SBUSD School Board Round 1

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SBUSD School Board Round 1
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By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

Three of the five board seats for the SB school board are on the Nov. 3 ballot and all seven candidates have confirmed they will participate in [the Thursday forum hosted by the Independent].

Among the field are three current board members -- Laura Capps, Jackie Reid and Wendy Sims-Moten -- who took office automatically after the 2016 election because they were the only ones who signed up to run, and now seek new four-year terms. Montecito school administrator Virginia Alvarez, literacy advocate Monie de Wit, realtor Brian Campbell and county health inspector Elrawd MacLearn all are campaigning actively for the board.

The board has hiring and firing power over the superintendent, and recently recruited Hilda Maldonado from the L.A. Unified School District. She replaced Cary Matsuoka, who retired early from his contract amid a spate of high-profile controversies.that unfolded under the purview of Capps, Reid and Sims-Moten.

Newsmakers says check it out.

Best and worst of Round 1. 

The Indy event is the second -- and possibly the last -- time all the candidates are to appear together, although ballots won't even be mailed out until Oct. 5. (We hear San Marcos High School parents and teachers are trying to pull something together, and we'll let you know when and if we get confirmation about it, if there is an it).

Last week, a Zoom call sponsored by the Coalition for Neighborhood Schools drew all of the School Board 7, as well as an audience of more than 120, including a number of campaign consultants and other political hacks, as well as dozens of parents and other actual Real People.

Josh Molina posted a good play-by-play account of the affair on Noozhawk, and here's our look at seven key moments.

Virginia rocks her stats. School administrator Alvarez has framed her message around her data-based professional expertise and experience dealing with the complexities of California public education finance and policy matters, and underscored it by flashing a handmade graph on the screen to illustrate declining enrollment trends in answering a question about adding a new elementary school downtown. She also highlighted her bilingual skills when she spoke up to volunteer to translate for any Spanish speakers on the call, after moderator Lanny Ebenstein apologized for not providing such a service.
Monie calls out the patriarchy. Casting herself as the "commonsense candidate," de Wit finessed a high-profile issue that is among the most contentious the board has faced -- implicit bias training, which the board has enacted via a controversial non-profit called Just Communities. She said she supports the substantive goal of the program but took direct aim at Jarrod Schwartz, the group's longtime director and a polarizing figure for some parents: "An affluent white male who is an interpreting an experience" of people of color should not be leading the district's implicit bias project, she said.

Brian's burgers. Campbell is campaigning as a dad who's very active in his childrens' neighborhood schools and wants to address the district's problems in a practical way that cuts through the educratese and left-wing jargon of some controversial programs. Addressing the so-called Achievement Gap in test scores between white and Latino students, he recounted treating a group of his kids' friends at Hamburger Habit, and watching several struggle to read the menu, a small but telling scene that captured the reality of the problem in a down-to-earth way.


Wendy conquers Zoom. Sims-Moten and Reid, who share a political consultant, for the last four years consistently supported departed Superintendent Matsuoka in key decisions. Performing political ju-jitsu, she sought to make a virtue of her service as a member of the status quo by stressing the import of board "experience" at a time of pandemic crisis, deftly pivoting to the point by popping into Round 2 with a declaration of victory over Zoom after the app's technology had locked her out of the first round of questions: "Cool in a crisis," she announced herself.

Jackie channels Zumba. Like Sims-Moten, Reid faces the political task of differentiating herself in a field filled with challengers critical of her incumbency, a job made tougher by lapses into stilted edu-speak and critical race theory, a style which can sound to the uninitiated like it's translated from the Swedish. But she broke through with a nice improvisational answer to a question about the importance of art and music education, dunking on her colleagues' mundane responses (Wendy played the clarinet! Virginia played the violin! Laura's kid plays the piano!) by singing the praises of "innovative" math instruction via "Zumba dancing."
Elrawd trashes Adelante. MacLearn is running as a voice for conservative parents and the tribune of traditional, Three R's educational values, which sends hearts aflutter in precincts populated by old-school Fair Education SB types. With strong message discipline, he distinguished himself as the sharpest critic of the board, not only bashing the controversial Teen Talk sex ed program and the board's emphasis on bias training, but also attacking dual language Adelante charter school, a high profile symbol of the board's priorities: "What is going on at Adelante is not effectively teaching the children," he snapped.

