Candidate for CVUSD Board of Education
Q&A date: Sunday, April 15 at 10 a.m.
Anonymous Mommy Facebook Page
Bill is running for one of the three available seats on the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) board. The elections take place on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.
Bill has agreed to participate in my online CVUSD Candidate Q&A forum and below you will find his completed candidate questionnaire that all candidates were required to fill out. I encourage you to read about his views for the CVUSD prior to his online Q&A, in which he'll be available to answer any questions you may have for him.
Each candidate put a tremendous amount of time into their answers and if you feel inclined, please support them by donating to their campaigns. It's been estimated that school board candidates will need to raise nearly $30,000 in order to run a successful campaign this year. They need your financial support if you want to have their presence on the board.
All announced candidates (except incumbents) were extended the same invitation to participate in an inclusive, interactive online Q&A. (I realize we all have busy schedules, and attending in-person Q&A forums isn't always feasible, therefore I created this Q&A platform so that no matter where your plans might have you on any given day, you can participate or follow along online.) In order to participate, each candidate was required to complete 10 pre-selected questions (a mix of questions I contributed as well as contributions from the community), and an additional five questions of their choosing from a list of questions that were submitted by community residents.
Each candidate has agreed to be available to participate and engage for one hour on the Anonymous Mommy Facebook page as an opportunity for the community to interact with them, and ask questions about their platform, or seek clarification on their answers.
In order to provide a balanced platform, I will refrain from injecting any personal commentary on Q&A-related material, however, I reserve the right to share my opinions on school board-related topics and candidates outside of this Q&A forum.
Five of the six announced candidates agreed to participate. You can learn more by visiting my CVUSD Candidate Q&A information page on my website.
Facebook: Bill A. Gorback for Conejo Valley School Board
I started teaching fourth grade in Pasadena Unified. My second year taught second grade also in Pasadena. Then we moved up to the San Joaquin Valley and I taught and coached in a middle school in Farmersville. Here I quickly developed the reputation that I work well with general ed students and special Ed students. So when the SpEd teacher had to be absent, my school called a sub for my classes and I was the substitute SpEd teacher. I also started my coaching career here.
After a few years here (and my first two children, one of which, with whom I stayed home, the half year following the year my wife stayed home) we moved back down to the San Fernando Valley for 19 months before moving out to Thousand Oaks. During that year, I taught at Los Cerritos and coached freshman girls’ basketball at TOHS. My coaching record would indicate I was successful but more honestly, that team was made of a group of tremendous athletes and wonderful people!
Then I taught math and peer counseling for thirteen years and coached varsity girls’ basketball for four years, at Moorpark High. I also got a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Cal Lutheran.
After seeking counseling jobs in Ventura County districts and being told they were laying off counselors at the time, not hiring, I became a school Counselor at a Middle School in Granada Hills actually in a one year position where the administration found funds to keep me on for seven and three quarter years. One of my first colleagues there moved to another LAUSD school and thought I would be good for that school got my administration’s permission to recruit me and I became a counselor at Valley Alternative Magnet for five years .
I moved to Arizona and became a district Special Ed Counselor where I wrote and implemented the IEP Social and Emotional counseling goals for children in nineteen elementary schools and five middle schools by meeting with them each week.
My four adult children all attended Acacia, Redwood, and TOHS.
1. In 2017, arguably two of the largest policy votes by the board centered on curriculum decisions. In January, the board worked its way through eventually voting on how the district would implement the FAIR Act, with amended verbiage provided by board member Sandee Everett, after she requested more time to understand the policy. In November, the community witnessed the contentious board meetings and eventual board majority approval of an alternative assignment and curriculum review policy first put into motion by then-board president Mike Dunn’s contentions about approving “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and current board president John Andersen’s vote of approval for the book with the caveat a policy be crafted. What do you believe a school board’s role is in curriculum decisions and how they are implemented at the district level?
Weaving a curriculum is a combination of art and science. Our professional educators are trained to design curricula, particularly one of core literature and social sciences. Our teachers and staff study best practices and research on the best way to structure curricula.
On the other hand, individual students’ parents have the right, after talking to their teacher about how sensitive material will be handled, to request an alternative assignment FOR THEIR INDIVIDUAL CHILD(REN). This, of course, comes with the understanding that critical thinking and education is taught in today’s classrooms through class discussion not teacher lecture, as in the past. Therefore, parents who choose an alternative text cannot expect a class/discussion analysis of the alternative text that only one student may be assigned.
