Restore Proper Governance
The first issue that needs to be addressed is the restoration of proper governance. By all accounts, San Dieguito struggles with a dysfunctional split board of trustees and it has resulted in a negative, unproductive environment that distracts from the important work of teaching and learning. This also makes it difficult for the board to attract talented leadership. Board members need to come together as a unified team to make decisions in the best interest of children. Differences of opinions can be leveraged in positive ways to benefit the district but they must be dealt with respectfully and with the goal of achieving consensus whenever possible. Board members must be crystal clear on what their job does and does not entail, they must agree to a set of behavioral norms, and they must invest time and energy in building trusting, healthy relationships with all stakeholders. Without a cohesive, collaborative board, even a fantastic district like San Dieguito is limited in what it can achieve. Until we have a high functioning governance team, it’s not reasonable to expect we can make meaningful progress in other critical areas such as safety, balancing the budget, or promoting research-based21st century learning. I’ve served two terms as a school board member and I hold a Masters in Governance from the California School Board Association. I’ve used this used this knowledge and experience to create a solid, productive working relationships in Del Mar. I would like to do the same here in San Dieguito.
San Dieguito faces significant financial challenges. Governor Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula directs additional state resources to students who live in poverty, who live in foster care, or who are English learners. Only a small portion of our students qualify for these supplemental grants, which results in per pupil spending that is far lower than other high school districts in the county. Additionally, all districts in the state are struggling to meet the increase in the required contribution rate to the state employee retirement systems. Close to 90% of any district’s budget goes towards salaries, which leaves little room for cuts without increasing class sizes. In Del Mar, I have a record of consistently making necessary cuts while improving the integrity of instructional programs and maintaining small class sizes, resulting in a more efficient, effective organization with balanced budgets. I will bring this experience to San Dieguito as they grapple with their budgetary issues.
As a parent and as someone who has been personally affected by gun violence, I am passionate about school safety, the highest priority of all school boards. I attended Sandy Hook Elementary School as a child and I support the work of Sandy Hook Promise, an organization that provides evidence-based programs and a multifaceted approach to safety at no cost to districts. I’ve had the honor of collaborating with the founders to bring these programs to both Del Mar and San Dieguito. The main component is the establishment of an inclusive school climate in which all children feel deep and meaningful connections to teachers and peers. Another component is training staff and older students to first recognize the signs that someone may harm themselves or others, then know how to assess and respond to those threats. We also need to attend to our facilities—San Dieguito has already done good work in this area, installing security cameras, perimeter fencing where needed, and a school visitor management system.
Preparing students for the 21st century
We need to transform K-12 education in order to prepare students for our global 21st century economy. I’ve supported this work during my time in Del Mar as part of our District Design 2022 plan and in my training of preservice teachers at San Diego State University. Schools need to maintain a solid academic core but also provide opportunities for students to think across disciplines and create new knowledge. Education should be highly engaging and personalized to meet individual student needs and interests. It should develop a propensity in children to take purposeful initiative in response to the world around them. Design Thinking is a powerful instructional method that draws upon logic and imagination to solve real-world problems. In Del Mar we have also addressed the issue of the environment as a third teacher, piloting Modern Learning Studios and Innovation Centers in cost effective ways, and assessing their impact with research.