PPG Newsletter Issue No. 17

PPG Community Events Update

By Jessica Xu

It was a busy month for PUSD Parents Group in September.  PPG compiled seven questions on current key issues facing PUSD and invited an independent reporter conducting an email interview with all nine candidates for the PUSD Board of Education.  PPG invites all members to read the special coverage on PUSD BOE Election 2016 below to find out the top issues facing PUSD now and where the candidates stand on these critical issues.

PPG’s joint event with International Dyslexia Association-SD, Understanding Dyslexia, was a huge success.  The event could not have been possible without the support of PPG volunteers and PPG community partners (Champions for Health, Grace School, Rancho Penasquitos Town Council and Zcode Media). Thanks also to Kiera Galloway, Field representative on behalf of Congressman Scott Peters, San D County Supervisor Dave Roberts and his Legislative Aide Harold Meza, and PUSD Trustee Kimberley Beatty for coming out to support dyslexia awareness in our community.  For video and photos of the event, visit PPG Facebook https://www.facebook.com/PUSDParentsGroup/ .

Last but not the least, PPG participated in the 2016 Poway Days Parade to promote literacy for all PUSD students.  It was great fun for a great cause!  Thank you all for joining the PPG team.  For photos, visit PPG Facebook https://www.facebook.com/PUSDParentsGroup/ .

October is going to be an exciting time for PPG! Inaugural PPG Annual Meeting will be Saturday October 22, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at Grace School (16450 Via Esprillo, San Diego, CA 92127).  This year’s theme is “Greater Cultural Education for the 21 Century”.  Join PPG for a fun and educational evening!  

Online registration due Thursday October 20, 2016:

 

Special Coverage of PUSD Board of Education Election 201

PUSD Board of Education Candidates Respond to PUSD Parents Group Questions

By Justin Williams

Amidst recent controversies in Poway Unified School District that involved the former Superintendent, John Collins, many are looking forward to a change in leadership. The PUSD has a reputation for quality education that has suffered after it became public knowledge that John Collins had received unauthorized payouts for vacations and more than $345,000 in compensation.

Under Collins administration, in 2011 the school district had also quietly approved financing $105 million in construction bonds that would cost close to $1 billion over the life of the loan.

Not only is the PUSD looking to replace Collins after having fired him, selected a temporary replacement, and  seen that fall through, but they also have to fill two seats in the Board of Education from a selection of nine candidates.  One of the candidates, incumbent Kimberley Beatty, is running for re-election. The second seat, now available, was previously held by Andy Patapow, who had been with the board since 1996 but promised not to rerun to avoid a recall effort made against him in October 2015 and later dropped in March of 2016 based on his promises not to run for re-election.

The PUSD Board of Education has many challenges and obstacles to face to create confidence once again in the public through greater levels of transparency and a need for strong future leadership. The nine candidates invested in securing this future for Poway Unified School District are:

Nick Anastasopoulos, owner of Athens Market

Kimberley Beatty, Poway school board member

Debra Cooper, school foundation volunteer

Jimmy Karam, Operations Director at City Heights Prep Charter School

John “Chas” Moriarty, retired elementary school principal

Terry Norwood, education and military advocate

Darshana Patel, scientist

Stanley “Stan” Rodkin, retired mechanical engineer

Carol Ware, community volunter

All candidates were invited to address the seven questions submitted by the PUSD Parents Group.  With the exception of John Moriarty, who did not respond, the following responses to PPG’s questions are:

1. Why do you want to be a member of the PUSD Board of Education? If elected, do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school district?

Nick Anastasopoulos: I have been a proud advocate of the fine reputation of PUSD for 25 years and I have now seen many aspects of the administration in disarray.  I feel I have the skill set to create a cohesive atmosphere that can restore confidence. As an elected board member I must do both.  The community votes me in so I must represent them, however I am tasked with overseeing the operation of the school district, so I have the fiduciary responsibility to insure the best operation of the district.

Kimberley Beatty: My driving force has always been about fighting for the next generation, whose rug has been pulled out from underneath them.  It is also my fundamental belief that public education is the foundation of Democracy in ensuring civically engaged and educated citizenry.  Public education also affords the best opportunity for leveling the playing field and providing upward mobility.  Continuing in this position as Trustee for Poway Unified School Board will allow me to continue to work towards providing a quality education for all our students.

Our community’s constituents are my collective boss.  That said, school district trustees, once elected, are in the unique position of representing the district to the public and the public to the district.  However, I have always been vocal about being the voice of our community and students. 

