What Was on the Minds of the Audience Members at the School Board Forum?

Audience QuestionsAt last Wednesday’s School Board Candidates’ Forum, the audience of approximately 100 people was very active in their submission of 41 questions for the Audience Questions segment of the forum, which lasted for 40 minutes.

Given the time constraints, only seven (7) of the 41 questions were asked by the moderator and answered by the eight candidates.  So in the interests of open, transparent and inclusive post-forum dialogue, we are publishing all the audience-submitted questions as a catalyst to further discussion.

If you, the Vanguard readers, have additional questions to add to this list, please jump in and share them. For example, Don Shor posted the following question Saturday afternoon that would be an excellent addition to the 41 submitted at the forum: “What will you do to provide and expand programs and vocational training for Davis students who are not college-bound?”

If you have thoughts/opinions about any of the questions, jump in with those as well.

Achievement Gap (ASKED and ANSWERED)
Do you believe that DJUSD has an achievement gap? If not, how do you propose we keep it that way? If so, what concrete steps do you suggest DJUSD take to address the achievement gap?

Achievement Gap (not asked)
If you were elected, what specific things would you do to help close the achievement gap?

Achievement Gap (not asked)
What is your vision for addressing the effect of poverty on education and bridging the achievement gap in DJUSD K through 12?

School Start TimeSchool Start Time (ASKED and ANSWERED)
What is your position on a later start time for Davis high school, given that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it?

School Start Time (not asked)
Recent report and recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics deems start times for teenagers before 8:30 as unhealthy and contributing to chronic sleep deprivation, leading to decreased academic performance and compromising their physical and emotional health.  A nearly ‘no cost’ way to improve both academic performance and student health is to move the start of the school day to no earlier than 8:30 AM, preferably 9 AM.  Given that the alteration in circadian rhythms in teenagers has been repeatedly backed up by reams of research, the strong recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the minimal cost to simply shifting the start of the school day, shouldn’t the school board act as quickly as possible to change the school start time for Junior and Senior high schools in Davis to no earlier than 8:30?”

School Start Time (not asked)
There is always a trade-off between quality and quantity. I did a study for school district staff showing our high schools focus is on quantity. We have one of the earliest start times but also the single longest day of the top 30 high schools in California. Longer days and not smaller class sizes. Where do you stand on early start times? Quantity (i.e. continue staffing the longer days and more classes and variety of classes) or Quality (i.e smaller class sizes and shorter days)?

Bullying vis-a-vis Daniel Marsh (ASKED and ANSWERED)
The Daniel Marsh murder trial has been in the news the last few weeks, from school psychologists and counselors to bullying, Daniel utilized the school system a good deal.  In your view, in what way did the district serves fall short in attempting to help Daniel (if you feel they did) and would you do to help prevent future tragedies?

Student PressureStudent Stress/Student Mental Health (not asked)
DJUSD students are stressed. There have been many attempted suicides so far this year. Why? What can teachers do? What can the community do? What can the School Board do? Why didn’t anyone running as a candidate ask this question?

LGBT Issues (ASKED and ANSWERED)
If elected as a school board member, what would you personally do to support LGBT students, parents/ guardians and employees?

LGBT Issues (not asked)
More and more students have discovered they are transgender. How would you help the students have the best school experience?

LGBT Issues (not asked)
Every school district has children who have LGBT parents. What are the major problems facing the students and their families in relation to the school system?

Qualifications/Accessibility (ASKED and ANSWERED)
Do you speak Spanish?

Qualifications/Public Outreach/Candidate Preparation (not asked)
In your campaign what are you doing to reach out to the public and understand their concerns?

Qualifications/Candidate Preparation (not asked)
What books or media material have you read in the past month to inform your views on public education?

Conflicts of Interests / Special Interests (ASKED and ANSWERED)
Do you have any special interests you represent such as gate, sports, antagonisms toward teachers, opposed to tenure, etc.?

Conflicts of Interests / Special Interests (not asked)
Recently conflict of interest has been a concern in Davis, with
—  spouses of sitting Council and School Board members advocating for specific outcomes during public comment in official meetings, and
—  members whose principal employment is by an organization and/or jurisdiction doing business with the City and/or School Board, and
—  a City Council candidate who was party to a lawsuit against the City.
How do you think such conflicts of interest should be handled? How will you address any conflicts of interest you personally have if you are elected?

Conflicts of Interests / Special Interests (not asked)
To Tom Adams: Will there be conflicts between your job with the state board of education and your position on the school board? What if the state tries to impose something on our community that you disagree with?

Key Issues/Challenges Facing DJUSD (not asked)
This has been a campaign filled mostly with vague generalities, which makes it difficult to distinguish amongst the candidates. Please identify what you see specifically as the two most important issues that will come before the board for a vote, and your position on these issues.

Key Issues/Challenges Facing DJUSD (not asked)
Not withstanding school finance issues at the state and local level, what do you think will be the greatest challenge to local school district in the next five years?

