Thank you to everyone who participated in — and read along — CVUSD candidate Cindy'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 Cindy's candidate blog (which featured her answers to a pre-selected set up questions before her session), before you dive in!
Read Cindy's CANDIDATE BLOG HERE
Link to Cindy's Facebook Online Q&A forum HERE
Did you appreciate Cindy's time today in making herself available to answer your questions... and all the time she spent on her pre-selected Q&A questions? Here's how you can help her campaign:
DONATE. Donate because stamps aren't free. Donate because signs aren't free. Donate because all exposure isn't free. Donate because attending networking events isn't free. Donate because Cindy has stepped up to make a difference on our school board.
The average cost of a school board campaign this year will cost $30,000. Will you help Cindy?
YOU CAN DONATE HERE.
Q: What experiences will help make you a productive member of the school board?
A: Thanks for the question. I have been involved with our schools for the past 15 years as a parent volunteer, and for the past 12 years as the Executive Director of the Conejo Schools Foundation. I have served on PTSA boards and School Site Councils at all levels and have held many different district wide leadership roles. Currently, I am the Chairperson of the District Advisory Council. I have also participated in district committees, such as Budget, Homework, Career Technical Education, and the Measure I Steering Committee.
I also serve on the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce Education and Workforce Development Committee, which has helped me learn about the needs of our local businesses and what they are looking for in their future workers.
But my biggest learning experience has been through raising our three sons, two of whom have graduated from CVUSD and one who is still in high school.
Q. Good morning! What are your thoughts on flexible seating and other accommodations for children who aren't naturally calm and focused? How do you propose supporting children with learning disabilities as they navigate mainstream classrooms?
A: Great question! I have been in a number of classrooms throughout our district with flexible seating and I think it is fantastic! It allows for students to learn in a way that is comfortable and it removes some of their obstacles to learning.
I expect that the elevation of Lisa Miller to Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services will highlight and focus attention on the needs of students with special learning abilities. According to PBS, inclusive education happens when children with and without disabilities participate and learn together in the same classes. Research shows that when a child with disabilities attends classes alongside peers who do not have disabilities, good things happen.
As former GATE Coordinator Linda Calvin always preached - differentiation is key. It’s good teaching which begets good/effective learning. Good teachers utilize multiple paths and modalities to get to the knowledge and to engage with that knowledge on a variety of levels. The school board needs to make sure that all students (and teachers) get the resources and support required to succeed and to help students realize their own potential.
Q:Hi Cindy. Could please explain how you’ll be able to separate your role as a school board member from your role as the Exec DIR of CSF? Both are vital to our schools yet have a very different role. Thanks.
A: I am proud of the accomplishments of my employment with the Conejo Schools Foundation. As part of the Foundation, I have helped develop and implement important programs such as All District Music Festival, Parent Education Workshops, and a WASC accredited summer school program.
The school board recognizes CSF as completely separate entity in their bylaws. The Conejo Schools Foundation board does not currently believe that there is any conflict between my job with the foundation and my potential role as a school board trustee. Everyone on the board has considered this question and is 100% supportive of my decision to run.
I have proven my ability to separate my roles. I report to the Board as Chairperson for DAC and also as the representative of the Conejo Schools Foundation. Never have the two conflicted. They have both always been clearly distinct roles and reports.
If, in the future, there is any conflict, then my role as an elected official would have to take precedence over my role with the foundation.
Q: Good morning Cindy! Thank you for taking the time to be available. I’m asking the same questions if each candidate. My first question is: Would you do anything to reverse or revise the contentious board policy regarding core literature?
A: This has been a topic of a lot of discussion around town, here on AM and throughout the Conejo Valley. It also attracted a lot of interest from around the country. The new board policy, and the accompanying administrative regulation, was hastily passed and discounted the hard work and input of the experts. There was a longstanding practice in place regarding alternative assignments. As far as I know no student in the CVUSD has ever been denied a request for an alternative assignment. While I think that most people agree that it would have been helpful to further codify and formalize this practice, the way the board handled the “process” was highly problematic and is a prime example of how not to behave/govern. Pitting students, teachers and parents against one another is always destructive, divisive by definition, and does a huge disservice to everyone.
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: The creation of this position by Dr. McLaughlin indicates to me how important this is to the district. With this appointment, the district has elevated Student Support Services parallel to instruction, business services, and human resources. HR/Business Services have to do with the business of running the district and Instruction/Student Support are the heart and mission of the district. Having someone whose job it is to focus on, and advocate for, support of all students, including special education students at that level will help focus district attention on the educational experiences of our students and families.
Lisa Miller brings with her the knowledge and passion from her background in Special Education. I think of it more as an extra, elevated layer of support for our students, families, and teachers. The fact that this position is cost neutral is also a testament to the strategic thinking of our Superintendent.
Q: My multi-part question is on behalf of several teachers. 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: As someone who spends a lot of time on our campuses, it has saddened me to see the morale of some of our teachers decline. That was a large part of the reason I decided to run for the school board.
