Thank you to everyone who participated in — and read along — CVUSD candidate Bill's online Q&A session this morning! For those of you who don't have access to Facebook or were unavailable, I'm compiled the complete* list of questions and answers here, after the jump!
You might want to familiarize yourself with Bill's candidate blog (which featured his answers to a set of pre-selected questions before his session), before you dive in!
Read Bill's CANDIDATE BLOG HERE
Link to Bill's Facebook Online Q&A forum HERE
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Bill is still answering questions. I will update this further as I have time, but this is a start.
Q: Hi Bill, Thanks for answering questions. Mine has to do with higher-achieving students: they have their own set of individual needs, yet I feel that there’s a lot of teaching “to the middle.” (An example is having College Prep English classes to read an entire book out loud in class, rather than having kids read at home and then discuss in class. This sounds like torture for many!) What do you think CVUSD can do for its higher- achieving kids at all levels?
A: Hi Shannon and thanks for the question. Your question involves a lot of issues that have been topics of conversations recently, including inclusivity, homework and differentiation for particular needs. I agree, that it does not prepare our students for college to have them read out loud in class. That happens rarely if ever in college. Higher level classes call for higher expectations to prepare for the next step. I think our class curriculums for the college prep and AP should modify college expectations. In other words maybe not as is sometime done in college assign a book and never mention in class until the mid term or final but to assign and say there will be a discussion a week from Friday but again this type of direction in class should be up to teacher discretion. But whether a student has the initiative to do modified long term assignment should be a particular part of the differentiation determining his or her fitness for that level of academics.
Q: Good morning Bill, and thank you for being available to us. I will ask the same questions to each of the participants. First question: Would you do anything to reverse or revise the contentious board policy regarding core literature?
A: Thank you for the question. In short a DEFINITE YES!! The currently adopted board policy is a slap in the face of our teachers and I greatly respect the teachers' autonomy to weave and create and teach in their classroom their curriculum. The teachers should be in charge of writing their syllabi and what they are going to say about each book they choose. Although it was handled in a very divisive way hopefully the contentious discussion has gotten parents to be more aware of the importance of playing a supportive part in their children's academics and read the whole books not just particular passages they were told to read. By having greater communication with their students and the teachers they can be more active supporters of the whole education process and curriculum.
Q: Hi Bill, thank you for taking our questions! My multi-part question is on behalf of several teachers, and I asked Nelson something similar yesterday. What can you do in the role of school board trustee to boost teacher morale and promote a culture where our opinions and expertise are valued? How will you ensure teacher input is meaningfully solicited in regard to decisions that impact curriculum and instruction, such as full inclusion of special education students (the mission of Thrive Conejo)? Are there other types of decisions for which you think the board and/or district administration should be including teachers?
A: Thank you for your question. As a board member we can promote a culture where teachers opinions and expertise are valued by actually seeking out and listening and valuing our teachers expertise and opinions. YOU are the ones in direct contact with our most important entity the kids, making you the ones we should seek out how every act we take is going to impact you and the kids. YOU are the ones we need to ask, "How can we help you to bring out the best in and for our students?" Just to remind everyone, I was one of you for more than fifteen years then I was a counselor for seventeen years working right along side you. I saw how good board decisions raised the morale of teachers and how decisions that appeared to completely disregard the needs of teachers lowered the morale of the whole school culture. You are the experts and I would come to your campuses to hold listening sessions as often as I could.
Q: Next, And what are your thoughts regarding the appointment Lisa Miller Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services - a newly created position? Is this position more beneficial than putting those resources into the school sites?
A: I certainly think hiring Ms or Dr. Miller is a definite start. I was introduced briefly to her at the GATE DAC meeting Friday and she seems dynamic and supportive of the needs of our students. This is just the start of recognizing the need to provide. The research and knowledge she does and how spreading that to all the schools, taking the good things done to close the achievement gap at one campus like what is done at Walnut and helping spread that to our other campuses, the professional development she implements of all the successful programs she finds at including SpEd students into Gen Ed classes and helping the professionals of both accommodate in the most efficient way, will all prove to be a more efficient way to get more successful programs onto the individual school sites. As board members we can assist by engaging ourselves in every opportunity to learn about education programs we can get our professional staff input and approve the best programs we can possibly implement for our district making it the foremost district in implementing best inclusive practices in education.
Q: And finally, What role does the Board play in regards to the much talked about adjusted LCAP goals? How can the board effect the achievement of these goals?
A: Again, we can seek out the best evidenced programs for providing the best academic programs we can find, seek out from our educational experts the scientific based ways to reach our students where they are to increase their involvement in school and as he board did a couple years ago, find activities that more kids are interested in and implement them tho give more opportunities to involve kids. The Board of a couple years ago approved more diverse sports. We can continue to do that but also seek opportunities in all areas of STEAM especially sciences and arts to bring in the students whose major strengths are the arts and sciences and not necessarily Gardner's Verbal Linguistic and Mathematical Logic. By getting kids where their strengths are, we can expand their interests and abilities to areas they can use their strengths to build upon.
Q:This question was submitted by Lauren Shaffer who asked me to submit as she would not be available during this hour:
Now that my oldest is a year out from middle school, I have become aware that many parents feel that 6th grade is too young for the middle school atmosphere. I know 5 families that have moved to private or have decided go homeschool. They then plan to have their kids go to the public high schools. What are your thoughts on bringing 6th grade back to the elementary campuses. With declining enrollment, I think it will help numbers at the elementary level, and help with the crowding at the middle schools.
