School Board Candidates Meet at Vanguard-DMA Forum (Video Now Posted)

Last night over 100 people attended the first DJUSD School Board Candidates forum at the Davis Community Church in an event co-hosted by the Davis Vanguard and Davis Media Access. The candidates answered five questions that were submitted by the candidates themselves and another eight from the audience.

Due to the length of the candidates forum, this page will be updated sporadically with additional answers.

Each candidate was asked to give a two-minute opening comment that addressed the following questions.

  • What attributes are necessary to be a successful School Board Trustee in Davis?
  • How will your past service to Davis schools inform and prepare you for serving as a school board trustee?
  • What qualities do you believe you have that are different from the other candidates that will serve you well if you were you elected?

By draw of numbers, it was determined that Barbara Archer would answer the first question and the responses would progress in alphabetical order down the line to Madhavi Sunder and then to Tom Adams to finish the opening comments.

Barbara Archer: “I’ve worked in our schools for the last ten years, I was PTA president at Willet Elementary and I served on the school site council. As PTA president you are responsible for a budget, you answer parent concerns, you work with site staff on projects to help student success. On site council you help manage a budget and you discuss school climate issues.” She said that “this is very relevant experience for the school board.” She also co-chaired in 2012, the parcel tax campaign where she learned about the DJUSD budget. She has closely followed the budget since attending board meetings and participating on the parcel tax oversight subcommittee. “I think how our budget is managed and prioritized is the most critical issue we face in the next few years.” She stated that she is a strategic thinker who values honesty and transparency, “which I think are essential qualities in a board member.” She said she is also responsive, in PR one always responds to a journalist after doing one’s research and she would treat constituents in a similar way.

Alan Fernandes: “I am currently on the board and serve as your trustee. The attributes that I have leading up to my ultimate appointment on the board are that I have a deep commitment and extensive volunteer efforts not only in our schools but also in the larger community. I came to this community initially for education as a student at UC Davis and I have remained here for the purposes of education in raising my own family. I have been over 20 years, and have committed myself to public service in serving our community be it on school site council, a member of the strategic plan committee for the district as well as other activities not related exclusively to the schools but other parts of our community.” He said that a good school board member is one with a broad vision of all of the different communities within our community.

Jose Granda: “I have been a teacher for 32 years. I’m a professor at California State University in Sacramento. I’ve lived in Davis for 36 years, from the very beginning I’ve served this district as a parent-teacher volunteer. Our family’s one of the first families that founded the Spanish immersion at Birch Lane.” He said he was part of the first task force that put computers into the classroom. He said he wants to become the “three T’s candidate.” The first “T” is technology. “I want to make sure the Davis schools become the most technologically advanced in the United States.” The second “T” is taxpayers, “I am a candidate I believe that the taxpayers can trust because I have also opposed the parcel tax when they are not needed… When you have four measures in 18 months, you have to say no at some point.” The last “T” is teaching, “I want to support the teachers, I am one of them, I am with you.”

Mike Nolan: He explained that twenty years ago, he and his wife decided that he would stay home and raise his kids, “So I became the homemaker. That gave me the opportunity to get really involved in my kids schooling in the Davis school system.” He is a public law attorney by profession. He became involved in the Superintendent’s parent advisory committee for five years before becoming PTA president and serving on the school site council. He said that in the process of doing that he became very aware of the schools and served under the last four superintendents. “It gave me a broad experience in our school system,” he said. “I found that the most important thing was to listen to be. I believe as a board member it’s the most important thing a board member can do is to listen to everybody.” He said in Davis, we are consensus community because every four or five years we have to go as a board before the community to ask for needed taxes to keep our high achieving schools.

Bob Poppenga: Spoke about his experience as a parent of two girls – one a native speaker in the AIM program and the other an English-language learner who came to them at age 10. “So I’ve seen two very diverse programs and how the district manages those programs,” he said. He said he also participated on the professional development action team as part of the strategic planning process. “I was actually shocked that here in Davis there was no program to train our teachers and help keep them trained,” he said. “I’ve also brought educators to the community to look at best practices and best evidence.” He said he’s been a university educator for 25 years, “I’ve been very student focused. As a school board member I’d keep that focus.” He added, “I’m a life-long learner, I think this is very important because the educational literature changes dramatically.”

Chuck Rairdan: He said, “Among the attributes that make an effective board member a collaborative work style, and the ability to consider many diverse perspectives and to bring that together in at least a cohesive solution and approach to solving whatever issues are before the board.” He said, he has worked for twenty years on public works projects as part of a team member, he said, “I’m a strong proponent of transparent and open proceedings, I think that’s one of the best ways to advance a particular idea, whatever the issues are, to at least give it a full and just hearing.” He added, “As someone whose not an educator but who values education, I think I would bring a different set of views to the board.” He said he was the first member of his extended family to earn a college degree which “gives me insights that I think would at least complement other points of view on the board.”   He added, “I served on the strategic planning committee, I think that’s an excellent example of what you see when you get a group of people from diverse walks of life come together and work together and figure out what the future course is going to be.”

