Candidate for CVUSD Board of Education
Q&A date: Saturday, April 21 at 10 a.m.
Anonymous Mommy Facebook Page
Cindy 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.
Cindy has agreed to participate in my online CVUSD Candidate Q&A forum and below you will find her completed candidate questionnaire that all candidates were required to fill out. I encourage you to read about her views for the CVUSD prior to her online Q&A, in which she'll be available to answer any questions you may have for her.
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.
Cindy Goldberg is a parent and education advocate with more than 15 years of hands-on experience in the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD). Goldberg — executive director of Conejo Schools Foundation and chairperson for CVUSD District Advisory Council (DAC) — has a proven track record of working closely with the district on student-first policies while prioritizing a united, collaborative approach to school-related initiatives.
Goldberg has held numerous district-wide leadership roles, including her participation on several district committees — budget, homework, and Career Technical Education (CTE) — and the Measure I Campaign Steering Committee. Further, Goldberg has volunteered with PTSAs and school site councils at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. To foster the district's connection and presence with the greater community, she is an active member of the Chamber of Commerce’s Education and Workforce Development Committee and the TOARTS Advisory Board. She is committed to bringing balance back to the Board of Education in Conejo Valley.
Goldberg has three children — two of whom have graduated from CVUSD, a third currently attending — and has resided in Conejo Valley since 2003 with her husband, Gil. Goldberg graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in communications and a bachelor’s degree in history.
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?
Content standards are set by the State Board of Education (SBE) and frameworks are developed by the Instructional Quality Commission. The role of the school board in adopting curriculum is to decide the budget, determine the goals, and approve the recommended materials. However, teachers and Administrators should be the ones creating and refining the curriculum. The school board’s role is to approve the materials that best serve the goals and vision of the district based upon recommendations from the Secondary Curriculum Advisory Council (SCAC) and the pilot process.
The board needs to be aware of the scope, content and guidelines involved in the adoption practices. The board should be sensitive to the community and keep them informed in a factual, straightforward, and neutral manner. The board should listen to the voices of the entire community, not merely representatives for special interests, or those with whom they share common interests. Cultivating relationships with all stakeholders in a transparent manner ensures student learning is the foremost concern.
Once board policy is set, the administrative regulations guide implementation. Typically, they deal with the mechanics of “how” a policy is carried out, which is the responsibility of the professional teaching and administrative staff. Board members should trust these experts. It is appropriate for the board to ask questions when they arise, but subverting and discounting professional advice is not. If there is a continuous, cooperative system with clearly defined roles, special interests are prevented from thwarting critical, thoughtful implementation.
Local school boards must adhere to state law - the consequences of not complying are severe. A school board can encourage the community to advocate for changes at state level, but cannot ignore state guidelines.
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?
We have a lot to be proud of in the CVUSD. We have been listening to, and hearing, our community ask for options outside of the traditional school model. To help in student retention we must listen to options requested by students and parents, additionally we should encourage our professional staff to make innovative recommendations to the Board. I will say that CVUSD has provided a number of innovations and choice; we need to do an even better job of communicating those options to students in and out of the District. For example, the VC Innovates grant jump-started what we have to offer and we need to keep up the momentum by continuing to build more programs and advertising them to the community.
Our Career Technical Education (CTE) courses are some of the “best kept secrets” in the Conejo. CTE courses, including some at the honors level, are offered at all of our high schools and also through collaboration with the county. There is a huge opportunity for CVUSD to lead the County in this area with real world career pathways that provide dual enrollment through partnership with the Ventura County Community Colleges.
We have excellent, and very diverse, magnet schools - EARTHS, and the Open Classroom Leadership Magnet (OCLM) at Conejo Elementary. We have launched the Acacia School for Enriched Learning, and Ladera STARS (Science, Technology, Arts, and Rigorous Scholarship) Academy as a result of stakeholder input. Similarly, our new independent study (homeschool) program, Shine, offers a quality option for our families for whom that environment works best.