Board decisions should be made after listening to the educational experts in the classroom and district educational staff. Also, Board should strongly consider state/community standards before proposing replacing state approved curricula with material from another state which does not reflect our standards. The Board should make any curriculum decisions based on best educational practices for our schools in the context of our state’s Framework and standards.
2. It was announced in July that California’s funding for the District of Choice program was given a six-year extension. We’ve seen conversation this year regarding concerns about how District of Choice has affected CVUSD enrollment, with a significant amount of transfers out of district to Oak Park and LVUSD. Dr. Connolly proposed the idea of online school choice forms and pushing the enrollment dates up a month to be more competitive with surrounding districts. The district has adopted that idea, and hopefully it helps retain more students that reside within CVUSD. What ideas, or plans, do you have in mind that will help to retain more students that live within CVUSD boundaries?
When deciding between programs people often will accept the first offer they receive. So the suggestions that Dr. Connolly made, to make our application process timely and competitive are indeed a significant beginning.
I would immediately ask for a report from staff to research what programs our neighboring districts are offering which are attracting our students.
We need to be helping our families and families from outside our boundaries become knowledgeable about the extraordinary quality programs that we offer in our elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.
I have been touring many of our schools’ campuses. CVUSD’s programs are exceptional! But busy parents cannot visit and observe programs on every campus. Therefore, we should produce an infomercial- type video of 15 minutes on every school program that would be available to view on the District website or the individual school’s website. Then people could take part in a more comprehensive tour on their computer, then go from there to explore programs of interest more directly in person. Our district is small enough that if, for example, Walnut’s Technology program benefits a student in Westlake, they are a ten-minute drive away. Or if a child who lives in Newbury Park wants to attend Westlake Elementary to participate in their eBlock, or Magic Minutes program, they are a short ride away. We have programs that would attract more people from within the district or nearby districts if we provide easy access to information.
Programs that are successful at one school may be beneficial to students at other schools. For example, other schools might be interested in teaching the Covey student leadership qualities that are taught at Conejo Elementary. We should provide opportunities for other schools that desire to implement them to see these programs in practice during the school day. Or if teachers at one school feel that Acacia’s School Enrichment Model would benefit their school, we should provide what they need to see these programs in action during the school day. We should ensure that teachers can mentor teachers in other schools in implementing quality programs they desire to incorporate into their program.
Finally, we should expand or duplicate programs that are successful to include as many students as possible so students don’t leave our district to attend a comparable program in a neighboring district. Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating larger programs or class or cadre sizes. But if we can have an additional section or duplicate the program on the same or different campus to allow greater participation and retain more of our students, we should avail our schools every opportunity to expand programs that are in high demand.
3. In correlation with question No. 2, it’s no secret that one of the large concerns weighing on the district is the trajectory of decline in student enrollment. In your opinion, what other issues have contributed to the decline and what specifically do you feel the district needs to be doing to address this issue? How will you respond if the decline leads to a closure of school sites?
Our elementary, middle and high school programs are as good, if not better than programs anywhere in the area. If there is significant movement to other districts, then we need to first find out what they are offering that is attracting our families and then do a better public presentation of our quality programs. We need to post each program at each school’s website and then centrally on the District’s website so people have a central site at which to compare programs, in the form of a live “infomercial a realistic tour showing each program for an extended period of time showing actual students and the benefit they receive and the enthusiasm they have for the program. We could produce a video presentation that would reflect a normal tour seeing the inclusivity, camaraderie and educational benefit of individual programs and post it under each school’s website and on the district web site. It would not replace a personal visit, but would provide a first round of information that would attract initial interest to help parents decide programs they would like to investigate further.
I will not concede that the closure of a school site is inevitable. I would involve the parents in “town hall” meetings to get their input as to alternatives to save their school; find out their ideas for a district magnet that might attract students from outside the district as well as from within the district. I would involve school stakeholders in informational/listening meetings to consider every possible idea to ensure schools remain open.
4. As most of us know governing is difficult and bureaucracy is complicated. We have heard from some of you that you would consult the experts, which is responsible (and important), but what else would you do to go about educating yourself on an issue or policy you needed to know more about and what resources would you use to make fully informed decisions? Further, how would you go about informing the public and communicating your findings?