Laura pushes back. Capps closed strong at the event, with a passionate and specific defense of every element of the board's progressive agenda that had been attacked by Elrawd and others, portraying the board's program as entirely appropriate for Santa Barbara values and the district's demographics. "We have one school in the entire district that is offering dual language immersion...Adelante is a magical place," she said. "Here we are in 2020, California. We live in a bilingual society. This is the future, like it or not for some of you. I embrace it."

Power Rankings

This week's power rankings. Just under six weeks before the election, here is a totally subjective and data-free perspective on where the seven candidate race stands today, according to odds relayed by our Las Vegas Bureau Chief Anthony (Little Tuna) Frutti di Mare.

1-Laura Capps. Spurred by the urgency of the pandemic, she shook off the funk from losing a tough race for Supervisor, smoothly transitioning into a second full-bore 2020 campaign.

2-Wendy Sims-Moten. Amid the Black Lives Matter movement, she's played a high-profile role in the community conversation by co-chairing a special country forum about racism.

3-Jackie Reid. Many time-honored rules of local campaigning are out amid the pandemic, but sharing the Dem endorsement with Wendy and Laura still is a big organizational edge.

4-Virginia Alvarez. If the race was about professional qualifications alone, she'd finish first, but as a first-time hopeful needs to move quickly to match political assets of insider rivals.

5-Brian Campbell. He, de Wit and MacLearn compete for center-right voters as the four libs tussle on the left, and his recent council run and real estate connections help. Lose the hat.

6-Monie de Wit. Her personal story of struggles with dyslexia, both hers and her kid's, is powerful and moving but she needs to translate the jargon to own the literacy issue.

7-Elrawd MacLearn. A fresh-faced rookie, he's still a virtual unknown, but his message resonates with conservatives and he's shown flashes of talent in putting it across.

Breaking News

This just in. Our People finally have reached agreement with Their People, and Sims-Moten and Reid now are on the schedule for one-on-one interviews with Newsmakers TV. Those conversations will be upcoming and added to our archive of discussions with the other five candidates.

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PitMix Sep 28, 2020 12:19 PM
SBUSD School Board Round 1

You're preaching to your choir. Or do you imagine your posts are actually going to convince a liberal to change their mind? I highly doubt it.

a-1601224128 Sep 27, 2020 09:28 AM
SBUSD School Board Round 1

Good time to push the SBUSD re-set button. Consider all candidates as new choices - none of the incumbents have built up a successful track-record that merits their automatic reelection. Consider them a fresh, new voices who will re-direct where SBUSD needs to go in the future. Assess where SBUSD is right now - don't automatically blame the incumbents because they have not been on the board long enough to have created the structural problems SBUSD now faces. However, they also have demonstrated they do not have the right skills as the current team to make the necessary changes. Weigh and balance all candidates and select a new team who will show they are focused on where we need to take our local schools at this critical time of declining test scores, declining enrollments. Bringing in a new balance of voices across the spectrum is critical, after too many years of one-party special interest thinking that has sunk into a punishing status quo. Prop 98 preserves state funding for schools, so resources are not the issue - management of existing resources with more focus on strategic outcomes that can be measured is what SBUSD needs when selecting the next group of school board members for leadership and hard decision making skills. There will be tough choices ahead; none of which will be solved by demands to pour even more money into the existing system - which has been the standard and very tired demand of school board members the past. Treat all candidates as fresh new options -which combination of choice promise the best outcomes for our students and our district. Do not give current incumbents and automatic pass. That privilege e has not been earned. Stand back and ask which combination of school board members will be the best group for the days ahead.

lovesbalot Sep 26, 2020 01:39 PM
SBUSD School Board Round 1

If you want to know what is happening in special ed. look up the lastest FCMAT fiscal crisis management assistance team)
2009 was the last one. It is a state audit. Here is what it says about the 7 directors in 8 years
as well as frustration and lack of trust among parents and low morale for staff . Here are the highlights:

"Over the past eight years the districts have employed seven directors of special education. This instability in leadership is the root cause of the systemic problems that have led to inconsistency, disorganization, confusion over policies and procedures and a lack ofdirection to school sites. The districts do not clearly understand why the turnover rate in administration has been so high in this position. Parents expressed a high level of frustration with the districts and a distrust of special education leadership. The staff expressed equal frustration and a lack of confidence, which was confirmed by a finding of low staff morale in the special education department. " de Wit gets special ed and the inequity of the districts "wait to fail policy" and doing too little too late."
Check out the link directly: VOTE MONIE de Wit

We should follow AB1369 which past in 2013 and states k-3 automatic testing for reading, teacher investment and training and use the science of reading..... that is best practices so why is SBUSD not doing yet...