Debra Cooper: Every student deserves the opportunity to achieve their personal best. That requires elevating public education and exceptional dedication to supporting the diverse needs of our children. While I continue to believe in Poway Unified schools, I’m disheartened by the discord within PUSD’s leadership that is detracting from important conversations about student learning. I will end that.

The California School Boards Association has enumerated a set of professional governance standards that specifically address the fundamental principles of governing responsibly and effectively. These standards delineate the board and the superintendent as a “governance team” that “assumes collective responsibility for building unity and creating a positive organizational culture.” The board’s job, in particular, is to: “…set the direction for the district, provide structure by establishing policies, ensure accountability, and provide community leadership on behalf of the district and public education.” I’m passionate about upholding public trust and the district’s reputation. I see the board’s primary job as focusing on student learning. And if elected, I will conduct the district’s business with integrity, with transparency, and with every student in mind.

Jimmy Karam: PUSD School Board has embarrassed this community long enough. I’m more than qualified, and I have a great deal of value to add; furthermore, I bring honor, integrity, and solid leadership to the table.

My vision is to implement a Computer Science curriculum from Pre-K through 12th grade. I have a unique perspective serving as the United States Naval Academy Economics Department Associate Chair for the past two years. Our service academies are making a strong push for Computer Science and so should our schools.

Lastly as a role model for my children, I want to show them the importance of being an active member in their community. “If you can, then you should!”

Terry Norwood: For over 20 years, I have been an advocate for the families in my community.  I want to focus on the overall PUSD educational business plan.  I am frustrated that some board members are protecting the status quo and personal interests, instead of focusing on meeting the needs of our students.  Our district budget deficit continues to grow.  Critical district management positions have been chosen without regard to qualifications.  Deals are made without proper discussion and oversight.  Transparency and integrity are vitally needed on the school board. I would bring those qualities to the board.

As a school board member, I will work to ensure every voice is represented-students, parents, teachers, staff, and the community.   The Board is likened to a Board of Governors in a business, functioning as an oversight committee to ensure the CEO (Superintendent) manages according to policies set forth by stakeholders.  As a 16 year resident of RB who has been active in the community and school district, I am a strong leader and advocate.  With two children that graduated from this district, with very different educational needs, I saw firsthand the challenges in our district.  I have worked to ensure that student, teacher, and parent resources are available to meet the needs for a child to receive a whole education.

Darshana Patel: PUSD is a high performing school district that is suffering from serious management challenges that are pulling the Board’s attention away from its mission of excellence in education. We need to elect strong, objective, collaborative and ethical leaders to work with continuing board members to address these issues. I am a civic-minded scientist, parent and community leader dedicated to educational excellence in PUSD. Since my three young daughters attend PUSD schools, I am fully invested in high-quality education for many years to come. I know I have the right experiential diversity and leadership skills for a solution-focused board.

A Board member is elected by the community to maintain a relationship of trust, transparency and accountability between the school district and the public whose taxpayer dollars fund public education. Board members have a fiduciary duty as stewards of the school district to ensure education needs are being met as best as possible while maintaining the budget and adhering to state and federal education laws. The Board is responsible for hiring and evaluating the performance of the Superintendent, who is in turn responsible for the daily operation of the school district.  With these facts in mind, each board member is clearly the community’s elected representative in the school district.

Stanley Rodkin: As a 13 year PUSD Board Member back in the days when PUSD was building a well-deserved reputation of excellence, it saddens me to read all the negative publicity of late and I want to put my previous experience to work to help get the District back on the right track again.
The responsibility of the board member is to hire, fire and evaluate the superintendent, set the policies and priorities
for him or her and ensure that board policies are carried out and the school system is being run in the manner which the constituent’s desire, thus the competent and caring board member is responsible to his or her constituents.

Carol Ware: I want to make a positive impact on our community!  My lessons learned from having recently battled and defeated breast cancer have refocused my priorities to contribute even more of my energy and experience toward effecting positive change.  I will work collaboratively with Board members to exercise oversight of PUSD’s $350 million budget in a transparent way, ensuring that decisions prioritize what best advances our children’s education.  I put children first, and will exercise fiscal responsibility in making decisions that ensure our teachers and administrators have the resources they need to continue delivering excellent results.  We are the caretakers of excellence in education, and must achieve that goal in an ethical, fully transparent, collaborative, and fiscally responsible way.

I see myself as a representative of the community. I will be the voice of children, parents and teachers.  Of the past 20 years serving on nonprofit Boards, the last decade I directly served as a Foundation Board member for 3 PUSD schools and a Community Foundation granting funds to PUSD schools.  I've helped raise over $750,000 for PUSD schools, and have a proven track record of working effectively and collaboratively on Boards.  I will bring my past 2 decades of unique Board experience and leadership to work for good for our children and community.