Madhavi Sunder: “I am running for the Davis School Board because public schools are the engine of opportunity in our democracy. I, myself am a benefit of public schools. My parents immigrated to the United States with nothing. Public schools prepared me to attend Harvard College and then later Stanford Law School.” She now teaches law at a public law schools, “Where many of my students are the first in their families to go to college.” She said that her scholarship has “always focused on expanding opportunities for all” – from gay rights to women’s rights. She said her record of service to the Davis schools preceded her children being of school age. “In 2005, I led the campaign to name Korematsu Elementary after the civil rights hero.” “Today Fred Korematsu’s quote ‘if you have the feeling that something is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up,’ empowers kids in that school to stand up against bullying.” She participated last year in the district’s strategic planning process focusing on how to support the whole child – supporting small class rooms as a key to meeting children’s needs. She stated that she believes we can provide a world class education to our students “even in an era of limited public support.” This means, she said, “we must spend our money wisely.” Third, she said, “We must be resourceful.”

Tom Adams: “As a Davis School Board member, I would bring together a number of qualities that I think are needed.” First he said, “I’m a known consensus builder. It’s starts with listening, clearly defining the issues, looking at all sides of the issues, emphasizing the we and not the me of the issue and making sure everyone contributes.” He cited his experience on site council for two schools and well as working on the master plan for Spanish immersion. As well as the assessment subcommittee of the Strategic Planning Committee. “I have deep knowledge of education policy, I’ve been involved in education for 22 years.” He added, “I also wish to bring a positive attitude to Davis, in terms of recognizing the great things that Davis teachers do while recognizing the need for change and improvement.” “I also seek a balance of education for all students – I believe in all services to all students such as counseling, the arts, humanity, science, career and technical education.” He cited 22 years involving curriculum and instruction.

SB-Debate-2
The public awaits the beginning of the candidates forum. Ultimately more than 100 people attended.

Question 1: What is your philosophy of education and how will it shape your decisions on the school board? Are there issues where you have disagreed with the administration in the last 2 years, if so, what are they?

Alan Fernandes: “My philosophy on education, particularly as a trustee of a public institution is access and truly making sure that all 8600 students of our district are served to the best of our ability from the child on free and reduced lunch to the high achieving student to everyone in between. So access is first and foremost,” he said. “Within our district achieving excellence within our student population and driving every student to their highest potential.” He said he has disagreed with the district, “I think what you’ll find from me is that I am a good listener, I’m a consensus builder, we do have challenges in our district and it’s really important that we shouldn’t shy away from disagreement with our administrators but we should look to build consensus with our students in mind.”

Jose Granda: “My philosophy is teaching, because I’m a teacher, my first and foremost responsibility is to make sure that everybody learns. While not everybody is an A student, we need to care for those that need help and that is the mission as I see in myself in my own classes. As a trustee we need to support them, to train them, to give them everything they need, to be the best teachers they can be.” He said this touches on two of the “T’s” one is technology to give teachers the best tools and the other one is the support and the training for them to do so.” “Do I disagree with the board? Yes. Particularly on the fiscal irresponsibility of the board.” He cited the 3.4% increase of the salaries of administrators and the four parcel tax measures. “I think that is basically abuse of the taxpayers,” he said.

Mike Nolan: “The state constitution since 1849 has given the legislature the power to create schools, but the words they use are common schools. My philosophy is yeah I believe in common schools, when they use that word, the common in the sense of the community. When they use that word, everyone in this school district should be able to go to a public school and achieve their full capabilities and have the full range of services offered to them.” He said with our resources, we have the opportunity to really offer our kids a top notched education. He stated that his disagreement with the school board is that in the aftermath of the resignation of a board member, “the board adopted a conflict of interest policy, which I believe is inadequate – totally inadequate. I believe what we need in this district for the school board to have credibility is a tighter and more explicit conflict of interest code that would make sure that the board operates on a fair, open, and focused manner.”

Bob Poppenga: He said over the last few decades, “our public schools system have been asked to do more and more and often with less resources. So that makes educating all our kids a real challenge.” He said a philosophy of education “has to be student centered.” He said, “I think it’s very important to engage students in the classroom.” A number of studies he said show that high school students disengage from the process. Part of that is to insure that we have excellent teachers in the classroom that are adequately supported. “All our students benefit from high expectations,” he added. “Public education is not a zero-sum game, I think we have to find ways to provide opportunities for every child.”

Chuck Rairdan: “My philosophy of education is really about providing the full range of options available to the different styles of learning and aptitudes that are within the student population. I think that’s important so that each of them are able to develop to their full potential and that they can rely on their own particular interests and aptitudes and development throughout their whole student career here in Davis.” He said he’s interested in inquiry-based learning. He saw that as a key to lifelong learning. In terms of issues with the administration, he said, “better and more active communication before the fact. I have seen improvements along these lines, but I think in recent history there have been several instances where it was more about damage control and the community not knowing what was going on until things were apparently already decided.”

