Our Vision for West Contra Costa
Recruit and Retain Quality Educators and staff
Teachers and classified staff need and deserve to be supported, well compensated, and listened to by district staff in order to grow and thrive. We've had a challenge for many years in WCCUSD to recruit and retain quality educators especially teachers of color. Every year significant teacher turnover remains an unresolved district issue for our highest need schools. In order to provide quality instruction and a community schools model to every school we have to create an atmosphere where teachers and staff feel fully supported with the tools they need to help the needs of all of their students. District leaders must improve working conditions in our schools by creating stable, supportive, and collaborative work environments. This means providing all of our hardworking educators with quality school site leaders, peer feedback, developmental supports, increased career opportunities, and sense of professional agency with effective collaboration that reaffirms how student and teacher success are fundamentally intertwined.
Prioritize African American and English Language Learners
As a district we must put students of color as a priority in order to support them fully. But more specifically, it's critical that we prioritize our African American students and also our english language learners by putting our funding towards services that will directly support them and putting them at the forefront of every decision WCCUSD makes. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) requires our district to use concentration and supplemental funds to “increase” or “improve” services to low-income, English learners and other historically underserved students. We must put our funding where our priorities are and fund programs, supports and tools for our African American students and English Language learners with ways of accountability and data. As Board members we must approve the LCAP and new LCP (Learning Continuity Plan) every year and it's up to us to listen to our community and use those funds for our highest need students and schools.
Ensure a Safe and Inclusive Opportunity of Education for All
Every child deserves the opportunity to learn, succeed, and go on to college and/or a satisfying career. In order to do this, we must expand on what is working in our schools and support all staff, and families in WCCUSD. We must provide schools with flexibility and funding to further what is going well. Schools must also be safe, nurturing places that provide social emotional learning, restorative justice practices, and supports such as health services for every child. It's critical we understand what goes on in every school and support them individually. The days of one size fits all are over, we must look at every school for its unique needs and give them the tools, funding, and support they'll need to succeed. This also means being flexible, understanding, and inclusive to all stakeholders in the local school level.
Frequently Asked Questions
How will you ensure that my children (and quite frankly, every child) receive quality instruction to be college and career ready by the time they graduate? Or if they are choosing a different path, how will you ensure they are given choice to go into a trade or career right after High School?
I am 100 percent committed to ensuring all of our students have full access to rigorous content and college-preparatory coursework aligned with the Common Core, English Language Development (ELD), Ethnic Studies Courses, and Next Generation Science standards, including the “A-G” courses at the high school level that are necessary for acceptance into the state’s public universities. I also deeply believe every student should have the necessary A-G courses in order to attend a 2-4 year university if they choose. In order to do so, I believe we must support our students with quality educators, counselors, well-funded health centers, sports and other activities, AP Course, and CTE Courses. I also believe that if there are students who’s path is not college, they must be given choice, which is why I’m 100% committed in supporting our CTE program and connection with trades in order to provide all kids with a path they might prefer.
What do you believe are the strengths and weaknesses of bilingual education in WCCUSD?
English learners make up thirty-three percent of our total district students. I myself am an English language learner who was never able to reclassify due to the system which set me to fail due to lack of resources. It is critical that we support our bilingual programs, English language development programs, and provide the tools necessary for sites to reclassify their students but most importantly help them so that they may have a strong future. Our English language learners in WCCUSD have very diverse learning needs. Often students who are learning English in our district schools, particularly those who are also low income, are less likely to demonstrate proficiency on the state standards, are more likely to repeat grades, are less likely to enroll in college-preparatory coursework in high school, and are more likely to drop out of school. It is also not uncommon for English learners to spend half a dozen years in our schools without being reclassified as English proficient. Strengthening bilingual education programs in WCCUSD starts with scaling up successful dual-immersion programs across the entire district, learn from them and replicate the success. Right now, we have 11 schools with a Dual Immersion program which must be set to succeed. 10 out of the 11 school teach Spanish and English and the last teaches Mandarin. Being biliterate is very important for the future of our students and I would like to see our program further supported, our teachers given quality curriculum, professional develop and supports, and our families given constant information about the bilingual programs being offered.
Where do you think the school district is now financially? and where would it be in 5 years?
In the last few years I’ve learned a lot about district budgets especially WCCUSD’s and through negotiations and the deficit this year I’ve dug deep into the details. District budgets are incredibly complex since they come from various areas, some funding can only be utilize for certain things such as restricted and unrestricted funding, or LCAP vs title 1, 2, or 3 funds. My current understanding of our budget is that its not in a good place. In the 2018-2019 school year we had to do over 14.4 million dollars in cuts. This past school year (2019-2020) we made an even greater amount of 49.9 million dollars (30 million in real cuts with 19.9 from savings) due to the district deficit. In the 2020-2021 school year we were projected (prior to COVID-19) to have to cut approximately 18-22 million dollars.