2. What do you think is the No. 1 problem PUSD faces now?  How are you going to solve the problem if elected?

Nick Anastasopoulos: The highest priority is proper leadership and regaining trust within the community. I will strive to find the right person to lead the district and support that person in every way possible.

Kimberley Beatty: Failed leadership.  The most important function of a school board is hiring the superintendent.  The first step in this process is hiring a top notch superintendent search firm that can draw upon a nationwide pool of successful school leaders.  Our board did this on Sunday with the approval of hiring Ray & Associates, a nationally renowned superintendent search firm.  We intend to seek input from our community about what attributes are important to them in our new leadership.  We need a highly effective, visionary leader, who possesses the highest levels of competence and integrity, and who is capable of maintaining good relationships with the board, staff and our community.  We need a leader who will bring organizational management into the 21st Century.

Debra Cooper: Upholding public trust and once again forging a two-way relationship between the board and district staff. To that end, hiring a new Superintendent is the most important decision the board will make during the next few months. Here's what I'm looking for:

• Poway Unified School District’s next Superintendent needs to be future-focused with a clear perspective on what it means to be educated in the 21st Century on behalf of our students, families, teachers, and supporting staff.

• This person needs to have proven team-building and management skills within an organization.

• The next Superintendent must demonstrate the ability to collaborate with multiple internal and external constituencies that have competing needs. We need an experienced community-builder.

• And finally, this position demands experience managing a complex organization with integrity, preferably one of PUSD’s size.

Jimmy Karam: Leadership! PUSD School Board has continuously made poor business decisions have and will continue to cost us all millions. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about the capital appreciation bonds or the former Superintendent fiasco; our School Board has been an embarrassment.

The first order of business is to hire a Superintendent. Someone with Integrity, Leadership and Grit! Naturally they must be qualified and experienced as a Superintendent, but I also want someone who has a track record of persevering through difficult times. I want someone who is still hungry to prove him/her self and is willing and able to articulate long term goals for themselves as well as for PUSD. I want someone who is an effective communicator; someone who inspires me through their passion and vision for education. Most importantly, I want someone who is going to lead with integrity and hold themselves to the highest ethical standards in mind.

Terry Norwood: The largest obstacle facing our district is the mismanagement at the district level.  We need to hire a superintendent to rebuild our school district team into a cohesive unit working for all stakeholders’ interests.  We have highly educated and compassionate teachers with students who want to learn from them.  We have parents and a community that support them both.  What we need is a Superintendent and Board of Education working proactively to tackle issues such as the looming CAB debt, budget shortfalls, and national and state education mandate implementation.  

I will solve the problem by working to restore transparency, collaboration, and integrity to the school board.  Providing oversight to district management will be my key role as a school board member.  My specialty is organizational leadership.  I have reorganized businesses maintaining company values.  I have a respectful candid relationship with my peers and co-workers.  Informing our community about our financial challenges and the need for prudent budgeting, while retaining an excellent school district, is paramount to this job.  I will strengthen educational options for our students, ensure teachers and staff have resources and collaborative support, and safeguard our community’s investment for the future.  

Darshana Patel: The main problem our board is currently facing distills down to resource management.

Community concerns with our budget, implementation of blended learning in classrooms, adequate employee compensation, hiring qualified administration, as well as communication with our community, all come back to the way our district currently manages resources and the internal controls that audit resource management. From my own assessment, some of the department policies and procedures are out of date and need revision to address current needs. As an objective and collaborative problem solver, I will first request a review of internal controls that are in place and assess whether they are robust, effective and have timely triggers. The results of this review will be used to improve the current systems that are in place.

Stanley Rodkin: The chief problem in the PUSD today is the scandalous behavior of the former superintendent, the lack of proper and sufficient oversight by the sitting board, and whatever other unprofessional behavior comes to light going forward.

A huge problem for the sitting board will be to hire a qualified superintendent at a salary commensurate with the size and socio-economic makeup of the district after the board allowed the salary to reach an astronomical level. This has set the bar so high as to make the process very difficult.

Carol Ware: Our biggest problem currently facing the district is hiring a new superintendent.  Our new superintendent should be a person with a history of high integrity and experience in handling a district of our size and budgetary scope.  He/she should have experience in navigating between dissenting groups and competing priorities.  And just as importantly, this superintendent should lead us boldly into a new and powerful vision, one that will set our sights on an even stronger future for our children and build that legacy of educational excellence.  If elected, my role would be to influence that search to find a superintendent of this caliber.

