My priority areas as trustee are:
#2: Prioritize Resources
Let me tell you a bit about what these really mean.
The more I learn about the San Diego Unified School District, the more I am convinced that we can do better. Doing better isn't just about graduation rates. It's about the quality of a student's education and if they are able to use their education to make the most of opportunities for success.
A quality education requires a thoughtful and intentional approach that moves beyond immediate results. It requires making hard decisions that not everyone agrees with, commitment when things get hard, and persistence to see it through. As board trustee, my promise to students, parents, and the community is that I will do what's best for the students, first. Always.
But, what am I going to do about it?
In my work with nonprofit organizations, I first ask, “what is the mission?”. So, naturally, I looked at the mission of San Diego Unified School District. It's as follows:
“All San Diego students will graduate with the skills, motivation, curiosity, and resilience to succeed in their choice of college and career in order to lead and participate in the society of tomorrow.”
This sounds inspiring, right? But, based on the how many students are failing to meet math and English grade-level standards, not all students are prepared to “lead and participate in the society of tomorrow”.
Something has to change.
It starts at the top
As a board trustee, I am accountable to students, parents, families, and the community as well as to every taxpayer whose hard-earned money goes to support the work of San Diego Unified School District. Yet, resources are wasted because of a lack of strategy for sustainability.
Accountability means implementing programs that are sustainable.
An example of the lack of strategy is the new STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program. In 2018 the District rolled out the program for elementary starting with TK/K and 1st grade students. Classrooms were re-designed and teachers were provided with professional development and training focused on STEAM. The plan is to roll out subsequent grades each year, if there is money in the budget. I support STEAM. And, I also support a sustainable plan the allows for students to build their STEAM skills, year to year, through High School. But, with a lack of long-term implementation plan and an expected $53 million budget shortfall for 2020/2021, I'm not confident that the upper grades will benefit from the STEAM initiative.
Accountability means being accessible.
If you have a problem with something at your child’s school, and your concerns are not addressed at the school site level, you move on to the District office. If they aren’t addressed there, you move on to the Board of Trustees meeting, held once a month. If you happen to have childcare (because the meeting is in the evening), and you manage to make it through the meeting itself (they last anywhere from two to three hours), you are given 1 minute for public comment to make your issue known to the board. But, because of the Brown Act, the board cannot respond to you during the meeting and there is no guarantee that your issue will be followed up on.
Something has to change
As a board trustee, I want to not only be accountable, but accessible. I am committed to holding regularly scheduled meetings in District A open for anyone to attend, to learn about the issues that parents and families are facing and listen to your ideas and solutions. I believe that accountability is more than just informing: it’s about two-way engagement. I’ve seen here in Clairemont that when communities support education, communities thrive. Together we are stronger.
With an operating budget of $880 million, 90% of it goes to pay salaries and benefits leaving less than 10% to pay for everything else including campus upkeep and safety, technology upgrades and repairs, as well as the necessary tools students need to learn like books, software, and supplies such as beakers for chemistry class.
When resources aren’t used wisely, students and teachers pay the price. Literally. I have seen over and over again, teachers paying for supplies out of their own pockets or asking parents to donate basic items such as paper towels, Clorox wipes, and paper to the classroom.
Something has to change.
As board trustee, my job is to ensure that resources are available and used to fulfill the mission, which is preparing students for the society of tomorrow. As board trustee, I will work to make sure resources are used efficiently in ways that actually support educating our kids by working with teachers and principals to keep the programs in place that work and fund them appropriately.
Partnering with communities
San Diego is known for innovation and excellence in healthcare, telecommunications, biotechnology, and academia. UCSD, ranked 6th in the nation for public schools and #1 for women in STEM, is right in our own backyard. Yet, San Diego Unified does not reflect this excellence. Industry is clamoring for qualified, skilled workers, but with nearly half of SD Unified students failing basic subjects like math and English, how will these jobs be filled?
Something has to change.
As board trustee, I want to tap into the expertise of our region and work together to address the complex issues that prevent ALL students from being prepared for a society of tomorrow. I want San Diego Unified to be a national model that others can learn from. But, this is only possible through partnerships with industry, academia, and with community support.