This is the next set of responses to a Daily Review questionnaire sent to candidates in the running for the Hayward Unified schools trustee positions. Remember, those who did not return a questionnaire are not included, for obvious reasons.
Without further adieu, question 2: What do you consider the greatest challenge facing the district, and do you have any suggestions on how to help the district overcome that challenge?
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the district is financial strength. The great citizens of Hayward stepped up to the plate in June and invested in the district’s infrastructure with the passage of Measure I. Our next challenge is to prove to the citizens they made the right choice and give them what we promised. That will build trust between the community and the district, which we need to secure financial stability and future bond measures. By building energy-efficient, environmentally friendly schools, classrooms with optimum indoor air quality and cleaning stations will help improve the average daily attendance. Staying on budget, keeping and attracting new students, and increasing average daily attendance are opportunities to secure financial strength.
Before getting the state budget two weeks ago, my answer would have been different. Now, however, the biggest challenge is how to cut $17 million from the budget without terribly impacting the students. This will be far more difficult than last time, because there is no more “low hanging fruit,” or very little. It will be more difficult for us that many other districts that have not recently had to do the kinds of cuts we already have done. This will take courage and strength to stand up against much pressure from all sides in fighting for the students
The district will continue to face budget issues because of the state’s and the nation’s economic troubles. We have cut all the “frills” and there is little more to cut. Our district budget is over 92% personnel so we need to find ways to work more efficiently, and that may mean loss of jobs, which will be very difficult.
To that end we must ensure that all our subgroups are meeting AYP. Some services that are proven to reduce the achievement gap are: Early childhood care and education; improving teacher quality; early intervention for college; extra learning opportunities, like afterschool programs or Saturday classes. We need to look at these possible solutions and research what other schools are doing who are meeting AYP in the state.
The Hayward School District in comparison to the Alameda County School District has a higher percentage of seniors who do not graduate school, and we need to find out why and implement strong measures to deter this behavior. When students are dropping out of school, it impacts the whole community and has a residual effect on crime and gang activity. We need to identify early in the educational process those children who are most at risk and implement an “early” intervention program.
Facilities –- This is a primary concern that I have and we have an opportunity with the overwhelming passage of the bond measure to make improvements; in some cases build new schools. It is crucial to the Hayward School District that this is well-thought out and projects are prioritized according to need. The community will be evaluating each and every step the district takes in spending their tax dollars. The district needs to earn their trust so there is a future for the passage of other bond measures. I want to be a participant in that process.
Declining enrollment –- Each year we have students who leave our district and enter private school, transfer to another school district, or parents take more drastic action and move out of Hayward. Our district knows this is happening but perhaps has not done enough to find out why. We need to reach out to parents of elementary school children and determine what motivates them to make that decision. Are they seeking a more enriched curriculum, more innovate elective programs, or schools that offer better resources? We all come up losers when this happens, other schools end up getting our funds from the state, we end up consolidating schools and laying off teachers.
The greatest challenge the district has is to make sure the schools become safe academic learning environments where every child is not afraid of violence and is given high expectations to excel academically to their untapped potential. The solution for that is to make all stakeholders part of the solution. Currently the district does not include the parents in any district-level decision process to improve academics or reduction of violence. We need a district accountable to the bad decisions they make in managing schools. As a board member, it will be my duty to assist the district in fulfilling their obligation to provide excellent schools, and to help them keep the politics out of job security. The hire and fire process in the improvement of schools should not be hindered by the three-headed dragon of corruption, collusion and nepotism. The Hayward community needs a board that will be held accountable to improve the district.
The budget is our biggest concern and we need to think of innovative ways to meet academic achievement within the budget we have. I would want to meet with parent-teacher groups to get input and come up with some solid ideas.
The challenge the district faces at present is the superintendent with his compulsion to keep an enormous upper management. He should be giving the principals more responsibility and cutting his staff appropriately.
He cuts our children’s education and services rather than to do the work himself.
Fully supporting the classroom is the greatest challenge to the district. We must be very clear that this is a priority, because we are in a fiscal squeeze and must meet the needs of standardized testing.
Communication within the district really needs improvement and the district office must learn to relinquish direct control of site issues. More decisions must be made at the site level with less micromanagement from the district. This means the district office must see more clearly that its role is that of a service organization to support the schools, not a seat to make decisions for the schools. Then the principals will be seen as the decision makers at their schools, leaders of their schools, and this will improve morale, teamwork and efficiency where it counts.
We must connect with the community. Hayward is full of untapped resources; musicians, scientists, authors, artists, etc. Many of these people may not have children in the schools, yet they would be happy to share their knowledge and experiences. We have volunteers and friends who are just waiting for us to extend our hand. I think it is time that we take the time to learn from our community, not just ask them for their vote!
The greatest challenges for the district are the budget, providing a safe, healthy environment, promoting academic success, decreasing the dropout rate and decreasing the truancy rate. We must inform our teachers, students and parents of district and school rules, and have students and parents sign contracts to acknowledge that they understand and will comply. Spell out the consequences of not complying, and be consistent. Encourage respect for parents, teachers and students by providing professional development on how to best encourage respect. Have workshops for parents to help them understand the techniques, and work with the school to achieve respect for all. Respect will help decrease the violence and bullying we now see in the schools. Student health is an issue in the schools. We have students who are overweight, hungry, homeless and sick. These issues affect the truancy rate and we can help by making physical education more available, maintaining the lunch and breakfast programs, having school nurses available at least once a week, giving parents guidelines for when to keep their child home when he/she is sick, acknowledging the need for before- and after-school supervised time, giving say 30 minutes to pick up their students. We have childcare programs but sometimes parents need just a short time 10 or 15 minutes leadway in dropping off or picking up their children. A safe, secure environment promotes academic success.
Academic success can be encouraged by offering tutoring as soon as a student is identified by their teacher or parent, rely more on testing throughout the year to help identify students’ weak spots. Assist the principals by making sure they are aware of programs and training that would assist their teachers and parents.
In these times of economic decline and skyrocketing costs, we must make hard decisions that provide safe schools, address diversity and provide academic success for all students.