When I was a high school math teacher, I learned so much and continually updated my knowledge and skills by attending the California Math Council Conferences. The sessions I attended and the interaction with teachers from other districts in California always inspired me with new knowledge and new ideas to try. I also attended California Association of Teachers of English (CATE) when my wife taught English and learned a lot about teaching English. Then when I became a school counselor, I went to American School Counselor Association conferences and California School Counselor Association, of which I became president. As a school board member, I would enthusiastically attend California School Board Organization conferences every year I serve, because you never stop learning new things. I would continue to attend teacher and administration conferences for two reasons: at each of these conferences I would learn new ideas for their intended constituencies. In addition I remember at every conference I attended, when at the keynote event, the host would ask for administrators present to stand, I would feel “there is a district where the administrators support their teachers or counselors by attending their conference.” Then the host would ask whether there were any board members present and a smattering would stand. I would really feel those districts supported their professionals. But I would see on the faces of the teachers or counselors of those districts, the pride and support they felt. As a Board member, I would go to as many professional educator conferences as I could to learn about new ideas and support the district’s professional educators. This would help build the morale of our educators.
I would ask that staff and the Board have more public forum hearings particularly on site of where issues are most pertinent. I believe we would get more knowledgeable involvement with parents and teachers and staff if we held more “town halls” in school PACS or sites around the district. Coming to Board Meetings can sometimes be intimidating to community members who have never been to Board Meetings. But more parents feel comfortable and familiar going to their child’s school campus and , I believe, if asked to attend a special community forum at their “home” school might be more comfortable participating the discussion. This will increase transparency in our decision-making process.
5. The importance of how the district’s money is spent cannot be undermined. We are currently operating at a deficit and will feel the effects of this after surplus in the budget is depleted. What experience do you have with complicated budgets? When you are given a 300-plus page budget for the district to review, what will be your process to determine if it is a good budget for the system?
The closer to direct effect for the students , the higher priority for expense. Every expenditure will be examined through the lens of, “does it benefit students?” Is it something that makes the classroom more conducive for learning for each individual student? I would also become very knowledgeable consulting with those implementing or affected by any expense to see what the experts feel about programs, engineering or technology and make sure teachers, plant managers, technology experts don’t feel that new expenses are being thrust upon them without their opinions just because it is new and some sales person is selling a bill of goods they don’t need. I would consult those that would use it. When after deciding on an expense that would truly benefit students, I would scour those 300 pages and consult with expert staff to find “payfors”, cuts that we could discover to pay for the expert program(s) The more transparency about informing parents on issues, programs, or other expenditures will be high priority budget items.
6. During board member comments, we often hear about events and programs within the district that school board members have attended at school sites to get to better know our district, our students, and the programs and resources within. Will you be able to set aside time to be an active member in our district and community, outside of mandatory school board meetings? What have you done at this point in time to educate yourself on school-related activities and events?
District Committees on which I serve:
Lange Ranch, and
Appointments to visit others
Parent Information Nights I attended
OCLM at Conejo Elementary,
Discovery Academy, at Sequoia,
District pre school at Acacia,
Future Lancer Nights.
(I didn’t get to attend Future Panther night because it was the same night I was at Sequoia).
Having been on school campuses every day of my professional career, I am quite comfortable going to schools and would be on campuses (with principal knowledge and approval) as often as I could, as well as attending evening events for students and or parents.
7. We know there are inequities across schools within CVUSD. Generally, schools that have families who can donate more money have more. Starting innovative programming at some schools (like Acacia and Ladera) is one method for addressing this issue. Do you have other solutions?
First, I believe we must lobby Sacramento to change the Local Funding Formula. Concentration Funding is given to districts that have more than 25% of the children qualify for free and reduced lunch. This discriminates against districts like ours that have schools that qualify but as a whole district doesn’t qualify . The state funding formula needs consider individual schools for concentration funding so districts as diverse as ours that have Title I schools receive the State funds for the students at those schools. Although, I am not a professional lobbyist, when I was President of the California School Counselor Association, I did meet with staff of Assembly persons and State Senators in Sacramento, as well as and House and Senate members in Washington.
Second, the District must form local corporate partnerships specifically targeted at funding innovative programs at schools where parents are less able to donate money. We need a Conejo Community Corporate Outreach Office to acquire funding for these schools.
Third we need to increase our grant research and application process to apply for more program grants for underprivileged schools.
