A Q&A with local school board candidates

Each candidate answered the same three questions

This week the Times sent three questions to all of the local candidates for the Morgan Hill Unified School District Board of Education. The questions were selected after asking Morgan Hill residents what they would like to hear from their future elected representatives. Answers were limited to 50 words.

Here’s what they had to say:

Morgan Hill Unified School District

Board of Education candidates

Trustee Area 1

PETER MANDEL

The hiring and retaining of highly qualified teachers has become more and more challenging. How would you help Morgan Hill Unified School District address this issue?

We need to find new revenue (e.g. parcel tax) to allow for increased compensation; improve teachers’ work satisfaction through greater teacher empowerment over their work; and work with the cities of Morgan Hill and San Jose on options for teacher housing to deal with the high cost of living here.

What are some of your ideas for improving school safety and eliminating bullying in schools?

While in-person bullying continues to need attention and quick action on the part of a school’s administration, cyberbullying is the growing threat. The school needs to teach students how to respond, capturing and reporting the attacks, while parents need to monitor their children’s social media activities.

If the school district discovered additional funds that needed to be allocated immediately, what areas would you like to see those funds go toward, and why?

A first goal would be smaller class sizes. Marginal changes (e.g. reduce by 1) have little impact, but sizable changes can have a significant benefit. Key issues in special education would be another focus for additional funds to increase the number of specialists (e.g. speech) and paraeducators to provide support.

WENDY SULLIVAN

Hiring and retaining of highly qualified teachers

I would like to form a committee (with representation from all stakeholder groups) to intensely study and focus on the issue of teacher retention. I would also like to hear directly from our teachers, by survey, to get feedback on work culture/climate and compensation—two major issues affecting retention.

School safety and bullying

Improve school safety: Hire/assign additional school resource officers, because one for the entire district is not enough; Utilize an off-duty MHPD officer at each middle school a few days per week and high school daily. Eliminate bullying: Implement OLWEUS Anti-Bullying and Prevention Program at all school sites.

Immediate allocation of additional funds

Increase/supplement teacher pay to be more competitive; increase support of athletics, arts, music and enrichment programs to focus on the whole student and not just test scores; Implement ideas in question no. 2 to improve school safety and eliminate/reduce bullying; hire additional counselors for the high schools to better support students.

EMMA NUNEZ

Hiring and retaining of highly qualified teachers

I believe hiring and retaining highly qualified teachers should be an issue that Morgan Hill addresses as a community and in partnerships with the City and other relevant agencies. The reason for this is because the most pressing challenge we have in Morgan Hill and, for that matter, in Santa Clara County is the cost of living. Multiple groups and agencies must come together to collaborate and find compromise by way of providing affordable housing and better pay.  

School safety and bullying

I believe that positive behavioral intervention and investing in mental health resources at a local level will help improve school safety and eliminate bullying in schools.

Immediate allocation of additional funds

If additional funds were discovered, they should be allocated to retaining highly qualified teachers and professional development. Retaining highly qualified teachers is important because it helps to ensure that students are successful and can achieve their highest potential in the classroom and beyond.

Trustee Area 2

TARA BEVINGTON

Hiring and retaining of highly qualified teachers

Advocate for the revitalization of Live Oak Foundation or addition of a dedicated fundraising professional to pursue grants such as the CTC Teacher Residency Capacity Grants. A foundation could also obtain additional funding streams that would allow the district to offer recruiting bonuses, expand continuing education offerings or advancement incentives.

School safety and bullying

The most frequent concern I hear from parents regarding school safety is student drop-off and pickup logistics. I would research what policies the district has to support our schools, then explore community partnerships to identify solutions as well as provide structure or enforcement.

Immediate allocation of additional funds

Teacher recruitment and retention programs as well as funds to improve equity for underserved student populations. I would then look for opportunities to enhance mental health services and support, such as establishing a district-wide anti-bullying and de-stigmatization of mental illness programs and social media campaigns.

JAMES DILL

Hiring and retaining of highly qualified teachers

I would ensure from the initial interview to the onboarding process a high-quality mentoring/coaching and induction (with the principal’s participation), into the classroom. Schedule adequate time for each teacher for planning and collaboration with other teachers. “High-quality,” thoughtful development and support to learn and grow so they can meet the needs of the students.

James Dill

School safety and bullying

Implement meaningful back-to-school communication now and over the summer to keep all stakeholders informed regarding safety/security improvement; prevent visitor access during changing of classes; single point of entry; staff monitoring of arrival and dismissal times; strong visitor management; window glazing; cameras.

Bullying and cyberbullying: Have teachers in locations where bullying has occurred; get parents involved; empower students to communicate to a trusted adult if friends are being bullied.

Immediate allocation of additional funds

School security: It is imperative we keep our students and staff safe and protected. Look for weak areas in secured areas and repair or replace defective items. School lunches: Our students should be concentrating on their studies and not on whether they are going to have a lunch. Instructional material: Purchase or replace instructional material for each class.

JOHN HORNER

Hiring and retaining of highly qualified teachers

Obviously, we need to pay staff as well as possible, but turnover isn’t just about money; it is also about culture. Trustees must demonstrate respect and appreciation. Modeling positive behavior and insisting on it by all levels of employees will improve teacher retention.

School safety and bullying

First, make health and safety the No. 1 facilities spending priority, with cameras, appropriate fencing, etc. Reduce bullying by building a culture of mutual respect. Culture starts at the top, and every trustee and district employee must demonstrate the respect for one another that we want our students to emulate.

Immediate allocation of additional funds

Our schools need more counselors and advisers available at every level. We need to bring back choir, shop, daily physical education and other so called “non-essential” classes to provide a full and engaging school day. These would be a good place to start spending any windfall.

