Campbell Patch: What sets you apart from the other candidates?
Diane Gordon: The first thing that sets me apart from the other candidates is my business background and the skill set that I bring. This skill set includes problem solving, cost analysis, and communication skills.
The second thing that sets me apart from other candidates is that I have acquired a Masters in Governance from the California School Board Association.
Finally, I look at my time on the Board as community service not as a job.
As an insurance professional dealing with million dollar losses for corporations and public entities including schools districts, I have to determine the most cost effective way to get a task completed while meeting rigid time frames. Failure to meet these time frames can result in loss of millions of dollars or a school not being able to hold classes.
The analysis of options available and costs associated with the options, along with benefit/ reward analysis is very important in decision making in business and as a board member. My knowledge of construction and work with the Department of School Architects has helped in the analysis of construction projects at the district. I have been able to ensure that our Bond money is well spent. Another part of my skill set is managing groups of experts. Managing groups of people is a skill that has proven very important during my tenure as Board President for Campbell Union High School District and CCOC/ METRO ED.
The communication skills that I have developed in the business world have also served me well as a board member. I know the following about communicating:
- I know that listening is an important communication skill. In order to take action whether it is on an opportunity, problem or issue you must understand the item being discussed.
- I also make sure that I am on the campuses and available for people to ask questions or voice concerns.
- I make it a point to tell the truth not what people want to hear.
Upon being elected to the School Board eight years ago I enrolled in the California School Board Associations Masters in Governance Program. Completion of this program has allowed me to understand the role of a board member, the role of the district staff and also provided insight into working on a school board. The program has made me a better board member.
The last item that sets me apart from other candidates is that I truly look at this as community service. I started my community service twelve years ago to make sure our students received at least the same opportunities and education that I did when I attended Leigh High School.
I want to give back what was given to me by this community. I do not take the medical insurance that is provided free to board members. I buy the insurance from my employer. I do take the monthly stipend but it is all spent to support district related activities. By not taking the insurance I have saved the district approximately 80,000 dollars over the eight years on the board. This is money that could then be used for students.
Patch: What are the three priorities you will address if elected?
Gordon: When I am re-elected I will continue to focus on student achievement, drop our rate and bullying and student safety.
Student achievement should always be a priority of a board member. I continue to advocate for opportunities for all students. We continue to add API classes for our higher performing students, we have added work shops and developed small learning communities for students needing help with Algebra and English. Small learning communities were developed for students needing more structure and smaller class settings. I am on the Board of Trustees for CCOC which provides opportunities for our students who are interested in career technical education.
As long as we have one student that drops out of school we will need to continue to focus on our drop out rate. In order to talk about the drop out rate we need to understand the definition of drop out. There are three different ways of measuring/ defining dropout rates, Average Rate (number of students who drop out in each grade in a given year) This yields the lowest drop out rate, Status Rate (a mixture of Average Rate and Cohort Rate) drop out rate is between average and cohort) and the Cohort Rate (classifies any student who does not graduate in four years as a drop out). Our drop out rate using these definitions ranges from 5.4% to 15.6%. We are taking the following actions to reduce/eliminate our drop out rate:
- District Intervention Team- deals with truancy a leading cause of drop outs
- Project Corner Stone- Helps builds assets in students that have been identified as assets that successful students have.
- Small learning Communities- Provides smaller learning environment with more structure and more teacher / student time.
- Continue to build on the strong collaboration and data sharing that is taking place between our district and the elementary feeder schools.
My final priority is safe bully free schools. Students must be able to feel safe and not be bullied.
Patch: How will you help close the achievement gap in your district’s schools?
Gordon: We currently have a number of programs and practices in place that will help close the achievement gap, small learning communities, AVID, workshops, parent groups support groups, and collaboration with feeder districts.
Last year we started a small learning community program at one of our sites. Initial analysis of the data shows a marked improvement in student grades. We are continuing to review the data but it appears that the smaller more structured classes are having an impact on student achievement.
We have had an AVID Program for the last number of years due to the success of the program I will be advocating for its expansion. The AVID program does the following:
AVID's mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. The AVID program levels the playing field for minority, rural, low-income, and other students without a college-going tradition in their families. The purpose of AVID is to prepare students for college eligibility and success. As AVID expands to a school-wide and district-wide program, it impacts educators by increasing best practices for engaging all students and increasing college readiness across the school and district. (Taken from the California Department of Education web Site)
Also we offer workshops in Algebra and English is a second language to allow students who would benefit from extra instruction in these areas.
