Thank you to everyone who participated in — and read along — CVUSD candidate Nelson'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 Nelson's candidate blog (which featured his answers to a set of pre-selected questions before his session), before you dive in!
Read Nelson's CANDIDATE BLOG HERE
Link to Nelson's Facebook Online Q&A forum HERE
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*Nelson's Q&A had an excellent response and he's still answering questions. I will update this further as I have time, but this is a start.
Q: Hi Nelson, thank you for doing this! My multi-part question is on behalf of several teachers. We are wondering what you would do as a board member to ensure teacher input is meaningfully solicited in regard to decisions that impact curriculum and instruction. For example, how will teachers be made part of the decision-making process for ventures 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 include teachers? What will you do to promote a culture where teachers feel their opinions and expertise are valued?
A: Great question. I think the real crux of this issue is how hands on a board should really be in creating curriculum. I believe that trained and educated professionals should be responsible for creating and implementing the solutions that work best for our community. I truly envision a cooperative approach between teachers, parents, and students as those most likely to create the best possible outcomes. The board is necessary to make sure that the district is hearing the voices of the entire community and to help envision how these solutions will impact the district, students, families, and the larger community over time. Teachers are the front line for implementation and I would be disappointed to learn that individual schools are not currently using teacher input to address how curriculum is implemented currently. Teachers obviously are responsible for the day to day interaction, and have the best sense of how the actual plans will be carried out.
Hi, Nelson. I feel you will greatly contribute to the school board having two children who will attend in the district. I also feel as a realtor in the area you will have a vested interest in keeping the locals at a high standard for property values.
Q: What two items are priorities in your opinion for the Board to address?
A: two biggest priorities for the district at this time from my viewpoint, are our declining enrollment and our aging infrastructure. We need to look into how to expand our student population by making our district a place parents trust to give the finest education possible. The district needs to be a place where dedicated and exceptional teachers want to work. Our classified staff needs to feel supported and valued. I believe we need more than just anecdotal evidence to learn why parents choose specific schools. We need to talk to Horizon Hills and CVNFL parents to see what their criteria are for selecting their children’s future schools. We need to be sure we are creating an environment that fosters accessible education for all of our students. There is also the reality that many of our school buildings are heading into their seventh decade of service to this community. The district and board need to focus on the deferred maintenance of these buildings and using the resources our community has given to help make our schools a safe and modern learning environment.
Q: How do you plan on implementing a safe and secure environment for students to attend in this age of violence on campuses?
Q: What skill set do you feel you bring to successfully join the board?
A: My skill set includes a grasp of budgets from my years in automotive service management. As a realtor I spend time marketing, negotiating deals, engaging in the community, and working cooperatively with people of diverse backgrounds and opinions on often very tight deadlines. I know how to prioritize and compromise. I also consider it a great boon that I have spent 30 years in this town, I attended these schools, and have children in the district, and step-children who attended the schools. This town is very much woven into the fabric of who I am as a person, and I never forget that.
Q: Hi Nelson. What’s your plan to increase enrollment in the district? As a realtor you know it’s expensive to live here, and generally requires 2 incomes. The schools have a lack of available after school care for working parents (waitlists every year). Thoughts?
A: I believe that an aging local population and stagnant housing growth are two contributors to the declining enrollment in local schools. The CVUSD board needs to support the city’s efforts to expand housing in the area that will attract younger residents and the future families that will feed into our schools. The fact that our neighborhoods are too expensive for our teachers to buy homes in is also a concern, when trying to attract and retain these talented professionals. We also need to become more aggressive in attracting out-of-district students to our schools by highlighting the advantages of a CVUSD education relative to neighboring districts.
As a parent with a child going into elementary, I was concerned about the after school care issue, When I looked into it, I learned there is only one school in the district currently with a waiting list. This shows that either the district needs to do a stronger job of promoting the care, or get a better grasp on the level of demand for it in the community.
Good morning Nelson-thanks for taking the time to listen. I'm asking the same questions to each candidate- so here goes.
Q: My first question is: Would you do anything to reverse or revise the contentious board policy regarding core literature?
A: It is my belief that the current board is not reflecting the vision of the community for our children accurately. Thousand Oaks is becoming ever more diverse, inclusive, and forward-thinking. The world is shifting away from the traditional roles and power structures that have held sway for decades. I firmly believe resistance to the FAIR Act itself is rooted in bigotry and hate, and I personally have no patience for that. I do, however, recognize that elected representatives are bound to find ways to let everyone work under the same tent whenever possible. The request to codify an ad hoc opt out program is not unreasonable. Demonizing literature that has been approved by the State of California DOE in a letter sent to parents annually is unreasonable. Parental education advocacy groups are not an unreasonable idea. A board created and empaneled to be a gauntlet run for pre-approved literature is farcical. We need our professionals to be sensitive to the needs of the community, not have them browbeaten by cherry-picked activists. (Stolen from my previous answer to this to AM.)