Collaboration/Teamwork/Strong Governance from School Board (not asked)
If elected, how will you build a strong governance team with the Superintendent and your Board colleagues?

Teacher Retention (not asked)
What should be done to maximize retention of the highest quality teaching staff at each school?

Teacher AccountabilityTeacher Accountability (ASKED and ANSWERED)
How are accountable should teachers be to parents directly?
How will increased accountability work within the district “chain of command”?

Teacher Accountability (not asked)
How accountable should teachers be to parents directly? What specific measures would you support to achieve greater accountability and provide better information to parents about teacher quality?

Teacher Accountability (not asked)
What is your position on teacher tenure?

Teacher Accountability (not asked)
How do you feel about the school district “chain of command”? Do you feel parents should have open access to top administrators, or should they work through principals, who in turn contact the administrators?

Efforts to Attract Minority Teachers (not asked)
Since each of you is strongly committed to providing a good education for all children, I would like to know what ideas you have to attract and I hire African American teachers?

Efforts to Attract Minority Teachers (not asked)
Why are there so few teachers of color in this district? In the last five years there have been very few teachers of color hired, except at Cesar Chavez for obvious reasons. Shouldn’t there be more parity in the teaching force to reflect the student population?

Special Needs Children (not asked)
There will be a large wave of young people with ASD transitioning from school to adult life. How can the district improve this transition?

School BudgetFiscal/Budget/Cost Cutting (not asked)
If the DJUSD faced budget cuts during your term, what would you cut to help balance the budget? How would you approach the need to cut costs?

Fiscal/Budget/Cost Cutting (not asked)
You say that the $70 million budget should be used for services we actually need… Why spend so much on state of the art technology when the basic technology we have in junior high schools, high schools, etc. is doing just fine as is? Why spend it like that when you could use it for more necessary equipment?

Fiscal/Budget/Doing More With Less (not asked)
Are there any proposals or positions in your campaign for the future of Davis education that do not rely primarily on additional resources (e.g. more funding, taxes, teachers, volunteers, equipment, etc.)?

Fiscal/Budget/Cost Cutting (not asked)
Please identify your highest budgetary savings that you would propose as a member of the school board. How much would your proposal save?

Fiscal/Budget/Cost Cutting (not asked)
If you win in November, there is a very good chance that during your term you will find yourself addressing a budget deficit in the district. If faced with a $5-$7 million deficit, what are some things that you would consider to close the budget gap?

Fiscal/Budget/Cost Cutting/School Closing (not asked)
If our DJUSD economic situation requires it, would you be willing to vote to close a school?

Fiscal/Budget/Deferred Facilities Maintenance Backlog (not asked)
Our education programs are tops in the region – but our school facilities are spotty at best, missing at worst. What do you think we should do for our learners and teachers to provide them facilities that support learning?

Under-served Student Groups (not asked)
Davis has its vocal parent groups, but there are also students in our district who do not enjoy much visibility or advocacy. Can you identify one or two of these groups and their needs? Why have the students remained under the radar, and what do you propose to do on their behalf?

GATE ProgramDifferentiated/Special Programs vs. Heterogeneous Classrooms and Neighborhood Schools (not asked)
With with him DJUSD there is a high demand for programs such as Spanish Immersion, Montessori, and AIM. Do you support using district resources to meet this demand? What are the factors that you feel are most important to consider in the decision to expand these programs or not?

Differentiated/Special Programs vs. Heterogeneous Classrooms and Neighborhood Schools (not asked)
What sorts of concrete steps could the district take (toward for example teacher training, technology in the classroom, project-based learning) that would make us all more comfortable with reducing the size and scope of the self contained AIM program, and promoting heterogeneous classrooms and neighborhood schools?

Differentiated/Special Programs vs. Heterogeneous Classrooms and Neighborhood Schools (not asked)
How to support inclusive education when programs such as AIM continue How to provide world-class education for all?

Differentiated/Special Programs vs. Heterogeneous Classrooms and Neighborhood Schools (not asked)
For many district programs — for example the music program and GATE/AIM — there is notable under representation of lower income Latino students as participants. What policies would you suggest to address this issue?

About The Author

Matt Williams has been a resident of Davis/El Macero since 1998. Matt is a past member of the City's Utilities Commission, as well as a former Chair of the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC), former member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee (DPAC), former member of the Broadband Advisory Task Force (BATF), as well as Treasurer of Davis Community Network (DCN). He is a past Treasurer of the Senior Citizens of Davis, and past member of the Finance Committee of the Davis Art Center, the Editorial Board of the Davis Vanguard, Yolo County's South Davis General Plan Citizens Advisory Committee, the Davis School District's 7-11 Committee for Nugget Fields, the Yolo County Health Council and the City of Davis Water Advisory Committee and Natural Resources Commission. His undergraduate degree is from Cornell University and his MBA is from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent over 30 years planning, developing, delivering and leading bottom-line focused strategies in the management of healthcare practice, healthcare finance, and healthcare technology, as well municipal finance.

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