8. Earlier this year we were treated to a presentation by Walnut Elementary regarding its methods for addressing its achievement gap. What do you believe are some crucial initiatives that address and decrease achievement gap, and what more can the district be doing to support these?
We have to examine programs to determine those that are successful and provide opportunities to exchange ideas from school to school. This involves providing school time professional development for peer mentoring teachers from one school, being provided substitute support so they can see programs actually working with targeted students to reduce the achievement gap.
9. This is a district divided. How do you intend to bring unity back to a community who has seen the gap between parents and teachers grow wider and wider, due in large part to the way the board majority has mismanaged board meetings and framed policy conversation? How would you, as an individual board member, and in working with the board, assure parents that they’re being heard, while instilling confidence in our district’s teachers that they are not targets for far-leaning agendas?
The best way to assure all stake holders in our school district feel they are being heard is to actually listen and hear! Our district has had a history of support and cooperation between parents and teachers. What parents had to do if they wanted an alternative assignment in the past was to talk to the teacher and it was done. I would again hold communication town halls where teachers and parents can talk together. I am not fully in agreement with the premise of your question. I have talked with a lot of parents as I have walked door to door and they invariably agree they respect and honor our teachers. Our teachers are very supportive of our parents. It is just a small number of parents who have been stirred up to speak against teachers’ selections of texts because of, as you say the way some have framed policy conversation.
I am a mediator. I have always gotten to agreement by distinguishing “What do you want?” in a disagreement from “What are you willing to accept”. Usually when both sides state that they are willing to accept …we can guide to mutually acceptable solutions. But this takes listening for agreement instead of emphasizing areas of disagreement.
10. What important policies and issues have been overlooked or ignored this past year (whether it be because people were paying attention to larger issues, or they were never addressed) that you’d like to address and make the community aware of?
I don’t think there is enough attention paid to inclusive education for all and utilizing GATE activities to stimulate academic interest in all classrooms.so all could get excited about figuring solutions to science or engineering or math problems. This goes along with taking students from their own interests and skills and strengths, and using those to expand knowledge and capabilities into STEM areas, take students from where they are and help them reach their higher potential. As I have said in response to previous questions, I would want to see additional attention paid to supporting teachers’ ability to observe successful to close the achievement gap. I also want to include in the safety of school campuses making sure athletic fields are safe for male and female sports, including our softball and lacrosse fields, in addition to making sure our students are protected from unauthorized intruders.
DID YOU MAKE IT? Here's a picture of a palate cleanser before you hit the additional questions.
Candidates were asked to choose five additional questions from a list of questions submitted by the community. Here are the five that Bill chose.
Due to a combination of recent events, including an increase in students being
approached by strangers near campuses, and the response to the Marjory Stoneman
Douglas High School mass shooting, the topic of school safety has been more
prevalent than ever. What is your opinion of the current safety measures in place at
the schools in our district, and what, if anything, would you like to see done to
Our independent safety audit will do much to inform the district where we may be safety deficient. The first project that was undertaken by the Bond I funds was to make sure that every elementary and middle school campus was fenced in such a way to limit access to campus to the front office single entry. That single entry front office entry should be secured to protect office staff who work near that entry. Entry to the office, and therefore the rest of campus, should require office personnel to buzz those authorized to enter in.
I believe we should instruct our sports teams adult coaches to make sure that all of our athletes are secure when practicing off campus or at a visiting site. If we need to have either parent volunteers or hire campus security for extra hours to make sure our athletes are all supervised. I did see that one of our cross country teams was practicing and one of their athletes fell a little behind. The good thing was the teammates immediately in front of the athlete seemed to be waiting at a corner until the athlete caught up to them. My concern was since the road curved, for a while, the athlete was out of sight of teammates. Each athlete must be observed by a school sanctioned adult at all times at school functions, both home and away. We must also pay for field supervisors on remote athletic fields during contests.
What have you done to improve CVUSD students’ experience? In other words,
what can you give back to kids in our district?
As a school counselor for the better part of my professional career, I have always advocated for students, particularly their social and emotional welfare. I will always be fighting for more counselors to ensure that our students have a person they are comfortable with to talk with when they feel overwhelmed. As an educator in general, as answered earlier, I know the resources to find science based best practiced base programs in all areas of education from which I can learn.
What does “the Conejo Way” mean to you?
