude the book from classrooms because it depicts the rape of a child.

If the candidate unseats Betsy Connolly or Peggy Buckles, both running for reelection in the Nov. 6 election, Dolz said, he would ask parents to participate in the book selection process.
“What I’m objecting to is that the board has decided on controversial books without consulting with parents. Parents have to be given a voice,” said Dolz, who has lived in Spain, Norway and Sweden, where he worked in the technology and telecommunications field.

Connolly has criticized Dolz’s stance, saying that the book’s thought- provoking themes can teach important life lessons to students on the cusp of adulthood. It’s not the only issue the candidates disagree on.

Dolz wants CVUSD to use more than $3 million in proceeds from the sale of its property on Conejo Center Drive near the Amgen campus to help balance the budget and possibly prevent the loss of teachers and programs; Connolly and Buckles have said the money should go toward the longtime goal of building a site for Conejo Valley High School, which is housed in outdated facilities.

“There’s no justification for making more cuts than we have to,” said Dolz, adding that money from the sale would not even cover all construction costs of the new school.
“Even if they used that money, where is the other money coming from?”
He said voters should pass a bond to fund the relocation of CVHS instead. “What I approve of is spreading out important decisions among people who will be paying for the high school,” said Dolz, who owns an online business selling homeopathic remedies, and skin and hair care products.

“I’m not saying the board shouldn’t have a role in pointing out that the high school is necessary, (but) the attitude that the school district should pay for a high school it can’t afford without consulting the taxpayers feels irresponsible to me.”

The candidate agrees with Dunn, who is the only trustee in favor of using the proceeds from the sale of CVUSD’s

Conejo Center Drive property to balance the district’s budget. Dunn and Dolz believe that any new school should be paid for with a voter-approved bond.

Political leanings
This is not the first time Dolz has run for public office. In 2006, he was a Republican candidate for the 41st State Assembly District. He lost to Democrat Julia Brownley.
Dolz said his participation on the school board would balance its “liberal bias.”
“All but one have an openly liberal attitude,” said Dolz, who wants to bring a conservative perspective to the board.

All incumbents on the board have contributed heavily and endorsed Democrats on the ballot for the decades that they have been seating on the board.  Dolz believes we need more diversity on the school board.

Ron Meyer, president of the California School Employees Association’s local chapter, said the organization is endorsing Dolz because of his support of classified employees in CVUSD.

“Classified employees in CVUSD have taken tremendous hits over the last several years,” Meyer said, noting that health clerks work less hours, there are fewer custodians to keep restrooms clean, school libraries are closed at least two days a week, and the maintenance and operations department has been “cut to the bone.”

“It has a negative impact on the educational process, safety and welfare of children. (Dolz) spoke clearly about partnering with classified employees. . . . Neither of the other candidates spoke to this.”

Meyer said that Dolz, unlike Connolly and Buckles, currently has children attending school in CVUSD, which gives him a “vested interest” in improving the district.
Dolz’s goal is to keep teachers as well as students in the district. About 20,500 students were expected at the 28 CVUSD campuses for the first day of school, down 300 from 2011, a reflection of declining enrollment countywide.

He suggested that the district conduct a study to find out why some families leave their schools for private, charter or home schools and “improve” CVUSD schools to meet their needs.
It’s part of his plan to make sure the desires of everyone are heard.

Five decades after escaping repression in Cuba, he reflected on what he learned there.
“I knew people had rights and they had lost them,” Dolz said. “I never wanted to be in that position.”

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