The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Commentary: A Closer Look at the School Board Race

We have now spent this entire week looking at the school board race. The purpose of this article will be more of an overview and synopsis of the week, then an article that will endorse or criticize the school board candidates. None of these comments should be read as endorsements. I offer some what I believe to be constructive criticism, but the criticism should not be read as opposition to their candidacy. The goal here as the goal was for the week was to let people read the candidates statements and then make up their own minds. However, I do have a few thoughts that I want to share and clarify on a few points that I think need to be made. (Also I invite you to vote in the candidate poll on the right sidebar).

It is clear from the interviews that each of these individuals running have particular assets to offer the community. Susan Lovenburg brings an array of experience as a teacher-volunteer. In fact, long before I knew who she was or that she was running for school board I would see her at a large variety of community meetings. While it is difficult to judge her interview because I did not meet her face-to-face, I think to her detriment, I think at this point in time she probably has the best working knowledge of the school district and the issues facing it. I've heard from a few of the candidates that she has the endorsement of the Davis Teacher's Association pending their formal approval. I hope in the future, I can sit down with Ms. Lovenburg and chat about the school district and education which she obviously has a passion for.

Some were struck I think by Richard Harris' responses. In fairness to him, I think he came across to me far better in person than he did in writing. I think some of the criticism in the comments were based on how he was perceived. But again, I think that some of that was in the translation from oral to written. We had a very good conservation and I came across believing that he was strongly dedicated to improving Davis schools. Running for office is a learning process, and it is clear that he will need to learn a lot as he goes along, but I think his Green School Initiative is an intriguing and innovative idea and that regardless of the outcome, should be examined by the school district as a potential means to save money spent on energy bills that could be put into more educationally oriented uses.

My impression of Joe Spector is that he has a real commitment to working with disadvantaged kids and giving all children access to the types of programs and advantages that the district offers to most students. His focus on access and communication, are clearly a function of his training as a psychologist and a counselor. He offers the perspective of a teacher to a group of candidates who mostly do not have that experience. However, it was also clear that he had little contact as a teacher with administration and the school board and needs to spend some time expanding his base of knowledge. As several current members remind me, they didn't know a lot either when they first ran, so we should not hold that against these individuals, we need to judge them on the basis of their values and their overall experience rather than what they may know or not know about the specifics of the district.

That brings me to Bob Schelen who has a strong commitment to helping the disadvantaged both in our schools and in our community. He will be a strong and powerful advocate for the poor and minorities. Some criticized his position on GATE, but he was pretty clear that he supported its continuation. However, where he sees the problem is not with the kids who are on the fast-track but those who are on other tracks, whether it be the average student or those who are in need of special education. He also has a strong focus on vocational education for kids who are not on a college track, a commitment I am pleased to see from the school district recently as well.

The issue of Valley Oak is a hot-buttoned issue. On this issue, we see two members that supported it staying open in Joe Spector and Bob Schelen and two, Susan Lovenburg and Richard Harris, who were more supportive of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force findings. At this point however, the key issue is support for the charter school. A charter school does not require board or district support but everything I have read suggests that is one of the critical keys to success or failure of the charter school.

The most important issue that I view our school district facing is that of minority hires and the achievement gap task force. Interestingly enough, the best answers I saw on those fronts came not from the school board candidate but from the newly hired superintendent. And frankly that might be the most important thing because the superintendent really is in the position to help shape district policy. Having a new face on the district can only help with these endeavors.

There are of course many issues that I could not raise in essentially a half-hour interview, but during the course of the election, there will be ample opportunities to both ask and answer key questions. My hope is that the school board candidates do as much listening as they do talking and I think the district as a whole will be well-served by such efforts and dedication. There will be plenty of time later on for tough questions and criticism. I hope to be able to cover a number of candidate forums and present further policy questions for these candidates.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, August 31, 2007

Lois Wolk Stands Strong For Sodexho Workers but Needs a Push on Health Care

Wolk's Strong Statement in Support of Sodexho Workers

Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis) issued her strongest statement to date in support of the Sodexho Workers:
Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, released a statement this morning in response to the new plan.

“Certainly, any improvement in the wages and benefits for the workers at the university is a good thing,” Wolk said. “However, I am very disappointed that the university did not meet with representatives of AFSCME and Sodexho workers in the past several weeks, as I was led to believe by the university.

“This only underscores the awkward, and ultimately untenable, situation of the university acting as the employer, negotiating pay and benefits, while they are not in fact the employer of record. I hope the university will consider a more aggressive schedule for rectifying this situation, as has been done on other UC campuses.” (Davis Enterprise 8.30.07)
This is by far the strongest and most pointed statement that she has made in favor of the Food Service workers as the continue their fight to become full University Employees. The implications are clear here--this has not gone far enough, the university is increasingly being marginalized even from strong supporters such as Assemblywoman Wolk, and the university needs to come forward and negotiate in good faith.

Assemblywoman Wolk and Senator Machado Are Encouraged To Support AB 8 For Universal Health Care

Dear Friends, neighbors and activists:
Please call right now and ask Assembly Member Lois Wolk and Senator Mike Machado to fix health care and IMPROVE Assembly Bill 8.
We've been fighting for health care all year and have accomplished a lot. Together, we helped create a bill, AB 8 (Nunez and Perata), which would:
  • Set a health care minimum wage (a required employer contribution of 7.5%) that would protect jobs and benefits;
  • Provide health coverage to over 4 million people who don't have it now;
  • Create a statewide insurance pool;
  • Stop insurance companies from denying insurance on the grounds of pre-existing conditions.
However, WE'RE NOT DONE YET. AB 8 still doesn't do enough to control health insuarnce costs or make it affordable for individuals and families. That is why we need to make the call and ask legislators to make sure that AB 8 makes healthcare more affordable.

Here's the message for AB 8 calls:
"Hi, my name is ________. I'm a voting constituent of Assembly Member Wolk (or Senator Machado) and I'm calling to ask the Assembly Member (or Senator) to fix our health care now by improving AB 8 and making health care more affordable by controlling health care costs. Thank you."

Additional info: It's not real health care unless we can afford to use it!

Health insurance must be truly affordable, and we must make sure individuals and families are protected from having to buy insurance they can't afford.

We need to:
  • Get insurance and prescription drug costs under control.
  • Introduce real competition wit a public insurer.
  • Require more information on health care quality and costs, giving us more power to make better decisions.
  • Make sure no one is required to buy insurance they cannot afford.

Here are the toll free numbers to use:

Senator Mike Machado 1-866-682-3135
Assembly Member Lois Wolk 1-866-466-8431

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Interview with School Board Candidate Bob Schelen

This is the last in the series of four interviews with the Davis School Board candidates. Bob Schelen agreed to sit down with me and be interviewed orally. Here is the transcription of that interview. I actually interviewed him prior to the new superintendent being hired, the only candidate that I did so with. Mr. Schelen has lived in Davis for over 30 years and since 1990, Schelen has worked as a consultant for the Speaker's Office of Member Services, in the California Assembly.

1. Why are you running for the Davis School Board?

A number of friends of mine, parents, and community leaders came to me and asked me if I would be interested in running for the school board. I thought about it for awhile, it began to intrigue me because of a number of issues that I feel I worked on throughout my life that are kind of bubbling up at the school board level or in the schools now both at the state level and at the local level including mental health programs, achievement gap task force and also making sure that each and every child has an equal opportunity to an education, not just the child at the high level or in special education which is very important as well but sometimes there’s these people in the middle that get forgotten and they’re people who need a large amount of attention as well. Those are the major reasons.

The reasons that I think those people came to me is that I’ve worked with budgets at the state and local level and as we’ve seen in the last few years there’s been some turmoil with the Davis School Board Budget and one of the things that I have a certain amount of expertise in is budgeting and I think since that’s what sets kind of the principle of what we’re going to do for the school year that’s something that I could do well.

2. Tell us about your background prepares you to be on the school board

I’ve worked on educational issues, I’ve worked for the legislature, I’ve worked for the speaker’s office in member services, which in my specific role there is to constituent outreach and also to explain in layman terms what legislation does. The lawyers get a hold of it and you don’t really know what it does. My job is to explain what it does and in a number of issues that I have worked on have been specific to education and therefore with that background I think I can understand what is happening at the school district level. Again I also worked on the budget, on the ad hoc task force for the city about ten years ago when there was budget turmoil there and helped to put together a parcel tax proposal with the Parks and Recreation Department at the city in conjunction wit the school district. I’m on the local mental health board and that’s one of the reasons I so strongly want to stress proactive approaches to mental health at the school district level. Right now we stress much more strenuously physical health and nutrition. That’s good because nutrition is so important to a child being able to learn, concentrate, and not space out in class. At the same time, so is making sure that the environment is such for them in a mental health fashion that they can achieve their full potential.

Because of the background of working on certain educational things, I think that even though I don’t have kids, my friends who are parents felt comfortable coming to me and saying in essence the Davis School Board is a governing body, it needs somebody who knows how to put the pieces together, especially school financing in California is so complicated because it deals with both federal issues where there are federal mandates, state mandates, and then the rest is at the local level. And I know a number our school board members here as well as elsewhere are frustrated that we can only do so much with what we are left over. And one of the things that I think that I can do is advocate effectively for a different approach that might be able to bring the finances back to a more local control environment.

3. What are your top educational priorities?

Achievement gap task force is probably the most important thing that we can do right now. I think the recommendations are good and need to be implemented. That’s one of the major goals that I would have is to implement the achievement gap task force recommendations as they are presented today. But included in those are career technical education, assimilating it into the entire school district curriculum. Because we’re doing a pretty good job now but we need to supplement it, because there is still something of an aura that it’s not as good as other education when for the future of California the jobs are going to be in technical skills and careers are going to be in technical skills. They are going to be needed in such a way that there are going to be more and more employees to do that. And it doesn’t have to be different from the track of going to a university. One is not better than the other at this point and you can have career technical and a university track at the same time.