Madhavi Sunder: “My philosophy of education is support all children. Our public schools make each one of us our brother and sisters’ keepers. If we see a child thriving in any one of our schools that makes us happy, even if it’s not your child. And if we see a child suffering in any of our schools, then that concerns me, even if it’s not my child.” She said in terms of disagreement with the administration, “I definitely think that the problem with the volleyball episode last year went far beyond the fact that we didn’t have a conflict of interest policy. We spent $22,000 and countless personnel hours investigating a complaint involving a board member’s child. This really could have been handled and should have been handled differently.” She suggested several ways to avoid having to spend this money and noted that we spent over one-quarter million in four years on 11 investigations – “That’s not going to happen on my watch.” She said, she intends to spend money “on things that count and that means nurses, counselors, and teachers.”

Tom Adams: “My philosophy of education comes down the universal design for learning,” he said explaining the need to sign every class knowing that we have all kids there at the beginning. “In this sense, we have to be open to a variety of students. The other things that we have to do is have common standards for all students and common expectations.” He said he wants to ensure that those that graduate from Davis schools “have the knowledge and skills we expect.” “We also have to have a variety of programs, and that’s what Davis offers.” He noted that while many of our students are college ready, “we also have to have a lot that are career ready.” In terms of disagreeing with the board, “I think it comes down to the fact that the board had to make some hard decisions during tough budget times.” He wants to see class size reduction, regular counselors, regular school nurses.

Barbara Archer: “My philosophy of education goes to enrichment for all and open access to all programs,” she said. She noted that while we have a great music program, that the forms may not be in Spanish and there may not be a Spanish translator at those meetings “so families that speak another language other than English can learn about this benefit for their child. Open access is really important for me.” She said “we can be a model district in so many areas. We’re known for good test scores, but I would rather us be known for a model district closing the achievement gap.” “I have disagreed with a variety of expenditures made in the last two years. I would seek much more oversight in terms of what we spend money on. WE ask an awful lot of our community and we need to be transparent and fiscally responsible with our finances.”

Question 2: If you are elected, what is your top priority and what is your plan to accomplish that priority

Jose Granda: He said, “That goes to teaching with high technology and support of the teachers. Those would be highest priority. I would not put priority in raising the salaries of the administrators at the expense of the teachers. I think that the time has come where all the investment in the past that have (brought) them pay raises, pensions and all that needs to go to the children and the students, investment in technology for them.” To achieve this, he said, “We need to re-think the priorities” and all of us need to be engaged in that goal. “If we need external funding, I am all for that.” He is for having a department charged specifically with obtaining grants.

Mike Nolan: “My top priority is to listen to our community and to listen to everybody, not only the people that are the supporters of our schools but even the critics… in order to form a consensus to support out schools.” He wanted to work with the board members here “to make a consensus so that we have credibility to go before the voters and ask for the public support for our schools.” He added, “The point of listening is to be able to advise the superintendent and the administration about what public opinion wants and what we’re concerned about. I think that’s really an important aspect of a board member.” He said that he wants to be sure that no board member goes off and tries to manage things on their own. Under the bylaws, he stated, “A board member has no individual authority except as authorized by the vote.”

Bob Poppenga: “Restoring trust in the school board and the business that they conduct is important,” he said. “I would like to see a community like Davis has a process where as a community we can get together and discuss some controversial and divisive issues.” He noted that we see some of these cropping up all of a sudden without much community input. By way of example, the consolidation of the high school with the ninth grade and “there was no process there to engage the community and get their feedback.” He added that we will be losing most of our teachers in the next five years and we have replaced 90 teachers this year. He added that there are partnerships in the community and “so many resources that we are not tapping into.”

Chuck Rairdan: He said his priority is to “align the district to be a leader in 21st Century education.” While he indicated a lot of different things would go into that, “some of the main components would be making some serious headway on opposing the achievement gap. I think the recent development of the LCAP and a lot of the features of that plan is going to make some significant strides in that direction. I think also having the full range and open access to all the different types of educational components and options within the district is going to be key to broadening those choices.”

Tom Adams: “My priority is building those board meetings and make sure they’re an example of civic virtue. I want to start every board meeting with at least a five minute presentation by students. We have to remember that we’re there for students.” He said, “I also want to take the position of Public Information Officer and turn it into an ombudsman. The fact of the matter is that everyone knows how great our schools are, but really the way we’re going to make our schools better is by restoring trust. Instead of having someone telling everybody how great we are, maybe we need someone who can actually help parents find out and get the resources that they need.”

Barbara Archer: “My issue is budget priorities. Ten years ago a student entering kindergarten had 22 kids in her class, last year she had 32 kids in her class. This year we’ve been able to reduce class size at primary grades to 25. We still can do better and we still have 40 kids jamming into a classroom at the high school – so class size is still a big priority to me.” She is also concerned with the counselor ratio which from grade 7 to grade 12 is 350 students to one counselor. At elementary, they’re paid for “by soft money at PTA. We need to have a sustainable means where parents can see counselors when they need to, they’re not funded by soft money.” She said that we need training for the technology, “we can get all the ipads in the world, but if we don’t have training on how to configure them and how to deal with technology obsolescence, then it doesn’t work to have that technology at hand – so we need proper training.”

