Annual District Art Show 2016

I want to see more support for incoming freshmen. In addition to supports                                  already in place, such as the  Link                                            Crew program in which upper class-                                  men assist in freshman orientation,                                            we need more early identification of                                      at-risk students through enhanced                                      articulation with our partner districts.                                    A key predictor of freshman success                                      is  literacy, and too many are reading                                   below grade level.  If California can                              expand access to early childhood education, that will help. But for now, I continue to push for us to find a way to offer intensive summer reading remediation to incoming freshmen who need it.  I have been doing so as a Board member, and for many years as a teacher.   In addition, I would love to see a spring-time initiative to pair successful 9th grade students with 7th graders.  Students telling students about the skills they will soon need have real credibility, and those kids might be encouraged to start thinking beyond 8th grade graduation.

I want us to be vigilant about providing strong "customer service" at all levels.                                                                                                 We exist for one purpose: to serve our students and and their families.  Every member of staff, at all levels, should be engaged in making students, parents, and anyone else with whom we come in contact feel welcomed, valued, seen and heard.  Questions and concerns deserve and a prompt and respectful response.

Dr. Bravo has instituted the Campbell Cup Award for Customer Service to draw awareness to this goal.

I want to celebrate continued emphasis on EQUITY   We often hear of the “achievement gap,” which is a factor of the “opportunity gap.”  An equity mindset means that all teachers have an inherent belief in the ability of all students to succeed. Accordingly, the District has begun and must continue, a policy of inclusion.  Increased access to rigorous and challenging coursework, along with additional support to ensure student success, will bring us closer to our goal.  

Prospect H.S. is honored Dec 2019 for their work on inclusion practices.

Actor and Founder of the Youth Cinema Project (YCP) Edward James Olmos visited Del Mar’s Latino Film Institute English Enrichment classes.  The classes are part of the Youth Cinema Project, which improves literacy through reviewing and creating films.  Says Olmos,  “You can see the power and the strength of what we do here. It is all about self-esteem, self-respect and self-worth.”

I want a curriculum infused with excitement and challenge.

Here is one example: In November, a group of students took a field trip to the SHN Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco to participate in the Gilder Lehrman Institutes’ Hamilton Education Program, which is a unique, hands-on project that introduces students to the people, events and documents of the founding fathers' era.   Students analyzed primary source documents, explored Hamilton song lyrics, researched a founding 

era person, event, or document of their choice, and ultimately wrote their own artistic piece. Said social science teacher Kira Durant, “I was completely blown away by the creativity and talent of our students. They became singers, poets, musicians, actors and activists right before my eyes.” Finally, the students enjoy a special matinee of the highly acclaimed musical and Q & A with several members of the cast.

Here are two great events that are becoming traditions--
the Relay for Life and the Leigh Longhorn Stampede!

 Historically, I am proud that our District has always planned ahead. By so doing, we avoided some painful cuts other districts were forced to make following the 2008 financial crisis.  We are committed to our vision of a district that is fiscally solid AND also able to meet student needs for 21st century programs, safety, and social and emotional well-being.  District contributions to offset the shortfall in the State Teachers’ Retirement System have risen from 8% to 19%, so the challenge is great.   Consistent, predictable funding has been lacking in education for a very long time, and I've no expectation that this will change any time soon.    It is unacceptable that California has the fifth-largest economy in the world, yet ranks 39th in per-student funding nationwide, so while we pursue local funding goals, as individual Board Members we must continue to advocate for school funding with other elected officials.

 I want to see our District in a financial position to provide our students the best possible preparation for college and career (including maintaining our commitment to MetroEd / SVCTE) and to be able to offer our excellent teachers a wage commensurate with their value.

 This means prudent fiscal management and spending in line with our Strategic Plan.  But it is clear that we cannot move forward without creative and pro-active efforts to maximize resources and community support.

This is why we launched our “For the Kids” initiative in early 2018 to raise revenue WITHOUT raising taxes.  (See FOR THE KIDS tab). And, it is why we sought a new parcel tax. (Measure K) which did not succeed.  Now, with the likely reductions in revenue resulting from our current economic and health crisis, our challenges will be formidable.