Those are the two major issues and of course the mental health issue. Senator [Darrell] Steinberg [California State Senator from Sacramento] has developed a program with the statewide mental health oversight commission where there is going to be a certain amount in the millions, I’m not sure if it’s $60 or $80 million or more statewide for a proactive K-12 mental health programs and have them be developed at the local level and I think that Davis would be an appropriate spot for one of those programs. If I’m lucky enough to be elected to the school board, I would push to have us be one of the school districts to get that money to develop one of those programs.

4. What other educational programs would like to add, modify, or enhance?

As I said, career technical needs to be assimilated into the full curriculum along with university bound. The mental health program, we develop them probably from scratch with this money that Senator Steinberg has pushed through. And again the achievement gap task force—not so much in curriculum but I think that one of the things as your well aware is that one of the recommendations there was to get a more diverse teaching body and a more diverse staff at every level and I think that that’s extremely important.

5. What is your position on GATE?

I think that GATE is an excellent program and it needs to be continued. I do believe as I have said before that we often spend time at the level of the advanced placement student or at the special education student and those are both legitimate programs, but sometimes those students in the middle get lost and I want to be sure as somebody who is the son of a widow, myself, and have been in a system where that could have happened I want to represent those kids who sometimes aren’t represented and I think that that’s an important process to put together.

I hope that that answered the question because I think that GATE is a legitimate program and I think that it needs to be supported, but I would also like to see a way, one thing that is of interest to me, I read a few months ago is that there’s a school district, I can’t remember where, but one of the things they did is that they put the advanced placement kids in the classes where the kids were having trouble learning and meshed them together. Rather than having the kids that were having trouble learning be frustrated by that, they actually wanted to keep up with the other kids and the other kids helped them. It worked where it brought them up rather than bringing the GATE-like kid down, it brought the other kids who were having frustrations up. I would like to see at least an experimental program or something of that nature.

6. As you know Davis schools are usually considered among the top schools in the state, however, last spring the Superintendent presented statistics that showed when compared to similar schools, Davis is in the middle pack as opposed at the top, so how do you respond to that and how do we improve the Davis schools?

I think that we’ve started on that path with the achievement gap task force. My understanding is that was one of the reasons that the achievement gap committee was put together and they studied the reasons for the gap overall and made the recommendations that they did, which I think are wonderful. The way I think might be able to improve are through implementing the recommendations as soon as possible, not letting them sit, you know how reports just sit and people look at them and then the same problem pops up when the report comes up again in a year or two. The major focus that I have is on the achievement gap and Davis, although it is one of the better school districts in California, it has problems. Those problems need to be addressed. Sometimes what happens in Davis to be completely forthright and honest is these problems get swept under the rug because people want to see the best and they don’t need to be. Because if you address your problems that’s what improves the schools and makes us an even better school district. Makes us even a better place for each and every child to get the opportunity for a quality education. I won’t say they will because at a certain point it is up to the parents and the child, but to provide the opportunity as possible. Even in Davis unfortunately we can improve in doing that.

7. How would you deal with budgetary concerns

One of the things I think that happens when you look at people who are elected to the school board, not just in Davis but everywhere is they don’t understand the different restrictions and regulations as I have said before, that are placed on a school district by the federal regulations, by the state regulations, and how narrow the impact right now at the local level is. That’s why we have the parcel tax so that we can expand our local control a little bit. I think I’m a little bit ahead of the curve in that I understand the financing scheme such as it is with the feds and the state and the locals, and that I would be able to look at what we can do and be able to provide as we can for each child to reach full potential with the amount of funding that we have and also at the local level and also advocate at the state and the federal level for more local control because that could do nothing but help our school district I think. The other thing that I would do is I understand that each school in our district has a site council made up of parents, students, faculty and I don’t know if there’s a classified staffer involved in the site council or not, I think that they should be if they are not. They make a budget for their particular school and what their needs are then bring it to the school district and say this is what we’d like to see happen. I think that that is a good base to start in the budgeting process, so that you’d approach it both ways. You’d approach it from what the schools want and then you’d look at what the fed and the state can do and then put this maze together and hopefully make it as best we can.

8. What is your position on the closing of Valley Oak and what would you do if elected to the board of education?

I think that the closing of Valley was a mistake. I think that it should have stayed open. It’s the only elementary school in the core area or the downtown area and it has a strong historical significance. I’m not sure that at this point it’s realistic to think given what might be the make up of the board that it can stay open in its present form. However, I think the idea of a charter school is an excellent one and it’s very unique to have a teacher’s association anywhere in the state support the idea of charter schools. They’re very controversial and with good reason. However, in this case, the Davis Teacher’s Association is looking to put together the proposal for the charter school. When you have the teacher’s association saying this is what we want to do—then that idea excites me. And I would work as hard as I could to find a way that we could do the charter school if that’s the only thing that we can whether that be a technical… One of the ideas I had is we have Da Vinci as a technical school, well that’s high school too. But there are other technical schools… But a school for Democracy type of thing where you pound civics at a young age and instead of the eighth, ninth grade where they are excited about it. The same way that you are when you teach kids to read at an early age. That’s a possibility. That’s what I would like to see, there also are a number of alternative approaches along with a charter school. Our special ed classes are overflowing at the school they’re at now and one of the things that might be looked at is adding special ed classes at Valley Oak. If it was up to me though I would fight to see it open but given the political realities at this point that looking at these alternative approaches, but keeping it open and keeping it a school. Not having it disappear or become administrative offices or development.

Because you don’t know. Right now you may be looking at a trend of a lower daily attendance, but at the same time, if as so many people talk about having downtown have infill development, one of thing you could do with that infill development is having affordable housing and having it in such ways that young families could come into downtown because right now the “McMansion” thing or we’re graying and stuff. So we’re going to need, if we want to be a diverse community, young families come in and this is one way to do it, and I would hate to see Valley Oak be permanently taken away when there is such opportunity for it to still be a wonderful academic environment. And right now, the other thing is, it’s the only majority-minority school in town. We already suffer from this limousine liberal reputation. That can’t help but be strengthened unfortunately if we close Valley Oak completely in my opinion.

But also I do want to say that I think those people for the most part that have supported closing it, I think that they are sincere in their belief and believe that for them, in order to have the school district not forage money, it’s a legitimate belief for them. I disagree, but I do believe that they are sincere in that belief for the most part.

9. How do we close the achievement gap between on the one hand Whites and Asians and on the other hand blacks and Hispanics?

The recommendation of diverse teaching faculty is so very important. When there are no teachers similar to you, you are going to feel somewhat ostracized, even if its not consciously, subconsciously. I think that that’s one of the major issues. I do think this idea of bringing kids together in classes from advanced placement and struggling kids and bringing them together would be another area that you could possibly have kids rise up, looking at the glass half-full rather than half empty, you are not taking these kids and bringing them down to this level, you are taking these kids and bringing them up to this level and in the places where it’s been tried, that’s what has happened. I think to some extent, and I hate this phrase climate control, because you think global warming. But I think to some extent climate control in the school district would be much better served if you do that. Because you’ll have kids that don’t normally interact, interacting with each other. Those are the two major things, but I do think that we need to enact all of the recommendations.

10. One the biggest concerns in the district has been lack of minority hires, how do we go about recruiting and hiring more minorities?

I heard the superintendent say that they haven’t had enough applicants. I sympathize with him at that, but I do believe that we need to make a better effort to outreach to people of color and different ethnicities to come to teach in Davis. I think we just have to do better outreach and provide the opportunity to show people that you will have a rewarding experience teaching in Davis and that there are kids that need your help. I quite frankly think that it’s a cop-out to some extent to say that teacher’s of color don’t want to be here. Then go out and reach them and tell them why it’s important for them to be here.

11. There have been complaints and polling to show differential treatment with regards to discipline policy based on race and other factors, how would you address this issue?

I think that we need to deal with the discipline issues on a one-on-one basis. But I also think that we need some kind of training that shows those that do the discipline, whether it be teachers or administrators, that there are different cultural experiences for different people. And that discipline that might work in one arena or with one student, might not work with another student. It’s kind of like a baseball manager when you have 25 players and you have to deal with each one as an individual. I think that in student discipline, you have to deal with people as individuals, I don’t think that is recognized sometimes by those who have to do discipline of large amounts of students. They go by rote. Our kids are too important a resource to go by rote.

12. [This was asked prior to the hiring of the new superintendent] The district will soon be hiring a new superintendent, what qualities would you look for in this position?

I would like to find somebody who could work in a collaborative process with the school board, the teachers, [and] the parents that we are all in this together. Someone that has a good financial background, but also thinks that the students and having them reach their full potential is the most important thing. And that the way that they can do that is working together as I said in a collaborative process, so that everyone can feel a part of that process including the kids because they are the most important part of this but also the parents, the school district. We forge together as a unit. That to me is the most important thing. But also I think it is important that they have an understanding of the financial scheme of California schools because it is much more complicated than a lot of other states. But major working in a collaborative ways, but I think in some ways, without mentioning names, but in some ways that’s the problem that we’ve had in the last few years is everybody not being on the same page.