3. Are you satisfied with the current financial status of PUSD?  If not, what is wrong and how would you try to correct it?

Nick Anastasopoulos: Obviously the bond issue looms over our heads, and if possible I would attempt to renegotiate that loan. I believe there is always room to trim budgets through the vendor relationships, and by being more careful in setting goals and expectations.

Kimberley Beatty: In 2012, I was swept into office on a reform mandate.  The toxic “Billion Dollar Bond” was a symptom of broader problems – failed leadership, financial mismanagement and lack of board oversight.  The recent forensic audit highlighted not only financial improprieties, but a lack of internal controls and a system devoid of checks and balances.  The largest obstacle to fixing these problems is the resistance to change by those who have profited from this system and by those who fear challenging the current structure.  Despite additional revenues in the last couple of years, we are facing an $18 million structural deficit due to irresponsible actions.  I will continue to champion responsible governance and fiscal oversight in order to maximize the community’s funds that directly benefit our students.  Millions of dollars can be saved through reductions in legal and consulting costs, management reorganization and performance audits.  The savings can be used to address the structural deficit; lower class sizes; increase funding for – robotics, PE, visual and performing arts, counselors, libraries, career pathway programs and other student programs.

Debra Cooper: While I’m not satisfied with the fact the district currently has a structural budget deficit, PUSD has engaged in extremely conservative budgeting practices for a number of years, utilizing School Services of California (SSC) funding numbers versus the more optimistic California Department of Finance funding numbers. PUSD believes that using the more conservative funding numbers forces the district to plan for the worst, but gives the district options if funding is better. This budgeting perspective regularly predicts structural deficits – especially as you get farther out in the required three year multi-year plan.

PUSD’s Budget Review Advisory Committee (BRAC), comprised of PUSD residents with expertise in accounting, budgeting, business and finance, recently completed a seven-month review of PUSD’s budget. BRAC members reported serious concerns about projected structural deficits in the next two years in a presentation to the board on May 31, 2016. The projected deficit figures are alarming.

As a board member, I would ask a lot of questions, and I would like to see the BRACs work with PUSD continue. I know three things for certain: 1) every student deserves the opportunity to be their personal best; 2) PUSD parents want the best possible learning experiences for their children; and 3) school district budgets are large, complicated, and highly regulated. The more we invest our stakeholders in budget discussions – including trade-offs, cuts, and constraints – the better our outcome will be for student learning.

Jimmy Karam: No, not satisfied. We need Prop 55 to pass this November.

Terry Norwood: No, I am not satisfied with the current financial status of PUSD.  The poor leadership from the Superintendent, and some school board members, undermine our community’s investment in our children’s future.  Specifically the CAB decision, budgeting gimmicks of using one-time funds to prop up expanded spending, and the financial misappropriations by the former Superintendent.  Financial decisions should be focused on sustainable efforts that serve what is best for our school district.   Hiring a Superintendent who can see the financial challenges before our district and develop a budget to balance the needs of all affected individuals is paramount to fixing the budget.  It should reflect frugal spending and smart revenue building.  School board members should ensure the Superintendent steers our district in this positive direction.

Darshana Patel: Our district has genuine challenges with its current financial status. Because of the Local Control Funding Formula, our district does not receive the same supplemental categorical funds that neighboring districts receive due to our demographics. Also, our high quality of education is increasingly dependent on family and community support, thus increasing the achievement gap between schools in our district. I have developed strategies to address these real issues. First, our district has to do a much better job with inclusive outreach with our community. This means communication in multiple languages, multiple formats and include households without current students. Second, we must advocate for more equitable funding formulas. It is a legitimate role of a school board to lobby state legislatures for appropriations and we must redevelop the willpower to do so. Finally, prior to the “Great Recession” of the early 2000s, our school district was able to secure external grants for innovative programs. While I understand that some of those grants have since become unavailable to us, it is time to revisit this funding stream as our economy is recovering.

Stanley Rodkin: No-one can be satisfied with an $18,000,000 over-run! If a school district is unable to pay the bills, the State takes over and cuts whatever it thinks is necessary to restore balance without regard to what parents want for their children. No-one wants that, but no single board member can rectify all the errors of the past. All actions of the Board require at least three votes to be enacted, so the first step on the road back to excellence is to elect three Board members with the right set of values.

Carol Ware: I am committed to exercising extreme fiscal responsibility in addressing any issues with PUSD’s financial status.  There appear to be numerous areas of fiscal accountability that require exacting scrutiny.  I want to cut waste and divert those rescued funds toward children and enhancing their educational experience.