It also depends on what the federal government does and if they pass a stimulus bill that helps states with the burden. If the current Heroes bill that passed in the House of Representatives passes the Senate as well, it would put approximately 100 billion dollars into education. This would not take away the full burden from school districts like WCCUSD but it would equalize the cut on LCFF. If we don’t get more support from the Federal Government, we could see more cuts in the 2021-2022 school year than what I mentioned above, projected at another 10-20 million dollars. But that’s why its also critical that we organize, advocate, and vote in favor of the Schools and Communities First Initiative this November. This initiative will bring over 12 billion dollars for education in CA and would help combat some of the state deficit.
Right now, WCCUSD has projected that if we head in this direction we would have enough between reserves, savings from COVID-19 (facilities use and programs), reserves placed in the OPED liability and the cuts we already made to cover the 2020-2021 school year. But as I mentioned, the biggest problem for WCCUSD will be the 2021-2022 school year. Which is why I 100% believe we need trustees that understand the budget, listen to the community for what they believe the priorities of the district should be, and advocate in all levels to increase funding for education in CA and across the United States. But it’s also critical that we hold district staff accountable by enforcing transparent measures around the budget. That includes having labor partners in all of our staffing meetings, showing our budget on a transparent way with the community through easy to access tools, and have oversight tools that will prevent overspending by all departments and sites. Some of this has already been started but a lot has not. It’s essential that we head into the next few years not just by getting our numbers correct and put in place the right tools to prevent human errors, but we also rebuild the trust of our community by bringing them into the process.
Do you support the Black Organizing Project and the National Education Association’s demand for Police Free Schools? What are your thoughts on the School Resource Program in WCCUSD?
More than just police, I support NEA’s call for action to end the school to prison pipeline. I 100% believe in the work behind NEA’s vision/values to do so as well as their path to do so. It's critical that we invest in training, services/programs for students, mental health supports, and invest in staff such as nurses, restorative justice coordinators, and directly recruit educators of color. It also means advocating for ending police brutality and reform our justice system in CA and in the United States. I support the Black Organizing Project as well and support a police free school’s vision. Thats why I stood with our students in support of the call to defund Security Resource Officers from our schools and I stand behind the Board decision.
At the same time, I believe and have seen how our own SRO’s and CSO’s have shifted over time and I believe we have very supportive individuals who intervene in difficult situations in a positive matter. By the passing of our positive climate policy in WCCUSD we demanded that SRO’s and CSO’s were trained in various things including restorative justice practices and PBIS strategies. Their training and contracts were also changed and have shifted to creating positive relationships with students. I agree with police free schools but I also think that adults on campuses see SRO’s as positive resources because they need tools of support to deal with conflict and discipline. It's important that as we remove police from schools as are youth are demanded due to their own experiences, that we provide training and real supports to adults on campus. My hope is that we’ll see an expansion to counselors, health services for youth, restorative justice practices and staff support in using these practices.
What do you see as the effects of charter schools on WCCUSD students? What do you believe should be the relationship between WCCUSD and the charter sector?
Charter Schools are hurting the overall system in WCCUSD plain and simple. First, Charter Schools in WCCUSD with the expectation of one, do not serve the same population as our public district schools. In WCCUSD we accept and support every student whether you are a newcomer, an immigrant student, a student of color, or a student with a disability, our schools welcome every child. If you look at the data and enrollment of Charter schools in WCCUSD you will see that’s not the case for them, they have a lower number of students with disabilities especially mid/moderate and severe disabilities, lower numbers of African American Students, and way lower numbers of English Language Learners especially newcomers. This leaves our schools with higher needs and lower supports.
Charter schools are also hurting us financially. According to a study by “In the Public Interest” in partnership with WCCUSD, Charter Schools are costing WCCUSD students over 27.9 million dollars a year. This is because right now the way that we get funding it follows our students. Charter schools have been expanding in WCCUSD at a very fast rate. If it wasn’t for the majority of our current Board and the communities push back on the expansion of new and current charters we would have even more. We have seen a decrease in enrollment in schools around charter which reduce the budget for our schools, staff, and programs.
I support a Charter School Moratorium in WCCUSD and I supported by writing the moratorium policy passed by the WCCUSD Board in 2019. I also support a moratorium in colocations of our public schools with Charter Schools. I 100% believe that we need to continue to hold Charter School accountable, transparent, and support our oversight work by WCCUSD.