13. What changes would you like to see implemented with a new superintendent if elected?

I think there are two ways to look at a superintendent and a school board. It is similar to looking at a city manager and a city council only a bit different. One of the ways that a superintendent can do things is to work with his staff or her staff, put together proposals, and say these are our proposals, as the experts in education, accept proposal A, B, or C, this is what we’ve come up with. The other way is the collaborative process, where the superintendent and the school board and the parents and the teachers work together to figure out where they want the priorities for the schools to be and that starts with the budget process. So for instance, the budget is a perfect example. Rather than saying this is what it is, yes or no, working in such a way as these are things that may be the best ways for our kids to reach their full potential and have whomever wants to participate, participate. You get good ideas from anywhere. You can get a good idea from a teacher, from a parent, from a student, they just don’t happen from one arena. And then, if you feel a part of that process, you buy into it, and you also feel much more strongly about having that process proceed. That’s what I would like the superintendent to do is to develop a collaborative process with all interested parties and have them be a part of that process.

14. What were the strengths of David Murphy and what do you think his weaknesses were?

I’m not that familiar with Mr. Murphy and his time of administration other than there were some difficulties. Clearly those difficulties are things that need to be taken care with our next superintendent so that they don’t happen. I’m not sure I buy completely into the process of how Mr. Murphy was let go. But I do understand that he had been there so long that some felt that his style had become too autocratic. And that definitely goes against what I was just talking about. I do think that he had the sincere interest of students at heart, I just think there is a different approach. I think that his approach probably, and the present school board members can talk about it, was here are the options, please pick them and we’ll administrate them or we’ll implement them. And don’t ask us how we’re going to implement them, we’ll implement them. You pick what it is and then we’ll implement them. But we know how. And I think that that goes a little bit against the idea of collaboration. At the same time, I have to say that Mr. Murphy was sincere in his belief that what he was doing was best from the students. And I have support from a wide array of people including supporters of Mr. Murphy.

15. How would you deal with the projected problem of falling enrollment?

Right now, I know the trend is towards falling enrollment. But we haven’t had the same level of declining enrollment that other districts have had, for instance, our neighbor San Juan, where enrollment is severely curtailed. And I don’t think in the next few years, that will happen. I think we probably will be at an even keel. But with that said, one of the things that I think we can do with declining enrollment, is as I said, open up the community to truly affordable housing. And find ways that young families or families period can move into town. If that means infill development, and doing some kind of affordable housing around there. I’ve always, both when I was on the planning commission and at other times have always been a strong advocate of affordable housing. Affordable housing means different things to different people. I think affordable housing in one arena means shelter which is very important as well and I’ve worked on that. But it also means developing a way that young families with kids can come into the community, feel a part of the community and come into the school district. If we do that, enrollment will not stagnate, it may not rise to the level that we anticipated 15 years ago, but it definitely won’t decline in a steep fashion.

16. What book are you reading right now?

I just finished “Team of Rivals” the book about President Lincoln and his Cabinet and right now I’m in the middle of “1776.”

17. What political figure either of the past or contemporary do you most admire?

There are many. I don’t view politicians as evil, I think public service is a very honorable thing and I think unfortunately the Reagan Revolution was built upon demonizing government and politicians, I think that’s wrong. There are so many. Right now I admire Senator Edwards because of his call about poverty which is something that has been neglected for so long at the national and state level. President Kennedy I admire. Senator Wellstone. Governor Brown. Jess Unruh. I could go on and on.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Interview with School Board Candidate Joe Spector

The Vanguard continues with the second in its series of four interviews of the school board candidates with Joe Spector. Dr. Spector agreed to sit down with me and be interviewed orally. Here is the transcription of that interview. Dr. Spector has been employed by the Davis school district for the last 20 years currently holding a position as a school psychologist. He has served as a school psychologist, counselor and mediator.

1. Explain the initial reports that you would only be taking $1000 in campaign contributions

I’m a very recent applicant, I joined the race just about a week ago [at the time of this interview], and at that point I hadn’t established any kind of campaign committee. And there’s two different forms that you can use, there’s the form where you have no controlled campaign committee and agree to take under $1000 or the alternative, if you have a controlled committee or take more than $1000 you have to use a different set of form that you have to disclose on a regular basis. So the discussion that you’re talking about… has to do at this point I think I’ve decided to have a committee so the decision really isn’t about the level of funding, it’s about that I think it makes sense for people that I know and trust to help me clarify the issues.

2. Why are you running for the Davis School Board?

My primary concern about the school district has to do with the relationships among people, about how everyone involved with the district has been treated, administration, staff. When I talk about staff I mean at all levels. Students and parents. It involves the culture of the entire educational community here. I’ve been involved at many levels with many different people over the last twenty years with only some impact. I feel that as a school board member I could impact that more. I’m interested in access to education for all people in Davis and I think that’s an issue that I want to address. Those would be the primary reasons.

3. Tell us about your background and experience in education

It comes from different areas. My training in education started early on, I was a child development major. I got involved in students both in academic instruction and students with particular disabilities that was as an undergraduate. Went onto graduate school at UCLA got my doctorate in educational counseling psychology. I worked in and around school districts all over the state since about 1979.

Having worked in a variety of school districts over the last 25 to 30 years, I think I’ve come to understand what the real problems in schools districts, what the real issues are for students—how students learn, what their problems are. I’ve had a lot of time to work with parents, to work with teaching staff, [and] had a lot of time to work with administrators. I’ve learned about advocacy and how that can be used to make changes. I’ve learned about decision making. I’ve learned about negotiation, the negotiation process, contract development. I’ve been active in the teacher’s association for the last 20 years. I was a negotiator for 8 or 10 of those years. We talked about priorities and district goals and also talked about funding and how that interacts with decision-making.

I think that gives me a good background for sitting on the board and maybe hearing some things that others would not catch. Because I’m a psychologist, both as an educational psychologist and a clinical type of psychologist, I look a lot at relationships and I think the relationships have both a direct impact on morale and a direct impact on how the school district views their participation. Students are participants in education. Parents are participants in education. Teaching staff are participants in education—the classified staff, the sports staff, participates and the administration participates in education. It is an important process and I think I have a broad perspective on all of those people to benefit.

4. What are your top educational priorities?

For Davis school district? I assume you are talking about Davis school district as I consider the board? My top priorities are that each person, I just mentioned each of the participants in the process here, I want each of those people to feel respected and valued.

5. What educational programs would like to add, modify, or enhance?

I’d like to enhance those programs that give students access to education that probably are not accessing well their education at this time. I view education not just as an area of academic pursuit, but to prepare to those involved for careers, for learning, for family. I want enhance programs that give all students access to those areas of education.

6. What are your feelings about GATE?

We have a variety of specialty programs in the district. I’m supportive of GATE and I’m supportive of specialties programs. I work very closely with GATE. My focus is on giving GATE students as well as all students access to education for those same reasons—GATE students need to learn to access education. GATE students need to learn to access careers. GATE students to learn to develop relationships so they can socialize and be successful family members, so that was a general answer. I support the GATE programs. The changes need to come more from the GATE staff themselves. I don’t have a specific recommendation at this point about GATE.

7. As you know Davis schools are usually among the top schools in the state, however, last spring the Superintendent presented statistics that showed when compared to similar schools, Davis is in the middle pack as opposed at the top, so how do you respond to that and how do we improve the Davis schools?

At the risk of being repetitive, I think one of the areas that we need to look into is how we can give all students access to education. We tend to focus quite a bit on specialty programs. We tend to respond a lot to advocacy rather than to look at the broad education as educational professionals to see what we need. So I think it’s time that we need to stop responding so quickly to advocacy and step back and say, how do we give all students access to programs? I’d like to see increased programs that give all students access to career related activities, career related learning. If students have particular interests whether it is technical, biological, or manual, want to become nurses, want to become journalists, that we broaden our aspect of how we give them access to that, it may be classes, it may be special satellite schools.

One example that I view very positively is Da Vinci. We have a growing high school. One way to respond to that is to say this group of students that want to learn to work in teams, want to learn how to use technology, want to learn how to do group projects, which is part of life, that’s what you do when you get a job, you work in groups, and to help them do that.

Another great example is King High, it’s fairly small right now and it’s a group of students who are often disengaged from the educational process or often even attending. I’d like to see that strengthened, I’d like to see them access academics, careers, and opportunities to learn how to be a successful adult. I think we can do that in a lot of ways. I’d like to see that particular area expanded.

So I use the word access a lot—all of those kids need access.

8. One the biggest concerns in the district has been lack of minority hires, how do we go about recruiting and hiring more minorities?

I’d like to respond not so much to numbers that you’re implying but rather the hiring process itself. I think the district needs to pay more attention to the hiring process, I think by working more closely at hiring, we’ll have a better balance of all kinds of folks. Not just a particular ethnicity, but if you look at a variety of programs, we’re still hiring. We have a problem that I work with closely, the teacher, has been suggested but not yet approved by the school board and we’re starting in a week. I’d like to see us hire earlier, I’d like to see us go to broader environments to recruit people, and to emphasize that more. I will sometimes say, in a bit of a sarcastic way, it seems that when it comes to hiring that sometimes we wait until the last minute and then add two weeks. So I think we’ll get a broader pool of applicants by putting more time and energy into that. So I guess my answer in brief: better recruiting.

9. How do we close the achievement gap between on the one hand Whites and Asians and on the other hand blacks and Hispanics?

We need to give students who because of economic and environmental challenges more access to education. We need to do that by preparing at the very beginning in elementary school, by looking at programs that teach them basic literacy skills, learning skills. We need to offer all the way out. We have students going in junior high and senior high that have difficulty reading. I can remember sitting at the high school and the girl I was working with, getting ready to graduate, I really worked to try to teach her the time tables and she really wanted to learn but she was at that point very embarrassed about not knowing that. You can go into a meeting. I go to meetings, I go to several hundred meetings per year, and it gets to the point where you say well what do we do to teach this child to read? What do we to teach this child to write a five paragraph essay? What do we to teach this child basic consumer math? There’s very few options. And it’s frustrating. It’s been a source of conflict that I’ve had with some school administrators the way. I really want to emphasize giving students who need base-line academic skills opportunities. I suspect it will mean ultimately building some programs and changing some staff.