I believe that our teachers are our experts. For instance, I will always seek teacher input for any curriculum or instruction decision. We are getting ready to adopt new history and social science texts in the CVUSD and I believe that our teacher recommendations are extremely important in this process.
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 towards positive student outcomes.
Any discussion/decision that impacts the classroom (ie. class-size or full inclusion) warrants the participation of teachers.
Q: What role does the Board play in regards to the much talked about adjusted LCAP goals. How can the board members ensure their successful outcomes?
A: The Board’s role in the LCAP process is to define the vision and goals for the district, to ensure that the LCAP presented is aligned with those goals, and that the district is meeting the goals and sticking to the plan, and/or adjusting it as necessary.
Q: One more...given the national school walkouts yesterday and that a local student town hall on gun violence is occurring concurrently to this forum, what would you do as a school board trustee to seek out student feedback and support student activism?
A: It's really great to see our young people getting involved in civil issues that are important to them. Their voices are powerful and watching them as they develop and strengthen their beliefs is a beautiful thing.
I would welcome increased student participation at the school board meetings. Students participate at our school site councils at the secondary level and I would support (and love) seeing a student DAC formed.
In terms of student activism, I personally respect the students for exercising their rights, but it must be done according to school policy. It is inappropriate for school boards and school administration to take a political position.
Q: Thank you for taking the time to do this Q&A. I would like to know what motivated you to run for school board?
A: This is a question I've been asked a lot and how answered it on my Facebook page:
I was having a conversation with a good friend...He was talking about the great rancor and divide in our schools, which he felt emanates from our current school board. He was discussing the political positioning and sides of the board members. I asked him, “WHY are there sides on the school board?” His answer – “Because you’re not on it.” That got me thinking. I have spent my 15 years in the Conejo Valley Unified School District doing whatever I could to help. Was this something new to consider? A new way to help? And here we are.
I have always had a knack for bringing together people with disparate views – people who don’t always agree with one another on important issues – and building a road together. Start at the foundation of why we’re here. In my time in the Conejo, for me, it's been one thing — the students. First, last and always.
It boils down to balance. Which happens to be one of my strengths. I tend to be a very positive, even-keeled person. Calm is my homeostasis, my go-to-and-stay. But we’ve lost our balance lately in the Conejo. And I want to help get it back.
Our students and families are anxious. How do we maintain safety of our sites while maintaining our community-feel and not overtly sending the message that our schools are tantamount to fortresses? How do we keep our educational exceptionalism and rigor while fostering social and emotional well-being of children? How do we keep and support our beloved teachers as they face new challenges in education? How do we keep up with technology? How do we use tech, how do we train the teachers? How much screen time is too much?? How do we pay the bills while enrollment is declining?
It comes back to balance. Anyone who knows me knows that the question “Is it good for kids?” is generally my initial response to school-related issues, whether they be policy issues or proposed enrichment activities. I believe that professionals on our school sites, the District Office, and the elected officials should take a holistic approach to every aspect of education, partnering with teachers, parents and administration, with students always at the center. These types of inclusive connections are my strength and my joy I am proud of our CVUSD schools, and our community. I want to see us return to a place where we are proud of all of our schools and our leadership. We need to remain focused on our goals and our core mission, which is the education of ALL students.
You can also see my answer to this on the submitted questions AM sent to all candidates ~ it's question #9.
Q: Truly, as much as I support CVUSD as a whole, I also strongly oppose its kindergarten policies and I tell my clients and anyone else I discuss it with that if my kids were that age now, there is absolutely no way I’d send them to K in this district. Maybe not 1st either, depending on their individual development.
I speak to professionals all the time who KNOW this, including people in CVUSD. Yet practice continues to go the other way.
What is your position on this as a whole and what would you support as a board member?
A: It is true that the standards today are more rigorous. I share your concerns, but recognize that the standards are set by the state and CVUSD and surrounding districts must adhere to those standards.
What sets CVUSD apart is that we have several alternatives in our district to provide a fit for people looking for something different from the traditional school model. OCLM at Conejo Elementary, EARThS, Acacia, and Ladera Stars are a few examples of schools outside of the traditional model.
I think we should also recognize that our TK an Kindergarten programs are well respected by families and competitive with other districts. A key thing to keep in mind is that there is no one-size fits all in education. If you want whole child education, you can choose OCLM. If you want hands-on science as a lens through which to view all other curriculum, then EARTHS or Ladera would be a great choice for your family. Our neighborhood schools provide excellent opportunities for families seeking a more traditional path. As a school board member, I support having choices that meet the needs of the community.
Q: Another question - how would you solve the current school counselor scarcity?