At the same time, I would never blame a parent of a charter school. I know they are looking for the best education for their children especially if they have had a bad experience in WCCUSD. I have met many families who worry about the future of their student in our schools. But that is why we also have to work hard in our schools/district to make sure no student falls through the cracks, no student feels unsafe, and we are prioritizing our African American and English Language Learners who are most at risk according to data presented the last few months by AASAT and other advocacy groups. It’s critical that we provide families with choices and we perfect our transfer policy in case families want to go to another school in our district. Its also essential that we listen to families and make sure site administrators are meeting with families and try to support both the students need and families need. It’s important at the same time that we are providing our educators, site administrators, and staff with the right supports, professional development, flexibility, academic freedom, curriculum, adequate pay/benefits, and funding so that they’re able to do their work. Finally, we have to listen to our youth, and partner with organizations like the RYSE Youth Center so that they are at the center of our decisions and we can pivot our priorities and work according to the their feedback.
What do you know about the adult education consortium system and the Contra Costa County Adult Education Consortium in particular? What are your thoughts about adult school?
I completely support adult education and the important work they do in our community and for families. Many of the adult education classes being offered support parents and families of our students. Adult education offers language support for families, culinary classes, and even classes that support the continual development of adults that might need those skills to obtain a job. These supports are essential when we discuss community schools and support the whole child. By support the families and parents we also support the students.
Community Schools require a strong culturally relevant curriculum, high-quality teaching, inclusive/shared leadership, community support services, restorative practices, and family and community engagement. Do you agree with community schools, and if so, how do you envision making this a reality at every school under our current constraints in funding and other issues in the community?
I absolutely believe in a community schools model for all of our schools. The beautiful thing about public schools is that they represent so much more than just academics, for many of our students they represent a safe place, a place where they get food, a place to obtain health services, a place for families to get community information, and for many a place to call home. Schools have to provide so much with so few resources. I believe that through partnerships with our cities and donors we can provide these services. The city of San Pablo provides approximately half a million dollars a year to pay for community outreach workers and after school programs for the schools in San Pablo. We need to learn from that partnership and expand it to all of our cities. There are programs both statewide and nationally we can apply for to support us, and I believe that a partnership with philanthropy and our county is also available.
I believe that community schools is one of the best ways to support the whole child and to also show what makes public schools an essential service in our communities. I believe it is our job to ensure that societal issues such as poverty, hunger, mental health, drug abuse, homelessness, and trauma are addressed in our schools. We cannot affect what happens at home or in our communities to a certain extent but we can make sure that our schools are a safe haven for every single one of our kids and our kids are given all the tools necessary to achieve success both academically and social/emotionally as well. If this is done well, there are studies that show that an investment in community school models that try to support students dealing with issues like the ones mentioned above end up seeing a decrease of those issues in the community. Education is an investment in student’s future and also an investment in our communities.
WCCUSD has high rates of truancy in its schools – how will you make sure students stay in school and attend class especially in an online learning model?
First thing we must do is look at our data and ensure we’re able to track our attendance and engagement in lessons. We must also then identify how to support the families that are struggling to join their classroom. We have to use that data to then provide infrastructure, hot spots, technology and access to families. Attendance is critical but we’re also in a pandemic, this emergency is affecting every family differently and our education system must be able to adapt to what our students need. We must also identify which schools are most touched by truancy. Patterns of chronic absenteeism are recognizable and early intervention is possible provided we target programs and services to the school communities most in need of support. Partnering with community based organizations and parent leaders is also important. In much the same way the CeaseFire movement partnered in the 90’s through the 2000’s with local government and the faith-based community to reduce gun violence over time throughout our cities, our school district can develop an Education programs consisting of volunteer community outreach workers (parents, community leaders, student groups and faith groups) to help inform our families about the importance of making sure all of our students attend class and stay in school. We have incredible organizations like the RYSE Youth Center, the ED Fund, Bayside PTA, Labor Organizations, and more. We must also leverage our funding, city partners, and donors to support our infrastructure and accessibility for families.
What do you believe is the role of the school board and what are their top 5 responsibilities?
The Board of Education sets the direction and policies of the school district, while managing one employee who executes their vision, the district Superintendent.
The School Board has many responsibilities, but their top 5 are:
Manage, hire/fire, and hold district Superintendent accountable.
Responsible for the district’s budget, gathering input from stakeholders and setting its direction.
Approve and set policy around all major areas in the school district.
Oversee and run district wide committees, oversee labor negotiations, and approve appointments.
Approve/deny charter school petitions while overseeing and hold district approved charter schools accountable.