We have a breadth of innovative programs at the high school level, including the Anatomy Cadaver Program, ETHOS, Culinary Arts, Sports Medicine, AP Capstone, IB Program, etc. We have also created more college credit opportunities for our high school students through dual enrollment classes with Moorpark College. Century Academy offers flexibility in a hybrid learning environment, combining both online and in-class options, as well as individualized instruction and attention.
CVUSD must also ensure that we have programs geared to all student sub-groups. The board has heard from a group called THRIVE, which is advocating for more inclusive environments for special education students in the classroom. Creating a Special Education District Advisory Council (SEDAC) is a good first step. As DAC chairperson, I invited Lisa Miller, Director of Special Education, to send a parent representative to DAC as another stakeholder reporting member. The Special Education voice has been missing and we did not want to wait until the group is fully formed to begin including them in our discussions. This should also help retain children within the CVUSD.
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?
Declining enrollment is a multifaceted issue facing many communities, not just the Conejo Valley. Factors such as a community aging in place and a low birth rate, coupled with high housing prices and low inventory play a role. Additionally, we have to push back on the perception that the public education system is broken in general. The reality is that the vast majority of parents and students firmly believe that their school is great. However, the recent very public controversies that played out across the community have damaged the reputation of our district and will likely further impact enrollment - a major reason motivating my run.
CVUSD should work with the various public entities to help mitigate citywide issues in order to optimize our community’s experiences, our schools included. I have a long, established track record and have built strong relationships with city council members, the City Clerk, the Library Services Director, the Community Services Director, CRPD, TOARTS, the Thousand Oaks Police Department, and other organizations within Thousand Oaks and I can leverage them for the good of our schools. By highlighting our current successful programs and implementing innovative programs to keep students in our district, we will help to maintain enrollment numbers.
As a mom who went through the pain and agony of the closure process and the ultimate closure of our beloved neighborhood school, University Elementary, I have a visceral reaction to the mere thought of closing a school. Years later, the kids are “fine”, but fine is not the level to which we aspire. For me, school closure would have to be the very last resort when all other options have been exhausted. That said, I have sat on the budget committee for many years and recognize that there are size and financial considerations that play into that type of decision. This would be an instance where I would have to put aside my own biases and do what was best for the kids and for the community. If it came to pass that we had tried absolutely everything to encourage new enrollment and bolster programs and sites were still too small to be viable, I would take the hard fought, painful lessons learned from the Meadows and University closure process and craft a better way forward.
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?
My years of experience in the community have created positive, strong, relationships with parents, students, teachers, and community leaders. Talking to “non experts” can also yield tremendous insight. I know who best to talk to in order to get relevant, helpful information. I value a diversity of ideas and seek out divergent opinions.
I have spent years as a self-proclaimed ambassador for the CVUSD. Let me be clear that ambassador does not mean that I don’t offer constructive criticism for how we could do an even better job for our kids and community. Connecting to the community and our schools and programs is something I do regularly. I believe in direct and transparent communication, and feel that the more the community understands the process, the better we all are. I regularly utilize all avenues of communication, including in-person and social media. Social media is the new way to communicate and get information out quickly - but for sensitive issues it is better to rely on face to face forums to ensure all stakeholders get a say in the conversation.
If elected, I plan to attend appropriate training, such as the annual California School Boards Association (CSBA). While that can be seen as another way of consulting the experts, I think it’s important that board trustees receive training, and constantly strive toward better governance.
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?
I have been on the CVUSD Budget Committee for many years. School budgets are fundamentally different than other types- I have the experience of working with the district budget and understand the complicated nature of school financing and funding. I also was part of the Measure I Steering Committee and am very familiar with the structure, guidelines and restrictions of our Bond funds. The two questions I always ask are, “Is it good for students?” and “Does it improve learning?” Most budget expense comes down to these two questions.
I believe that the district budget must be managed in a transparent manner. We must monitor compliance and keep the public informed of how the district is spending our funds and the progress we are making toward meeting our goals. We need to think long term, measure the impact of our decisions and when (if) we receive new information not be afraid to take that new information to account for proposing revised direction. After all, CVUSD should be a Learning Organization.