I happened to be here and involved when my kids were in the time period of the transition when 6th was offered at both. Even though, that was a transition plan for just a year or two,I thought it was a good idea. As someone who worked most of their counseling career as a middle school counselor, I strongly feel some kids are ready for the middle school culture after fifth and some are not. Three ideas that I would look into. Each of our middle schools, particularly Sycamore which is on the same campus as the elementary, do a modified middle program particularly at the beginning. I would see whether expanding a modified middle is an answer and again I would look for parent and teacher input as both you are the experts. I would also look as I mentioned into the feasibility of having elementary 6th and middle school sixth. This would not only give parents a choice but teachers a choice also.
I would find if there are teachers and principals that may prefer the inclusive sixth curriculum and want to teach and have sixth grade in the elementary environment. As a middle school counselor I know of parents anticipation jitters of their child approaching middle school. The biggest job of the middle school counselors are helping the students and parents of the sixth graders during the transition and adjustment period. As with all levels in our district we MUST find the funds to increase our counseling staffs. I have always been a proponent particularly in the middle school of having a late shift counselor, maybe from 12:30 to 9 to be there to support parents in real time when issues come up in the home regarding school in the evening.
Thanks for taking questions. (And yes the below question has been asked of other candidates, and no I’m not *only* concerned with this one issue, but so many others are asking the other pertinent questions I have that I feel this one bears repeating).
Q: How do you feel the district, specifically this board and recent ones, has handled issues of sex, gender and and sexuality?
Q:What is your opinion of bringing books into the classroom that provide age appropriate representation of transgender individuals and homosexuality? Do you feel it is appropriate for lgbtq+ teachers and staff to be out to their students? I’d also love to see explanations for your answers, however I also realize it’s late in your scheduled time here.
A: I am very concerned with the effects on our student LGBTQ+ of the way the board has handled the issues you bring up. Every student deserves to feel valued and important and that they can achieve success by looking at people of heir community who have. It is also good for students who are not in the LGBTQ+ community to see that a great contributor to the culture of arts science leadership or any other fields were members of this community so that they can learn respect of their classmates who are members of the same community. I totally believe that each and every student brings to the table an opportunity to learn about them.
With the appropriate teaching moment that explains that gender is determined by chromosomes and body and that in most cases these correspond but in cases the brain cells and chromosomes don't coordinate with body parts, where a girl can identify as a girl but was born with male organs and appearances and a boy can identify as a boy but appearances might indicate he was born as a girl, teaching that can bring about increased understanding and respect and could easily be incorporated into age appropriate books for the classroom. I don't believe the personal lives of our teachers affects or influences in any negative way the decisions of our students. I actually believe that a teacher feeling they cant come out because of their position is a greater detriment to the respect for students than a teacher coming out is. That is a personal choice that teachers should be free to come out whenever comfortable and should not influence our students. Obviously whether gay or straight, teachers and all adults working with our students should impose proper boundaries between themselves and students.
Q: Good morning! I'm a little late, but I hope you have time for just one more question. With the push for more campus security, I worry that mental health care of our students is being overlooked. Elementary schools, no matter the size, have access to a school counselor 1 day a week. That's simply not enough time to identify problems let alone try to solve them. What can a school board you are a member of do to help? Thanks so much!
A: Thank you so so much for the question. Not only was I a school counselor but was President of The California School Counselor Association and a delegate to the American School Counselor Association.I also had a job when I lived in Arizona for seven years where I was the Special Ed counselor and went to nineteen elementary schools and five middle to provide the counseling goal counseling in students IEPs. Your statement is definitely correct. It is just as important ti have a counselor full time in an elementary school as in middle and high schools. Kids issues don't just start at 11.
Our district has made strides to improve the situation but have a long way to go. Also kids in elementary don't necessarily carry over activities or talks they had a week ago to the next week. This is an issue near and dear to my heart and campaign. I would work with staff to increase the funding to hire more certified school counselors in what ever way we can find the funds to afford it meaning grants and other sand opportunities to increase memos of understanding more universities to have more advanced counseling interns. My goal would be to have a counselor for every school for both students and parents.
This would not be done by my first term but would be my goal to complete as soon as could be done. You are right we have more students that are definitely affected by our prevention steps like lock down or shooter on campus drills. We also have more kids coming to school affected by family situations and grief and loss. those kids need to have someone they can go to when needed instead of "You can discuss that on Thursday when your counselor is here, now go back to class and do your math. Students particularly elementary need to discuss their problems when they occur not when the district has scheduled a counselor for their school.. So I would seek every way possible to provide a full time counselor for every schools' kids.
Q: Thank you for this opportunity. Can you tell us how you define the role of board trustee? What are the limitations and boundaries? How would you navigate a situation where your personal beliefs were in conflict with the direction of the district or popular opinions?
A: Thank you for your question. Being a Board member is a combination of leading and reflecting the views of the popular constituencies. Personal beliefs should not be a factor in board members' decisions especially if based on religious views. The only "personal" views that are relevant are what scientific based or evidenced based best practices best helps each and every individual student achieve their optimum potential. Sometime we learn about programs that evidence shows a benefit to learning. Popular opinion based on what contributes to the learning and needs of today's students and the 21st Century skills they need to have. Many people feel their students should be learning in a traditional way.
21st Century skills of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication. As a board member and educational leader I feel a responsibility to lead and convince people of the value and need of this kind of skill education. It may or may not reflect popular opinion but a responsibility to teach and lead based on what is best for our kids. On the other hand, as an elected official there is also the responsibility to uphold the trust the electorate has bestowed me. I reflect the community. Therefore my decisions will always be based on the bottom line of what is best for the educational value of the kids, certainly never on my own personal faith based beliefs. i respect the rights of all to hold those beliefs but they must never dictate decisions made in the governance of our State run secular school district.