Alan Fernandes: “Those are all great top priorities but you can’t do any of those priorities without one thing and as the board member who was appointed as the result of the resignation, I’m committed to restoring trust.” How do you do that, he asked, “You do that by being transparent, open with your decision process, inclusive, and telling the community the facts.” Here are the facts: “80 percent of our funding generally comes from the state, the decisions up until the local control funding formula have been dictated by the state. The state is not investing in public education any longer – we are 50th out of 50 states in per pupil spending.” He said, “I’m not counting on that going up. Therefore we need to really tap into our community and ask the community what kind of schools we want for our future.”

Question 3: DJUSD has been questioned about the legality of the lottery used to determine classroom placement for the AIM/GATE program. What is your position vis-à-vis AIM/GATE?

Question 4: How would you, as a Trustee, ensure openness and transparency in School Board deliberations and decisions?

Question 5: Given the fact that Proposition 30 passed in 2012, and Measures A, C and E cumulatively are in effect until the end of 2016, do you think a new parcel tax measure should be placed in front of the voters at any time in the next 4 years?

Go to: https://www.davisvanguard.org/2014/09/should-the-school-district-allow-the-parcel-taxes-to-expire/

Here is the video:

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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57 Comments

  1. BrianRiley429

    Did Alan Fernandes say exactly how he envisions himself being a representative of diverse groups? He has made that an issue in his public career, yet nowhere does he say that he is Latino or Hispanic. Fernandes is a Portuguese surname, so I strongly suspect that by continually claiming to represent diverse views he is deliberately misleading the public.

    1. South of Davis

      Brian wrote:

      > I strongly suspect that by continually claiming to represent
      > diverse views he is deliberately misleading the public.

      If I was a lobbyist who’s full time job was working to get more taxpayer money to flow to Southern California and who’s part time job was working to get more taxpayer money to flow to the local firefighters and I was running for office had a name that sounded like I was a member of the largest ethnic group in the state I would run with it just like Alan is doing…

  2. ryankelly

    I think he is saying that his involvement with different activities and groups in the community has given him a greater understanding of the “different communities within our community.” I don’t understand why and how you have narrowed this down to his ethnic background and ethnic diversity.

    (Now, someone is going to respond that I’m attacking a candidate.)

    1. BrianRiley429

      The word “diverse” has been a recurring theme in his public life (“diverse perspectives,” “diverse groups,” “diverse clients,” “diverse children”), yet he has never before stated exactly why he represents those diverse views. He has never identified himself as being Latino or Hispanic, which is what those references seems to imply. It seems like he was being deceptive and taking advantage of people’s ignorance as to the origin of the Fernandes surname.

      1. Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald

        BrianRiley429 – Diverse can have many different meanings. I have never assumed that “diverse” only refers to ethnicity or race. It could mean physical ability, age, gender, socio-economic background, etc. It “could” mean cultural diversity, but I have never thought of AF or any other school board candidate trying to mislead the public by claiming that they represent diverse groups. It could be that you have a “diverse” interpretation of what he said.

        1. South of Davis

          Cecilia wrote:

          > Diverse can have many different meanings. I have never assumed
          > that “diverse” only refers to ethnicity or race. It could mean physical
          > ability, age, gender, socio-economic background

          Yet “Diverse” still always means “more people who vote for the blue team in large numbers” (unless Cecilia can show me a school that has a “diversity” program that spends money to help or get more fit, male, rich kids)…

      2. Matt Williams

        Brian, the spelling of Alan’s last name is a dead give away that Hispanic/Latino may well take a backseat to Portuguese in Alan’s family tree. I suspect you are inferring things that Alan did not imply.

  3. wdf1

    David, do you know when the video file of the event will be posted?

    From watching the event, I thought Tom Adams did very well. I didn’t know what to expect, only met him very briefly a couple of weeks ago. So that was new to me. It was clear that his background, working for the California Department of Education, informed his views on local issues.

    1. Matt Williams

      wdf1, I concur about Adams. He started a bit slowly, but quickly stepped up the quality of his responses, and by the end of the night I don’t think any other candidate could clearly say that he/she had been more impressive than Tom Adams was.

      I felt that one of his answers did fall a bit short of ideal, specifically his answer to the question “Do you have any special interests you represent such as GATE, sports, antagonism toward teachers, opposed to tenure, etc.?” His answer did not disclose that his 9-5 employer is the State of California Department of Education, which begs the following question which was submitted by a member of the audience, “Will there be conflicts between Tom Adams’ job with the state board of education and his position on the school board? What if the state tries to impose something on our community that he disagrees with?” The Vanguard did not ask the second question in the forum because it would have been a “directed question” that only one candidate can answer; however, it would have been ideal if Tom Adams had anticipated that question and addressed it in his answer.