Q: Next, 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 think that having a position that oversees the implementation of this specific LCAP objective, is a huge step forward for how we are thinking about education in the 21st century. I think it shows that the district, and Dr. McLaughlin, is serious about creating an optimum learning environment by establishing the best practices that can be implement across every school instead of risking an uneven implementation that could leave some student groups under-served. I very much look forward to seeing the results Lisa Miller produces, and am excited about what this represents for our student population.
Q: And finally, What role does the Board play in regards to the much talked about adjusted LCAP goals. How can the board members effect successful outcomes of these goals?
The first thing the board can do is to make sure they communicate that the LCAP and its implementation is a priority of the Board. Running the district itself is the job, and the LCAP is the blueprint. The Board needs to recognize how to support administration and staff from implementation, and be a candid sounding board when reviewing results. I have watched far too many Board meetings that spent hours on issues that served individual Board members instead of students. I hear endlessly about behind the scenes maneuvering that is about personal issues of community needs. All of us know that in order to get work done, it has to be about the goal, and not ourselves. If I am elected to the Board, this will be my mantra. I am a business owner with two young children. I am very active in the community as a volunteer. I am doing this because I want to help, not to serve myself.
Q: Thank you for doing this. In your questionnaire, you talked about the students accomplishments being the best examples of our district in order to retain attendance, but what exactly would you do for that? How will you, specifically, be an advocate for our district after all this turmoil?
A: This is a question that strikes at the heart of what originally drove me to run for the Board. I watched over the last couple of years as board members mismanaged what I considered great opportunities to show what was being done for the children of this district. CVHS moving out of an old, out of code relic building, and finding a better learning environment for them to excel, became a pitched battle over whether other programs would suffer, or whether neighborhoods were going to be hurt. This resulted in a contentious 2016 election. The fallout that resulted then created a series of struggles over a social issues that I believe were engineered to further divide the community. I think it is incumbent on us as voters to end this. I am presenting myself as a candidate who has no interest in furthering a personal agenda, or a need to score political points to further a political career. I want to make sure my friends, neighbors, and clients who live and teach in this district know that we have the best interests of the students, and all of the community as a whole at heart when we make decisions. I graduated from TOHS, and I look forward to the day my daughters, now 5 and 2, do the same. I intend to do everything in my power to make sure that we all feel that way about these schools and the district as a whole.
Q: Some parents are choosing to Home School high school students and then enrolling them in Moorpark College, so they graduate high school with an AA. How can we have this option at CVUSD high schools like LVUSD is doing with Pierce College?
A: I think everyone in the CVUSD wants to see dual enrollment as an option for all of our students in this district. We have a number of capable both working for and with the district who are championing it today. I would love to be a part of the team that sees this goal reached. As we watch college tuition spiral into ever less affordable heights, and see the newest generation of student and graduates grapple with housing and food insecurity, being able to help students get a leg up on their college career while still in our district would be a great gift.
Q: Hi Nelson! 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: I believe that the board is responsible to adopt curriculum to maximize the benefit to the students, while remaining sensitive to the mores of the community and the demands placed on the resources of our district. Put simply, I am not interested in writing policy to cater to my personal belief set, or satisfy my own ego. My personal beliefs may inform my personal actions, but I do not think that my beliefs should be the basis for determining how others should act. In situations where there is any conflict between the beliefs of disparate community groups, we need to find solutions that allow for everyone to exercise as much freedom as possible without hindering the learning experience of others. This will be my guiding philosophy.
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: Like you, I am aware of parents who were concerned about the challenges presented by the rapid developmental and emotional changes in the middle school years. Also, credentialing in this state is K-6, 7-12. This means that the state sees 6th grade as the elementary years. Without being on the Board, and not having studied this, I do not know what the financial impact would be on the district to make this shift. It could prove to be economically and socially beneficial. I am curious how many parents would be supportive of this idea, and I would like to know what 6th grade teachers think of this.
Q: Hi Nelson. Thank you for joining this forum, and for serving the community by running for school board. This is a question I have been posing to all the candidates. I have a child with ADHD. I have found that most traditional schools (not just in our district), even those who do a great job with special education needs, have not figured out how best to serve the needs of children with ADHD. Do you have any experience in this area and do you have any thoughts on how the district might be better able to serve this need? Thanks!
Let me start by stating I am not a trained professional in education, or an expert on ADHD. My hope is that with the introduction of Ms. Miller to the new assistant superintendent position, as well as the rise of SEDAC, we are finding that a long dormant desire to serve students who fall outside of traditional success stories can now be successfully advocated for. There is a strong push at the moment to incorporate UDL (Universal Design for Learning) strategies into our district, and I believe that this template would likely be a better fit for a ADHD child.