We are also working on organizing more parent related education which should help the students. At del Mar we have Padre Unidos which supports Spanish speaking parents. We also have ELAC and DLAC parents groups to support parents and students. We also have taken over the management of our adult ed program which has allowed us to leverage those resources to provide parent education classes along with credit recovery classes for high school students. our Adult.
We continue to build on our strong relationship with our feeder districts which is allowing us to have conversations regarding data and achievement. This helps our feeder districts make sure students are ready for high school and we make sure we have the right classes and resources in the right places.
Patch: How can you provide fiscal responsibility as well as transparency to the board’s actions?
Gordon: Transparency of the board’s expenditures and fiscal responsibility are done in a number of ways.
Evaluation of use of funds takes place in a number of ways depending on the source of the funds. Federal and State funds are granted for a specific purpose and the expenditure of these funds has to be documented and reported to the Federal or State governments showing it was spent for the intended purpose.
That being said that only documents that the funds were spent for the intended purpose it does not indicate whether they were spent wisely. We then review the student data from each program to verify that the money is being directed to the correct students and that the funded program is achieving the desired results. Adjustments are made as needed to make sure we are getting the expected results. Results of special programs are discussed at Board Meetings, school site councils and parent organization meetings.
Local money such as Bonds and Parcel taxes have citizen oversight committees that meet to review the expenditures and verify they were used for the designated purpose. These committees issue reports to the board advising if they feel the expenditures were proper.
Board meetings are open to the public and the report is available to the public. The district also has a finance committee which meets once a month to review expenditures and ask questions about expenditures that have been made or are proposed. Our budget and accounting information are public documents and are made available to the public upon request.
We go to great lengths to ensure that we spend the money entrusted to us wisely. I recognize that we are stewards of the Public's money.
An example of the lengths that we go to ensure that we spend the money wisely would be our solar project. This was being funded with our bond money. When we started with our solar project we called many of the districts in the area that had installed solar systems and asked who they used and why.
We were told that one of the big oil companies was the way to go. When we contacted them they gave us a lump sum estimate for the project. When we asked for a detailed breakdown they were unable to provide one. We then started determining the cost for each component and determined the quoted cost did not make sense.
After looking at the numbers we partnered with a modular building company, our district architect and designed a modular shade structure system that could be installed for approximately half the price being quoted by the oil company. The architect also gave us the rights to the plans so we can sell them at a discounted rate to other entities to generate money for scholarships for students. The modular company is also giving us 2% of every system they install using the shade structure system that we developed, for student scholarships.
This is a prime example of money being spent wisely and for the designated purpose.
The Brown Act determines what the Board can and can not discuss in closed session. I advocate for as much as possible to be discussed in open session.
Patch: How will you better involve the parent community?
Gordon: I would like to see rotating board meetings between the five different comprehensive high schools.
Continue to offer parent education opportunities through the school sites and Adult education.
We are developing more opportunities for parent advisory positions such as parent on our technology advisory.
Some of the sites are trying morning PTSA and Home and School Club so more parents can participate.
Patch: What do you think is your district’s biggest challenge?
Gordon: Drastic cuts to education have made the district’s biggest challenge maximizing resources and equitable allocation of resources our biggest challenge. We have chosen to embrace the challenge and have thought outside the box. As detailed in question four we developed our own solar shade structures and reduced the cost of installing by 50% while provide two ways to generate money for scholarships.
We also have taken over the management of our adult Ed program which has allowed us to leverage the resources. Adult Ed now provides education classes for adults while also providing credit recovery classes for students who need them. Allowing more students to graduate.
We just partnered with our feeder districts and hired an in house psychologist to provide services for students who require services. We expect to save money on a year to year basis and expect to generate savings in the future as students will have the same services at the high school and elementary level. This will also provide a seamless education plan which should help with student success.
Getting the right services to the right students will continue to be a challenge. Educating the community that equal is not equitable is the first step. We need to continue to review data and move resources where needed. We need to continue to collaborate with our feeder districts so that we can identify as early as possible special needs.
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