4. Do you think the current use of technology in schools is about right or should it be changed and in what way?

Nick Anastasopoulos: Technology is a fast moving train that continually needs to be embraced and implemented whenever possible.  Our students need to be prepared for the business world through technology.

Kimberley Beatty: Our current technology use district-wide is haphazard, disorganized and lacking comprehensive coherence.  In addition, true performance metrics and cost/benefits analyses are missing.  We must work to implement the recommendations of our Board’s Educational Technology Advisory Committee (ETAC) that made its final recommendations this past Spring.  Among the recommendations included were:  presenting a clear vision of the appropriate role for technology in education; finalizing the District’s IT Organizational Structure with clearly defined roles and position descriptions to ensure accountability (I would add, making structural changes where needed.); addressing health and safety risks and providing non-technology alternatives; creating TK-12 technology standards and more.  Basically we need to be more deliberate and focused in the way we purchase and use technology to both run our operations and as teaching and learning tools in our schools.

Debra Cooper: The consultants’ report prepared by RJM Strategies, LLC earlier this year clearly enumerates PUSD’s current challenges in a changing technological environment. What the district has done is recently complete raising all of its schools to a baseline level of technology resources. What it now needs to do is tie those resources to learning goals and provide professional development to support to our teachers. To quote a recent TrustED article, “Without Training, Ed-Tech is Useless.” (https://blog.k12insight.com/2016/08/23/without-training-ed-tech-is-useless/)

Jimmy Karam: Our scope regarding technology is too narrow. Our nation is far behind the power curve when it comes to Computer Science. With the cyber threats that exist today, we cannot afford to be behind any longer. Innovation no longer happens in the steel mills, coal mines or strawberry fields. Innovation will continue to happen behind a computer screen.

Implementing a Computer Science Pre-K – 12th grade curriculum allows innovation to occur through a computer science lens which affects all types of interests like music, science, and sports; it impacts all of us. I would love nothing more than to see PUSD lead the country in this initiative.

Terry Norwood: The use of technology is not as it should be due to lack of focus on student’s needs verses district management wants.  Some school sites have exemplary technology programs and staff support for it while others struggle.  As student’s progress, the uneven playing field highlights discrepancies in our children’s educational experiences.  As much as I believe we need better use of technology with perhaps an upgraded system, we have financial challenges we need to face before we spend more money on programs.  We need to get a leader in place to focus our vision in the right direction so that we don’t make a mistake with our choice of technology.

Darshana Patel: Our district has promoted the introduction of technology to the classroom guided by the SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition), which is a designed to help teachers evaluate technology use in the classroom for a strategic blended-classroom learning environment. The idea is that we limit our technology use in the Substitution and Augmentation roles and advance technology use in Modification and Redefinition zones. While this is the ideal, it has been a challenge to apply these guidelines in the classroom because of limited teacher training. We need to provide more professional development days and with appropriate training, we can address this inconsistent implementation. I would strongly discourage wide implementation of unlimited technology use at the younger grade levels due to increasing evidence of adverse health effects on behavior and health. Additionally, technology use for special education programs such as dyslexia intervention, should be supported district-wide, as directed by IEPs.

Stanley Rodkin: The response to this question will answer questions 5, 6 and 7 as well. I will describe the process by which change is made to a district policy or procedure and this process will be substantially the same whether it be about IT funding, library inventory, special ed funding, or access to AP classes. 

Let us begin with a parent who believes that her child's library doesn't have the proper inventory of books for her child.
Let the parent be named XYZ so no racial or ethnic bias attaches. So XYZ calls me, a Board of Education member, and voices her complaint. My first step is to meet with the superintendent and discuss the problem and ask him or her to look into it. If the cost is minimal, as in this case it may well be, he or she will probably agree to remedy the situation. If the cost is large as in the case of IT and has not been budgeted for, the superintendent will look into the situation, determine what the remedy is and the cost and will put an item on the meeting agenda for discussion. I will invite XYZ to attend the meeting and address the Board on her concerns about the item. The Board will then vote to approve the remedy and the expense or turn it down. If 3 or more members vote to approve the item, it will pass. If not, it will be turned down. If I think the expense will be in the best interest of a majority of students and funds are available, I will try to convince the other board members to vote "yes." During my previous Board tenure, I was successful in achieving a consensus (3 yes votes) on many, many issues important to the students.

I believe this response makes it clear that changes in policy, priority, or funding require 3 votes so the first step on the road back to the District's former excellence is to elect board members who will put the education of children first and who are not seeking power and control.

Carol Ware: The District has already assessed our technology standards and recommended solutions.  A Board that encourages a culture open to change and to healthy consensus will be able to facilitate these changes for the benefit of technology improvements district wide.