10. What is your view of Valley Oak?

I have no idea if the decision is reversible. I want to first clarify my philosophy, my view of the world before I answer that. People need to be respected; they need to be valued. Decisions should be advocacy based, they should be educationally based. I think Valley Oak represented a really solid educational community. There was trust at Valley Oak. There was pride not only I think from students and parents but a staff that felt valued and successful. That’s all I expect, I wouldn’t have changed it.

I guess that leads us to the present. The decision has been made, what possible impact could somebody new coming in have? I value anything that we can decently do to maintain the Valley Oak community.

11. Given projections of falling enrollment, how can the district find new sources for revenue and also better utilize existing revenue?

Having worked with an association that has been involved in a number of discussions about money—there’s generally a theory that there’s one pot and competing interests for the one pot. Ultimately I guess that’s where decision making and policy programs come in. Ultimately there’s going to be priorities and my priorities are to give everyone access. Ultimately given one pot I know every board member sits up there and lobbies and votes in certain ways and I’ll be lobbying and voting towards giving students access.

In terms of increasing the amount, there have been various efforts at trying to bring in students from other areas. I think one way we can do that is to make programs appealing in ways that people either move here for the programs or bring their students over. I work in special education, I’ve sat in that office while people from Rhode Island or Connecticut call and say we’re moving to Davis because we’ve heard so much about your special education program. We’re willing to move and change our jobs in order to have my child participate in that education. I think that’s a metaphor for what we can do. We have an incredible teaching staff here. I’ve worked all around Los Angeles, I’ve worked in Shasta County, I’ve worked in other adjoining counties, we have the best teaching staff I’ve ever worked with. I think if people come to understand that we have a broad range of educational approaches, I think we can bring people in.

12. You were at the Superintendent announcement last night, what is your reaction to the hiring of the new Superintendent?

I made the decision to stand up and clarify that a little bit, that continues to reflect how I feel this morning as well as last night. Is that I listened to what the board members said, I realize they didn’t spend a lot of time talking about his array of accomplishment, they talked about his relationships. They said he worked with colleagues well, he worked with everybody in the district well, he worked with people in the last district well. When someone comes into his office they feel listened to but they won’t necessarily get the answer that they had hoped for. I believe that he is viewed by the board as someone who understands relationships, who help us develop directions in education based on good educational philosophy and collaborative educational decision making rather than just respond to advocacy. I guess to summarize: I think he has a clear vision and he understands that the culture and relationships in Davis need to change and he’s not afraid to do it.

13. How do you foresee working with the new superintendent if elected? What role would you like to see the new superintendent play in the district and what role do you see the board performing?

I’d like him to look at the system and the culture itself. My advice to him would be to say look at how people interact in our district, let’s talk about it, let’s see what working well, let’s look at some changes, and let’s not be afraid to make some of those changes.

My feeling in the past is that, that there’s a more open communication. My perception right now is that there is a great deal of information doesn’t reach the school board right now, it’s dealt with at other levels. I suppose each person on the board can only handle so much before their brain fills up and they run out of RAM. On the other hand, I view interactions as being so central that I think there needs to be a mechanism where the school board and superintendent talk about what’s going on. It’s more than pieces of property, funding, building changes. It’s really about what happens everyday in the classroom. What happens everyday in the teacher’s lunchroom. What happens in the offices, what happens in the negotiations’ table. What are people concerned about, feel value, who’s being treated poorly or inappropriately, and what can we do to help change that? I want more open discussion. I don’t think I’ll settle for less.

14. What were the strengths of David Murphy and what do you think his weaknesses were?

Again I’m going to focus on the relationships in the district. As an individual, when I saw David [Murphy], I felt happy. I thought here’s a guy who knows me, who will ask about the family, who will stop and listen. David was a person where he was really busy but when you stepped into his office he was present. And anything short of a major disaster outside just had to wait. And I appreciated that—the way he was engaged.

My concern is that during the course of the last four or five years, I think that interactions and relationships have eroded in the school district. I’m not in a position to know how much he knew of, how much he allowed, how much he listened to, I can’t judge. I can only say that from the position of the school board that will be out in the open a lot more.

I was talking to Jeff Hudson [reporter for the Davis Enterprise], I indicated to him, I’m enthusiastic, I’m excited about some of the relationships I’ve seen coming from the top management all the way down in terms of honor, respect, valuing good instruction, student satisfaction, parent satisfaction, and meeting educational goals. I’m appalled at some of the disrespect by some of the abuse, some of the bullying, some of the.. what seems to be discrimination against individuals and groups, and I can’t judge what David knew or how he participated in that, I didn’t have access to that information.

15. What book are you reading right now?

I can’t remember the name of it, it’s a Ludlum novel, a spy novel, one of the things I like about some of the writers from that period was that they were written ten years ago but they seem to describe the world literally today or even tomorrow or particularly what will be in the newspaper in terms of world climate or world challenges. In this particular book, one of the heroes never leaves his office. He’s a highly honored person who does everything on a computer. I’m not a techie at all, I’m still struggling with my Apple yet, I think novelists who can be accurate about the world ten years later are quite remarkable to read.

16. What political figure either of the past or contemporary do you most admire?

I know what attributes I admire, I don’t know if I can pick out a particular person… I think the best I can do is pick out some attributes. I appreciate people who are involved in politics, who are clear about what their philosophy is and politicians for which I can understand how they view the world. And what they try to do before they give answers. So they are politicians I can trust even when I disagree. As you’ve asked me questions, I’ve tried to say this is how I view the world, this is how I view education, this is how I view decision making—that helps me to think through it. I tend to mistrust politicians who seem to just give answers to please people which may be diametrically opposed within one hour of each other only to please people. Those are politicians that I have little time or patience for. I can’t really pick out a name off-hand; maybe if I thought about it, I could come back.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

UC Davis' Announced Agreement with Sodexho Greeted with Hope and Skepticism

In a surprising announcement yesterday, UC Davis announced that it had reached an agreement with Sodexho with regard to providing increased benefits and wages for the company's food service employees on campus.

According to UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef in the release:
"We have listened to a wide range of sometimes-conflicting concerns, and I believe we are responding in a principled way to balance the cost of improved benefits and wages for our food service workers with the need to maintain access and affordability for our students... And, very important to me because I believe a contract is one's word, we are doing so without breaking our contract with Sodexho. Sodexho is being responsive to our requests and is committed to strengthening its overall compensation competitiveness and workplace environment."
The release further claims:
"According to the agreement, Sodexho will augment its existing medical benefits plan by increasing the employer contribution level, effective January 1. The specific employer contribution will be determined by Sodexho prior to its employee health plan open-enrollment period in October.

The changes to the Sodexho contract are expected to add additional annual costs of approximately $2 million -- an estimated $1.5 million per year in additional costs to Student Housing and $500,000 per year to the Student Union operating services."
While the university's motivation here is unclear, one thing that is clear is that this was an agreement between UC Davis and the Sodexho food company.

Dennis Shimek, Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resources, confirmed for the Vanguard:
"The negotiations relative to the changes were between the UC and the Sodexho."
Mr. Shimek claims that the university according to state law cannot negotiate with these workers. There have been some meetings in the past between the university and representatives from the workers such as the one on May 23, but he "would not characterize those as negotiations." There have never been any negotiations and that they cannot negotiate with the workers employed by Sodexho.

Gary Poirier, a Principle Food Service Worker who works at the university, told us that the workers are not happy with the "offer."
"These employees have no voice at all in the process.

We've been working on this over a year, we want them to hire those workers on as UC workers eventually.

[This is] a plan that they came up with on their own, as far as I know they didn't contact the union or attempt to negotiate about this and they made the move and announced it in a press release"
For him the bottom line is for the university to negotiate with the employees in good faith.
"We just think all of those workers need to have a voice in the process, they don't have a voice, they need a voice."
According Dennis Shimek, this agreement does not preclude Sodexho Employees from becoming university employees, a point he stressed at least four times during our conversation.
The arrangements that we are now making are really interim arrangements with serious considerations toward the cost implications, how this is financed, and the cost to the students. With regards to the future issue with how we do business on campus with employees, all options on table.

The option of Sodexho Employees becoming university employees is on the table.

Phasing in the cost is an important consideration in this matter as well as the cost consideration to the students.
For him and the university, the key consideration was that the University wanted to increase wages and benefits, and felt that these are steps they could take while still being able to manage the impact on student costs.

However, for many involved in this process, Mr. Shimek and the University coming to a deal with Sodexho without discussions with the workers is not leaving all of the options on the table.

A key factor is that this deal pays the workers an additional $2 million. However, it would only take an additional $1.2 million to fully bring in these workers as university employees. That sounds like a lot to the average person but to put this into perspective, this amounts to less than one-quarter of one percent of the operating expenses of the university. That would be like an individual who makes $50,000 having to adjust their budget to include an addition $125 payment. It may not be painless, but it should not break the bank either.

The University has used the issue of balancing student fees with employees wages and yet that is not the only source of money that can be freed up to pay for these expenses. The university continues to give lucrative wages and increases to their upper administration while trying to hold the line on people making very marginal incomes.

Dan Cole is the lead cook at Segundo and in charge of the station at the Segundo Dining Commons. He has been an employee there for five years. He makes a marginal income and feels he pays a lot for his health care benefits even though they are not great benefits.