The proposed new budget process is student centered - something that I have advocated for since school closure. It is critical to first assess the actual needs and then craft a budget that aligns resources with these needs. Data driven decisions are paramount, but you have to balance the data with an understanding of its implications - that those numbers represent people and other factors which need to be taken into consideration.
Additionally, in my work with the Conejo Schools Foundation, I have managed large budgets and provided stewardship of grant funds for a variety of programs across the district.
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?
Simply put, of course I will set aside time to be an active member in our district and community. I have been doing that for the 15 years I have lived in the Conejo Valley. I started like most parents - I volunteered at my sons’ elementary school and got involved first in the classroom and then with the school-wide Harvest Festival, the Jog-A-Thon, and writing the HSA Award Ceremony Script. Before I knew it, I was involved in School Site Council and the site’s Wellness Committee. I learned a lot about my own school’s community and before long, I was asked to be part of GATE DAC. That led to my years of involvement at the district level.
Currently, I am the chairperson of the District Advisory Council (DAC). I am well prepared for that role, having been an active member of School Site Councils at every level (elementary, middle and high schools) and a member of DAC as a school-site representative. DAC is a great way for parents to learn about other schools and the district, and the multitude of programs offered. Through my volunteer involvement, I have built relationships on each of our campuses over the past 15 years, and I understand the pulse of our district.
Additionally, my job with the Conejo Schools Foundation, an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to support the programs and students of the CVUSD, affords me a multitude of opportunities to interact with the program leaders, teachers and administrators, as well as the community. In order to best serve our students, I visit our schools regularly, making connections across sites, identifying and sharing best practices. Recent examples are Club 8 from Banyan, Lunch Bunch from TOHS, buddy benches and abilities awareness weeks.
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?
Every school has its own unique culture and different funding streams. Some of our schools have the ability to raise a lot of money, and others have less. That is why it’s important to recognize that parents and the community often hold the key. Encouraging these groups to get involved by giving a combination of time, talent, and/or treasure is the key. If the community and parents become aware of our programs - both what they are and what they are not yet - then we can maximize opportunities to grow together. For example, I am currently working with the city’s arts organizations to build relationships and programs that should bolster arts opportunities across our elementary schools.
Ana Alvarez’ Parents Making A Difference Program (PMAD) teaches parents how to become actively involved in their child’s educational experiences. I believe this type of involvement is not only good for our English Learning population, but beneficial for all parents and community members. If people are exposed to the possibilities, I have found that they are more than happy to help. For example, when the community became aware of a need for volunteers for the CVHS graduation celebration, “Dragon Moms” emerged from all over the Conejo willing to pitch in and help make the day special. That’s The Conejo Way.
The Conejo Schools Foundation is another avenue to help address some of these issues. The Foundation has helped to pilot programs such as early back kindergarten at Conejo Elementary and then replicated these programs at a number of our Title 1 schools. As a regular part of my job with the Foundation, I build those connections, helping raise awareness and funds for schools that are underserved. That does not always mean the schools with the greatest concentration of families belonging to the low socio-economic demographic. Many of our schools in the middle range are the ones struggling. Title 1 schools receive a bit of extra financial support that those in the middle do not. The Conejo Schools Foundation has been able to help all CVUSD schools through targeted classroom enrichment grants.
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 need to create more proactive, connective activities for our students and families and to support those that have proven successful. Maple Elementary has addressed their gap through a holistic, family approach and has utilized hands-on learning opportunities to their advantage. The district can do a better job recognizing and supporting these programs and helping share successful elements with other sites. Outreach programs like Ana Alvarez’ Parents Making A Difference have had tremendous success and demonstrated huge advances in shoring up the achievement gap in the younger grades. Expanding this amazing program to the middle and high school level would help more families and would help close the achievement gap in those crucial years as well. Additionally, the district should support teachers’ and train them to deliver culturally responsive instruction. This type of support will allow them to connect culturally and emotionally with the students and families they teach.