“The Conejo Way” means ensuring that every student in CVUSD is provided an exceptional educational experience filled with opportunity and choices. What that means to me is providing an education that begins with the student’s interests and teaches incorporating those into learning other things. CVUSD has many examples of doing that. The Schoolwide Enrichment Program at Acacia, next year to be a magnet program allows students to teach projects they suggest and plan. This enables them to practice and build academic skills using topics of high interest to them. This encompasses teaching by catching students where they are and bringing them to their full potential. The Academy at TOHS allows students to choose an area on which to focus and research a topic of their choice and present a college research paper quality presentation. Students learn the skills of research writing and presentation researching something of about which they are enthusiastic , they will be more inclined to learn their research and writing skills with more enthusiasm. Meeting student where they are and bringing them to their full potential represents The Conejo Way.
There's data to support that many of the careers with the best earning potential
right out of college are in the fields of science and technology. Therefore, what
changes would you make to increase science and technology education in ALL of
our schools (especially at the elementary level)?
The District has undertaken two major initiatives to bringing in more people to science and technology education. In Common Core Education, the processes of Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication and Collaboration. So, by having students work on science and technology projects, students who may not naturally be inclined to science and technology interest can be brought in to be more involved. A group who is preparing their graphics for a presentation may include a student who can create beautiful visuals and graphics. That student who is more of an art student might get interested in the science concepts for which the student is collaborating with a graphic presentation. Also by emphasizing the A in STEAM (adding art) you increase science and technology education collaboration with students more inclined to the Arts.
The students in our district (and our country) are facing more social and
emotional challenges than ever before. Please share how you plan to address this
issue at both the elementary and secondary levels to support students in our
The student to counselor ratio throughout CVUSD is deplorable! WE must continue to hire counselors at all levels to ensure that students at every level have a professional counselor to speak to whenever they need professional emotional or social assistance.
At every level, schools in our district are already initiating programs to address social and emotional challenges. The Leadership characteristics taught at Conejo Elementary as well as OCLM are positive supports for the students social and emotional development. Several of our elementary as well as middle schools are emphasizing seeing classmates who may need emotional support and reaching out to greet students in need. TOHS has the Peer Mentoring and Lunch Bunch Programs. Recently we heard the student representative from Westlake that they are emphasizing greeting students that may appear to be lonely . What we as a district have to ensure is that every student at every school has exposure to these programs at some of our campuses
Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a
representative of the school system?
I think the district represents the community so as an individual Board member elected by the people of the district, it is important to make sure the district and Board members represent the community.
THRIVE CONEJO (Thrive Conejo submitted two questions. I asked candidates to pick one to answer.)
1)• If elected, what will you do to prioritize Special Education and hold the Executive Team accountable to closing the achievement gaps for the lowest performing student groups?
As a counselor, I have always been an advocate for Special Education Students. I will continue to strongly advocate for Special Ed and all lower performing groups. As with any concern about the District, I will have an open communication with parents in the District. But being familiar and having worked with special education, I am particularly concerned that parents who have the extra concerns of children who’s learning might need special considerations, are satisfied that each of their child’s needs are satisfied at every IEP, initial, annual or specially called review and exit meeting.
2)• What do you think our district can do to increase inclusive practices for students with disabilities?
Including children with challenges in the general education population classes will create a climate of sharing. Often children with challenges are assigned devices to aid their ability to perform tasks. These may be proven to assist specific children. However, the general education children in the classroom may find the physical aides attractive too. This gives the challenged student the opportunity to share and each the general ed student something that the challenged student is more practiced with, is the “expert” at. This would benefit both. Also peer mentoring in the gen ed classroom increases interaction on various activities between challenged and gen ed students and enables one on one aides or classroom aides to assist more students, using assistants more efficiently. This also would serve to increase social and emotional strength for both categories of students.
A huge thank you to Bill Gorback for the time he spent in answering these questions.
If you would like to support not only his efforts here, but throughout his campaign, you can email him to find out ways he'd like to be supported.
Like what Bill had to say? Make sure you share his platform with your neighbors, friends and family who are stakeholders in the district. There is no reason we should be uninformed this election. Let's all do our part to make sure that we know who we're voting for, and why!
MAKE SURE TO MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 10 A.M., TO INTERACT WITH BILL ON THE ANONYMOUS MOMMY PAGE ABOUT HIS VISION!