Campbell Patch: What sets you apart from the other candidates?
Leah Read: I have a personal connection to the district and the community it serves and for the past fourteen years I have been actively engaged in improving the educational experience of our children. I have been involved with the district in many different ways, from volunteering in the classroom and school sites, chaperoning field trips, serving on the home and school club board, to volunteering in the call center for the measure H bond. In May 2006 I was appointed to the governing board and currently serve as board president.
I have six and a half years experience serving as a board member and have continually worked to develop myself to be an effective a member of the board.
Within the first two and a half years of being on the school board I completed CSBA’s Masters in Governance program. The program consists of nine modules ranging from policy, student achievement, setting direction to finance and collective bargaining. These modules give board members the essential skills needed to become a part of an effective governance team.
I have attended the California School Board Association’s (CSBA) annual educational conference every year. This conference provides board members with information on trends in education, new programs and technology, guidance on effective governance, and the opportunity to network with board members from around the state.
As a board member I visit each school site at least once a year to tour classroom and discuss activities and programs with the school’s administration. This gives me first hand experience as to the effectiveness of the programs and student engagement. It also allows me the opportunity to talk with teachers and staff to get their perspective on what is happening at their site.
My commitment goes beyond just involvement with the school district. I also served on the Winchester Neighborhood Action Committee as a district representative and participated in activities to build the strength of our neighborhood by connecting residents, business and schools to identify issues, seek solutions and strengthen our sense of community.
I believe I understand the needs of the district from a parent’s viewpoint, a teacher’s viewpoint and an administration’s viewpoint and am able to keep the various perspectives in mind when making decisions in my role as a member of the school board. I have significant experience in governance, which I believe is an asset to the district considering the challenging financial and academic environment that our district faces.
Patch: What are your top three priorities you will address if elected?
I believe we need to continue with the district’s prudent financial planning which has allowed us to maintain our high educational standards. We will continue to monitor our budget, evaluate expenditures and explore all available options for maintaining these high standards.
Learning in the 21st Century
Times are changing and changing quickly. Our children are not growing up in the same environment that we did yet we are still teaching them in the same manner that we were taught. We need to find new ways to utilize technology in the classroom, provide innovative teaching methods and inspire students to want to learn.
Encourage Further Collaboration Between District and Local Community
I believe we need to be reaching out to our stakeholders in a variety of ways and on a regular basis. By sharing our stories, successes and familiarizing everyone with the programs and opportunities available in the CUSD they will have a better idea of how they can support the district and how the district is serving them.
Patch: How will you help close the achievement gap in your district's schools?
Read: Campbell Union School District has made a concerted effort to address the achievement gap. Teachers have been trained in Guided Language Acquisition and Development (know as GLAD) and Systematic English Language Development (or Systematic ELD) and are providing coaching and support to implement these strategies. The board has also shown their commitment to addressing this issue with the implementation of extensive intervention programs this last year. We will need to continue to evaluate these programs, making sure each child is in the appropriate program, provide training and support for our teachers, and focus on building a strong foundation in the early grades.
Patch: How can you provide fiscal responsibility as well as transparency to the board's actions?
Read: There are a number of ways in which the board evaluates the use of funds, some of these include budget updates, our annual data study session, individual school’s Single Plan For Student Achievement, regular progress reports on programs and assessments. All of these reports are presented at board meetings during open session and I actively encourage members of the community to attend.
Another tool that I use is school site visits. Every year I visit each school site to tour classrooms and discuss activities and programs with the school’s administration. This gives me first hand experience as to the effectiveness of the programs and student engagement. It also allows me the opportunity to talk with teachers and staff to get their perspective on what is happening at their site.
In addition, this October the District held its State of the District event at the Campbell Community Center. The District addressed families, staff, and the community and updated them on the current status of the district. Topics included the district background, number of students and schools, academic success, review of funding sources, and budget allocations.
Patch: How will you better involve the parent community?
I think the key to strengthening our parental and community involvement is communication. We need to be reaching out to our stakeholders in a variety of ways and on a regular basis. By sharing our stories, successes and familiarizing everyone with the programs and opportunities available in the CUSD they will have a better idea of how they can support the district. Identifying clear and effective channels for communication will go a long way to building bonds and establishing trust between the district and our community. Attending school and community events and speaking with stakeholders will create that personal connection and bring awareness to the district.
Patch: What do you think is your district's biggest challenge?
The achievement gap is a nation wide issue and one that CUSD is working hard to tackle. As mentioned earlier, the board has shown their commitment to addressing this issue with the implementation of the extensive intervention programs. We will need to continue to evaluate these programs, provide training and support for our teachers, and focus on building a strong foundation in the early grades.
The arrival of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) provides us with the opportunity to examine our current practices and to find new and innovative programs that address these standards. CUSD has many enthusiastic and inspiring leaders who are working hard to keep the district in the forefront of implementation of CCSS. We need to continue to support and encourage this creative thinking as well as provide training and coaching to our teachers.
Learning in the 21st Century is another challenge facing our District. The district has taken the first step in addressing this issue by launching our STEAM Initiative. This initiative augments the more commonly know STEM initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) but adds Art as CUSD believes the Arts are an important part of learning and should not be left out. STEAM is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that will provide rigorous academic concepts along with real world problem and performance based lessons. I am happy to say that I will be a member of the STEAM committee that will bring together board members, teachers, administrators, professors, industry leaders and parents who will help guide this initiative.
And finally, funding is probably the most talked about issue facing education right now especially with two propositions on this November’s ballot and it would be remiss of me not to mention it. I feel that the district’s prudent financial planning has allowed us to maintain our high educational standards. We will continue to monitor our budget, evaluate expenditures and explore all available options for maintaining these high standards.
For more of Patch's November 2012 Election Coverage, click here.