Future looks bright following FCUSD board forumBy: Rachel Zirin, Senior Reporter
The Folsom Cordova Education Foundation (FCEF) hosted a candidate forum for the Folsom Cordova Unified School District (FCUSD) board Monday, Sept. 24, and the future looks bright.
Moderated by Adam Frick of Folsom TV, all candidates were present for the event – Jaya Badiga, Joshua Hoover, Dave Reid and incumbent Ed Short.
There are three open seats on the board in the November election, and this is the first school board election since 2010 to have seats contested.
The forum began promptly at 6:30 p.m. at the FCUSD office. Frick mentioned that each candidate would have two minutes to answer each of the questions, totaling in more than 10, as well as opening and closing statements.
The candidates sat in alphabetical order, but were asked questions in random order.
Some of the questions included: what do you believe is the most important responsibility of a school board; what specific actions will you take to increase the role of parents in decision making and promote parental involvement in schools; what are the factors on which you will base your decisions as a school board member; and more.
This event was co-sponsored by the Folsom Telegraph, Folsom TV, the Grapevine Independent and Sounding Board Marketing & Communications.
The following question-and-answer was the first in the forum.
Q1 – What is your vision for education in our community?
Jaya Badiga: I believe that there is no one size fits all. We have the cities of Folsom and most of Rancho Cordova in our district. If you look at the breadth of schools and students, it incorporates a tremendous amount of diversity, not only of students in terms of their backgrounds in culture, but also in terms of the learning needs and requirements that we have. We have high-achieving students; we have students where in a recent study, by the Sacramento Public Library, when they tabulated results, found that some schools, the percentages of those that do not meet grade-level for reading were higher than some of the schools in our area. We have those students that need a little bit of extra attention and maybe rigor. We need to create and also account for these differences in our student bodies. We need to create programs that are sustainable because there’s no point in creating something when we have money one year and we don’t have money another year. Additionally, I think we also need to account for limited resources. Unfortunately, we’re just now catching up to funding that used to be at pre-recession levels in 2007/2008, and we’re almost 10 years behind. If you look at special education, that’s almost 18 years behind. If you look at the different challenges we face, if you look at the needs of our student body, I think we have to be creative, we have to be responsive and react pretty quickly to the needs of our community. We need to make sure that the fantastic staff we have, both certified and classified, keep up and have abilities to keep up their professional development, invest in our teachers and help our students.
Josh Hoover: One of the things that really struck me when I started getting more involved and ultimately decided to run for the board was the significant achievement gap that exists between Rancho Cordova and the City of Folsom. I think my vision for education in our community is that we would close that achievement gap. Obviously, that is easier said than done. There are a number of challenges that exist we need to tackle as a board and a community to do that. To me, that is the greatest challenge and need facing our district. My kids have the opportunity to go to an elementary school where over 90 percent of the kids are meeting or exceeding standards. There are elementary schools in Rancho Cordova that are almost 90 percent in the opposite direction where they’re below standards. Obviously, tests don’t measure every aspect of the classroom, but it is something that shows there’s a big need to bring equity and to close that achievement gap. Similarly, Folsom and Vista High School students enjoy SAT scores that are 300 points higher than Cordova High School students. I think those are things that we really, as a board, and as a community, have to come together on and tackle. It’s going to be difficult; it’s going to require us to make sure we are spending our budget where the resources actually need to go; and it’s going to require working collaboratively with teachers, with community members and with administrators too, to actually effect positive change.
David Reid: I share a lot of similar comments to Jaya and Josh. I would start off by saying we are a very large school district, a very diverse school district. Even within both cities, there’s a great deal of diversity – both ethnic, cultural, language skills. Clearly, there isn’t a one size fits all solution. I do think that I certainly agree we have a little bit of a tale of two cities here. I think we need to spend more time and effort in helping improve the achievement gap, especially in Rancho Cordova. I also feel that we need to provide more opportunities. We’ve been basically 20 years now on a national policy of this mentality that everybody needs to go to college. The fact of the matter is, not everybody needs to go to college; not everybody should go to college. It started in the Clinton Administration, picked up with the Bush Administration and then the Obama Administration, and we’ve essentially stigmatized our professions. We’ve taken the trades out of the schools. We need to bring the trades back into the schools, and back into the high schools. If we don’t provide other opportunities, other career paths, other than college, we’re failing our kids, failing our society, we’re failing our nation. When you look at the average age of the trade professions – in the mi-40s, some of the high-40s and a great amount of retirement – we need to find ways to bring them back. These are good paying jobs, high paying jobs, but it all comes down to what we are teaching in high school. We’re teaching one career path essentially – college. I’d like to create more opportunities not only for those students that want to go to college, but also for those students who don’t see college as the avenue they want to pursue. With great diversity, you need to focus on multiple solutions.
Ed Short: I agree with a lot of the things that folks are saying here tonight. As for the last 16 years, we’ve been through some really hard times economically in the state. The state is starting to cut back the local funding sources of what is called the LCFF. We have a vision for this community: part of the LCAP, which is part of the LCFF program. We got two constituents, and we asked what the vision should be for the community. Those stakeholder meetings give us a lot of direction in where we need to go. If you go to our website for the LCAP golden visions it kind of outlines in alignment with the LCAP provisions. For my vision to align with all that, there’s a lot of things we can do here locally: yes, we do have two communities that are different; yes, we have kids in the areas in Rancho Cordova that have lower performing schools that we can focus on and help in those areas where the school sights need to have the appropriate resources. With that said, the English learners that we have in Rancho Cordova area – it’s a large percentage; a lot of folks. I understand it’s about 70 percent. As an English learning language, we have a huge amount of English learners that we need to focus on – more programs for the English learners. On the special education side, we’ve always had that issue of unfunded mandates from the federal and state levels. Our special education program that we did bring back here back in the years, we need to improve that program always. We’re always doing better on that program, but it’s very important to help our special education programs because it’s vital for all kids to be successful. With that said, the achievement gap and all the other things are tied into that. The vision needs to be always align to the classroom, the achievement and doing the best we can with the resources we have, maintaining what’s good for the classroom, and what’s good for the kids. That’s really protecting the classroom and doing everything we can to help the teachers to give them the tools to provide the best education possible for those kids in the classroom.