A change in the state’s curriculum and adjusting to new technological infrastructure are top priorities for those seeking the three open seats on the San Carlos Elementary School District Board of Trustees.
Appointed incumbents Carol Elliott and Kathleen Farley, along with candidate Nicole Bergeron visited the Daily Journal office last week for an endorsement interview. Candidate Sarah Stiefel did not attend the interview, but provided written responses to some questions. There are three open seats on the board. Board President Beth Hunkapiller is not running for re-election. The four were also focused on improving board communication with the public.
California’s new Common Core standards shift to more project-based learning, with less time spent on lectures and more of an emphasis on classroom technology. New Smarter Balance assessments align with these new standards and will go into effect during the 2014-15 school year.
How prepared do the candidates think the district is for the changes?
“Given the district’s lack of preparedness and compliance in other areas,” Stiefel wrote. “I have concerns about whether it is prepared to meet the Common Core curriculum changes.”
Parents will have to bear with test scores being all over the map when tests first switch over to Smarter Balance assessments, Bergeron said.
“When you change an assessment radically, it wouldn’t surprise me if scores are wobbly,” Bergeron said. “The district will have to be really good with communicating with people.”
The test taking will require a pretty steep learning curve and this will be an entirely new experience for children, Elliott said. She said she has looked over the Common Core sample test questions and noted they are phenomenal questions.
With new technology in the classroom, new challenges emerge with deciphering how to use the newer devices, the candidates said.
It’s important not to have technology just for technology’s sake, but technology does allow for differentiated learning when used effectively, Farley said.
“With any technology programs, or gizmos, it’s important to remember the home side of the equation,” Bergeron said. “Even in a town as fairly homogeneous as San Carlos we need to consider how does access at home affect homework assignments that require online time. Would it [the Internet] be a distraction?”
A new strategic plan will be implemented along with the Common Core changes, which brings some challenges, the candidates said.
“It’s complex and there are many moving parts,” Farley said. “There will be a lot of professional development. It’s an investment that has to happen across the staff and we need to be forward thinking and agile.”
The district is acting like a pioneer in many senses since there is no precedent for the strategic plan or this large scale of an implementation, Elliott said.
In terms of curriculum changes the candidates would like to see for the district, Elliott said she would enjoy seeing a world language program added to the middle school to allow for more class options.
Bergeron agreed with Elliott, adding that a lot of colleges require taking a language and that Spanish should be a core course.
Where does the district fall short?
“The district has not done enough with transparency,” Bergeron said. “With meeting minutes, you can’t get a copy for months. I’m hoping adding video will address this issue.”
Farley noted that staff currently has a lot on its plate, so it might be smart to make sure the district is investing in staff in a way that makes sense for transparency and communication.
In terms of decisions that candidates wish had gone differently with the board, Elliott and Farley agreed that they wish the process had been different for the facilities master plan.
“We should have had a different process with engaging the community,” Elliott said. “I’d like there to be more people aware of [communication] outlets they can use next time.”
Although Farley said she wishes she could go back in a time machine to hear more voices on the decision, she said she was ultimately happy with the board’s choice.
The plan is funded through Measure H, November’s $72 million bond measure and addresses growing enrollment issues.
“The facilities master plan does address many areas of urgent need, however the decision to reconfigure the entire district into K-3, 4-5 and 6-8 schools seems rushed and unprecedented,” Stiefel wrote.
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