According to him, this agreement is a good start.
"Everyone’s initial reaction was kind of to get excited, but they doing it for the wrong reasons, why now? They are doing this to get around the union. I don’t see why if they can get us the two-thirds, why can’t they go the whole way."
That is a point that he kept emphasizing, the University was willing to go two-thirds of the way there in terms of wages and benefits, but that's not the end of the story. There is no reason that they cannot go all the way and give them university employee status.

He views the University's tactic however as a "tactic to get around the union issue. They want to keep us as minimally happy as possible to keep things the way they are."

He described many of the workers now as being more resolved.
"Absolutely, everyone’s reaction is quite excited."
If anything this has made them in even stronger support for the union and their goals of becoming university employees.
"Without the union, this would not happen at all. A lot of people recognize what the union brings us—whether you agree or disagree with the union here, it is clear that this would not have happened if the union weren’t here."
And so this complicated process continues. The University has not had any kind of formal or informal talks with the union or the workers since the school year ended in June. It is clear however that the university is starting to give ground on this issue and that this represents a good first step. The university basically gave the workers two-thirds of what they wanted with no concessions from the workers. That seems rather extraordinary. However, if the University was attempting to break the will of the workers with this move, it appears to have only made them more resolved to achieve their ultimate goal of university employment--a goal that at least according to Dennis Shimek, is still on the table.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Interview with School Board Candidate Richard Harris

The Vanguard continues with the second in its series of four interviews of the school board candidates with Richard Harris. Harris agreed to sit down with me and be interviewed orally. Here is the transcription of that interview. Mr. Harris served as district chief of staff to former Congressman Vic Fazio in the 1990s. He is currently working as a lobbyist for the firm of Nossaman, Gunther, Knox & Elliot LLP in their Sacramento Office. He also has a biweekly column in the Davis Enterprise.

1. Why are you running for the Davis School Board?

I’m a parent of two kids at Pioneer who are going to be in the 5th grade and I'm on the site council. I’ve always believed in public service, I think we have a responsibility to do that at whatever level you can. You have to be involved in the things that are most important. For me the most important thing in my life are my children. On the site council, I learned somewhat of the governance of the school district and I have a background in government; I’ve worked in and around it for 30 years. I’m a lobbyist now. I understand the way that government works but maybe not necessarily schools until I got on the site council.

2. You already talked about this some, but can you tell us about your background and experience in education

I went to elementary school, does that count? Well education, I've been involved in my kids' classes and I've been involved on the site council. Specifically the education, that's it.

3. Any other experience do you have as a volunteer in the school district?

Yeah, I was a Master of Ceremonies for the Pioneer's Auction, and helped them with various pieces of the auction in terms of raising money. I helped them the year before as well. Then, of course, kids' education is not just the classroom, it's everywhere. So I've been a Little League coach in fall ball a few years ago. I was an assistant, I wasn't the manager. I've always helped out with sports, both soccer and Little League.

4. What are your top educational priorities?

I'm really concerned about the district's fiscal condition because everything else stems from that. So my educational priorities are also fiscal priorities. I look forward to the new superintendent. I like the new team that's been there in about the last year or so. I think they're doing a good. But I want to get in and be able to look at it myself, page by page, line item by line item, and see what we have. Because resources are going to go down with declining enrollment. As you have less kids in the class you have less funds. That's just the basis of everything right there. It's going to take some tough decisions, maybe some good decision-making by people that are really willing to spend a lot of time at it.

5. What educational programs would like to add, modify, or enhance?

I'm not going to talk about adding any programs right now-with declining enrollment I think that's a little tough to do. I want to get in there and look and see, and really get a handle on the fiscal condition. I think we need to look at that first before we talk about any of the other program and issues.

6. What are your feelings about GATE?

I think the GATE program is a good program for the people who are involved in it. I think there were some problems a year and a half or so ago with some misinformation that was put out there that kind of got everybody riled up. But I think the GATE program is an important program and I support it.

7. As you know Davis schools are usually among the top schools in the state, however, last spring the Superintendent presented statistics that showed when compared to similar schools, Davis is in the middle pack as opposed at the top, so how do you respond to that and how do we improve the Davis schools?

I feel in some ways the school district and the Davis schools has rested on its laurels for a long time. I think that we can be able to do better. Because it's Davis there are a lot of parents involved, a lot of people pay a lot of attention, it's not like other communities in that respect. The statistics that you are talking about, I don't know, I haven't read that, so whether it is the middle of the pack or whether it's the top of the pack, I want us to focus on who we are, and focus on the things that we can try to do and do it better.

8. One the biggest concerns in the district has been lack of minority hires, how do we go about recruiting and hiring more minorities?

I think it's essential-I don't have the silver bullet-but I think we have to focus on it. It's important. I think [with] the new Superintendent, we'll see what he brings to the party. What his abilities are. It's not just a Davis problem, it's an education system problem.

9. How do we close the achievement gap between on the one hand Whites and Asians and on the other hand blacks and Hispanics?

I don't have an answer. We need to work at it. We have to listen to what the professionals say. We have to attack the problem, we can't let it fester. I can't sit here today and tell you I have answers to it, but it's something I want to look at.

10. What types of programs do you advocate for at-risk children?

I think that at-risk children, we have to do what we can to help the parents help the at-risk children. That's the basic bottom line on that. I don't know what the programs are specifically, but I'm willing to listen to the folks who are involved to see what they need to help make those programs better.

11. What is your view of Valley Oak?

You have to see what the proposal is once it's brought to the district. I'm not going to sit here and say yea or nay to it because I don't know what it is they're going to bring exactly. They don't know yet. If they can bring it altogether then let's see what that is. And I'll take a reasonable eye toward it, if they really have parental involvement and community involvement and they can do it, then let's take a look at it within the law and see how that all fits.

12. Given projections of falling enrollment, how can the district find new sources for revenue and also better utilize existing revenue?

When I got into this it was because I was a parent and I'm worried about my kid and really all of our kids and I started looking and I started thinking, you know this is Davis and there's things that we ought to be able to do. I came up with this notion of the Green Schools Initiative which I think answers your question here and takes it further. What I want to do, think of it this way, every dollar that you don't pay PG&E, which is essentially a physical facility sort of dollar, but that money is coming out of the general fund. Every dollar you don't pay PG&E can be used for something else whether that's teacher salaries, or programs or services. So what I want to do is have a bottoms up approach where we go from school to school. District support, but school to school, set up a committee at every school, figure a way for the teacher's to have the ability to participate, and then use that as a way to partner with the other institutions in town-the city, the university.

But take my Green Schools Initiative will allow us to look at everything that is going in the schools as the facilities and look at how to put in solar, more trees to cut down on the heat, maybe shading, maybe for natural lighting, anything that we can do to save money on the energy side that allows us to generate revenue. Because you have no other ability to generate revenue for the school district unless you go out and try to find some grant programs, or something. Which we have do as well. But an overarching systematic approach is my Green Schools Initiative.

Nobody else is talking about that. This is the only thing that you can do. There's no other revenue source. Your revenue source is the money that you don't have to pay someplace else.

It could be significant. John Mott Smith who writes a column on sustainability is my treasurer and John and I have been friends for 25 years, and he's helping me figure this out. We're talking through it. And I have to go to the District, I have to get support on the board for it. They already spend, we already have this program they instituted last year where we don't even have the software up and running yet. But we're paying this company to come in and they are basically going to give us an audit and then use that money to pay for the person to go around and change the behavior of people. I think that's great but it's just a start. That's just kind of the beginnings of that thing. I want to take it further. I want to take it as far as we possibly can because if you are going to have the greenest school district in the country, it ought to be in Davis. And we can do it. The resources that are there at the University, you know they did that program already with the seventh graders in the using, and there's just so many more opportunities to be able to partner with the university to help teach the kids. Ultimately kids become the teachers, your children are the ones who say 'Dad, don't throw that bottle away, we gotta recycle that.' I'm trying to get my kids to turn the light off a little more frequently, but you know what they get it, it's ingrown. So then they're the next generation. We reduce our carbon footprint, it's the right thing to do, and we save money at the same time. I'm very serious about that.

13. You were at the Superintendent announcement last week, what is your reaction to the hiring of the new Superintendent?

Seems like a nice, hope he's the leader that they say he will be. I have no reason to doubt that and I'm really glad to have him on board. I'm looking forward not backwards. A young guy, energetic, I think that's pretty cool. A guy of color who's going to bring a different perspective. That's all really good, that's really good for us, it may shake some things up. Make people think about things in different ways-there's nothing wrong with that at all.

14. How do you foresee working with the new superintendent if elected? What role would you like to see the new superintendent play in the district and what role do you see the board performing?

Well the board sets policy and the superintendent provides leadership and administration, that's what this guy is going to do. I'm looking forward to working with him. I see no problems, I see it as opportunity. I'm pretty excited about it. I'm going to win. I get along with the people who are on the board, I get along with the candidates I know who are running too. I think it's going to be a new day for Davis schools, it's going to be a tough day because of the declining enrollment. There's no doubt there's tough days, but you know that's what you have to do, you have a fresh look, look at where all the money is, look at where the programs are, let's look at everything, it's going to be good.

15. What were the strengths of David Murphy and what do you think his weaknesses were?

I never worked with him, so I don't know. I just know the schools from the perspective of what I saw on the site council and what my kids are going through. So overall I don't know what his strengths and weaknesses were. I think there were some things that happened on his watch that were disturbing. But they were able to get the money back the other day thanks to the really hard work of Helen Thomson and Lois Wolk and Mike Machado and this present board. But, they needed to really pull in all their political guns on that deal because that state allocation board did not have to give us back that money. That was really key. I'm sorry we lost that money to begin with. I think King High, it looked like that really wasn't that well thought out. But now we're moving forward, we need to make sure we work really closely with the neighborhood and that's done right. Of course anything else that happens with the school district administration buildings any other sort of plans like that, facilities stuff, we have to work closely with the neighborhood as well. In terms of Murphy, I didn't work with him, so I'm going forward not backwards.

