This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.

Sept. 21:

Election time means one thing for Contra Costa Times reporters: lots of candidate forums to let the public know about.

For candidates in Mt. Diablo, West Contra Costa and other school districts, the CCTV forum moderated by political reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen is the kickoff for election season. I sat in on both forums Thursday, where candidates for both races sounded off on a variety of issues.

In the Mt. Diablo race, incumbent Sherry Whitmarsh faced challengers Brian Lawrence, Betsy Mason and Barbara Oaks in a discussion that touched on Propositions 30 and 38, valuing district staff, resolving friction on the board, reigning in health and pension costs and strategic planning. Candidate Ernie DeTrinidad was unable to attend the taped forum, and incumbent Gary Eberhart is not seeking re-election in the race for two open seats.

In back-to-back tapings, all four West Contra Costa board candidates were on the hot seats next. They included incumbent Antonio Medrano and challengers Robert Studdiford, Randy Enos and Todd Glover, who traded opinions about Propositions 30 and 38, discontent in Hercules and Pinole, the district's November parcel tax and bond measure, and pension and health care reform. Incumbent Tony Thurmond is not seeking re-election in this race for two seats.

You can catch the Mt. Diablo forum on CCTV Channel 27 at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 4; 7 p.m. on Oct. 7; 9:30 p.m. Oct. 14; 7 p.m. Oct. 21; 9:30 p.m. Oct. 28; 7 p.m. Oct. 30; 7 p.m. Nov. 4.

The West Contra Costa forum will air on KRCT Channel 28 at 8 p.m. Oct. 3; 1 p.m. Oct. 5; 10 p.m. Oct. 9; 9 p.m. Oct. 13; 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Oct. 14; noon Oct. 16; 10 a.m. Oct. 22; 1 p.m. Oct. 26; 9 p.m. Oct. 29; 8:30 p.m. Nov. 2; 10 p.m. Nov. 3; 1 p.m. Nov. 5; 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Nov. 6.

Both forums -- along with forums for most other school boards and city councils in the county -- will be archived at www.contracostatimes.com.

In addition, both the Mt. Diablo and West Contra Costa candidates are slated to participate in the following forums:

Mt. Diablo:

  • The district's special education Community Advisory Committee will host a Candidates' Question and Answer Panel from 6-7 p.m. Oct. 2 in the district office at 1936 Carlotta Dr., Concord.

    The candidates will be asked questions that are important to special education and will have 90 seconds to respond.

    It is open to the public and will be followed by the committee meeting at 7 p.m.

  • The Pleasant Hill Education Commission will host a forum from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 18 in the Pleasant Hill City Council chambers at 100 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. Email mnelis@ci.pleasant-hill.CA.us to submit a question.

    The forum will be broadcast after the event on Comcast Channel 28; AT&T U-verse Channel 99; and Astound Channel 29.

    West Contra Costa:

  • The PTAs of Kensington, Hilltop, Madera, Harding, Portola and Mira Vista elementary schools are hosting a forum from 6:30-8 p.m. Monday in the Harding Elementary Auditorium at 7230 Fairmount Ave., El Cerrito. Candidates for school board will answer questions from the public. To submit questions, email 4westcounty@gmail.com.

    In addition, the League of Women Voters will sponsor two school board candidate forums:

  • From 6:30-8 p.m. Oct. 11, in the El Cerrito High School cafeteria at 540 Ashbury Ave., El Cerrito, and 6:30-8 p.m. Oct. 16 in the Murphy Elementary School multipurpose room at 4350 Valley View Road. Richmond.

    The League of Women Voters, West Contra Costa Chapter will moderate the forums. More information is available by contacting the League of Women Voters, West Contra Costa Chapter at 510-525-4962.

    What questions would you like the candidates to answer?