Social-emotional engagement and awareness is also a key to success in closing the achievement gap. Data shows that when students are connected, they are happier, more productive, and achieve at greater levels and rates. Continuing to expand BreakThrough to be able to serve more students, including elementary students, would give more kids and their families the social/emotional tools they need to thrive. Communication and connection play a large role and programs like Stand Proud and All It Takes teach the soft skills and provide a shared language that crosses all native language barriers. This yields a level playing field, creates a desire to support and encourage each other’s strengths, and ultimately leads to success in the classroom and in the world beyond.
As part of Thousand Oaks High School’s School Site Council for the past 6 years, I have worked on a number of ways to close the achievement gap. The Site Council provided Student Activity Cards for underserved students and funded the group that became the Peer Mentor course and Lunch Bunch. These efforts helped identify and connect students in order to mitigate factors contributing to stress and anxiety. Even more, they helped create a welcoming, inclusive environment which, in turn, encourages and supports learning.
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 perception that there is a gap between parents and teachers is largely the impetus behind my decision to run for a seat on the School Board. I have spent 15 years building relationships among parents and teachers, administrators, the district and the community. I have a unique position as a both an outsider and a quasi-insider - and I have a proven talent for being able to speak both fluent “parent” and relatively fluent “district”. I have demonstrated an ability to listen to all angles, synthesize the conversation, and help weave together a stronger fabric. Through my work on various district committees, as well as my job with the Conejo Schools Foundation, I have been lucky enough to visit all of our schools and understand their daily realities. I want to use my skills as a consensus builder and peacekeeper to benefit the district and community as a whole.
We need to recognize that everyone is here for one reason: our kids. It is in their best interest that we rebuild the mutual trust and respect that has been the hallmark of CVUSD and a large part of its success. The School Board is supposed to be a non-partisan entity and partisan politics should have no place within it. One of my strengths is my ability to work with everyone and to create an environment where everyone is valued and validated and feels their voices are being heard.
Trustees need to direct and support activities that focus on solutions. My successful working relationship with all stakeholders in the CVUSD community uniquely positions me to build the necessary bridges and work toward positive student outcomes.
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?
We have had many successes in our district this past year that have been overshadowed by unproductive controversy. This includes the successful move of Conejo Valley High School, the expansion of Century Academy into middle school, the opening of SHINE, increased GATE opportunities including Odyssey of the Mind, and expanded stakeholder engagement at DAC.
In the past year, the board has postponed critical conversations and decisions regarding Next Generation Science Standards implementation and curriculum updates across many other subject areas.
We have virtually ignored conversations about the middle-learners, students in the middle that do not qualify for additional support because there are no extra dedicated resources. Reintroducing the AVID program at the high school level was an attempt to help these students, but it would likely be more beneficial to begin support earlier in a student’s school career in order to catch and keep their interest and prevent issues.
We have also avoided the difficult conversations about students living in poverty and the real support they require. We also need to understand the implications of some of the California Dashboard metrics such as success of our English Learner (EL) population, referrals for gifted education, and suspension rates of subgroups. I believe those assessing older EL students who have not yet been reclassified and ascertaining whether or not the issue is truly a language barrier or something else that is impeding their success. Many people fail to recognize that most EL’s are American born and need different types of interventions.
Similarly, it’s time to refocus on bolstering the great work being done by Heather Chamberlain, the district’s Mental Health Coordinator, and the BreakThrough Program. Issues like anxiety, stress, drug abuse, and suicide need to be prioritized. A new LCAP goal addressing the social, emotional and physical well-being of our students was recently added. It is time to put together the framework to meet that goal and develop the support system to help our students thrive.
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 Cindy chose.
Due to a combination of recent events, including an increase in student 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 improve safety?
We are fortunate to live in one of the safest cities in the country, and our schools are relatively safe. I am thrilled by, and interested to hear the results of, the upcoming safety audit, but even more, I would rely heavily on the expert advice of our amazing law enforcement professionals and implement their recommendations. Chief Hagel has put together an incredibly talented, dedicated team of School Resource Officers (SROs), and the more we can optimize their presence and abilities, the better.