16. What book are you reading right now?

That new one on the Kennedys, a friend of mine just gave me and I started it yesterday, I don't even know the name of itŠ It's the Bobby Kennedy look at who killed John F. Kennedy. And I think everything involved in it, but I'm just into it, so I don't know much about it, it's pretty interesting. I worked in Bobby Kennedy's campaign in 1968, I was a seventh grader, and my cousin and I went downtown, Senator Hotel and stuffed envelopes and all of that. That was a crushing day for this country.

17. What political figure either of the past or contemporary do you most admire?

I think Vic Fazio is one of the premier public servants this country has ever had. You did not have a guy who worked harder and cared more about the people he represented. And he's honest and incredible ethics. And he did what he thought was right with some trying times. There were some issues related to different defense spending bills that might have made different constituencies mad. And things like that. But you know he charted his own course but he always worked hard for the people he represented and I always respected him for that. You know, there's other people, Bobby Kennedy, obviously but like I just said Vic's really, you know, he really did an incredible job.

DA Office's Does Not Seek Charges After Assault on DPD Officers

The Vanguard has learned that on August 1, 2007, a 43 year-old homeless man was involved in an altercation with other homeless people at the Davis Community Shelter. He was apparently harassing others, began to vandalize the facility and refused to leave. But by the time police arrived he had left the facility. Nevertheless, a few minutes later he attempted to return at which point police attempted to arrest him for trespassing.

It was at this point that a scuffle ensued with the police. According to one witness, he actually lifted an officer over his head, but apparently no one was seriously injured. He was arrested for trespassing and assault on an officer.

However, two days later on August 3, he was released without charges being filed. According to Davis Police Chief Landy Black, court rulings on trespassing laws have been that if an individual leaves a place that is normally open to the public prior to officers arriving, then they cannot charge an individual with trespassing.

Nevertheless, the police were there for a valid reason and made a lawful arrest at which point the individual resisted in a violent manner and assaulted a police officer.

Landy Black expressed disappointment with the decision by the District Attorney's office to release the individual and not prosecute the crime - at least - of assault on a police officer at the time. However, he stressed that they are still working with the District Attorney to perhaps get charges filed at a later point.

In the meantime the Davis Police are using the incident as a learning experience to better understand the law in this regard and also to use it as a training exercise for future examples of how this could be handled better and what to do to avoid this kind of situation.

Sixteen days after he was initially released, on August 19, 2007, the individual was arrested again. This time he is being held in the county jail and has a court date set for September 5, 2007 at which point he faces charges for public intoxication, assaulting a peace officer, and resisting arrest for an incident that occurred on A Street and 10th Street in Davis.

The Deputy District Attorney in charge of his initial case was Steve Mount. Mr. Mount told me that he had no knowledge of this case after he declined to file charges on August 3, 2007. He told me that the trespassing charge failed to meet standards and that the assault charges were sent back to the police department for further reporting and that's the end of his involvement in the case.

For many, the complaints against the District Attorney's office have been that they over-prosecute fairly minor crimes. But from time-to-time, I have heard the opposite complaints--that they fail to prosecute more serious crimes.

This individual clearly both represented and represents a serious danger to the police and this community. He has a long arrest history that includes repeated arrests for assault, theft, drugs, and is a registered sex offender. Any individual who can manhandle the police or who would assault an officer is an individual that is a danger to the community at large.

Those familiar with the situation have openly wondered why this individual was released at the same time the District Attorney's office has vigilantly prosecuted many young people, particularly black and Hispanics for non-violent drug possession offenses and yet allowed this man with a long history of violence to be released.

There may be legitimate reasons that explain why the District Attorney did not initially seek charges of this individual. And they may yet seek charges against this individual for the August 1 incident, however that sixteen days that the individual was released exposed the public and the Davis Police to a dangerous individual who would repeat his actions. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt this time; however, we may not be so lucky next time.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Interview with School Board Candidate Susan Lovenburg

Each day this week, the Vanguard will have an interview with one of the candidates for school board. The election is November 6, 2007. Today's interview is with Susan Lovenburg. The other three interviews were done in person, verbally, recorded and transcribed. However, this interview was done via email for logistical reasons. Please bear that in my when you compare the responses from Ms. Lovenburg to other candidates.

1. Why are you running for the Davis School Board?

I believe that public education offers us the best opportunity to educate all children well, is a great societal equalizer, and that educators, parents, students, and the rest of our community share a responsibility for helping our children achieve their fullest potential. During my ten years of volunteer experience in Davis schools, I have gradually broadened my focus from my children’s classrooms, to their schools, to their several schools, and then to the district as a whole. This level of understanding - of our schools, teachers and students, and the issues they face - is critical knowledge for effective board members. I believe that I am ready to join the Board in providing responsible oversight of our District.

2. Tell us about your background and experience in education.

My father was in the Air Force as I was growing up, so we were often on the move. My family settled in upstate New York when I was in my teens. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Education from Cornell University, and a Master of Library Science from Syracuse University. In my professional life, I have worked in public, academic, and special libraries, and developed and delivered adult education programs.

My husband, Peter Robinson, is Canadian and we have lived in both the US and Canada. We moved to Davis in 1997 when Peter was hired as a research scientist in the UC Davis Department of Animal Science. We have three daughters: two attend Willett Elementary and one attended Emerson Junior High and is now a senior at Davis High School.

3. You have an extensive record as a parent-volunteer in the district, can you elaborate on that.

I have been active as a school volunteer for the ten years that I have lived in Davis. I began as editor of the Willett Elementary school newsletter in 1998 and continued that responsibility until spring of this year. I have been a classroom garden parent for five years and most recently the Willett Garden Coordinator. I administered school listserves at Willett and Emerson, and served as 2nd Vice President responsible for parent education at Davis High School last year, organizing sessions on topics such as standardized assessment, teen driving, and Answering the Questions of Substance Use. I served for two years as the PTA representative on the DHS Site Council and I attended the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Committee on behalf of Willett. I also attend Board of Education meetings on a frequent basis.

I chose these volunteer positions because they interested and challenged me, and provided opportunities to keep the parent community informed and connected to our schools.

4. What are your top educational priorities?

· Offering all students a high quality education
· Narrowing the achievement gap
· Maintaining our current educational programs despite decreased funding due to declining enrollment

5. What educational programs would like to add, modify, or enhance?

I am concerned that the District is currently deficit spending, using one time monies to pay ongoing expenses. For the health of our educational system, that cannot continue. All new spending must be carefully evaluated. That said, I am pleased that Measure Q, the instructional parcel tax that voters will be asked to renew this fall, includes funding for elementary math specialists, and an improved nutritional program using local farm fresh fruits and vegetables in the lunches served to our students in addition to the many other programs this parcel tax has always funded on an ongoing basis. I encourage all those who support Davis schools to vote yes on Measure Q.

I would also like to see us develop a stable funding source for school libraries. State funding has dropped precipitously over the last several years, leaving school libraries virtually unfunded and scrambling for site funds every year or dependent upon PTA and PTO support to meet basic educational program needs.

6. What are your feelings about GATE?

My view of GATE is similar to that of our other special magnet programs like Montessori, Spanish Immersion, Davis School for Independent Study, Martin Luther King High School, and Da Vinci High School. These programs offer various learning modalities to our many students, helping us to better serve their individual needs. They make our District unique and attract new families to our town. It is important that we not only preserve these programs, but ensure that they serve students in the best way possible.

7. As you know Davis schools are usually among the top schools in the state, however, last spring the Superintendent presented statistics that showed when compared to similar schools, Davis is in the middle pack as opposed at the top, so how do you respond to that and how do we improve the Davis schools?

Similar School Scores, like the Academic Performance Index, are based on student performance on STAR tests for a given school or district. There are varied opinions about the validity of this measure of achievement, but it does provide one means of evaluating how well our students are learning the content standards set forth by the state.

To improve the performance of Davis students on STAR tests, the focus needs to be on making sure that all students successfully learn the foundational skills outlined in the content standards. There are formative assessment tools available that can make this process more effective. Targeting intervention where it is particularly needed, as in the case of grade 4-6 math specialists, will also help address this need.

8. One the biggest concerns in the district has been lack of minority hires, how do we go about recruiting and hiring more minorities?

Historically the Davis school district has had difficulty attracting and keeping minority teachers and staff. Across the state and nation, the pool of minority teachers and administrators is small. Davis needs to recruit and retain a staff that reflects the cultural and racial diversity of our student body. I believe that with the recent hiring of Superintendent James Hammond, who is a person of color, we have made our District a more welcoming place to work. We must continue recruitment efforts to attract quality staff of all backgrounds and ethnic groups to our district, and also to provide encouragements for those already here to improve their qualifications and move up the ranks.

9. How do we close the achievement gap between on the one hand Whites and Asians and on the other hand blacks and Hispanics?

Low income, Hispanic, African American, and English Language Learners significantly under-perform white and Asian students in our District. This is not a problem unique to Davis, and is not one easily solved, but I do believe we have the means and the ability to change this dynamic in our schools. A thoughtful, concerted, planned approach is necessary. The Achievement Gap Task Force began this work and it should be continued by our administrators, teachers, and paraeducators who work on a daily basis with these children. Again, making sure that all students learn foundational skills seems to be key to closing the gap, and passage of Measure Q will provide funding to assist in this effort.

