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|Los Angeles County, CA||November 7, 2006 Election|
School Board Candidate Interview Questions from CEPS (Community for Excellent Public Schools)
By Shane McLoudCandidate for Governing Board Member; Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District
This information is provided by the candidate
This was the best education questions asked of candidates. By reading this, you will get a better perspective of the challenges we face as a district, and the solutions that I support.School Board Candidate Interview Questions September 2006 Shane McLoud Public School Teacher and School Board Member
1. Why are you running for School Board? I want to continue to dedicate my unique perspective as a Teacher to the School Board in order to improve the achievement of all students. I feel like we are very close on many reforms and improvements that I have been instrumental in shaping, and I want to see these through.
2. What has been your personal involvement with education in our community? I've been a Public School Teacher for the past 10 years, (7 years as a 3rd and 5th grade teacher at LAUSD's Figueroa St. Elementary in South Central Los Angeles, and 3 years at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in the Mac Arthur Park area). I've also served as a School Board Member of SMMUSD for the past 4 years, and served on committees prior to my tenure on the Board, including the Technology District Advisory Committee and the Equity & Equality Committee for the Long Range Plan in 2002.
3. What makes you stand out among the other candidates? What special attributes, talents, and abilities will you bring to our district? I bring a perspective as a Teacher that no one else has. We are fortunate to have very talented and passionate board members representing the community, parents, disadvantaged youth, and various community groups. I think I bring the Teacher perspective, which is valuable when making decisions on important policy issues such as teacher support, training, evaluations, job descriptions, materials to adopt, instructional programs, curriculum, standards, and after-school intervention programs.
In addition to being a Teacher, I'm the Vice President and the Negotiations Chair of the my school's Teacher's Union (Camino Nuevo Teacher's Association). This gives me an additional perspective to bring to the School Board in dealing with contract negotiations and creating a professional and reasonable contract with the Teachers.
I think I also stand out in my level of advocacy for policy changes that benefit students. As a board, there are many policy decisions that we make that impact the quality of our educational system, but some have political ramifications with groups that are directly involved with our election efforts. For example, for the past 3 years, I've been the strongest and sometimes the only voice on the School Board to negotiate a change in the Teacher's contract to allow Principals to select the Teachers for Summer School based on merit and performance, rather than seniority. I've argued that we need to ensure that the best teachers are selected to teach the most desperate students in their final attempt to learn the curriculum during the summer, and that we should apply the same process that we do for the regular school year; having the Principals make the selection based on matching teaching skills with student needs. Certainly, I recognize that a Teacher's years of experience contributes to their professional teaching abilities. However, I know that this shouldn't be the primary factor and that many times the newer teachers who may have a better way of instructionally connecting to the students won't even apply for the summer school positions because they know that they won't get them.
I've also argued that we need to use the same Evaluation System for all SMMUSD Teachers that we now use only for our Teachers hired after 2002. This new standards based evaluation system is a model system, and one that our own Teachers have cited as improving their instructional skills. However, only 30% of our teachers use it and the rest are not scheduled to use it until the 2010-2011 school year. I think we should have 1 system to ensure that our teachers are being evaluated with the most professional teaching standards in order to ensure that they are using proven strategies to provide high quality instruction, and if not, are given the training to improve their skills.
Both of these changes have proven politically difficult to gain consensus on the Board during my tenure, but now there's a majority of the Board that wants to gain these changes in the present contract negotiations with the SMMCTA. I strongly feel that these policy changes will dramatically improve the quality of our instructional program and I will continue to fight for them, regardless of the political ramifications. I cannot say that I am confident that these changes will occur if I am not reelected to the Board.
4. What do you feel is the number one challenge facing our schools today? Raising the achievement of the disadvantaged and low performing students. I think our district can be broken into 2 groups: the Haves and the Have-nots. The Haves are the students with educated parents, ones that can help them with homework, support them with computers, books, vacations that add to their understanding of the world, and provide them with a safe and nurturing home environment and safe neighborhood. A strong majority of these students do very well in school. The Have-nots are the students whose parents (or in many cases just a single parent) are more likely not to be able to surround their students with educational support at home, don't possess the language skills that can aid the students in homework and at school as a classroom volunteer, don't have the cultural and political savvy to advocate for an issue that is affecting their child's learning, don't possess the multitude of important supportive and nurturing parenting skills that aid parents in their roles, don't have the time away from work to invest in their child's academic and personal growth, and don't have the finances that can provide for a level of materials and tutors that can enhance their children's academic success. The Haves continue to do well, and have benefited from an improved academic program in the district, while the Have-nots have benefited, but not to the same extent. This is such a complex problem, needing a wide arrangement of strategies and programs to improve their academic success. Solutions include: improving the quality of instruction, smaller class sizes, improve intervention and after-school programs, an improved summer school program, more parent involvement, and more resources for the low performing students and schools. I will continue to be very dedicated to increasing our efforts and programs for the underachieving students and schools, recognizing that equity is not the same as equality, and that these students and schools need a greater amount of resources and effort in order to eliminate or reduce the achievement gap.
5. Are you familiar with and do you fully support the agreement negotiated for the City of Santa Monica to provide funding to the School District? What was your role, if any, in crafting, supporting or negotiating this agreement? I fully supported the agreement as a Board Member and community member and will continue to support both cities investing their money, facilities, programs, and other resources to our schools.