Over the past 8 years, we have reducing suspensions and expulsions dramatically. It should be self-evident that students who are not in class are not learning, so we are pursuing restorative justice practices to keep kids in the classroom and on task.

I want our students feel more confident, more supported and less vulnerable to stress.

We have made real progress in this area (see Home Page) but we can do more.  In particular, we need to address the anxieties caused by technology and social media.  Students need information about cyber security and how to protect their privacy online. They also need support to develop self-esteem sufficient to withstand online bullying or the absence of "likes."  And they need confidence that if any staff become aware of bullying, cyber or otherwise, the response will be swift and certain.

I want our students to love learning! 

Our students work hard, so that work should be satisfying and empowering.  There is deep pleasure to be had when work is going well, or when “break-through” moments occur.  That happens when students are engaged in tasks that are meaningful and have strong interactive components. When students play a role in designing their own projects with clear goals and outcomes, they see clearly the value of their efforts.  I have no patience with “busy-work” that fails to engage and challenge our students.  Only an exciting and rigorous curriculum can enable all students to maximize their talents.   We must have high expectations, and at the same time, provide the supports and tools they need to succeed.  I want every student to experience the pride of real achievement and to develop confidence in their ability to meet the NEXT challenge.

A positive school culture encourages students to participate, and even initiate, community service activities. For example, for five years now, students from across the District have gathered for a Day of Service, during which they engage in a variety of projects for those in need.  At Branham H.S., the Winter Wishes Program is in its 9th year and is featured every year in NBC Bay Area’s “Bay Area Proud” series.

I want to foster a sense of tradition and pride in our all our schools.  We do not currently have either a physical or digital Hall of Fame.  I would like to see us begin an alumni database.  Our 120-year history has produced an astounding number of successful graduates, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to start collecting and sharing some of that data?  Psychologist Marshall Duke of Emory believes that “children who have the most self-confidence have a strong inter-generational sense of self.  They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.”  It seems to me that schools thrive on tradition and that students can benefit from an awareness of the proud history of their school.

And in terms of student pride, I am committed to increasing public awareness of two wonderful schools in our District that do not always get the respect and recognition they deserve: Del Mar and Boynton Continuation.  Del Mar is not only a very diverse and caring community, it is now also an International Baccalaureate School that recently fielded a team of scholars who took top honors in competition in Athens, Greece and at Yale University!   Boynton was named a Model School last year and is expected to be so named again this year.  The curriculum is demanding, but class sizes are small and students thrive due to one-on-one time with teachers who believe in them and who provide personal, academic and career support. A Boynton diploma meets all the high standards and requirements of our District across the board.

I'd also like more community awaremess of our adult education program located on the Del Mar campus: CACE. This is a vital service to our students, especially when the learners have children in our system who benefit from their parent's example and increased literacy.  

In the fall of 2019, CACE celebrated the grand opening of a photo gallery that celebrates CACE students for their diversity, struggles and accomplishments.  The purpose is to inspire other students who may recognize their own journey within the portraits and accompanying stories. The gallery was funded by the CUHSD Education Foundation.

I want us to offer students as much choice as possible.

To this end, I would like our District to monitor and perhaps re-evaluate curriculum balance to be sure we are not short-changing elective opportunities.  If you compare the waking hours of any teen's day with a bookshelf,  those hours can encompass only so much, just as the shelf can hold only a finite number of books.  I have felt in the last few years that we are cramming too many books onto the shelf,  and that something may have to give.  

Our elective programs are of great value, and I don't want to see any of them diminished by other demands on student time and energy.  For example, science has established that music skills stimulate growth in areas of the brain crucial to processing higher mathematics.  Performing musically is also linked to higher reading scores, integrated processing of multiple streams of information, and long-term memory.  Such a program CANNOT be considered a "frill."  I want our students to be well-rounded as the result of exposure in high school to a variety of extracurricular clubs and activities, the visual and performing arts, and athletics.

Sample of work showcased in the new CACE photo gallery.