10. What types of programs do you advocate for at-risk children?

Research shows that early intervention offers the best chance of improving the educational success of at-risk children. The Achievement Gap Task Force recommended that the District support submitting a grant proposal to Yolo County First Five Commission that would offer at-risk children entering kindergarten an opportunity for intensive preparation before the start of school.

Another recommendation of the Task Force is to explore the possibility of implementing a pilot extended day kindergarten for these students. Development of reading skills at this age is fundamental to later academic success. If the pilot shows student improvement, to the extent funding is available I would like to see a permanent extended day kindergarten in our District for at-risk students.

For older students, safety net programs such as the one offered by the Davis Bridge Educational Foundation have proven successful.

11. What is your view on Valley Oak?

I closely followed the work of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force and publicly supported their recommendation to close Valley Oak as a K-6 campus. Though I initially sought to maintain nine campuses, I came to believe that the decision to close best serves the students of Valley Oak and the District as a whole, not just financially but educationally. It was a heart-wrenching and difficult decision for me as an individual, for the Task Force, and for the Board - and I understand that it is one the families of Valley Oak find difficult to accept - but it has been made and it is time to look forward. My concern now is that the school closure be carefully planned and carried out so that Valley Oak students are given every opportunity to succeed and thrive in their new schools. This process would receive my special attention should I be elected to the Board.

With regard to the proposed charter school, legislation requires that a well-written charter with a good educational plan, sound finances, and commitment from sufficient teachers and families with students to participate, must be approved by the Board. It is my hope that the planners of the charter school are looking carefully at new approaches and new strategies for addressing the needs of low socioeconomic income and English Language Learners, rather than simply trying to preserve the existing Valley Oak program.

12. Given projections of falling enrollment, how can the district find new sources for revenue and also better utilize existing revenue?

I do believe that we are adjusting to the new reality of declining enrollment. That circumstance alone puts our fiscal health at risk since loss of ADA due to declining enrollment requires cuts that reach beyond the classroom. When budget trimming is required, we should look first at operational efficiencies and making sure that we do not fund more facilities and staff than necessary.

Additional ongoing funding sources are not easily found, but we should continually investigate outside and special program funding sources for specific projects, such as the full-day kindergarten pilot program. The sale of the Grande property will bring in additional funds for facilities projects. We need to review our other District assets as well.

13. I am interested in your opinion on the previous Superintendent David Murphy. What were the strengths of David Murphy and what do you think his weaknesses were?

Personnel issues are sensitive, and I know that the Board spent a great deal of time in closed session evaluating Superintendent Murphy’s job performance prior to accepting his resignation. I am not privy to those discussions and can only speak to what I personally observed. While I believe David Murphy served the District admirably for many years, particularly in the area of curriculum development, it was apparent that he delegated a great deal of responsibility for District finances to others on staff. The superintendent is ultimately responsible, however, for supervising and managing those underneath him and knowledge of finances is essential to creating and maintaining good educational programs. Toward the end of David Murphy’s tenure, it was clear that communication and confidence between the Board and the Superintendent were broken, and the Board could no longer effectively conduct its role of responsible oversight on behalf of the community.

14. You were at the Superintendent announcement the other night, what is your reaction to the hiring of the new Superintendent?

I look forward to working with Superintendent James Hammond in whatever capacity my future holds. He appears to have the qualifications, experience, and enthusiasm to lead our District to new levels of success.

15. How do you foresee working with the new superintendent if elected? What role would you like to see the new superintendent play in the district and what role do you see the board performing?

The Board of Education establishes educational goals for the District and provides fiscal oversight. The Superintendent manages the day-to-day operation of our schools. The Board is ultimately responsible to the community for the success of this effort, and if elected, I would take that responsibility seriously, never forgetting that our educational system is here to serve students and their families. But respectful communication between the Board, the Superintendent, and all District staff is critical to moving the district forward in a positive direction.

16. What book are you reading right now?

As a librarian, I’ve waited years for someone to ask me about MY reading preferences! I just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows while on vacation. I’m reading The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White to my younger girls. I’m in the middle of Why Lincoln Matters by Mario Cuomo, Generation Me by Jean M. Twenge, and The Journals of Lewis and Clark, though I’m embarrassed to tell you how long that one has been in progress. Favorite authors are Jane Austen and E.B. White (especially One Man’s Meat), and I love Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney and Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.

17. What political figure either of the past or contemporary do you most admire?

I have a special fondness for both FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt for the good they were able to accomplish for our society at a time when we were particularly vulnerable to negative influences.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, August 27, 2007

Big Time Changes Coming to the Vanguard

As the People's Vanguard of Davis moves firmly into its second year in existence, we will be launching many major changes beginning just after Labor Day including a major new marketing campaign as well as bringing forward many other additional features to what we currently offer.

Just some of the changes that we are looking at are the addition of another writer, more guest commentaries, partnerships with local elected officials and grassroots organizations to bring more information directly into the homes of Davis and Yolo County residents, among other changes that will be announced during the course of September.

We will also be implementing a major new marketing plan that will both increase our revenue and increase our readership by nearly 50% per month.

One big push that we will be various means of informing the public about the Vanguard and the services that we perform. In order to implement this plan, we would like to solicit the support of just 10 volunteers who will agree to walk their own precinct to drop literature that we are in the process of creating and tell their neighbors about the Vanguard. If this is something that you are interested and able to do, please contact me via email and in the next few weeks we will implement this plan.

This is just the first step of a major September push by the Vanguard. Stay tuned for further changes and developments.

---Doug Paul Davis

Measure Q: The School Parcel Tax Funds Vital Programs for All Davis Students

One of the most important items on the November Ballot will be the renewal of the school's parcel tax--Measure Q. The parcel tax funds roughly $16 million dollars over the course of the four years of existence, that accounts for roughly 5 to 10 percent of the district's budget according to Interim Superintendent Richard Whitmore.

According to Gina Daleiden,
“Overall the parcel tax is designed so that it touches every child at every grade level. That’s why we keep referring to the K-12 program measure, because its every child, every school, every grade level.”
I sat down a couple of weeks ago with the Interim Superintendent Richard Whitmore and School Board Member Gina Daleiden to discuss the parcel tax and what it means for the Davis school district. It is important to note that Richard Whitmore was only there to provide factual information, he was not directly advocating for the passage of Measure Q.

As you might imagine, with the parcel tax accounting for a sizable percentage of the budget, the ramifications for the district, were the parcel tax not be renewed would be devastating.

According to Board member Gina Daleiden:
"If we were going to have to cut 16 million dollars over four years out of our budget that would obviously be a huge and very painful change. I think it would lead to the elimination of a lot of the programs that make Davis Schools, Davis Schools."
Davis was among the first districts in fact to pass the parcel tax in the state of California. This was the result of Proposition 13 in 1978, which did two things, first it capped property tax revenues and second it required a two-thirds vote to increase taxes.
"A lot of the districts eliminated things that Davis kept because we have the parcel tax... And so things like the music program and its foreign language offerings, the extensive art offerings, those are made possible by the seventh period in the junior highs and the high school. If you go to [other] schools around the area they don't have seven period's offered, they have six, and so if your student wants to take orchestra and a foreign language or art and a foreign language, those opportunities are more available here. Class size reduction, that takes a lot of funding beyond what's offered around the state, and many districts they've eliminated that."
According to Interim Superintendent Richard Whitmore, without the parcel tax you would see a number of layoffs as the district would have to cut both regular and specialist teachers. We would have larger class sizes across the board and fewer elective offerings in the junior and senior high schools.

The parcel tax will go up during the four year period 34 dollars per year over the parcel tax in the previous four year period.

Superintendent Whitmore explained that because there is not any kind of "auto-inflator" on it, "you have to set the number to be what you think the costs will be over the four year period."

According to Board Member Daleiden the increases are there primarily to cover inflation, however there are two new programs funded as well.
"It mostly is to cover the cost of inflation—programs cost more, people cost more. It mostly covers that. There are two new components that are relatively small percentage-wise out of the parcel tax. One is to increase the offering of fresh fruits and vegetables in the school lunches and the other is for math support for students who need it. And that would be elementary school, 4th through 6th grades for the math support to help kids be ready to take algebra."
For the first time the district is offering waivers to senior citizens who have fixed incomes and would therefore be unduly burden by such a tax increase. Anyone who is 65 or over is eligible and can apply with the district for the exemption.

The cost of the parcel tax on apartments is increasing from $83 per unit to $100 per unit. According to Superintendent Whitmore,
"The tax is paid by the owner of the dwelling. The landlord essentially is writing the check for the taxes. That landlord can choose to pass through the additional costs or not to pass it through."
He explained that it would be the landlord's choice as to whether to pass the money through to renter, however, again it is important to note that we are only talking about a $17 dollar per year per unit increase, any direct effect on rent would be negligible.

There have been a number of concerns about the fiscal responsibility of the school district in recent years. The most glaring example of that perhaps was the $4.5 million lost to the district because an employee missed a filing deadline. The big news last week was that the district won an appeal was able to recoup that $4.5 million based on steps that have been taken to correct some of the problems in the past. This interview happened before that announcement, however we did discuss at length the perception that the district has had poor fiscal practices in the past and how the voters would be ensured that the money spent was going where they said it will go.