6. If the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District faced a budget crisis brought on by circumstances outside the District's control, such as by funding cuts from the State of California, would you be willing to advocate for crisis funding from either of the cities beyond the City-School District funding agreement? Yes. I think we have done a good job to ensure that our budgets are balanced and that we spend our money wisely. However, we can do a better job at this, and must look within our own spending practices before we ask our community stakeholders and cities for more money. For example, we have a Personnel Commission (PC) that costs over $1,000,000 per year in performing the duty of classifying positions for the district - something that the district performs quite well for the certificated employees (teachers), but is performed separately for the classified employees. Unfortunately, they have not done their job well, often stepping beyond their role and preventing the district from disciplining employees and placing classification jargon over the goal of filling the positions with the best personnel. Their actions lead to positions not being filled efficiently. In fact, about 80 positions are unfilled at any given point in the year, and it is often taking 9-12 months to fill basic positions like janitors and maintenance workers. This is a huge problem in the district, leaving schools understaffed and overstretched. No one on the PC has been able to explain the many inefficient and ineffective practices and outcomes, and very little cooperation has come from the PC when the district has suggested and asked for better solutions. It absolutely boggles my mind when I hear from Principals that they were not able to hire the janitor of their choice because their candidate did not have the highest score on a written exam. Clearly, bureaucracy and classification are receiving more priority than efficiency and matching the best personnel with the task, and the present structure doesn't allow for much change. There are ways to improve this district function, and I intend to fight for these improvements so that our schools can be run more efficiently, passing the savings onto the classroom.
7. Although standardized test scores show increasing improvement in our schools, significant differences among economic and cultural groups still exist. What can the District do to continue the overall success in academic achievement while significantly closing the achievement gap? I believe I answered this question in number 4.
8. What is your view of the redesign of Samohi? What do you think should be future priorities for Samohi? I think it is going well. I think Dr. Strauss did a good job of leading this difficult change, and I am confident that Dr. Pedrosa will further improve the quality of the education at Samohi. I think the future priorities should include creating another high school for Santa Monica, one that can decrease the enrollment at Samohi, allowing the students to be better served at both schools within a smaller learning community. I have been advocating for and will continue to advocate for moving our headquarters and creating a small high school at the district site. This would mean ending our leases with the companies on our property, razing the buildings, and building a new high school that reaches across 16th street in order to utilize Memorial Park. Olympic used to exist at the headquarters site, and we can return a small learning community to this site if we have the vision of providing our high school students with more intimate learning opportunities.
If this cannot generate the approval of the School Board and community, more can be done at Samohi. In addition to the improvements already mentioned (professional development of teachers and improved instructional programs), we absolutely need to decrease the class size. 34% of the core classes at Samohi have 32 or more students (last year's numbers), with 7 core classes having more than 40 students. About 1/2 of the Samohi students come from JAMS, which has 29% of their core classes with 32 or more students. This is a recipe for low achievement, especially for the Have-nots. Too many kids are falling through the cracks. Teachers aren't able to do their job well, nor are counselors, administrators, and other personnel whose job it is to support learning. We can't continue to pass budgets that accept these difficult learning conditions. Again, this is a politically difficult challenge that we face, especially since so much of our budget goes to salaries and health benefits that rise every year, but it needs to be understood by CEPS and dealt with collectively if we are ever to improve the learning conditions of our lowest performing schools.
9. What are your views on the district Gift Policy/Equity Fund? What is the value of using a student-weighted formula in the distribution of funds? What changes do you think would improve the implementation of the Gift Policy at our schools? I was very critical of the Equity Fund when it was first created for several reasons; I didn't think that we had the right to tax someone without their permission; it would divide the community more than bring it together; and most importantly, we would be better able to raise funds on a voluntary basis and by making budget decisions to give greater resources to the low performing schools and students. Since it passed, I have supported the implementation of the program while trying to make sure that the funds are spent at the lowest performing schools. I don't think that the approximate $140,000 that has been raised is an amount that can come close to what is needed to significantly decrease the achievement gap. We need to do more. We need to allot more money from our budget to the low performing schools and students so that they can hire more teachers, decrease the class sizes, and pay for more resources (e.g. purchasing more computers, Teacher Assistants, after school programs, intervention and pull-out programs, improved libraries and the use of Smart Boards).
I have always been a proponent of student weighted formulas, and have read about EXTREMELY successful programs in Seattle and Edmonton. We should advocate for this statewide, and we should do this in our district. Again, we need to go beyond the Equity Fund if we are ever going to significantly reduce the achievement gap.
10. What are your thoughts about how the district and school sites can encourage involvement and participation from families who have felt disenfranchised from their local school communities? Parent involvement decreases every year after the primary grades. It's a challenge facing schools across the nation. We need to encourage our parents to stay involved every year, volunteer in the class or at the school, and come to visit their child's teachers. At my school, the parents are asked to volunteer 15 hours per year, making them more aware of and interested in their child's education. We need to continue to improve the counseling program and Student Outreach Specialist program, to ensure that the students' needs are met. We need to continue to create smaller learning communities so that all of our students are better known by their teachers and counselors. We need to invite the parents to continue the role that they started as their child's first teachers, now as an advocate in a manner that is more aware of their child's academic progress and personal growth.
11. Do you endorse Measure BB, the Santa Monica-Malibu School Safety and Repair (Bond) Measure on the November 7, 2006 ballot and will you actively campaign for its passage? Yes, and it will be on my campaign literature and web site.
12. What is a priority concern you might have regarding the district that has not been raised? We need to work with the community organizations like CEPS, PTSAS, and surrounding communities to advocate for policy changes statewide. SMMUSD can better use its political, educational, and parental resources and expertise to advocate for changes in the State's education policies. An example would be creating a state wide student weighted formula so that low performing schools and low performing students receive an increased budget and resources. This should NOT come at the expense of higher performing schools and districts + we need to lobby for increased educational spending for all districts, giving low performing schools and students an even greater increase.
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