I want to see effective use of the channels of communication we have in place.   All teachers, students and parents should feel comfortable using the School Loop online program to access grades, rubrics and assignment information.  Parent and community surveys and "thought exchanges" (implemented in the last two years) should be easy to use and provide opportunities for people to give the input that matters most to them.  The District now uses multiple platforms (websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to increase parent involvement and enhance communication about our programs, opportunities, successes and needs.  For the past three years, we have had a Director of Communications to assist us in this vital task.

 I want our graduates

  • To see themselves as capable problem-solvers with a valuable role to play in society.
  • To have the skills to be responsible and self-supporting citizens, either post-graduation, or following skills-training, an internship, or college.  And I want them to be deliberate "lifelong learners."
  • To have an educational foundation that includes analytical thinking, problem solving experience, strong verbal and written communication skills, ability to function as part of a team, ability to safely and proficiently utilize technology, and life skills such as time and money management techniques.
  • To have enjoyed extracurricular clubs and participating in the visual or performing arts and/or athletics.
  • To have embraced the value of academic integrity and accepting responsibility for personal choices.
  • To be able to evaluate information and make positive decisions in both the personal realm and civic engagement.
  • To be resilient, adaptable, or resolute as the situation requires.
  • To have an appreciation of our democratic principles, including the obligations of responsible citizenship and respect for the diversity of our nation.
  • To possess physical and emotional well-being and an awareness of the value of balance in life.
  • To believe in the power they have to shape their own futures and be a positive force in the world.

                                                               Yes, that's a long a wordy list, but don't all of these matter?

A positive school culture is also one in which those who are differently abled are respected and included.  "Best Buddies" clubs create opportunities for friendships, leadership development, and inclusivity for students with disabilities. And at Prospect, football coach Rob Mendez, who was honored at the ESPYs with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance, is a daily inspiration to ALL students.

Supporting the individuality of our students is crucial as their needs and backgrounds vary widely. Fairness does not mean that all students receive identical instruction, time and attention. It does mean that we meet the needs of all students. Race, socio-economic status, and gender must vanish as impediments to student achievement. Parent involvement is especially important in this endeavor, so we need to increase involvement in our established ELAC (English Learner Advisory Committees) groups at all school sites and our Spanish-speaking PTAs. Also, the District must continue its practice of partnering with business to provide internet access to families, something we are currently doing for over 500 students.

I want every student to graduate prepared for college or career.  College may not be the best choice - - or even a fiscally sound choice - - for every student given current tuition rates, but we want all students to graduate with the skills and credits to have that option.  For those who prefer a vocation, we need continued expansion of our career pathways.  It is critical that we provide students with a rich variety of experiences and a vision of a future they can believe in.

 I support the following budget priorities which are in line with our Strategic Plan:

  • Attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers and increasing new-teacher support.  Providing ongoing professional development.
  • Expanding our Equity Initiatives, including creative recruitment of teachers who will be role models that reflect the diversity of our student body.
  • Flexible classroom spaces and environments designed specifically to support instruction and interaction.
  • Safe and well-maintained schools (COVID has given a whole new definition to this one when finally we are able to return in person.)
  • Reasonable class sizes.
  • Sufficient devices, tools, learning aids, instruments, supplies (for science experiments, manufacturing labs, art classes, etc.) to support student learning and to do it with ZERO down time.  There is no bigger waste than having a student wait to participate!
  • Maintaining a rich variety of CAREER PATHWAYS to ensure success in career or college.
  • Continued support/expansion of Project Lead the Way, Career Technical Education and AVID
  • Access for all students to academic and social-emotional counseling services, through expansion of relevant staff.
I want to see a supportive school culture. 
The culture of an institution can be hard to pin down or define, but a positive culture has many important indicators.  First and foremost, do students feel safe, both physically and emotionally? Are supports in place to prevent bullying and help students cope with stress?  What must our next steps be to promote more educational equity and validate our most underserved students?
 A positive school culture is evidenced by a sense of community and belonging, encouraged and fostered by team activities in academic classes and in on-campus clubs, the performing arts, athletics and student government that has a real voice in outcomes.
 A positive school culture is built on trust and respect between teacher and student.  Students must feel that it is safe to ask questions, and that it is OK to be struggling or confused --and that it is OK to be open about that and seek help.  Parents must feel that they are valued partners in their children’s education, and both students and parents need to be aware of all District resources available to them.