      1. Creek Path Builder

        I’d say his answer was much worse than merely a bit short of ideal. This guy clearly has a conflict of interest as well as being disinterested in most aspects of the job other than curriculum. It’s interesting to speculate on how often, if ever, he would cast a vote different than a vote cast by Susan Lovenburg or Barbara Archer.

        1. wdf1

          Creek Path: It’s interesting to speculate on how often, if ever, he would cast a vote different than a vote cast by Susan Lovenburg or Barbara Archer.

          A year and a half ago, the school board voted unanimously to go with a lottery system for GATE/AIM. Lovenburg voted with the rest for that option. At the forum, only Nolan seemed to indicate that the lottery was a fair option. All the other candidates expressed disapproval of it. Doesn’t appear that Archer would necessarily vote with Lovenburg.

      2. sodnod

        I don’t think Tom Adams is too concerned about his conflict of interest, but we certainly should be. It is just not ethical to have someone with his “day job” on the Board. A vote for Tom Adams is the essentially the same as voting to put one of DJUSD’s administrators on the Board – why would he vote against Common Core if things aren’t going well, when it is his day job to support it? What about the curriculum materials he’s in charge of developing? He could say he’d recuse himself, but how would we know whether that’s happening?

        I met him and spoke with him about issues in the district. Yes, he is a good wordsmith and public speaker – his years as an administrator have given him plenty of experience, but he clearly supports the status quo. In my opinion, we are long overdue for a change in the school district. Electing Tom Adams is a sure way to make sure that change doesn’t happen.

        1. wdf1

          sodnod: A vote for Tom Adams is the essentially the same as voting to put one of DJUSD’s administrators on the Board

          DTA endorsed him. I don’t think they would have done so if they felt he would be lock-step with administrators.

          I met him and spoke with him about issues in the district.

          and

          I don’t think Tom Adams is too concerned about his conflict of interest, but we certainly should be.

          Did you ask Adams about your issue with conflict of interest when you met with him? What did he say?

          1. sodnod

            I wasn’t aware of what exactly his job was at the time. He indicated to me he had extensive knowledge about state policy and Common Core but never mentioned any interest in running for the Board.

            There were DJUSD administrators at the same event, and it seemed he was more interested in gaining their approval and showing he was one of them than in interacting with the rest of us commoners(!). I say that only partially tongue-in-cheek as it really did seem that way to me at the time. Perhaps his public approach has changed now that he’s campaigning.

  4. Robin W.

    David – Two (or three ?) of the candidates’ background info statements are missing, which I believe disadvantages them. I suggest you post all answers to any given question at the same time.

  5. wdf1

    Question 5: Given the fact that Proposition 30 passed in 2012, and Measures A, C and E cumulatively are in effect until the end of 2016, do you think a new parcel tax measure should be placed in front of the voters at any time in the next 4 years?

    Archer already made the correction last night, but Measure A passed in 2011 and was in effect for two years, and so cannot be in effect until the end of 2016. source

    I’m guessing that this was Granda’s submitted question.

  6. Creek Path Builder

    So, Archer wants to “close the achievement gap.” Judging from her past public statements, I wonder if her approach is to improve opportunities for all or to hold back those who excel so that they don’t get too far ahead of those who lag.

    She says, “. . . in PR one always responds to a journalist after doing one’s research and she would treat constituents in a similar way.”

    Funny, but I always thought the job of a PR person was to influense the journalist to tell the version of the story her client is paying for. Does that mean that she’ll work on constituents so they more readily swallow the lines of Susan Lovenburg and her ilk? Does it mean she’ll sell the Administration to the public as a nice packaged PR package?

    It’s good we have a large field of candidates. No need to settle for less than the best.

    1. Bill

      Woah. I’m gonna throw the flag for unfair play. Her comment “in PR one always responds to a journalist after doing one’s research and she would treat constituents a similar way,” is clearly focused on “doing one’s research.” It seems unfair to superimpose other meanings that simply aren’t present onto any candidates.

      1. Creek Path Builder

        If, as you say, the focus of her comment was intended to be on research, I think she could have picked a better example of useful research than what a PR person does. I suspect she meant exactly what she said, which is exactly what I heard. And, as paradoxical as it may seem, elephants in the room always “simply aren’t present.”

  7. ryankelly

    I was impressed with all of the candidates, except for Jose Granda (His focus on representing “tax payers” and opposition to selling the Grande property, and his past practice of suing the school district have excluded him as someone I would vote for.) Tom Adams was a nice surprise, since I hadn’t heard much about him.

    It ended up being a very good forum – a great introduction to get some idea of the substance of each candidate, without the distraction of who has endorsed whom.

    1. Matt Williams

      It is interesting ryan, before I left for home I was talking to someone after the forum ended who knew nothing about Jose’s litigation history, so that person was judging the candidates purely by what they said in the forum, and without the prejudgement, this person felt that Jose fell into the “top three” with Madhavi Sunder and Barbara Archer. Tom Adams was that person’s choice for the fourth slot. That assessment was not one that I had expected, but it definitely was interesting.

