Board Candidates Weigh In On What Should Be Next


THE NATOMAS BUZZ asked the six candidates for Natomas Unified School District school board “Most would agree change is needed in school district operations. Now we have new leadership with a new superintendent – what should be next?” Here are the answers we received. Click here for last week’s column.


Our district has to improve its image with the community. Community confidence has eroded steadily over the last several years. A striking example is Natomas High School. While it showed some gains during the last school year in achievement (after flat-lining for most of the last ten years) it lost close to 300 of its expected students for the 2010-11 school year which translates to a $1.8 million general fund loss in monies the district was counting on.
The losses don’t stop here. The students we never saw could have qualified for hundreds of thousands of additional state and federal dollars. This money could have generated extra resources for those students who were struggling. These are losses we cannot afford.
As your next board member, I would develop the following programs in order to make the community more confident in the district:
1. Create a community relations position in place of an assistant superintendent position;
2. Identify the major reasons parents send their children to schools outside of the district and develop programs/options that reverse this trend;
3. Schedule monthly community forums to discuss pertinent issues;
4. Send out weekly emails from the district office to all parents detailing district activity;
5. Encourage site administrators to create programs that expand and enrich parent involvement activities on campus
6. Encourage teachers to get away from emails and start talking to parents again by telephone and home visits; and
7. Create incentives for teachers to live in the community.


The district needs to eliminate the negative perception parents and community members have about NUSD.
When discussing the Natomas Unified School District, the general public lacks confidence in the district’s ability to educate. Many parents refuse to send their child to our junior and senior high schools because of this. Community leaders see the current situation as an impediment. This perception can result partly from a lack of involvement by parents in our community with our local schools. As this negative perception continues to spread, we will continue to see a decrease in student enrollment, which will result in a financial hardship that will render NUSD unable to cover the basic costs of operation.
Parent involvement is key to NUSD success.
Studies have shown that parent involvement within schools has a direct impact on student grades and test scores, yet NUSD parent involvement is lower than any other district. In order to increase parent involvement we must make it easier for parents to become volunteers, this can be achieved by subsidizing the cost of Live Scan (fingerprinting). Currently the district requires parents to cover the full cost of scanning if they want to volunteer on their child’s campus.
Yet another reason to have parent involvement on campuses is that they can provide first hand testimony to other parents. Positive testimony of what our schools have to offer our students will bring confidence back to the community of what the future can hold for the NUSD.


Our schools need to individualize programs by providing more technical training, having an on-line education option, and increasing college preparatory programs.  Additionally, as we restructure our program, there must be a program of significant interventions at the primary level to ensure all students are prepared to read and calculate well by the end of 3rd Grade.
I am a strong supporter of increasing vocational and career education options allowing students to prepare for college and career. Technical training such as a biotech lab and auto shop gives students practical real world skills allowing them to enter high paying careers directly after graduation if they choose.
On-line education is another option in modernizing our education system. Students who cannot attend or do not succeed in a traditional brick and mortar school can use high-quality on-line schools to further their education. On-line options can be personalized, promptly helping students improve in areas where they are weak.
College preparatory classes allow students who are excelling in the standard classroom to be challenged. AP classes give Natomas students a leg up in the competition for college admission. I would also like to see us revisit planning for an International Baccalaureate (IB) program.  
And in moving to all of these “end steps.” we must first ensure all of our students have a strong base to work from.  Concentrating efforts on our primary student preparation will allow greater success in the high school programs they enter.


The Natomas Unified School District is facing imminent takeover by the state if the Board of Trustees fails to produce a balanced budget by Nov. 30. The shocking budget figures show an $11 million deficit with no plan in sight for recovery.
We need to audit our books immediately and correct our massive budget deficit before the state is forced to step in. The Unaudited Actuals Report 2009-2010 shows that our district spent over $1 million on consultants in the last year alone. We must clean our books and eliminate wasteful spending!
Once we’re financially solvent, we should focus on restoring accountability. All board member votes should be made public and posted on the district website. Citizens can research the voting records of their federal and state representatives, and local government should be held to the same basic standard. This can be done at no extra cost, since the secretary is responsible for taking meeting minutes and can easily record how board members vote.
The board should have regularly scheduled feedback directly from our community. We need quarterly forums for parents, teachers and concerned citizens to voice their approval or grievances with board members. It’s much easier to ignore an email than a live human voice.
We should open board deliberations to community oversight wherever possible, and strive relentlessly for accountability to rebuild the public trust.


Leadership, culture and systems are key drivers for transforming a good district into a great district. Superintendent leadership is the first change this school district needed.
Next, our new superintendent, must lead the district in transforming our culture, so every single employee values the goal where educating our kids comes first.

Third, our superintendent must take the steps to unify our parents and community to rebuild broken relationships, only then will lasting change take shape in this district.

As your board member, I provide leadership and experience this District needs by:
  • Establishing a vision and high performance standards for our kids and teachers,
  • Pushing policies that take us towards the ultimate goal of sustainable education reform where every child succeeds in our schools,
  • Ensuring accountability by voting against a bad budget, and
  • Speaking out every time your tax dollars are not managed appropriately.
At the District it’s my responsibility to bring a unity of purpose, culture and process as your community leader fighting for our kids education. I’ve done this by:
(1) Keeping the District focused on learning and achievement for all students,
(2) Communicating a common vision of putting kids first in every decision I make,
(3) Holding the District accountable for its use of educational dollars and,
(4) Operating openly, with transparency, trust, and integrity.

Sustained improvement of schools is not possible unless the whole system is moving forward towards the same goal. I look forward to working with our entire education community to achieve this goal.


Next, we have to support teachers by developing relevant instructional practices, programs and policies. It is the instructional relationship that teachers have with students that ultimately determine student success.

Current instructional practices, policies and procedures do not seem to relate well to students that are attending our schools. Did you know that over 82% of our non-charter schools are composed of children of color- mostly Black and Latino; over 60% of our 9th graders will not pass algebra 1; and 50% will not pass English 9? This data translates into large numbers of student dropouts. Our system of instruction is out of sync.

My school composed of low income Black, Latino, and Asian students improved a whopping 200 Academic Performance Index (API) points in six years. As a teacher whose students routinely score at proficient and advanced levels on State test, I know how to properly educate students in poor performing schools.

In order to achieve the same success as my school we have to go about much in the same way. We have to provide more resources for teachers i.e., training for staff to understand how to impact that instructional relationship in the following areas:

1. Student management
2. Classroom Assessment and how it impacts learning
3. Grading practices that destroy motivation
4. Understanding diversity
5. Home to school relationships
6. Equity in learning
If students don’t succeed they drop out. Drop outs on the streets mean more crime. More crime means unsafe schools and neighborhoods.

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