Q: I'll ask my same as last weekend -- What are your views on the lack of accommodation for many who apply to elementary school before- and after-care programs and are turned away for lack of space? It's been cited before as a reason some leave CVUSD, and is a factor in declining enrollment. Do you feel the child care accommodation right now is adequate, and what are your thoughts on how to improve access for more working parents?
As a parent with a child going into elementary, I was concerned about the after school care issue. When I looked into it, I learned there is only one school in the district currently with a waiting list. This shows that either the district needs to do a stronger job of promoting the care, or get a better grasp on the level of demand for it in the community. Based on the fact that you are the second person to address this, I would also say that the district would be well-served to get accurate statistics on the real demand in our community.
Q: Same question I asked Jenny: As a childcare provider for 36 years, my personal expertise is on the early years.
And I’m ever more horrified at how expectations in K have gone in the exact opposite direction from research. TK scares the hell out of me. I was further upset by a study that recently came out asking ‘Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?’which was comparing today’s K to that of the 1980s.
I took my early childhood development classes in the early 80s. I was taught, repeatedly, that K in the 80s had lost its original purpose, and was the ‘new first grade’. What does that make it now?
When my son started K in 1987, I observed two classrooms and selected the lesser of evils. Two years later when my 2nd son started K, things had started changing and he had a wonderful, age appropriate experience. Oh, and also the summer following he began reading fluently, by 2nd grade he was in a gifted magnet, and is now an engineer. A developmentally appropriate experience not only didn’t hurt him, but compared to his brother I feel strongly it helped.
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 can 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: My stepson entered Acacia Kindergarten in 2001, and my wife was surprised at the time to find that what he was expected to know entering the school year was the same as what she was expected to know leaving that same classroom (literally) in 1978. This shift is notable, and is one of the contributing factors to why TK exists in our schools today. Five year-olds can be in very different places developmentally. I think that a lot of the credit for the normalization of increased challenges at this level comes from the tremendous job that early childhood educators such as yourself do with children. As far as how the school district is handling this issue, I would say that we are not going to be fighting the Department of Education requirements for Kindergarten. That goes far outside of the job description. Our task is to make sure we are up to the task of implementing these goals in a way that makes it possible for children to succeed. I would imagine expanding our TK enrollment, and giving children an extra year of help is the best way to serve the community.
Q: On your statement about celebrating student accomplishments to increase enrollment: as a parent of 4 grown kids I know that the pressure to succeed in schools is enormous, and if anything, this seems to have increased in recent years. Many who can’t make it to the ‘top’ for whatever reason become overstressed and may just decide school isn’t important.
How, then, would you ensure that varying accomplishments are supported, rather than just academic awards and high end college acceptances, so that students can be assured there are multiple definitions of success?
Might it be better for our student body as a whole to address declining enrollment by focusing on unique and special activities in our schools and continuing to increase magnets that address differing student needs and interests?
A: I agree 100%. I don't think student success is defined by academic standing or what college you end up at. Students need a plethora of opportunities to discover themselves and their interests. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my experiences as a performer in school are far more cherished memories than being a National Merit Semi-finalist. Trips to competitions as a member of the speech team and choir group in high school gave me friendships and bonds that have lived on for decades after. Water polo practices, and sports injuries taught me about the value of effort, teamwork, and overcoming adversity. These are the things our schools offer children beyond just an academic base, and the things that definitely need to be celebrated.
Thanks for taking questions.
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: One of my close friends in high school came out openly a year after we graduated. He had spent a lot of years feeling that his identity as a gay man was a burden to his parents, his friends, and made him feel like an outsider in the community. I truly feel that the lack of acceptance and demonization of the gay community that marked our adolescence in the late 80's has left wounds in my friend that he wrestles with to this day. I never had to live in fear that my identity would make me a target of ridicule, or make me a source of shame to my parents, or limit my economic and social opportunities. I wish with all my heart that I could say the same about him.
My personal belief is that age appropriate representation of LGBTQ+ people in our schools is important to me because students need to know that people are people, and that no one should be ashamed of their identity. Teachers and staff should be able to share their lives as appropriate with students, and I don't see a need to hide a same sex spouse anymore than I would expect an opposite sex spouse to be hidden. I feel very strongly about this, and have low tolerance for people that try to reject the humanity of my friends, neighbors, and co-workers as way to spread an agenda of intolerance.
Q: I have a question about the leadership roles of the Board. Right now Ms. Everett is VP of the Board. Assuming the two current Board members are not reelected (and I hope and pray they are not) and assuming you are elected, how would you vote for CVUSD Board positions? Who might you nominated for Board Pres? VP? Clerk?