      When I asked why those three, the answer was that with Madhavi, Jose and Barbara you knew what you were getting. They didn’t color their answers with political rhetoric, which was overwhelmingly the case in this person’s assessment of three of the candidates.

  8. Southie

    I thought Sunder and Archer really stood out as leaders who could do great things for the schools. I find the comments interesting b/c I found Tom Adams to be a complete disappointment. I cannot imagine him asking a tough question or making a tough decision. He seems like a very nice man, but not a leader. I’m also interested in that question of conflict with the state board of ed.

    My 3rd vote is now leading towards Bob. I thought he was solid and thoughtful.

    1. sodnod

      Southie, I agree with your comment about Bob Poppenga. Seemed like an independent thinker, not a political insider, and one who would do his homework by seeking out views from all parts of our community – not just the loud ones.

      He seems warm but reserved, though that’s liable to hurt rather than help him campaigning in such a large group. It may be hard for him to get noticed when others are far “flashier” candidates. I also liked his comments about sleep and school start times.

      Mike Nolan seemed a little odd to me and a bit abrasive at times. I haven’t seen him before, though, so maybe he was just nervous.

  9. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    WDF” “From watching the event, I thought Tom Adams did very well.”

    I spotted a few Tom Adams campaign signs this morning for the first time. If there is any significance in having some around town, I think it sends a signal to voters that Adams is a serious candidate. Still, the sign war is easily being won right now by Sunder and Archer. I have also seen a couple of Poppenga signs, and none so far for the other four.

  10. wdf1

    SoD: Yet “Diverse” still always means “more people who vote for the blue team in large numbers” (unless Cecilia can show me a school that has a “diversity” program that spends money to help or get more fit, male, rich kids)…

    I don’t care whether Fernandes’ name seems Latino or not, or whether or not board candidates can speak Spanish. If they can, great, but that is really superficial compared to actually addressing specific strategies to improve diverse participation.

    More important than “representing” diversity in the community is how one accommodates diversity in the schools. That is the bigger issue, and right now DJUSD has a long way to go. I want to hear ideas and tangible solutions.

    I was actually disappointed that this issue wasn’t better addressed by candidates in the forum. Archer gave an example of how the elementary music program has been made more accessible to Spanish speaking families (providing translation and interpretation services in Spanish). Such accessibility has a better possibility of creating more diversity among the participant groups. But this is only a start.

    This issue also extends to the AIM program. I was hoping for more explicit discussion on improving accessibility to this program, but it didn’t happen. Madhavi Sunder wrote an op-ed piece a while back touting the diversity of the AIM:

    Our school district is 3 percent African-American, 17 percent Asian, 18 percent Latino and 57 percent white. Data from the last two years shows that students were identified for eligibility for the AIM program at similar percentages: 4 percent African-American, 24 percent Asian, 17 percent Latino and 51 percent white.

    That is misleading because that doesn’t mean that 18 percent of Latino students actually participate in GATE/AIM. The federal government’s Civil Rights Data Collection points out that in 2011-12 the percent of Latino students participating in the GATE program was 4.2%. (source) This is a statistic and source that was passed on to me by a DHS student, by the way, so I have the feeling that a number of DHS students are more explicitly aware of this issue than perhaps the parents.

    Davis Excel, a community group that has advocated for self-contained GATE/AIM, did acknowledge a lack of participation among Latino students in the district (source), but their response was

    These data show that the lower than expected Latino enrollment is due to student or family choice.

    I find that statement a bit disingenuous. What I don’t see happening is having Spanish-fluent district staff sit down with Spanish speaking parents to explain what it means if their kids are GATE/AIM identified, what their options are, and allow those parents to ask questions. English language speakers take it for granted that information is freely available. Those parents who struggle to speak English fluently want to know this information as much as the rest of us, but are frequently frustrated and come to believe that the district doesn’t give a damn.

    At the end of Sunder’s article (source above), she suggests that a solution for improving GATE/AIM access is to open an additional self-contained strand at Montgomery Elementary, where the largest percentage of Latino students attend. Although this might improve Latino participation, it won’t work unless Spanish-speaking parents are given full information and opportunity to ask questions of district staff.

    Also there are programmatic barriers to full participation. Many of these same students need additional interventions such as ELL programs and after school homework support, as well as migrant student support. Several teachers at MME are also bilingual and can therefore communicate directly with Spanish speaking parents. To find a teacher best suited to work with lower-income Spanish speaking parents in a self-contained GATE/AIM class is a tall order, and in itself suggests a need for differentiated instruction within a self-contained class.

    I would think that differentiated instruction options (apart from a self-contained model) for GATE/AIM would provide more flexible opportunities when multiple interventions and accommodations are required. Additionally, it would accommodate students who don’t get picked in the lottery for the self-contained program. Poppenga has gone on record specifically opposed to entertaining differentiated instruction options for GATE/AIM (source. At the end of Wednesday’s forum Sunder expressed interest in exploring differentiated instruction options in the district, but it wasn’t clear to me if that included GATE/AIM.