What have you done to improve CVUSD student’s experience? In other words what can you give back to kids in our district?
For the entirety of my 15 years in the CVUSD, I have volunteered extensively in our schools, getting involved in classrooms, School Site Councils, and PTA programs. Since 2006, I have been an educational advocate through my work with the Conejo Schools Foundation, building bridges to the greater Conejo community and helping advance opportunities for all of our students. I am proud of the district-wide programs and initiatives of which I have played an integral role, programs like the All District Music Festival, the WASC accredited Get Ahead Summer Program, Cash4Conejo Classrooms, Cycles for Success, Conejo Elementary Goes to City Hall, TEDxYouth@Conejo and TEDxConejo, and the BreakThrough Parent Education Workshops.
My guiding principle and belief is that everyone benefits when we work together for our kids, and I intend to continue doing just that.
Consider this scenario: a parent who currently has their child in a private school is touring schools and exploring moving their child into the CVUSD. What conversation would you have with this parent about the benefits of attending school within the district? Further, how much importance do you place on communicating with parents whom currently homeschool or have children in private schools?
I have conversations like this regularly. It starts with my listening to the parent about their child, their family, and their educational goals and then helping them find a match. There is something for nearly everyone in the Conejo Valley Unified School District - including homeschooled children - and we need to do a better job of helping families find the fit. My breadth of experience serving our schools is a huge benefit when having this conversation. I believe it is important to communicate with everyone within our attendance boundaries because without communication, there can be no awareness of the opportunities. Families can not avail themselves of programs if they do not know they exist. We cannot add or modify programs if we are unaware of the need.
What does the Conejo Way mean to you?
The Conejo Way embodies the unique culture and perspective of the CVUSD - it is the “way” we all operate. From the district staff and teachers to parents, students and the community, we all work together to succeed and we do it “The Conejo Way”. It is that innate knowledge of the district and the community - the little voice inside that tells you whether or not a plan, an initiative, or a structure, will work. The Conejo Way means taking actions and making decisions in a helpful, beneficial manner that supports students, families, and teachers. It is grounded in everything that makes and keeps Conejo a great place to live. It is like Curly’s “one-thing” in City Slickers - you just know it.
For those students who will not choose to go to college, and to fill the ever-growing shortage of skilled workers and tradespeople, what ideas do you have for increasing vocational education to promote career readiness right out of high school?
Students have a wide variety of talents and interests and need to be fully prepared for their own futures. It is essential that teachers understand the modern work environment in order to help students plan for vocational careers. A great place to start would be to create and build externship opportunities for teachers through partnerships with other entities (such as the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce and the City). We need to continue to build bridges to the broader business community and provide internship/mentorship opportunities for our students (and their teachers). This is a win-win for everyone. My relationships with community leaders will be very helpful in this endeavor.
As I previously mentioned, Career Technical Education (CTE) programs have long been one of the “the best kept secrets” in the CVUSD. It is critical that we promote existing CTE opportunities such as the Academy at WHS, ETHOS at TOHS, and the wide array of CTE opportunities at NPHS (such as Advanced Digital Video Production). CVHS has also made tremendous strides aligning their CTE courses with the Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD) in order to best serve CVHS students and create opportunities to help them succeed immediately upon graduation. CVSUD must continue to evaluate its existing vocational programs and build new ones when appropriate.
Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system?
As a school board member, I would be both a representative of the community and a representative of the school system. It is the job of a board trustee to ensure that the two are not mutually exclusive and that both constituencies are equally well served.
A huge thank you to Cindy for the time she spent in answering these questions.
If you would like to support not only her efforts here, but throughout her campaign, you can donate here:
Like what Cindy had to say? Make sure you share her 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 SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 10 A.M. TO INTERACT WITH CINDY ON THE ANONYMOUS MOMMY PAGE ABOUT HER VISION!