ENRIQUE NAVARRO-DONNELLAN

Hiring and retaining of highly qualified teachers

Teacher retention and recruitment depends on competitive salaries that enable them to live within commute range of their schools. Even if we cannot successfully lobby Sacramento for more district funding, we can support state income tax exemptions for teachers’ salaries as was proposed with SB-807 (which died in committee).

Enrique Navarro-Donnellan

School safety and bullying

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is the key to MHUSD schools’ safety. This requires single-entry and controlled-movement architectural design. Additionally, I would push to recruit additional school resource officers to proactively guard against intruders. Countering bullying depends on a collaborative school culture and team-building programs like Camp Everytown.

Immediate allocation of additional funds

I would spend additional funds toward campus safety redesign as stipulated in my CPTED agenda. The best way to spend one-time funds is toward projects with long-lasting positive impacts, especially security enhancements. Additionally, such funds must be applied to next-generation classroom technology upgrades (such as interactive whiteboards).

Trustee Area 4

CAROL GITTENS

Hiring and retaining highly qualified teachers

District practices must showcase high value and respect for our teachers. I support strategies to bolster entry-level salaries and benefit packages. Master teachers should be compensated for their growth, effort and commitment. We need leadership and growth opportunities within the district, teachers’ feedback in decision making, and enhanced work-life balance.  

Carol Gittens

School safety and bullying

School safety and protecting the well-being of our student community is a top priority for me. I endorse prevention-based policy/protocols: school-based crisis assessment and intervention teams; broad-scale training in Restorative Justice, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS); recognition and response to signs of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Vulnerability assessments conducted by public safety partners; and accessible bullying prevention resources on all MHUSD websites.

Immediate allocation of additional funds

Additional one-time funds should go toward anticipated deficits in high-need, high-impact programs such as food service, instructional material acquisitions and other essential student services that may be threatened by budget shortfalls. Mitigating the negative impact of cost-saving measures needed to balance the annual budget would be my top priority.

ROBERT GUYNN

Hiring and retaining of highly qualified teachers

To hire and retain highly qualified teachers, we need to increase newly hired teachers’ salaries. Starting salaries in MHUSD are some of the lowest in the county. I believe that getting MHUSD teacher salaries even with other districts would encourage teachers to come to and stay in the district. It’s about salaries and benefits.  

Robert Guynn

School safety and bullying

Parent involvement always improves school safety and works to eliminate bullying. The answer is always more parent involvement. According to stopbullying.gov, research also shows that when adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, they send the message that it is not acceptable. Over time, this can stop bullying. Teachers and parents need to work together.

Immediate allocation of additional funds

I would like to see money allocated for teacher salaries and classroom supplies. Teachers now reach into their own pockets to purchase supplies. No more cuts in electives like art and music. I would also like to see additional funds go to classified employees. These are the employees that are always cut when funds are depleted.

JILL PROVENCAL

Hiring and retaining of highly qualified teachers

Increase teacher pay through smarter use of tax revenues. Teachers in MHUSD are paid less than county peers, and funding comes from student attendance. Over 3.5 percent are absent daily. Absenteeism costs us $3 million annually. Focus on problem-solving with families of students with highest persistent absenteeism to cut absenteeism by half.

Jill Provencal

School safety and bullying

Early identification of students with behavior problems and involve their families. Continue PBIS programs. Improve bathroom/hall monitoring. Secure fences and sensors for all exits. Provide more training to staff and badged volunteers on all safety issues. Zero tolerance for vaping. Stop spraying RoundUp on school lawns.

Immediate allocation of additional funds

Special education: classroom materials, technology and additional staff;

Communication: build a marketing program to promote our schools with the goal of attracting and retaining families;

Resources: build a teacher retention program to retain top teaching talent;

Safety: ensure school buildings/classrooms are easily identified for fire/police to navigate.

Trustee Area 5

ANGELICA DIAZ

Hiring and retaining of highly qualified teachers

I plan to work collaboratively re-examining best and promising strategies to set direction for priorities with greater impact short and long term, including revisiting a local tax and permanent fund; working with the city on housing opportunities; exploring scholarships and forgivable loans; investing in professional development; and improving staff satisfaction.

Angelica Diaz

School safety and bullying

My ideas focus on promoting the use of evidence-based prevention practices and a community approach to how we operationalize and evaluate current safety protocols. District-wide campaigns, community engagement, partnerships, staff development and regular assessments are elements to achieving a culture that is safe, equitable, and protects students and staff.

Immediate allocation of additional funds

Applying an education equity lens, I would like to see funding support staffing in special education, early education and up-to-date tools/resources where needed. Educators face greater workloads and classroom size, teaching other grade levels and subjects, and special education does not have the personnel needed due to recruitment challenges.

VANESSA SUTTER

Hiring and retaining of highly qualified teachers

I will ensure teachers have defined career pathways. By offering clearly articulated pathways with structured support, mentorship and increased compensation, more teachers will stay in our district. Additionally, I will explore piloting a teacher residency program, to create opportunities for more people to obtain teaching credentials and lead MHUSD classrooms.

Vanessa Sutter

School safety and bullying

As a trained therapist, I have extensive knowledge about safety and mental health. Our students cannot learn if they do not feel safe. As a trustee, I will ensure we devote resources to mental health services, provide exceptional training to our staff and engage parents about safety and bullying issues.

Immediate allocation of additional funds

While 89 percent of MHUSD students graduate from high school, only 46 percent of these students are eligible to apply to a UC/CSU. With additional funds, I would increase the number of counselors to ensure that more students are able to apply for college and are supported during these challenging years.

 

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