I believe equal access to high quality public education for all students is a fundamental part of a strong community. Schools should inspire a love of learning in students, while fostering their mental and emotional health. Engaging families is education is key to ensuring the success of all students.
Taking into consideration the profound impact of COVID-19 and the expanded movement for racial justice and equity, what do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?
1) Returning students to in-person instruction. As we see the possibility of health officials allowing students to school, families want to see a comprehensive plan for the District’s approach to re-opening. There are many questions to be answered and if we don’t soon see some concrete planning underway to not only figure out the process, but to communicate to families and give them time to provide input, we are setting ourselves up for an entire year of distance learning which is unacceptable to many families.
2) Increased stress, anxiety and other mental health factors present before the pandemic and exacerbated by the isolation of distance learning. It is extremely detrimental to children of all ages to be isolated from their peers and without adequate social interaction.
3) The achievement gap; again, we know it was an issue before and it is likely getting much worse. Educational experts agree that students of lower socio-economic status, English language learners and those with special learning needs are suffering most in distance learning.
How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?
Prior to the budget process, I would immediately invest additional resource the district needs, whether it be additional staff hours or consultant time, to develop a robust hybrid learning plan. Going forward I would increase funding for professional development for teachers – including funding adequate time for lesson preparation and collaboration. Teacher training on instructional techniques that are effective for under-performing students, as well as focus on cultural competency, will be important to addressing the achievement gap. Access to support resources are also vitally important. We need to continue to invest in student wellness resources, as well as tutoring and other support services. The District will also likely need to increase summer school opportunities to meet more need to recover learning losses.
What steps will you take to address the high cost and lack of availability of quality child care and preschool programs in our communities, especially for low-income children and English language learners?
As a High School district, MVLA has a limited role to play in relation to childcare/preschool arena. That said, low-cost preschool programs available to all our families would be a huge benefit to our future students and help us make significant progress to closing the achievement gap. As a MVLA trustee, I would support any efforts to collaborate with our elementary districts, cities, or other entities to provide this. Expanding the MVLA Adult education parent participation preschool would be one opportunity to achieve this. Beyond that, I support universal Pre-K and low-cost childcare as resources the state should provide.
What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?
Special needs students are another group that are disproportionately impacted by distance learning as it requires significant organizational and executive functioning skills and removes important human interaction with teachers. For this reason, I would work to ensure special needs students are among the highest priority group for returning to, and continuing in, in-person learning. Similar to meeting the needs of ELL students, professional development for teachers on strategies for designing an inclusive classroom environment and strategies for individualized teaching are important. I would work to ensure an emphasis on these strategies in professional development.
Much of the student achievement gap has been linked to the "opportunity gap" that low-income children and children of color experience, including lack of access to healthy food, preschool, tutors and enrichment activities. If elected, what steps will you take to address this issue?
As a High School District, MVLA needs to focus on ensuring its students have access to nutrition, mental & physical health services, technology tools and equitable access to learning. During distance learning our District has provided to-go meals to any student in need (to replace meals provided during school), as well as working to ensure all students are equipped with technology tools. We have also partnered with outside organizations, such as Stanford Children’s Hospital to provide a teen health van for free healthcare services and Joint Venture Silicon Valley to host the A la Carte food truck providing additional free meals. Our tutorial center provides free tutoring support via peer and adult tutoring. In addition, we have a robust AVID program. I would support continued and enhanced investment in all these areas.