    Poppenga needs to be more explicit in what alternatives might work to accommodate Latino students that don’t involve differentiated instruction. With Sunder, who champions civil rights issues, I would also appreciate seeing her connect the dots more explicitly when it comes to addressing this issue.

    1. DavisVoter

      Some posts disappeared in the move to the new site.

      Based on your post, there are two issues: outreach to Latino students and self-contained AIM. Apparently outreach is a problem for many programs, not just AIM. But no one is calling for dismantling any program other than self-contained AIM. This leads me to suspect that the outreach problem is being used as a pretext by people who want to end self-contained AIM for other reasons.

      Madhavi has a concrete, constructive idea for better Latino participation. Why not try it? You “would think” that ending self-contained AIM “would provide more flexible opportunities when multiple interventions and accommodations are required,” but that point is neither clearly expressed nor supported by evidence. I don’t really know what you mean and I certainly have no reason to believe that what you’re trying to say is correct, whatever it is.

      You want Madhavi and Bob Poppenga to “connect the dots more explicitly,” but of course one can always demand more detail, no matter how much is provided. For my part, if Adams/Archer supporters are going to make AIM an issue, I’d like to hear Archer and Adams state some kind of comprehensible position on the matter. Archer talks about best practices” and “review of testing modalities.” Is that code for ending self-contained AIM? What is she actually saying? Adams says that students’ identified needs should be met, and I think we all agree on that, but, again, what does that actually mean in this context?

      I’d welcome a civil public debate on the merits of self-contained AIM, but the argument, “It doesn’t serve Latinos well enough now, so let’s kill it without giving it a chance to improve,” seems irrational or (more likely) disingenuous.

      1. Matt Williams

        DavisVoter, (and everyone) there are approximately 62 comments that were posted yesterday from 11:30 am until about 3:30 am that were missed in the migration. We have informed the site development team of this problem and will hopefully have that 4 hour period of comments restored shortly.

  11. ryankelly

    Only you are making camps where there clearly are none. I don’t see how any of the comments are disingenuous or irrational. This comment only demeans commenters and has little value.

    1. DavisVoter

      If self-contained AIM is a good idea except for the Latino participation issue, then dismantling AIM without giving it a chance to improve Latino participation seems irrational. If self-contained AIM is a bad idea for some reason other than the Latino participation issue, then using the Latino participation issue to argue for dismantling without stating the real reason seems disingenuous.

      This is the argument I made in my post, but maybe it wasn’t clear enough.

      I’m perfectly delighted for the reading public and the moderator to examine wdf1’s post, my post, and your post to evaluate your assertion that my post “only demeans commenters” (wrong) and “has little value” (possible, but subjective).

      By the way, do you think Archer and Adams should state a comprehensible position on AIM?

      1. Don Shor

        If self-contained AIM is a good idea except for the Latino participation issue, then dismantling AIM without giving it a chance to improve Latino participation seems irrational. If self-contained AIM is a bad idea for some reason other than the Latino participation issue, then using the Latino participation issue to argue for dismantling without stating the real reason seems disingenuous.
        This is the argument I made in my post, but maybe it wasn’t clear enough.

        It was perfectly clear to me.

      2. wdf1

        DavisVoter: If self-contained AIM is a good idea except for the Latino participation issue, then dismantling AIM without giving it a chance to improve Latino participation seems irrational.

        My argument definitely wasn’t that the district dismantle self-contained AIM. I’m interested in eliciting specific thoughts on how to make the AIM program more accessible to the Latino population. My thoughts are that solutions could include differentiated instruction, or it could be a self-contained option. I am concerned when Poppenga seems to dismiss on option completely.

        GATE alternatives are not the answer

        Currently, there is an organized effort to change the existing Davis GATE model for meeting the needs of intellectually gifted students. One proposal being put forward is to change to a differentiated instruction model in which students with a broad spectrum of academic abilities are grouped together with the hope that all students’ academic needs can be met.

        The fallacy of the proposed model is that it is unlikely to work and proponents have presented little evidence that it can work, particularly without significant increases in district resources. It seems to defy logic that a single teacher, responsible for 30 or more students, can effectively address the academic needs of all of their students through differentiated learning.

        At Montgomery there is already de facto differentiated instruction, where teachers have students with IEP’s & 504, ELL students, migrant students, students who need after school homework support, and students who need language services to communicate with parents, and “regular” students together in classrooms.

        Madhavi has a concrete, constructive idea for better Latino participation.

        I must have missed it. What is her idea?

        1. Don Shor

          My argument definitely wasn’t that the district dismantle self-contained AIM….My thoughts are that solutions could include differentiated instruction, or it could be a self-contained option. I am concerned when Poppenga seems to dismiss on option completely.