5. Do you see any issues with the current operation of school libraries?  Do you have any suggestions for improvement?

Nick Anastasopoulos: I believe the school libraries are a vital source for student and continually must be maintained.  At home, many students just do not have access to the resources provided in our libraries.

Kimberley Beatty: We need to recognize the importance of libraries – as integral to teaching vital research skills; to inspire and enhance a love of books and reading; and as a safe and quiet haven during the school day.  Thus, library hours, services and resources need to be increased in order to meet our students’ needs.

Debra Cooper: In the broadest sense, libraries no longer represent silent shrines to books. They have become vibrant hubs for communities to gather, for conversations to take place about important subjects, for people to collaborate, and to both house content, i.e. books and other media, and to deliver content via the internet. Our school libraries should represent no less.

I was as disappointed as anyone when the district cut library staff hours during the recession. I remember questioning why school started in August and yet our school library did not “open” to the students until October. Cutting library staff hours was a difficult trade-off in balancing the budget at the time.

I am supportive of the district’s three-year library staff hours restoration plan and believe it represents a thoughtful approach to not only addressing community concerns but also staying mindful of current budgetary concerns.

Jimmy Karam: I apologize, but I do not have any opinion on this matter. I would love to hear more on the operations of our school libraries. From my experience, operational improvement is an ongoing process.

Terry Norwood: Every department should be able to dream of what it can be.  I am fortunate to have my children attend RBHS where there is a Friends of the Library that is phenomenal.  They have improved greatly, with many resources beyond books available.  It has online software that allows students access to resources and books even when they are not at school.  There are also many volunteers that assist in this library at a time when parents typically do not participate as much.  This organization is allowed to hire extra staff when needed.  The library has also opened its doors one night a week to assist students with tutoring and resources.  As fabulous as this organization is to RBHS, it saddens me to think it is necessary to require so much more work from parents and the community to provide necessary resources to students in a time where technology is dominant in our society.  This topic relates to the Prop 55 measure of the extension of education.   As much as citizens should have a vote for where their taxes should be spent, education should be automatically funded.  This should not be a question to put out the citizens.  The citizens expect their elected officials to make these decisions without using tax payers’ money to put it on a ballot which is a waste of our tax dollars.

Darshana Patel: I am a firm believer in the value of a school library. Libraries are an en excellent full-service resource for students: fiction and non-fiction, technology resources and guidance from the librarian. Furthermore, libraries are essential to advance equity in regards to bridging the achievement gap, they provide a safe space for children during the school day and they are a renewable/shared resource. In fact, I would support library budget increases to adjust for collections updates due to new California education standards. I would advocate for more funding to support librarians, improved collections and increase hours or operation. Funding can be allocated and justified via curriculum and technology support.

Stanley Rodkin: See Question #4 for response.

Carol Ware: As with all funding issues, I believe that our budget needs to be efficiently and directly aligned with our District goals.   Any deficiencies in library operations should be addressed by assessing their effectiveness within the parameters of goals already set.  As an elected Board member, I will have the opportunity to make these assessments with available data.

6. Does the PUSD devote enough funding for special education?  Do you think it should be increased?  If so, what areas should be cut back to pay for any increase?

Nick Anastasopoulos: Special education and special certainly require support and should be balanced with the needs of the entire student body to create an equitable balance.

Kimberley Beatty: Special education costs are an underfunded mandate.  For example, in the 2012/13 school year, with a district budget of approximately $300 million, our special education expenses were $42,271,000.  Only $21,511,000 was reimbursed either by the state or federal governments.  So, $20,760,000 had to be taken from our general fund to cover special education costs.  It is imperative that our community help advocate for more funding to cover special education costs, but we also need to utilize the funds we have better.  We need to make sure our special education teachers have adequate training and resources to do their jobs.  An exorbitant expense is the private schools we pay for some of our special education students.  These can cost from $25,000 to more than $40,000 per year.  Last year a study was done about how to better manage special education programs and costs and we continue to work towards implementing the recommendations.

Debra Cooper: What I know about special education funding is that it comprises approximately 8.5% of PUSD’s annual budget and that the federal government contributes about half of the money it should. If elected, I will bring an open and analytical mind to discussions regarding special education funding with my commitment to every student having the opportunity to be their best.

Jimmy Karam: I honestly have not spent the required time diving in on this issue.

This is a tough issue simply because special education is so important. Some districts offer up more resources than others. Typically when I’m tasked with balancing a budget or dividing resources, I use a “Want vs Need” method approach. I would start there.