Despite the chronic underfunding of public education, we have managed to achieve success in some areas. What current programs/proposals do you feel are successful? What would you keep and build on?
I agree that even with the underfunding of public education by the state and federal government, growth of charter schools, and the constant unforeseen issues that arise we’ve been able to succeed in implementing various programs. Most successful things I’ve seen have a lot to do with site freedom, flexibility, and accountability.
For example, some of our secondary sites have been very successful at implementing new schedules that benefit students and have seen growth over time. DeAnza High School implemented an advisory period which was created in collaboration between educators, admin, and staff that has lead to increase in graduation rates, attendance, and students obtaining A-G requirements. Another example of this has been the implementation of a new collaboration schedule for teachers which allows flexibility for the sites to choose what PD they want to go over, how they want to structure their collaboration among grade levels/departments, and how they want to structure the meetings. Another example has been to allow sites to spend their funding how they think is best. Instead of the district purchasing a blanket of resources they have been moving to a system where the site’s SSC, admin, and ILT are able to make those decisions.
I believe that we have incredible leaders throughout the school district and we have to allow them to experiment and develop what they want their schools to look like with input of all local stakeholders. This combined with accountability in my opinion will lead to better academic results for our students. During No child left behind we saw a huge amount of red tape, testing, lack of flexibility and accountability at all levels that led to the opposite. I 100% believe that decisions need to have sets of accountability and data to support it but we have to allow all sites to make those decisions since they understand and know the students and families of the local community better. As a district and Board I would see our role to support building the successful ideas/programs the sites have by providing support through policies, budget setting, and setting metrics of accountability.
How do you plan on engaging the community in order to aid in improving schools in the district?
Listening and gathering the input of various stakeholders will always be one of my priorities. I don’t believe decisions should be made in a vacuum and all policies, decisions, and priorities should always be discussed with educators, parents, and students. I believe that one of the biggest problems I see from our current Board is when a Board member puts forward an initiative, resolution, or program without bringing it up to their stakeholders for feedback, support, or buy in first. School Board members are in charge of the well fare of all students in WCCUSD and in order to keep students, families, and staff safe and supported they need to listen to all stakeholders even if at times there’s disagreement. I will commit to meeting with our labor organizations, parent organizations and definitely student groups such as the RYSE Youth Center and the Youth Commission. I also plan on engaging my own district, district 4 by creating a parent/stakeholder council where families can come and share their concerns, issues, and successes with me so that I can truly represent them on the Board.
As a WCCUSD board trustee, how would you balance the needs of your individual district with the needs of the entire school district?
Even though I would represent Area 4 in WCCUSD, I truly believe that every decision made has to be made done with all of WCCUSD in mind. I believe that for a long-time now, decisions in WCCUSD have been made without the input of people in every community and with lack of representation of people of color and what they’re going through and see their students going through in our schools. Its key that all leaders in WCCUSD listen to the voice of students, educators and all families. I believe this has been moving in the right direction by a few of our current Board members but more work needs to be done. I plan on meeting with my constituents in Area 4, holding community meetings, and visiting our schools as much as I can but also doing the same with schools and community members from other areas. If I’m privileged enough to represent Area 4 I plan on doing so with honestly, respect, and transparency but plan on keeping every district in mind.
What will you do to better the transparency between Bond program committees and the WCCUSD community/families?
Too few of our families and local homeowners monitor the official activities of WCCUSD Bond program committees. In order to increase transparency and accountability, I will provide updates to my community through a letter which will include updates from our Facilities, Safety, and Technology subcommittees, as well as the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) meetings. I will also collaborate and listen to the CBOC committee and be in constant conversations with their chair and leadership
Many people have complained about how school is structured, especially concerning grading and the fact that the system hasn’t changed much since the 1900s. Do you agree with the current school system and how it operates? If not, what changes would you make in order to better accommodate students and staff?
In regard to grading, I believe there needs to be changes within our system. We need to give kids multiple opportunities to master and show proficiency in academics. Students can get docked for their past mistakes. Even if a student made significant progress throughout a unit, we are still docking them for the lower test grades they got earlier in the unit. A student might have done poorly at one point and our grading system doesn’t allow them to succeed and doesn’t take an accurate reflection of their learning or what they’re going through personally.
This is all about equity. To me it’s about giving every student second chances, and third chances, and more, to learn. I would move to equity-based grading—grading in a way that is fair and transparent to students, parents, teachers, everybody and not biased on what the adult in the classroom believes to be right including behavior which plays into the biases of grading. It’s about giving every student hope by allowing them many opportunities to progress and learn the material. We have to support and train our teachers on equity mindset grading and continuing PD around “Grading for Equity”.