A: There is no question that the social and emotional well-being of our students is just as important as their academic well-being. I was encouraged by the hiring of additional counselors at the elementary level last year. It’s still not enough. In addition to counselors, programs like BreakThrough have had enormous benefits for students and their families. I worked to get extra support for BreakThrough, which is now being incorporated into Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). Heather Chamberlain, our district’s mental health coordinator, has expanded our network of counselor/interns in order to help more students and to manage the workload for our counselors. This is a great example of creative problem solving and, in my opinion, is a win-win-win. It’s a win for our students, for our counselors, and for the graduate students earning their degrees. The high schools have also started partnering with various colleges and bringing in graduate students to work with the HS counselors.
Q: I’ll ask the same question I have of all the candidates here, because I think it is a great indicator of the direction a school board member wants to see our school district handle some of the sensitive issues facing students today.
How do you feel the district, specifically this board and recent ones, has handled issues of sex, gender and and sexuality?
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?
A: I fully support the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education (FAIR) Act and its goal of increasing inclusivity in educational materials.
Schools are learning organizations. They help expand students' knowledge of things with which they may not have direct experience, and/or help them contextualize things they do. I support bringing in age-appropriate materials that depict all kinds of families.
There has been a lot of unnecessary drama and conflict around what is actually being taught in our schools and what was proposed.
As far as teachers sharing details of their personal lives with their students, I expect that all teachers, regardless of their sexual orientation, would use the same level of professionalism and connectivity when discussing their own families.
Q: I have just recently heard bits of discussion amongst parents in regards to changing the district Middle schools back to 7-8 and sending 6th grade back to the elementary school. What is your stance on this? And would it be something you'd consider putting up for discussion?
A: I am always open to discuss things.
It wasn't that long ago that we had the discussion of moving 6th grade out of our elementary schools and into our middle schools from a developmental standpoint. We certainly could revisit that discussion, if the community feels it is warrented.
Moving 6th grade back out to elementary schools would cause middle school enrollment to drop to around 600 students. This would make offering a variety of electives more difficult. That said, I completely understand the desire to keep our 6th graders more protected/safe - physically and emotionally. I remember when our oldest went off to Redwood. I was a little apprehensive. But the middle schools all do a very good job of helping nurture the 6th graders, allocating them their own space, separating lockers etc. All our middle schools do that.
I think increased, more effective communication to parents of rising middle schoolers (5th grade parents) is key. The early-back camps that our middle schools started a few years back go a long way to easing the transition and help both students and parents get acquainted and comfortable with their new school.
Q: Since so many career opportunities straight out of college are science and tech oriented, what would you do as a Trustee, beginning at the ELEMENTARY level, to ensure that science is valued and taught effectively to our students?
(This question is especially important to me in a national political climate that undervalues science and science ed.)
A: Thank you for this really important question. I share your view that science curriculum is important. Our youngest child attended EARTHS because he loved science and we knew it would be a good fit for him.
I am encouraged by the state's adoption of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). It provides robust standards for all grades K-12 and will help expand the science curriculum at all of our sites. It will provide a new focus and professional development opportunities for teachers.
Currently, TOHS science teachers have been reaching into our elementary schools and providing hands-on NGSS lessons for students and their teachers. As a board trustee, I would encourage more of that type of vertical articulation.
Q: 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.
A: Thanks for the questions. I answered moving 6th grade to elementary school above.
The anecdotal fact that 5 families have left because of this is interesting to me. I would love to learn more. As far as declining enrollment goes, there are many factors that contribute to this. Much of it is due to the community aging in place, low birth rate, and high housing prices.
Additionally, there is a perception that the public education system is broken. If I am lucky enough to be elected to the Board, I would like to partner with the City on their resident attitude survey and include questions that could help inform our choices. It is important to understand why people are choosing other schools or homeschooling in order to be better able to market and highlight CVUSD offerings and/or to fill any gaps in our programs. This might provide us more information on the 6th grade issue.
Q: Thanks for doing this. From what I have observed, I think our district is great at teaching "to the middle." What do you think CVUSD can do to help the students on the other ends of the spectrum-- especially high achieving kids who are bored in class?
A: My years of experience as part of GATE DAC (and my years as a parent) have given me an appreciation of the continuum of abilities and needs - from special education to GATE to twice exceptional.
This issue has been raised many times over the years byGATE parents, and now by Special Ed parents. Dr. Santos has been focused on bringing more enrichment opportunities for all of our students and will continue to provide professional development and support for our teachers.
I support making sure that all of our students' needs are being met. Our district goal for GATE students is that we offer "qualitatively differentiated learning experiences for students with unique abilities and talents in all academic areas and/or visual and performing arts." I am not sure that we have met that goal, and I believe it warrants further examination and discussion.
CLOSING STATEMENT BY CINDY:
This has been a great morning discussing issues important to you all and to our district!
For more information about me, please visit my website at www.cindy4cvusd.com, and my candidate Facebook page www.facebook.com/cindygoldberg4cvusd.
Thank you AM for providing a platform for everyone in the community to learn about all school board candidates.