Lorax Sep 26, 2020 10:10 AM
SBUSD School Board Round 1

The incumbents backed by the machine have failed the children and this community.

Here is link of forum youtube offor thoes that missed it, these summaries are witty but very biased.

Upset the apple cart, last 3 on this chart are best. Change is needed!
Elrawd Maclearn, Brian Campbell and Monie De Witt will focus on improving reading and writing scores for all students where only 50% of students living between Goleta and Motecieto can read and write at grade level. Education is key to improve equity.
Without these strong skills young adults are at a disadvantage to enter the job market or higher education.

a-1601096926 Sep 25, 2020 10:08 PM
SBUSD School Board Round 1

Brief summary: “data-based professional expertise, public education finance, policy matters, patriarchy, bias training, critical race theory, Zumba dancing, progressive agenda, racism.” What about what is best for the children, i.e. teaching the basics of math, writing, and reading? And why the editorial remark associating the three R’s with “old-school Fair Education SB types?”

sbdude Sep 25, 2020 08:19 PM
SBUSD School Board Round 1

Millions of dollars of cost overruns on capital projects. Half the kids in the district can't read at grade level. Budgets in the red every year for the past several years. A highly divisive social-justice program that hides from the public the materials it shows our kids. Unhappy, overworked teachers who make less than those in every surrounding district. Larger class sizes than in the past. Zero accountability. A special ed department that has seen how many leaders in the past 10 years?? A return to bilingual education, because it worked so well last time they tried it. School facilities that are falling apart due to decades of deferred maintenance. What a great school board we have! Success all around! Let's re-elect them!!!

Byzantium Sep 26, 2020 09:01 AM
SBUSD School Board Round 1

Caution: Never use just "salaries" for district compensation comparisons. Always use the total cost to taxpayers per SBUSD employee - not just the "salary", bu the entire cost to taxpayers including perks, benefits and district CalPERS and CalSTERS contributions. Transparent California provides the complete breakdown of taxpayer costs per school employee. The unions decide how the total compensation packages is allocated between the various pay-outs: salary, pay grades, longevity, benefits etc. Which is why you can never do direct pay comparisons between districts just based upon "salaries".

ChillinGrillin Sep 26, 2020 04:49 AM
SBUSD School Board Round 1

It would be nice if you had some sources, but I went ahead and checked your "stats" out for you.
1. Only 32.6% of the bond-funded capital improvement budget was spent as of September 2019. Two completed projects came in over budget, the Las Flores preschool (by about $14k) and hill stabilization at McKinley (~$30k). The most visible capital improvement project, Peabody Stadium, was actually nearly $10m UNDER its construction budget. Are there any specific projects you're referring to? It seems like you're just making this one up.
2. Half of K-12 students can't read at grade level in California, not just the district. I agree that the state's achievement level in core subjects is awful but it's a complex problem not unique to SBUSD.
3. The 2018-19 budget was in the about $7,000. To paraphrase Joe Exotic, I don't know how they can financially recover from this.
4. While happiness isn't reflected in statistics, the lowest starting salary for a teacher in SBUSD is higher than either Ventura Unified or SLO.
5. The number of school district special ed dept heads in the last 10 years isn't publicly available information
6. SBUSD decided to make one elementary school (McKinley) bilingual. Maybe it has something to do with the 95% Hispanic enrollment there. Somehow, the English language will survive.
7. I agree local schools have a massive amount of deferred maintenance but the problem isn't "millions" in wasted projects but instead that there aren't enough projects underway.

a-1601086470 Sep 25, 2020 07:14 PM
SBUSD School Board Round 1

Judging by last night's abbreviated forum, the "Power Rankings" are wrong. The incumbents may think they are numbers 1-3, but Alvarez, despite or because of her heavy ad campaign, and Campbell seem to this observer to be front-runners. Too bad that deWit didn't run 4 years ago; she has a lot valuable to say.

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