Terry Norwood: RBHS increased LCAP spending for special education 1% when I was on the council with my request and one of my son’s teachers.  While it was not a huge increase it was a step in the right direction.   With our budget crisis, it is hard to state at this time what could be cut or realigned.  I am looking through the budget analyzing where I have questions about what is spent in certain categories.  I plan to address these questions at a board meeting in the future whether I am an elected member or community member.

Darshana Patel: Students in the SPED (special education) programs constitute about 10% of the total number of students in the district. The Executive Summary of the Special Education Strategic Planning document succinctly states that, ”Limited resources and increasing intensive student needs require careful planning and efficient use of resources.” The current strategies include district wide culture of ownership, reducing adversarial IEP situations, implementing effective specialized instruction using research based curriculum and assessment and appropriate effective district and site based trainings. Despite this thoughtful and robust plan, there remain students with unmet needs. Constant reevaluation of the plan to include those who have fallen through the net will be critical as the number and diversity of accommodations and needs increases. Our SPED programs should use the most current scientific and medical analyses for interventions. Because the SPED program is significant and diverse, I would have to carefully review the budget and efficacy of the programs in order to determine whether sufficient fund are being spent or whether they are just not being effectively appropriated.

Stanley Rodkin: See Question #4 for response.

Carol Ware: PUSD’s special education programs have to comply with federal mandates.  Because the funds received for special education fall short of what the federal sources promise, there appears to be room to welcome additional funding from state and federal sources.  All funding should aim to meet every child’s unique needs in the environment best suited to thrive in his/her community. Local funding might be diverted from areas where waste is discovered.  Again, fiscal responsibility is key.

7.  How would you ensure that all students are provided with equal access to advanced curriculum if elected?  How would you close the achievement gap if elected?

Nick Anastasopoulos: Helping create more awareness of opportunities by way of a marketing campaign could help students become more aware of advanced curriculum opportunities.

Kimberley Beatty: This has been a difficult issue to solve.  Our Board has always valued and strived for equality of access.  However, due to a lack of adequate funding for our public school students, we have had to rely on private donations through PTAs, Foundations and other corporate and nonprofit entities.  With 39 schools, which includes adult education, there has been unevenness in the amounts raised through these non-state sources.  Our District has created a PUSD Foundation in order to try to “level the playing field”, in addition to other functions.  We must continue to supplement where we can in order to offer electives, programs, field trips, technology, counseling and more to all our students.  It is also vitally important to ensure that LCFF supplemental funds go towards our unduplicated populations (ELL, free & reduced lunch, foster youth) that they are meant to support.  We must also look to our Title 1 funds and other federal grants to help ensure all students in the district receive an equal educational experience.

With regard to equal access to advanced curriculum, this has been made more difficult by budget cuts that have caused cutbacks in course offerings in our high schools.  If we can’t restore AP and other advanced classes, then we need to have a fluid intra-district transfer policy, offer more classes online, increase partnerships with community colleges, and allow students to go to a different high school campus during the school day in order to access a class not available at their own school.

Debra Cooper: Ensuring equal educational experiences is a significant and relevant question and I’m happy that this complicated and layered topic is part of the dialog. Interestingly, my personal experience has been that students might not receive “equal” educational experiences when enrolled at the same school site, e.g.:

• At the elementary level, one teacher knows how to effectively integrate video production into the curriculum while another does not, therefore one classroom of students gets this experience and one doesn’t.

• One middle school teacher values a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance while another in the same school does not and what happens? Not every student receives the opportunity to go.

In my mind therefore, the question as stated is in question. Are we trying to solve for equality? Is that what we really want? Does “equality” truly serve the interests of learning? Or does it hamper innovative practices coming out of individual school sites and classrooms that might be duplicated elsewhere? And furthermore, our facilities don’t support the proposition of equality, much less PUSD’s financial resources nor our individual teachers’ areas of expertise and interest.

Part of the answer, I think, is that we want a diploma from PUSD to say to the community, colleges and universities, and employers that this graduate engaged in learning on an individual and personal level and they are ready for the next stage in life. I also think it would be helpful to understand what educational experiences our learning community – parents, teachers, students and staff – value. To that end, perhaps creating a district-wide statement of enrichment values by grade level would serve to help re-orient financial resources. I can think of two examples where this strategy has already been employed:

• The new K-5 Wheel program that delivers a baseline level of physical education, visual and performing arts education, and coding to all K-5 students. This program further serves teachers by providing regular time for collaboration.

• PSAT test administration for all 10th grade students. I’ve always considered this a statement from PUSD about its commitment to “College and Career Ready.”

