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Orange County, CA November 5, 2002 Election
Smart Voter

Written Response to Questions from NMFT

By Wendy Brooks Leece

Candidate for Trustee; Newport-Mesa Unified School District; Trustee Area 7

This information is provided by the candidate
Teachers Need Time to Teach: Teacher Assistants May Be an Answer
Dear Linda and NMFT,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with you last night. It was a learning experience for me, and I came away relieved that I was able to share my views with you in person. I hope the answers below will further articulate my philosophy as a trustee in our district. I look forward to meeting with you and others soon so that together we can work for the best interests of all NMUSD children.

1. I am running for my third term for the Board of Education because I want to complete the work I started in 1994 when I ran on a "Back to Basics" platform. More than 22,000 voters elected me to serve them. Some of my goals have been met, other have not. The citizens, especially on the Westside, were disheartened with the low test scores causing ""white flight" from our neighborhood public schools. In eight years the ship has been turned and we are headed in the right direction as test scores are going up, particularly on the Westside, and slowly families are returning to their neighborhood schools with renewed confidence. There is more work to be done. After school clubs, the retention policy, intervention, peer review, focused staff development: all these have contributed to student achievement. But we can't stop here. Our teachers must have access to the best tools, especially those teachers who teach our English language learners. We can't wait for the State to tell us what to do. We have a plan now, but I believe there is still a need to make sure the materials we use are the best. Providing assistants to teachers is one way to relieve the heavy burden--there is so much paper work on top of teaching the standards! Unless we have another bond election, having CSR for grades above 4th grade is not realistic. There are not enough rooms. But perhaps piloting lower class sizes and looking for space like we did when we implemented CSR is one way to attack the problem.

You should support my candidacy because you know I will make help for the teachers a priority. We have everything else in place. Now we need to help the teachers so they have time to teach! As a teacher, I know the challenges of trying to cover the material in such a short amount of time.

2, I am qualified because I am, like you, a teacher. I have taught high school English and journalism, and I have been a substitute teacher in our district. I can empathize with the demands you have and the necessity now for empowering you with time and with the right tools. I have eight years of experience. You can trust me. There are some things we don't agree on, but perhaps you understand my reasoning now. I would welcome working with you on mutual goals to enrich our classrooms. In the bigger picture, I am the only candidate who has the understanding needed to help our teachers do what they are paid to do-teach!

3. The three areas I would target for improvement:

Westside schools

We must see our EL kids learn and master English. We need to visit other districts where they are having greater success than we are having at this time and ask them how they are doing it. We need to see more kids participate in GATE or GATE-like programs so that those children who can move ahead will not be held back by the EL kids--one major reason parents move their kids out of Westside schools.


We must find ways to reach our middle and high school students who need more English skills and are at risk for dropping out and/or for failing the High School Exit Exam. We need more tools to help them learn English and know success. Career and job planning are priorities for these young people too.

Across the District

To free our teachers up to teach all of the rigorous standards, we would be wise to find teacher assistants. These assistants could be paid adults or high school or in some cases, junior high school students who would do more of the basic bookkeeping and paperwork duties for teachers. They could even make phone calls, appointments, room decorating, etc.

4. The role of the Union would be to represent the teachers to the School Board. I think we have an excellent working relationship. As a board member, the requests by the teachers in the last eight years have always been reasonable. Although it has taken some time to make sure we always have the money, I think the current process works very well.

5. One of the funding priorities would be to determine those teachers who are not maximizing their teaching time because of distractions, paperwork, etc. and especially at the 4-8 level, develop a plan to relieve them of these necessary but time consuming duties by hiring assistants. Also, as I said last night, we could work on a "Mean -plu$ Program" to keep our teachers from leaving for more money and to attract new teachers so that we truly can be anchored in excellence in all of our classes in the entire district.

Finally, there are no voucher propositions currently under consideration this year. Therefore I am not supporting any voucher movement. That was 2 years ago and it is obvious that the electorate is not in favor of vouchers. There are problems with them too--mainly misuse and many unknown ramifications. So today it is a true statement for me to say I am opposed to vouchers and would not, as long as I am a trustee in the NMUSD support vouchers. Regarding the tax credit that I mentioned, it would be better for me to say at this time I would not support any tax credit that would ultimately take away money from public education. Should there be a tax credit across the board for all parents with children but one that would not hurt the public schools, I would consider supporting that depending on the details.

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