Contending with changes associated with Common Core standards and a new state funding formula, along with addressing growing enrollment are top priorities for those seeking seats on the Sequoia Union High School District Board of Trustees.
Incumbents Alan Sarver and Chris Thomsen, along with Georgia Jack, visited the Daily Journal office last week for an endorsement interview. There are two open seats on the board. New technological integration into classrooms was also a top issue for the candidates.
Statewide education modifications
With California’s new Common Core standards, there will be a transition to more team collaborative 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.
The district is behind in terms of preparation, said Jack, who noted that as a parent she would like to see more proactivity on the board since it’s a major shift.
More money needs to be put into supporting the transition, Thomsen said.
“We’re certainly not ahead of the curve,” Sarver said. “The district has been a bit slow in getting going because we’ve been weathering an economic storm.”
In terms of altering technology in the classrooms because of the curriculum structure, Sarver said it’s key to not use technology just for technology’s sake. Reaching out to leading technology partners such as Oracle, Google and Facebook is key to more actively engaging with curriculum, he said.
Costs of infrastructure upkeep and lack of discussion with feeder districts were concerns for Jack, along with how low-income students will be able to use technology in their homes.
“Students don’t need more screen time; it is good to have interactions with technology to support learning,” Jack said. “I’ve talked to my son’s friends and they’re not as excited about integrating technology into the classroom.”
The Local Control Funding Formula also was a topic of interest for the candidates. The new formula will send $2.1 billion more to school districts that have high numbers of students from lower-income families, who have limited English proficiency or are foster children. During the first year, the formula gives school districts more control over state aid by eliminating earmarks for state-mandated programs, except for special education funding.
All candidates noted that the district is unique position in that it is a basic aid district, meaning it is mostly self-funded. With charter schools and a lot of lower-income students, that means the district will be at a loss with the funding formula.
“There needs to be equity combined with adequacy,” Sarver said.
Among Jack’s concerns was that budget decisions have not been made in a transparent fashion.
She also took issue with how the board has handled the issue of growing enrollment.
“I would have taken a different approach,” Jack said. “They’ve handled this as a facilities problem when it’s an issue around values. How do we want schools to look, instead of how do we want to expand facilities.”
Thomsen and Sarver also were concerned with the enrollment and boundaries issues, but believe the district is doing a good job of handling the challenge.
More effort into the Common Core change, along with addressing graduation rates are primary areas Thomsen would like to see emphasized in the future.
Jack would like to see more effort with planning for all the district’s students.
“The schools overall do a very fine job with college-bound students,” Jack said. “Achievement is flat and dropout rates are inching. The district does not have a strategic plan. We don’t have a vision that guides what we do. Schools are very difficult to navigate.”
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