Santa Clara County Voter's Guide On Children's Issues

Morgan Hill Unified School District, Area 4

Carol Gittens

I am a psychologist and teacher educator in TK-12 students’ motivation and critical thinking, math and literacy development. As a Board member I’ll bring my commitment to social justice, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, well-being and achievement. I am dedicated to building strong educational programs and promoting academic achievement for all students.

  1. What do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?

    1) Food insecurity, limited access to nutritious meals / nutrition education. 2) Lack of stable, sufficient housing (homelessness; high frequency transitions; financial insecurity that threatens access to consistent housing). 3) Educational inequities that are attributable to race, class, gender, foster child status, (dis)ability, English language fluency, education levels of parent, etc., that unfairly disadvantage certain groups of students and compromise academic achievement. I WILL EXPAND SCHOOL-BASED NUTRITION AND FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS; LINK ELIGIBLE FAMILIES TO SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY NUTRITION / FOOD ASSISTANCE, HEALTHY LIVING & HOUSING ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS. BOOST LITERACY AND MATH / STEM CURRICULUM, AFTER-SCHOOL CARE & ACADEMIC SUPPORT.

  2. How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?

    As an educational psychologist who studies K-12 students' literacy, critical thinking, numeracy, motivation, resilience, and academic achievement I am keenly aware of the school, home, community, and environmental factors that impact student learning and well-being. I will prioritize hiring, training, and retaining quality educators, staff, and administrators. I will support socially just and inclusive educational programs that promote the development of standards-based, essential academic content and skills among ALL students; I will advocate for increasing wrap around services, and collaborations with community agencies that advocate, protect, and serve our most vulnerable students. I support health screening and parent education programs.

  3. 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?

    It is a regrettable truth that California's subsidized child care and development system is inadequate to meet the demand for quality child care and preschool programs. Even with federal funding the situation is dire, particularly for low-income families and EL learners. As school board member I could seek to expand collaborations with community partners such as the YMCA to provide care options to families, we would jointly apply for public and private funding for low tuition care programs, provide physical space to vetted and certified care providers, we could emulate other successful districts that provide care options like preschool.

  4. What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?

    Included students with atypical development are more likely to experience success when they have: supportive relationships, feel a strong connection to their school, are able to develop positive social skills and pro-social behaviors, are taught by teachers and staff who are happy in their workplace and feel valued, and experience environments that feel welcoming and positive about their commitment to inclusion. My holistic, positive dedication to inclusive practices will be modeled by my funding/governance decisions, policies, and the expectation that all students, teachers, staff, administrators, and parents will have input into how well the commitment is being achieved.

  5. 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?

    For over 10 years my husband and I have been tutoring academically struggling teens, most of whom are students of color or from low-income backgrounds. We recruit retirees from the high tech industry and former teachers to help us. This is all on a volunteer basis and we are now meeting at the local YMCA. I have volunteered with community nonprofits that feed, educate, provide housing assistance, give legal counseling about seeking citizenship, and offer English classes to children and their families. As a board member I will build bridges between the district and community programs to improve children's lives.