Regarding closing the achievement gap – I’m just learning more about the district’s new Response to Intervention program and believe that part of its goals include closing that gap. I understand that the district has been engaged in the conversation and planning behind this initiative for years, and intend to learn all that I can about it.

And finally, I believe the district needs to undertake two specific actions to provide advanced curriculum and work toward closing the achievement gap:

1. Tie technology resources to learning goals and support our teachers with training.

2. Engage in smart partnerships to accomplish its goals. For instance, Chula Vista School District recently announced the opening of its new “Innovation Station,” which is a partnership between Qualcomm, Inc., the City of Chula Vista, and CVSD and represents an excellent example of what’s possible in this region. The district should also be carefully considering how the Poway Unified School District Educational Foundation figures into these partnerships.

As a school board member I would push for more conversations about these ideas, looking toward identifying and employing sustainable solutions that benefit student learning opportunities district-wide.

Jimmy Karam: “We have the highest student test scores in San Diego, we’ve all heard it. I do not mean this sarcastically. It’s a matter of Complementary Economic Theory, which is based on peer effects. Due to our high performance, only the teachers and parents with a strong desire for children’s education will continue to choose PUSD. High ability students are more valuable to high quality students and students should be more homogenously sorted. In other words, students are more productive when grouped with higher ability students. The same can be said about teacher. Talent begets talent!”

This was my comment to the teacher’s union, and fortunately a teacher asked me to clarify what I meant about sorting students. I do not believe in sorting out the high achieving students away from the challenged students. To the contrary, I believe in mixing them together. I understand this becomes far more challenging for teachers, but it’s a necessary challenge. High achieving students require a skill set in today’s world to help others, especially those on their team. By teaching others, you learn the most, just ask any teacher that has stepped up to classroom full of students.

When I look at my computer science initiative, I couldn’t be more proud of the students from Oak Valley Middle School who won their division at the National Youth Cyber Defense competition earlier this year. Then I can’t help to think how many other middle schoolers in our district had the same opportunity. A computer science curriculum stretching from Pre-K to 12th grade is a “Need” for our children. It’s our job to ensure they are safe and prepared for the future.

I would ensure this computer initiative is rolled out district-wide to every student, whether they want to go to a university or to a vocational school following high school.

Terry Norwood: This is a problem overshadowed by a misrepresentation of student success for life.  I would implement an advisory committee to review all of our schools.  Determine if any of the current programs and techniques would benefit other schools.  This may already be in effect but needs more promotion.   PUSD schools offer electives, programs, and field trips at some schools.  Post outcomes online hosting inner district field trips or webinars to share the learning with all students and all schools.  The committee could partner with community businesses and offer innovative solutions to broaden Career Technical Programs.  Engage Parents as Partners implementing parent seminars, as I did at RBHS, to educate parents on college and career readiness, differences in SAT and ACT tests, and college financial readiness.   This low cost project can be expanded to all district schools.

Darshana Patel: Our students are given access to appropriate curriculum levels based on their academic performance in the classroom and performance on standardized tests. Not all students will have success with “advanced curriculum” so this would be something I would not advocate. Current education advocates and experts are recommending we work towards equity and not equality. A model for equity ensures curriculum that matches the student’s ability. Our school district uses various learning tracks such as GATE, AVID and SPED, depending on the specific needs of the student to support academic success. One of my top priorities is to balance resources between academic achievement and focus on the whole child. Ensuring resources for college and career readiness and whole child is aligned with closing the achievement gap.

Stanley Rodkin: See Question #4 for response.

Carol Ware: Advanced curriculum should be accessed equally by schools in the District.  As we properly fund each school in accordance with the goals of the District, students will be afforded even more opportunity to strive for and access advanced curriculum.  One way in which we can anticipate achievement gaps might be to address the shortfalls we currently have in our Response to Intervention program.  Fiscal responsibility is key in making sure that teachers and administrators are equipped with what they need to continue providing excellent education in PUSD.

About the Author: Justin Williams is an independent writer currently working on a travelogue, “Journey to Valyermo.” He has a Bachelor of Arts in English from UC Riverside, and later served in the Peace Corps in China teaching English for two years after completing a year of study at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and a TESOL Certificate. Afterwards, he studied at National University Online for a Single Subject Teacher Credential in English, but later decided to pursue other interests outside of teaching.

About the authors:

Justin Williams is an independent writer currently working on a travelogue, “Journey to Valyermo.” He has a Bachelor of Arts in English from UC Riverside, and later served in the Peace Corps in China teaching English for two years after completing a year of study at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and a TESOL Certificate. Afterwards, he studied at National University Online for a Single Subject Teacher Credential in English, but later decided to pursue other interests outside of teaching.

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