          From the discussion about GATE/AIM before, ‘differentiated instruction’ was clearly being presented as an alternative to ‘self-contained GATE’. In fact, there was a pretty aggressive argument being made that ‘differentiated instruction’ was better, more inclusive, more fair, better for the slower learners, etc. It was presented by the opponents of GATE as the preferred option. That is what GATE supporters were responding to: a group that formed for the purpose of dismantling the current GATE program. What was going to replace it was ‘differentiated instruction’ — having the GATE students in the same classes with non-GATE students and having the teachers somehow manage that.
          It seemed pretty clear to me at the time that ‘differentiated instruction’ was code for dismantling GATE. If you have any doubt about that, read the comments here: http://www.change.org/p/djusd-davis-joint-unified-school-district-evaluate-the-current-gate-program-and-investigate-alternatives-2

        2. DavisVoter

          You “missed” Madhavi’s proposal? I’d suggest asking wdf1, who stated the proposal “might” work in a post with the timestamp 9/19/14 9:46 am.

          We have a bunch of programs that underserve Latinos, but amazingly there’s only one — self-contained AIM — for which elimination (sorry, “differentiated instruction”) “could” be the appropriate solution. Sorry, I just don’t buy it.

          I’ve seen nothing to convince me that discarding self-contained AIM is a remotely reasonable way of dealing with the fact that AIM doesn’t serve as many Latinos as it could and should.

          I too want “specific thoughts on how to make the AIM program more accessible to the Latino population.” Madhavi’s provided one. You’ve provided additional, complementary thoughts. I’d like to hear what the other candidates — notably Archer and Adams — have to say.

        3. wdf1

          DavisVoter: You “missed” Madhavi’s proposal? I’d suggest asking wdf1, who stated the proposal “might” work in a post with the timestamp 9/19/14 9:46 am.

          Ok. She proposed (in June 2013) another self-contained strand at MME. I thought you might be referring to a more recently presented idea. It appears that even in a self-contained model there would be certain kinds of differentiated instruction, like what I mentioned.

          At the end of Wednesday’s forum she expressed interest in exploring options for differentiation. So that comment had nothing to do with AIM, then?

          We have a bunch of programs that underserve Latinos, but amazingly there’s only one — self-contained AIM — for which elimination (sorry, “differentiated instruction”) “could” be the appropriate solution. Sorry, I just don’t buy it.

          I’ve seen nothing to convince me that discarding self-contained AIM is a remotely reasonable way of dealing with the fact that AIM doesn’t serve as many Latinos as it could and should.

          I never said elimination. That’s your imposed word. Note that we have Spanish Immersion and Dual Immersion as different formats for elementary language instruction. I don’t sense any rancorous discussion there. But my saying differentiated instruction seems to be an existential threat to your view.

          There is differentiated instruction embedded in everything at MME. In the elementary music program at MME there is differentiated instruction going on. I’m interested to understand how self-contained AIM works without any internal differentiated instruction. And why AIM doesn’t work as an option for differentiated instruction in a non-self-contained environment, even if there are parents in the district who would like that option (understanding that self-contained options are allowed to exist)?

      3. DavisVoter

        OK, I had read your previous comments as advocating considering complete elimination of self-contained AIM.

        If the suggestion is to provide AIM-identified students and their parents with a choice between a “differentiated AIM” model and a self-contained AIM model, that seems pretty different from elimination. I wouldn’t read Poppenga’s letter as dismissing such an approach out of hand. I would guess he supports parents’/students’ ability to choose between “self-contained AIM” and “no AIM,” so I don’t know that he’d oppose adding “differentiated AIM” as a third option. I don’t know for sure what he thinks, however.

        Of course, if the “differentiated AIM” approach is part of an effort to phase out or scale back the choice to do self-contained AIM, then that would be different once again.

        As someone who is not really immersed in this issue, I don’t necessarily have a full grasp of the possibly shifting meanings of the various terms involved. That’s one of the reasons I’d like to hear something clear about self-contained AIM and its relationship to Latino participation from Adams and Archer.

        1. Don Shor

          I never said elimination. That’s your imposed word.

          Actually, wdf, you are really being disingenuous. The quote from Poppenga that you cite (http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/letters/gate-alternatives-are-not-the-answer/) is in direct response to a previous article and an ongoing, vigorous campaign in 2013 to replace self-contained GATE with differentiated instruction. Poppenga cites the following: The comment in a Jan. 22 Enterprise article that the current GATE program is “inconsistent with community values of equity, inclusion and a shared commitment to raising healthy and well-adjusted young adults” and that it should be replaced by an unproven differentiated learning model…

          I don’t recall anybody at that time proposing parallel versions of GATE, self-contained along with ‘differentiated’ GATE. It may be true that you “never said elimination,” but that is clearly what was being proposed then.

        2. wdf1

          Don: OK, thanks for clarifying the context. I was not in the middle of that one, but read most of the articles as they came out in the Enterprise. Again, no complaint from me as long as candidates are genuinely willing to consider both options to meet parent/student needs & interests.

      1. Matt Williams

        ryan and Don, the site’s Spam filter isn’t set up correctly, so all comments are going to the comment approval queue. Fixing that is on the “punch list” of site issues. I’m closely watching the approval queue and approving comments very shortly after they are submitted.

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