Board Member Daleiden explains,
"I think that first you have to separate different types of funding. So I would agree with you that past practices were not the best. And so that’s why we have a new team in the district office. That would include Interim Superintendent Whitmore and our new CBO Bruce Colby. But, this money, the money that goes to the parcel tax always has and will be, has to be spent specifically on what it says in the ballot statement that it will be spent on. So it will be spent on these particular programs."
The district has always been require to layout and account specifically for how the parcel tax is to be used, but in this parcel tax, the district has gone even further to insure that meony is spent properly.
"New this year is the independent citizens’ oversight committee, and so we will be appointing a committee of you know, community members. Could be business people, parents, whomever, who will meet once a year with the Chief Business Official Bruce Colby and go over all of the expenditures and ensure that every penny is going where we say it is going."
According to Superintendent Whitmore,
"I would just emphasize what Gina said, I think some of the issues that have been the most public have been on the facilities side of the budget not the operating side of the budget. And those capital funds are in separate accounts."
The Superintendent then explained the difference between the general fund money which is basically operating expenses and capital fund money which goes for facilities.
"Primarily in the education code, you keep your operating money in general fund in categorical accounts. So you kind of have little buckets of money from which to run the schools on an annual basis. That’s how you fund your teacher salaries, that’s how you fund classroom supplies, that’s how you fund everything that kind of goes on on a daily basis to educate the kids. The capital accounts have to stay separate. And once money is in a capital account, most sources of capital money require you to keep that money separate. So any state funding for buildings goes into a separate fund account and it’s reported separately to the board."
So the money that was lost and now recouped from Montgomery had no impact on the operating budget.
"Some of the issues that have arisen have been about the Montgomery funding from the state, that doesn’t affect operating funds of the district at all."
Moreover, parcel tax money is tracked on a separate line item from the budget, this allows anyone attempting to audit or follow the money easy access.

According to Superintendent Whitmore,
"There are separate line items in the budget for any parcel tax expenditure so we can keep those funds separate from the rest of the funds, track them. It will allow the oversight committee to do its work because we can go in and say here are the parcel tax line items and here’s where we spent the money the prior year. And then the oversight committee can say, yeah that’s what we intended and that’s what the ballot language requires. If for some reason it was spent somewhere else, the oversight committee can then go report to the board and say hey they’re spending parcel tax money on… sports or some other purpose it wasn’t intended, they can direct the district staff to fix it."
The key according to Board Member Daleiden is transparency. "We wanted it to be as transparent as possible. Hence the oversight committee."

Many of the community have criticized the district for having two Superintendents on the payroll. I have always suggested that was a necessary one-time expense given the past problems of the previous administration. That seems to be the thinking on the school board as well.
" I will state generally when you have a large organization like Davis joint unified, approximately, a 70 million dollar organization, the person who heads that organization is important to how effectively and efficiently it operates, so leadership is something that is hard to put a price tag on, and with the right leadership in place, you can save much more than the salary of the person leading the organization. That’s just a general statement, in terms of exit agreements and so forth, that would be one-time money, and not the type of ongoing money that keeps schools running and programs running… "
While Board Member Daleiden cannot officially comment on the "retirement" of previous Superintendent David Murphy, she did make a general statement.
"This is what I’m allowed to say according to the attorney: There was an exit agreement with the former superintendent, the exit agreement reflects the contract that was signed previously, we’re excited to have Interim Superintendent Richard Whitmore, one of the reasons that we decided to hire him, aside from his winning personality, is his background in finance."
One of the reasons both for the exiting of the previous Superintendent and the hiring of Richard Whitmore on an interim basis until November 8, 2007 was his fiscal experience.
"We needed to have confidence that the person heading up the organization had that kind of expertise and would be able to have good oversight over the fiscal side of the district… Bruce Colby, who is doing a great job also has been rebuilding our budget and putting in new accounting practices so that we don’t have mistakes and things that we don’t know about."
The crux of the concern for passing the parcel tax remains the educational needs of each student in the school district. While the parcel tax is designed to meet the needs of each student, it does so differently at each level.

At the K through 3 level, the primary focus is on reading. The state no longer is able to fund the reading program and according to Ms. Daleiden early reading is absolutely essential for a child's school career.
"Everybody knows that the key to success in a child’s school career really starts with being able to read. And their fluency and their vocabulary… In order to make sure every child has the opportunity for success, every child has to be able to read."
She described at length and in detail the "Reading Naturally" program at Birch Lane elementary school. It is a highly individualized program that could not be done in a standard setting of 20 students with class rize reducation let alone 32 students if the district did not have the funding. The students are pulled out of class in small groups of three and four and can move at their own pace. The program covers vocabulary, comprehension, decoding, phonics.
"They also have a story that they’re reading, it’s also on tape, so they listen to the tape and they read through and track with their finger to work on reading fluency, and how you would hear the inflexion, where you stop, etc. Generally for the younger kids, first grade, second grade, they’re listening to the tapes three times usually through and then they are reading with the teacher individually. That kind of focus and repetition depending on what the child needs is entirely different than what they would get just in a fuller setting, you couldn’t do that just in a regular classroom.”
The more schools can individualize the learning, the better off students will be. Class size reduction and specialists help child with individualized needs be able to focus more on the areas of their need.

According to Superintendent Whitmore,
“Every kid has different needs and I think that is what we are trying to address with these extra monies”
At the grades 4 through 6 one of the big focuses is on a new math program that will include math specialist to make sure kids are ready for higher math, algebra by 8th grade according to state regulation.
“To make sure every kid has that opportunity [algebra by 8th grade] you need to catch them early, those 4, 5, 6 when the math gets a bit tougher and a bit more conceptual they need help outside the classroom and they need more small group instruction. That’s what the math specialists that are new editions to the parcel tax will do.”
According to Superintendent Whitmore, at the Junior High School level, the parcel tax aims to support both kids who are on the fast track and those who are in danger of falling behind grade level standards. Money here goes for electives, the seventh period, more hours of library and counseling, at-risk intervention. We see many of the same programs for the high school as well.
“More money at the high school for music, for foreign language, for electives that we would otherwise not be able to fund, but also some opportunities to kids with different learning styles, or different needs.”
Superintendent Whitmore said, “this district probably has one of the best counselor to student ratios in the state.”

While some may complain that Counseling is unnecessary and undoubtedly school counselors have gotten a bad rap over the years, Gina Daleiden made a very powerful case for why a good counseling program is a necessity.
"As we’re talking about closing the achievement gap, to me at least, one of the most important gaps is as kids moves through school and beyond school, we see in this country people who have the opportunity to go to college and those who do not. And without academic counseling particularly for students who don’t come from a background with parents who have gone to college and can help them through that process, or even help them to know not just which classes they need to take, you know A through G requirements to access the university, but the entire process of applying or believing that you can apply and go to this school or that school, they need some support for that and that’s why its important that they have enough counselors that actually meet with all of the students."
The at-risk counselor is funded entirely by this parcel tax. As she points out, at-risk counseling is not only for poor students.
“We have a lot of students who look like they are great, they are straight A students and getting into really good colleges who still are very at risk from a social and emotional standpoint... This is the one resource district wide that we have for all of those students.”
The parcel tax also funds extended library hours at the Junior High and High School level. Extended hours means that the Library is open for students after school and some before school. Gina Daleiden somewhat jokingly suggested, “I kind of think if we wanted to get the high school students, we’d keep it open at night like 9 to 11.” After school hours usually are until about 5 pm. Moreover, libraries provide technology available for students who would not have access at home.

The parcel tax also will fund a new teacher and five new career technical courses.

Superintendent Richard Whitmore tells us this is a major emphasis to ensure a good education for all students regardless of their track.
"Big state focus on career technical programs because I think we need to be sure to give kids multiple pathways to come out of high school. If the kid’s not interested or ready to go to college we want them to be able to enter the workplace with skills that can help them work productively. That’s what career technical education does."
Gina Daleiden adds,
"We have a flourishing agricultural program at the high school thanks to a couple of really enthusiastic teachers. And basically these funds are funding extra FTE... It allows a high school to run these extra courses, it’s not specific to a single course, it just says to that department, here are the FTEs that you have to hire that teacher to offer the courses that kids want to take."
Finally, the parcel tax contains a $20 per student stipend for classroom supplies. "I hope they are spending it on glitter," Board Member Daleiden partially joked.
"It’s not new. This has been in the parcel tax since the beginning to be able to give teachers something very directly. All of this impacts the kids very directly in the classroom, and so supplies is one way. It’s not a lot… So teachers can choose to spend it on art supplies, on manipulatives for their classroom if that’s what they want to get. It could be DVDs, or CDs, or whatever kind of equipment they want to get and that will depend on the teacher."
Board Member Daleiden then summed up why the voters should pass the parcel tax.
“I think everybody in Davis whether or not you have a child ought to be wholly in support of this parcel tax because this is what makes Davis a great place to live in. And this is what sets our community apart.” “In 1983 Davis chose a different path than a lot of school district, and said we the community are willing to give generously so that our students have the best opportunities, and so we can continue to fund very important programs…”
“I think our schools are what make our community and our children, I know it sounds very cliché, but they are our future, and so if you care about that, then you care about this parcel tax.Davis is Davis in part because of the strong schools whether or not you have children that attend or have attended there. vote for this is a vote for the future. In a really corny way, that’s what I mean. I think we have something really special to protect here.”
Regardless of whether or not the parcel tax passes, the state requires the district to fund certain programs. So any cuts would come from those things some might consider extra. Davis schools have remained great in part because of the commitment in the community to continue to fund AP courses, music, art, and other electives or as Ms. Daleiden put it, "those things that keep kids interested and connected to school, those are the things most at risk if this wasn’t to pass."

School Board Member Daleiden encouraged people to examine the parcel tax for themselves. The best source for information is the district office who will provide information only. The district is not campaigning it provides factual information.

For further information please log onto:
“At the end of the day, when everything else is pushed aside from what people are thinking about, this is about the children of this town and their educational opportunities and not about anything else.”
The Vanguard will continue to cover the November election in detail that will not be found elsewhere. The Vanguard will have more information in the coming weeks as we move closer to the November 6, 2007 election which will include also the School Parcel Tax and the School Board elections. The Vanguard is your source for election information.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting