ISSUES & FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Ensuring that every student has the access and support they need to achieve their individual academic success.
RESPONSIBLE FISCAL MANAGEMENT
Thoughtful planning and decisive decision-making regarding programs, people, facilities and materials while being mindful of increasing budget challenges.
Continue to foster a partnership between CUSD and its students and families through transparent conversation and authentic collaboration.
SAFETY AND WELLNESS
Address campus safety concerns, student wellness, responsible use of technology, and the need for safe and modern facilities to build on the outstanding improvements accomplished with the Measure G bond.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. One of the major priorities of your campaign is educational equity. How do we ensure equity for all CUSD students, particularly in a distance learning scenario?
My perspective is informed by my work as a high school teacher where the issue of student equity is always at the top of my mind. Teachers strive to ensure that each student has the resources and support to be successful in the classroom. It is the duty of school board members to enact policies that support teachers with appropriate programs, resources and professional development to create equitable learning environments for students. In this time of distance learning, the equity gap has and will continue to increase, making educational equity an even greater priority.
Distance learning in the spring of 2020 shined a light on existing equity issues – access to technology, internet connectivity, safe and comfortable work spaces conducive to remote learning, family/parents support home/work life balance, etc. CUSD recognized many of these equity issues immediately and began addressing them in the spring; these efforts should and will continue in the fall of 2020.
All students in grades 3-12 will be provided a school issued iPad or access to an electronic device. Additionally, iPads will be available for students in TK-2nd grade upon request. In my conversations with school officials, devices and internet hotspots will be made available to all students in need, and in some cases have even been personally delivered to student homes. I see providing appropriate technology to students as a basic equity responsibility of the district.
The state of California has implemented Senate Bill 98 which now requires live instruction (synchronous), mandated educational minutes, and full access to all curriculum and textbooks. From my own teaching experience, I know that offering flexible office hours, multiple communication opportunities, and regular student check-ins are a critical component of equity. As our students navigate school from a distance, their diverse home lives and situations are a factor in their ability to learn and participate. In this context, educational equity has taken on a whole new meaning. It is the school board’s responsibility to enact policy that ensures teachers are provided with the electronic tools, training, and work spaces to provide the instruction to students described above.
Outside of COVID-19, teachers are always mindful of the idea that in achieving equity, we must offer differentiated instruction to meet individual needs. It is no secret that students with access to after school tutoring and summer enrichment programs benefit greatly. As a community, it is our social responsibility to serve all students. We are fortunate to have wonderful community partners in Claremont (CLASP:Claremont After-School Program, the free Harvey Mudd Homework Hotline, Uncommon Good) to assist in closing these gaps, but there is always room for more.
Lastly, the newly formed District Advisory Committee on Racial Equity is an important and necessary next step for CUSD. It is the first time the district has formed an advisory committee since 2009. A well-balanced committee with representation from all the school sites is vital. In Claremont, our site-specific equity issues are varied. As a board member, I feel it is my responsibility to make sure all of the schools in our district are represented. I am hopeful that the committee will create an environment of inclusivity and address feelings of marginalization.
Educational equity is a systemic issue that cannot be corrected with a few quick policy changes. If elected to the Claremont school board, addressing the equity gap will be one of my biggest priorities.
2. Another one of your platform points is responsible fiscal management. In this time of fiscal uncertainty, what does responsible fiscal management look like?
The adopted district budget revised in June avoided the deep cuts we were anticipating this year. In addition, CUSD has been fiscally conservative and the current cabinet has worked with the employee associations and the board to come together to make concessions that keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible.
Although these collaborative relationships and monetary savings are helpful, CUSD is different from surrounding districts who receive concentration funds in addition to supplemental funding. Typically this funding is allocated according to certain criteria, called the unduplicated pupil count. Because only 5% of CUSD’s budget comes from supplemental funding, the overall budget has constraints that many other districts do not have. I support the idea of fiscal conservancy and am committed to working together with district staff and the associations to get through the tough times that are coming in the next few years.
Additionally, CUSD is a district facing declining enrollment in recent years with classes closing and teachers’ positions left unfilled after retirements or resignations.This is attributed to local housing costs, fewer school-aged children residing within district boundaries and other districts becoming less likely to “release” students requesting transfers. Consistent enrollment numbers over the years have been important to the health and vitality of the district. For a variety of reasons, it is important to families, business owners, home-owners and our community as a whole, that Claremont continues to be a district of choice. Steady enrollment makes possible the many Claremont USD specific programs such as the robust fine and performing arts programs, AP and IB offerings, and elementary school choice to name a few. As elementary class sizes have shrunk in recent years, the impact is now being felt at El Roble and Claremont High School. As reported in the Claremont Courier on August 28, 2020: “There were 627 8th graders at El Roble last year. The incoming 7th grade class is just 492.” We need to think creatively and boldly to address this issue of declining enrollment. Most recently, CUSD offered three educational options to support the diverse needs of our community during distance learning this fall. Their efforts helped keep Claremont students in our district for the academic year 2020-21.
As the district prepares for the lean budget times ahead, it will be imperative to look to outside funding sources to maintain the supplemental programs and activities that make CUSD so unique. Art and music education district wide, 1:1 iPads in the classroom, elementary orchestra and track and field programs, and multiple elective courses at the secondary level are just some examples of the supplemental programs CUSD offers as a result of partnerships with community organizations. Additionally, community organizations such as Shoes That Fit, CLASP, Uncommon Good, Claremont Heritage, The Botanical Gardens and Claremont Canopy, to name a few, all work diligently to provide supplemental programming and services for CUSD students outside of regularly funded district programs.
As a board member, I look forward to continuing my work with community organizations like the Claremont Educational Foundation and others mentioned here to assist in the preservation of valuable supplemental programming.
3. Safety and Wellness is another priority of your campaign. Recently, there has been extensive conversation throughout the community about having a police presence in our schools and whether or not that funding should be reallocated for other programs and services. What is your opinion on this community conversation?
This issue is currently at the forefront of many community conversations and it is an important one. I support the district’s choice to fund a School Resource Officer (SRO), however, I also recognize the need for increased counseling and mental wellness services. Additionally, it is important that the newly formed District Advisory Committee on Racial Equity examines the role of the SRO and how it can be improved upon through training and acknowledgment of the current climate.
I support a school resource officer as an educator and community member. I have seen first hand the valuable services they provide. I have had many conversations with teachers, school nurses, counselors and students who rely on the SRO for very specific needs. Some specific examples include documenting and executing a 5150 (5150 refers to the California law code for the temporary, involuntary psychiatric commitment of individuals who present a danger to themselves or others due to signs of mental illness.) If a 5150 is done by the SRO, the school is notified about release so that they can create a return from hospital meeting and plan and provide appropriate support services. SROs provide inservices for staff on the latest drugs so they can be informed and vigilant in the safety of their classrooms. The SRO can legally participate in weekly SST (Student Study Team) meetings to discuss at risk students. It is an uncomfortable reality that school violence exists. Whether it is student to student or student to teacher or staff, there are scenarios that require professional de-escalation to minimize harm and ensure safety. Teachers are not trained to de-escalate violent situations. Although the SRO is not on campus full time, Claremont High School administration has expressed that the SRO has immediate or better response time than other Claremont law enforcement. Prior to COVID-19, school safety was the number one concern for teachers when surveyed.
While school safety is important, if students feel marginalized and/or profiled, that is an equally important issue that needs to be addressed. While the SRO serves many valuable functions for both staff and students, I think it is time to redefine the role. I support a reframing of the program in such a way that we can provide our community with an opportunity for reconciliation. I feel that our SRO should be someone students respect and have positive interactions with. Mutual respect is a true equalizer. I am committed to participating in productive discussions about this and ensuring that the District Advisory Committee examines the SRO program. There is always room for growth and change. In my opinion, it would be more productive to redefine the SRO position rather than eliminate it.
The need for increased mental health staff is often suggested at the cost of the SRO program. The need for increased mental health staff is evident, but I do not support the elimination of one program to fund the other. The cost of providing mental health professionals with reasonable access for students at seven elementary schools, a middle school and two high schools, far supersedes the cost of the SRO program. Eliminating one will not adequately fund the other and provide appropriate services. The district has a number of mental wellness resources and partnerships with providers in the community but there is a need for more. I support continued conversation about how to adequately fund and provide these services.
District staff, counselors, teachers, students, and the SRO are all members of the community and when we work together, we have a better community.
4. You have stated previously that you are in support of the School Resource Officer program in conjunction with the Claremont Police Department. You have also acknowledged that the program needs to be redefined so students do not feel marginalized and feel safe on their campuses. What does that look like to you?
If elected, I commit to the best practice of investigating and openly discussing all program changes, cuts, and revisions before acting. That is why I support the district’s choice to fund a School Resource Officer (SRO) at this time, however, I also recognize the need to reexamine what the SRO program looks like. I have had many conversations with teachers, school nurses, counselors and students who rely on the SRO for very specific needs. SROs hold inservices for staff on the latest drugs so they can be vigilant in the safety of their classrooms. The SRO can legally participate in school site intervention meetings to discuss at risk students. SROs provide professional de-escalation to minimize harm and ensure safety in school violence situations. The SRO documented 19 suicide and crisis interventions in 2019 in CUSD and counseled 193 students and 127 adults needing support.
I would also encourage the district to hire staff for Restorative Justice Programs. Students should be provided with an opportunity for reconciliation before disciplinary measures are implemented. Restorative Justice programs provide staff development and training to help students repair relationships, have meaningful and mutually respectful interactions, and most importantly transform systemic thinking to create fundamental change.
The Los Angeles County Office of Education has some Restorative Justice resources, but it is my hope that the District Advisory Committee on Racial Equity will take a hard look at the different programs available on this topic. CUSD needs a robust and sustainable Restorative Justice program implementation to address issues of inequity and the marginalization of students.
As a longtime educator, I have seen program implementations that consist of a one day training with little to no follow through. I want to see a restorative justice program that has multi-tiered and ongoing training, including an initial download of the process, followed by implementation support and evaluation. A single day of training will not be enough to thoughtfully implement a program of this magnitude. A well planned restorative justice program has the capability of providing students the chance to participate in a cooperative process to evaluate and repair any perceptions of harm. With a program like this, all stakeholders can participate in building more meaningful relationships in our community.
5. What is your vision as a school board member and what improvements would you want to see between the CUSD school board and the union? How will you stand with teachers and CUSD staff?
We are facing some of the most trying times of our lives. Specifically, in CUSD, distance learning, educational equitability, a budget crisis, a recent ransomware attack, and declining enrollment are simultaneously impacting students, staff, teachers, and families alike. As challenging as these times are, they will not last forever. I want to serve the Claremont community as a school board member who helps our district move forward. My vision as a school board member is to actively participate in strengthening the best of CUSD programs and policies and work together to find solutions to challenges that have grown out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The only way to accomplish this in the best interests of students and staff, is for all stakeholders to work together towards common goals that are set through continuous and transparent dialogue.
I have been a proud member and supporter of the California Teachers Association for 24 years. I stand apart from the other candidates as a fellow colleague and union member. It is my priority to preserve CUSD jobs and protect programs. I appreciate the thoughtful leadership the current board and CUSD cabinet applies to every decision made, particularly in these recent times of change and struggle. I also know through first-hand experience what the daily implementation of these decisions looks like. I understand the struggle of spending months during the summer learning digital applications and converting course content. I have personally spent hours attempting to deliver rigorous course content through synchronous virtual instruction. Like my fellow union members, I have lost sleep over the students who are unengaged and lost. I miss the face-to-face smiles of my students and the animated conversations we once shared inside the classroom.
Outside of distance learning, I understand the sting of program elimination or the burden of extra-task assignments. I am able to thoughtfully participate in conversations regarding AVID, PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Support) , IB (International Baccalaureate), AP (Advanced Placement), SST (Student Study Team), IEPs (Individualized Educational Programs), PLCs (Professional Learning Communities), ASB (Associated Student Body), SGT (Student Guidance Team), SDC (Special Day Class), and the myriad of educational acronym systems and programs that make up our complex educational system.
I support the Teachers Union because I am one of you. As a board member, I would encourage Union representation and comment at board meetings. Responsible policy implementation and budgeting are important board member duties, but it is equally important to advocate collectively for the issues that matter to all teachers.
6. As an educator how do you feel the district can better support our vulnerable populations through Distance Learning?
The simple answer is teachers will continue to support vulnerable student populations with individualized education plans in the same way they always have—through differentiated instruction based on the learning goals written for the individual student.
Prescribed services include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous supports, as well as regular consultation with the parent/guardian for independent practice activities to support the students’ IEP goals.
The more complex answer is that the burden is placed on the case carrier to make sure the IEP and goals are appropriately communicated to all parties involved. If pull-out or specialized instruction is part of the IEP, those specialized instructors will provide their services remotely according to the designated schedule. Parents/guardians have an opportunity to discuss their student’s IEP with their student’s educational team, once assignments have been made. Unique to the distance learning setting, parents will have to support their student’s accommodations at home. That is new and uncharted territory—everyone on the IEP team needs to work together to ensure success. Face-to-face experience and regular communication have always been standard practice for IEP teams. Now that distance is the new reality, it is vital that parents at home continue to communicate and reach out to ensure compliance and are active partners in student success.
7. What do you think the biggest challenges will be for educators in the fall semester?
As a public-school teacher, this concern hits really close to home. I’ve spent the last six months dialoguing with people about how to continue to provide a top-quality learning experience. The most important challenge will be to create a safe and welcoming environment for all students on my Zoom screen. Teachers need to be cognizant of the fact that for some students, they will feel most secure with their cameras off. Some students do not want to show their environment on camera and sometimes students just don’t want to be seen on camera. Students should be encouraged, when possible, to turn their cameras on. It is a lonely and isolating feeling for the teacher to see black squares with names rather than the faces of their students. Camera on shows the teacher that students are focused and engaged with the lesson and allows the teacher to do some checks for understanding.
That said, some of our students are logging on to their Zooms from locations that they would rather not share with their teacher or peers. In those situations, the teacher can suggest that students use a picture of themselves as their Zoom screen identifier. I know so many of our teachers are developing strategies that will involve off camera check-ins using the chat feature, daily emails, phone calls and even non-academic time on Zoom to connect with activities like meditation or yoga. SB 98 requires educators to make contact with students and families when the student is not participating in synchronous lessons for more than two days. CUSD is providing specific guidance to teachers for regular check in protocols.
A core element of good teaching has always been:
- “What do you want the students to learn?”
- “How are you going to get them to learn it?”
- “How will you know they learned it?”
In an online setting, the usual tricks of the trade just don’t work—it is requiring a total reset for all teachers! I can’t see Michael tap his fingers on the desk when I know he wants clarification. I can’t see Joanna shift in her seat because she wants to raise her hand but wants me to nonverbally encourage her to do it. As teachers, we are going to need to have open and frequent discussions about what the students’ needs are and how we can help them be successful. I know many Claremont teachers have spent hours this summer recreating lessons and assessments in a digital format that are interactive, fun and also contain the rigor necessary for student success.
The learning isn’t really the challenge…learning from a distance is the challenge.
8. What do you think the biggest challenges will be for parents and guardians in the fall semester?
Creating the best learning environment possible for their student at home by providing academic, social-emotional and technology support will be the biggest parent/guardian challenges. Establishing a routine and setting a schedule, along with expectations, will be very important for student success. Virtual and synchronous daily instruction from a teacher at home is uncharted territory for students. Parents will need to insist upon an appropriate learning space for their student. Academic success is rarely attained while eating cereal, in bed, in pajamas. After a socially distant summer, students are out of the habit of waking up on time, dressing for success, and maintaining a routine. Even though students are not attending classes in person at this time, school supplies are still important. There is nothing like new pencils, crayons and highlighters to create a positive learning environment! Parents will be asked to emulate the attitude that they want their students to follow. I want to acknowledge that this is hard—very hard. Setting a positive tone won’t be easy, but students will thrive on positive parents leading by example.
9. CUSD Nutrition Services have been a recent topic of conversation amongst parents in the community. What is your opinion regarding meal service for our Claremont students?
As a mom of a 15 year old student athlete, health and nutrition for our youth is a high priority. When concerns regarding the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables were brought to my attention during a recent forum, I responded promptly to research the situation. Offering meals for students during the pandemic has been a bit different than the pre-pandemic meals that were provided. Pandemic related complications include availability, shelf life and student participation in the meal program. The goal is to provide a fresh fruit AND vegetable each day, even though the California Department of Education allows for the provision of one or the other. Due to impacted supply chains, however, the district does not always receive what was ordered, and substitutions have to be made.
I have reached out to several families in the community and asked them to share with me the contents of their district provided meals over the past week and found there were typically 2-3 servings of fruits and vegetables in every meal. While there is definitely room for improvement – the use of less processed foods for example, I do recognize the COVID-19 constraints that require the procurement of pre-packaged foods with a longer storage life.
My hope is that CUSD Nutrition Services will be able to transition to fresh, less processed items for our students. I look forward to serving on the CUSD board so I can be part of the conversations regarding this need and ensure a healthy and nourishing food program for all of our CUSD students.
10. Organizations like Claremont Educational Foundation and CLASP work to establish equitable educational experiences for all students at all schools in Claremont Unified School District. What past experiences do you have with these organizations and if you are elected to the school board, how would you work with and support them in the future?
I have proudly served on the Board of Directors for the Claremont Educational Foundation for the past four years. I have been a donor since the “Get on the Bus” campaign and knew that it would be a great opportunity for service in our Claremont community after working on the Measure G school bond campaign. Being part of a group that enriches and enhances public school education for ALL students has been a truly rewarding public service experience. CEF provides annual block grant funding for all ten school sites. Their financial support touches every CUSD student, every year. I have worked on CEF events and communications teams. I am a member of the SLICE committee, and I also serve on the grants committee. CEF is primarily volunteer-driven and operates with low overhead so that all schools benefit tremendously.
CLASP or Claremont After School Programs has supported district students for many years with tutoring programs, after school care, and family services. Recently, I have spent time with CLASP personnel discussing the challenges of providing tutoring for their students during the pandemic. Even through these challenging times, CLASP is working to support our vulnerable students through distance learning.
As a board member, I am committed to continued support of both of these organizations. I’ve always admired how current CUSD board members cultivate and foster district partnerships with CEF and CLASP and make time to attend their fundraising events. I would be proud to continue this tradition.
11. As a high school educator, can you comment on vocational education at the high school level, and in particular what it looks like in Claremont Unified School District?
Recent statistics show that 90-95% of Claremont High School graduates move on to either a four year or community college. Nonetheless, vocational education is important because not every student is going to choose the college path. ROP (Regional Occupational Programs) provides important vocational skills for those students who opt into that arena.
At Claremont High School, ROP offers CTE (Career Technical Education) courses in a variety of subjects. There are 3 sections of Technical Theater, 2 sections of Athletic Training, 1 section of Virtual Enterprise, 3 sections of Computer Programming and 2 sections of Video Game Design. These courses are funded by ROP but the availability of classes is dependent on enrollment. Furthermore, students can take any Baldy View ROP course at another site – some are as close as Upland High School or at the Cosmetology Center in Pomona or at Baldy View’s main location. Claremont High School also offers Naviance – a comprehensive college and career readiness platform, that helps schools align student interests with post-secondary goals. Students take interest inventories and Naviance creates connections between strengths and interests to help find career success after high school. Vocational education is an important aspect of a well rounded high school program. ROP provides our students with important 21st century learning skills to help them succeed in the modern world.