Campbell Patch: What sets you apart from the other candidates?
Rick Costanzo: I believe that what sets me apart is my many years of experience as an educator in this district. For the past four years, I have been privileged to serve our community as a Campbell Union High School District Board member. I have brought my 22 years of experience as both a teacher and activities director at Westmont, 3 years as dean and 5 years as principal at Leigh High School to this position. I also coached both basketball and tennis for 20 years. Both my wife and daughter (a Westmont grad) are teachers.
I recognize these are difficult times for public education in California. I know my 30 years of school experience, along with 4 years on this school board, dealing successfully with budgets, policy, programs and facilities, gives me the skills needed to help our district successfully weather the next several years.
Patch: What are the three top priorities you address if elected?
Costanzo: Budget, of course, is the problem all California districts are struggling with during these difficult times. A school board must fulfill its public trust by maintaining fiscal responsibility.
I am proud to say our board continues to do just that, while working closely with district staff and all employees to minimize cuts to programs and actually increasing student options in many areas. It is always my goal to keep cuts away from the classroom as much as possible and to always maintain a safe environment.
With these thoughts in mind, then, my 3 top priorities are:
- Always focus on improving student performance and making sure the education offered to our students is relevant to today’s job market. That is the core mission of schools.
- Provide funding to hire and retain good teachers. Learning takes place through teachers. We tend to forget how important passionate teachers are in educating our students. We must attract and hang on to good ones, and, when funding permits, I strongly support lower class size, and more staff development and collaboration time.
- Lowering the achievement gap is a challenge all school districts struggle with, but it is a job we must focus on. We have begun to see some progress here in this district, and we must find the resources to continue to attack the problem.
Patch: How will you help close the achievement gap in your district’s schools?
Costanzo: CUHSD State testing (API) scores, district-wide, have gone up 22 points in the last two years, with the score for white students going up 28 points. However, the score for African American students has gone up 36 points during the same time period, with a 27 point gain for Hispanics, an 18 point gain for English language learners, a 12 point gain for disadvantaged students and a 10 point gain for those with disabilities.
Clearly, the achievement gap for CUHSD is being narrowed, so we are on the right track. I will continue to advocate for finding the funds needed to keep the programs targeted to provide the extra student support necessary to continue this trend.
Patch: How can you provide fiscal responsibility as well as transparency to the board’s actions?
Costanzo: The Campbell Union High School District has a 112 year history of fiscal responsibility and solvency, and the present board is dedicated to maintaining that record of wise financial decision-making during this difficult state budget crisis.
Our superintendent and chief financial officer make presentations to community organizations, and to the PTA and staff of each of our schools several times annually. In addition, parents sit on our district financial advisory committee, and we make use of school and district newsletters to update all parents. I intend to push for making greater use of School Loop, our web-based school-parent-teacher-student communication system, to provide more information to stakeholders as well.
Patch: How will you better involve the parent community?
Costanzo: Certainly by striving to continually improve the process of parent communication, and our district has invested heavily in parent communication systems. But, being a parent of a teenager has always been a hard job, and never more difficult than today.
Parents want to be involved in their student’s education but, often, they are not sure how to best go about it. It is interesting to me that, though parenting is perhaps the most important job in the world, it is the only job for which nobody ever gets any formal training.
I would like to push for district-sponsored parenting classes, focused on techniques useful in parent involvement in schools and in the education of their students, and to make sure they are offered in other languages as well.
Patch: What do I think is my district’s biggest challenge?
Costanzo: The biggest challenge is always how to improve student learning. Today, the biggest obstacle to that challenge, statewide, is the budget crisis. It has brought many districts to the brink of disaster and crippled many others.
The challenge, as I see it, is that, when financial times are good, we all tend to do more, but, when financial times are bad, we must do better. We must make certain that what little money we have is spent on the things most likely to improve student performance.
I intend to push for greater involvement on the part of teachers in formal committees made up of teachers and school and district administrators to identify the best equipment, training, and materials upon which to spend limited resources, in order to ensure that we maintain and improve the education we afford our students.
For more of Patch's November 2012 Election Coverage, click here.