Our district is doing a good job, but we should and must do far better. My key priorities are as follows:
Higher SAT scores are critical to getting students accepted by more selective colleges and universities. Our high school should be in the top 10 in the state, not #52.
Obtain an additional $30 million+ for construction.Depending on who you listen to, we need an additional $30 million to $50 million to provide modern, decent facilities for our children, without any "luxuries". Years of deferred maintenance have taken a heavy toll on our facilities. For example, water leaking through neglected roofs caused continuing damage until this summer, when we finally got the roofs fixed. Also, most of our facilities are over 70 years old and most of the basic systems (HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc.) are crumbling. We also have asbestos problems that must be abated and we are required to spend a lot of money to add elevators and ramps to comply with federal law. The cost of fixing these basic problems will use all or virtually all of our modernization budget. We do not now have the money to provide modern science labs, adequate computers in the classrooms, working lockers for all students, modern kitchen facilities, or even paint for buildings & rooms that have not been painted for over 20 years. The Board needs to do a lot better job in leveling with the public about what we cannot now afford to do. We also need to continue to pursue alternative sources of funding, such as state bond funds, private donations, corporate partnerships and more efficient use of the Districts real estate. Since I took office in December 1997, we have made a decent start (often from scratch) in most of these areas. Hopefully, with a lot of help from the staff, the Financial Advisory Commission and the community as a whole, we will eventually provide our children with the decent facilities that they deserve.
Balance the operating budget.We are currently running a significant deficit and our reserves are dwindling. Using modern technology, I believe that we can become more efficient. Using zero based budgeting, I believe that we can get the same (or greater) results for less money than we are now spending. I am hopeful that Dr. Pellicone and our new Assistant Superintendent of Finance will give these matters high priority, and that my fellow Board members will join me in trying to balance next years budget now.
Greater accountability/performance at all levels.The vast majority of our employees do an outstanding job. However, for many years, there has been insufficient accountability at ALL levels, including the Board. We need to do a far better job in setting performance criteria and holding everyone (including the Board) responsible if such criteria are not met.
Improved communication with the public.The public needs to be inspired by the outstanding things that happen at our schools and to be mortified by our shortcomings. The schools belong to the community as a whole and key information should not be restricted to a handful of Board members and insiders. Our television station and our District website can and should be used to improve the quality and quantity of information that is available. This will, in turn, make the public more aware of any shortcomings, which will increase the accountability of the Board and all of the employees of the District. Dr. Pellicone is commited to these goals and I look forward to his leadership in this regard.
Reduce drug problem & cheating at the high school.Based on conversations with a number of students, I am convinced that some students sometimes sell and/or use drugs on campus or on the way to school. I would like to know more about how often this is occuring. So far, I have not received much support for my proposal to randomly sweep the schools with a drug sniffing dog, both to determine the extent of the problem and to make kids think twice before they bring drugs to school. I am also CERTAIN that cheating is a MAJOR problem at the high school. This has been confirmed by almost all of the students and teachers whom I have asked about this (and by a survey conducted by the high school newspaper last year). Cheating really steams me. A kid who cheats is not learning the material that we are supposed to be teaching. This is about as major a failure as we can have. Learning is our primary goal and every time a kid cheats we FAIL. There are a number of ways to deal with cheating, such as greater security, different testing approaches, different approaches to homework assignments, and an honor system administered by the students. Hopefully, the Board will set some goals in this regard and we will reduce this problem eventually, I would like to see the high school newspaper repeat its survey and find that cheating has been greatly reduced.
Improve special education & 504 programs.I believe that these programs are already far above average, but will be far better once we fully implement all aspects of the committee recommendations. We need to establish a realistic timetable and meet it.
Do study re shop, home economics & alternatives.It seems more important for every student to be able to create a website than anything they can learn to do in traditional shop or home economics classes.
Become #1 public school district in California within 4 years (#30 by 2000, #10 by 2001, & #1 by 2002).We have more funding per student than any other district that I am aware of. If we spend such funding more efficiently and tap into the enormous resources of our community, I believe that we can achieve these goals.
My father (he passed away in 1985)