It is no secret that I have a great appreciation for this school district. Since moving to Ventura in 1986, I have watched great numbers of students, including my own children and grandchildren, grow and succeed in the district’s schools. Having been a VUSD principal and administrator from 1986 to 2001, I know well the district’s history, just as I know its shortcomings as well as its great potential. There are things we can do together to help the district realize this potential. Below I have outlined nine issues that I believe should be at the forefront of our discussions.
1. There is a shortfall in California State funding for both Certificated and Classified pensions. While not a local issue, it is a well-publicized state issue. Because school districts are obligated to pay more to teacher pensions, we need to find a source for the money (not just hundreds of thousands of dollars, but milti-millions), before it’s too late. I am ready to help the district prepare to acquire these funds to minimize continuing erosion.
2. Schools are still facing problematic campus bullying. The district has made some inroads, but there are still more strides to be made to ensure that all students are treated and treating each other with respect.
3. We need to provide a safe and inclusive environment for our diverse student body. I have witnessed first hand the kind of problems that intolerance can produce, from minor inceidents to major catastrophes. This hands-on experience will continue to help move VUSD in the right direction. I will advocate for all of our students.
4. We need to provide equitable learning opportunities at all of the schools, for all of our students. We have recently seen progress with the structure of Buena High School’s (BHS) bell schedule in comparison to our other two high schools. Parents were concerned about BHS capping their school days at six classes, while the others are allowed seven, meaning students at BHS fall behind when time came for college. And while voices have been heard and changes have been made, even this one example still has a long way to go. We will hold the opportunities for our children to high standards; they deserve no less.
5. In order to retain and attract the best and brightest employees, we need to pay a competitive salary to our employees. Hueneme ESD has proudly carried the title of being in the top three districts county-wide in consististent salary. On the other side of this, district and employee associations went to labor impasse, a situation in which no one ever wins. We can and will do better.
6. The district must be proactive in its fiscal management. We have ample opportunities to turn idle resources into income. We need to think beyond our walls. While it is important to watch how we spend our money, we need to look at how we can bring in new money. There are several documented cases inside VUSD where the district did not even apply for multi-million dollar grants, which lost money that could have been used to aid and educate our children. We must not let this continue to happen.
7. Academic rigor needs to be a more imperative concern. Compared to neighboring county districts, we offer fewer high school academy programs and fewer Career Technical Education opportunities. Nor does VUSD offer an International Baccalaureate program at any of our high schools. Neighboring Oxnard High School District, Conejo Valley USD, and Simi Valley USD all locally offer this prestigious learning opportunity for their students. It is important to also regulate our Advanced Placement (AP) opportunities across our high schools.
8. We need to fully staff our schools with counselors. We have created a complicated world for our children that puts them under more stress than any of us adults ever felt while we were in school. It will be my goal to staff every school with trained and experienced counselors, passionate about their jobs and the well-being of our children. We cannot wait any longer. Our children only have one chance in school, lets not short-change them.
9. We all know that the further East we go in Ventura, the warmer it gets. Several years ago the district pledged to alleviate the peak heat in its older schools and provide air-conditioning. The district responded during crisis weather cycles by bringing in portable fans and air-conditioning. Since then, nothing has been done in School Board Area 4 (East end) to permanently fix the situation. We need to equip our classrooms for this well known environmental phenomena that is pushing temperatures higher each succeeding year. It is hard to learn and focus in a classroom that is 85+ degrees, and there have already been occasions where teachers have been transported to the hospital for heat exhaustion. Instead of continuing to study the issue, let’s do something about it. I live in our end of town, and I know the heat. I will do something about it.
My tenure as Hueneme SD Superintendent for 14 years (2002-2016) has provided me a depth of knowledge that I want to put to work for our community. I have worked where the rubber meets the road. I know what it takes to get the job done.