Local Implementation of the FAIR Education Act

Due to the large amount of interest in this topic and the number of questions that I have received, I am providing this post in order to clear up some of the misunderstandings that are out there about the Fair Education Act (SB 48) and how it impacts the Conejo Valley Unified School District.

My comments that follow are reflective of my own understanding of how the process of implementing this new instruction material will look – per the law and Education Code – and do not reflect the view of the board or of CVUSD.

Prior to being elected to office as a CVUSD Trustee, I campaigned on local control, accountability and transparency, as well as parental involvement in our children’s education.  I believe it is inappropriate to simply rubber-stamp those things that are merely intended as recommendations from Sacramento (and not law).  Our district should decide what is best for our particular area whenever possible.

During my campaign, I wrote a letter to the Acorn and said the following:

Something happens when you listen—you become less rigid and more collaborative and innovative in your decision-making. I will seek out and value the input of teachers, staff, administrators, parents and the community that elected me.”

I want to assure people that I have been doing this.  I have met with many people, including teachers and administrators, since this policy was first presented to us on Dec. 6th – my first meeting as a newly elected Trustee – and they have graciously taken the time to answer my questions.  I have listened carefully to public comments.  I have also carefully read each email I have received. I have heard and valued opinions from many different and opposing perspectives.  I continue to listen.  Additionally, I have worked hard to be informed about the law, state content standards, the curriculum framework, the curriculum development process, textbook adoption and many other aspects of adopting a new instruction policy.  I have done this not only to prepare myself to vote, but also to be knowledgeable when answering questions and/or concerns from a variety of community members and parents as we move forward over the coming months and years getting our new history-social science instruction fully implemented.

As far as school board trustee responsibilities go, policy adoption is among our most important responsibilities.  Instruction policy updates customarily occur once every 7-10 years.  I thank my fellow board members for extending me the professional courtesy of more time than one week to study and become informed on this very important process.  I will extend my fellow Trustees the same courtesy if ever asked.

The FAIR Education Act

The FAIR Education Act (Senate Bill 48) is a state law that was passed in 2011 and has been in effect since January of 2012.  This legislation amended the following sections of the Education Code: 51204.5, 51500, 51501, 60040 and 60044. Each school district must comply with this law and the pending CVUSD board of education vote on History-Social Studies Instruction policy is NOT about whether or not we will comply with the law.  All school districts in our area and all of California will comply, but how each district chooses to do that may vary.

Curriculum

It is given to each district to choose at which grade levels the FAIR Education Act directive instructional material will be taught and the choice of which specific material will be used in support of teaching that content.  We will follow the law but how exactly we do that will be determined by our local teachers, administrators, staff, parents and other stakeholders under the direction of the school board. The state offers guidelines (framework) with examples of how to do this, but these examples are not mandated or prescriptive (See Ed Code 33308.5).  Future textbook choices will also vary in how the FAIR Act material is presented.

Here is a helpful link on the California Department of Education website about the FAIR Act (SB 48).  I recommend reading these frequently asked questions (FAQ) and answers.  http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/senatebill48faq.asp

For illustration purposes, I will quote a few of these questions and answers from the CDE FAQ sheet:

What new instruction is required to be taught by this law? At which grade levels does this content have to be taught?

Instruction in history–social science should include the contributions of those groups listed above in Education Code Section 51204.5, but it is up to local districts to determine how the instructional content is included. That section applies to the course of study in grades one through twelve, but again it falls to the teacher and the local school and district administration to determine how the content is covered and at which grade level(s).

Since a section of the Ed Code is referenced in the above paragraph, here is what the CDE FAQ sheet includes regarding Ed Code 51204.5:

The bill added language to Education Code Section 51204.5, which prescribes the inclusion of the contributions of various groups in the history of California and the United States. This section already included men and women and numerous ethnic groups; the expanded language now includes (additions bolded):

“…a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.”

From the Fair Education Act website “About Fair” page:

Who Will Determine What is Taught Under These Updated Education Guidelines?

There is no state-mandated curriculum on these topics. Instead, the state issues guidelines and then lessons are developed and approved at the local level, where school districts and school board members, with input from parents and teachers, will decide what’s appropriate for each classroom.

 The Framework

The framework is produced by the California Department of Education as a guide or roadmap for curriculum development but it is not mandatory for local school districts [See Ed Code 33308.5], therefore, it can be used as needed but is not intended to be a prescriptive model.  The history-social studies framework material regarding the FAIR Act is included in grades 2, 4, 5, 8, 11 & 12.  Those interested can read these sections of the framework.  Again, it can be decided on the local level which grades SB 48 material will be taught.  The framework is located at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/cf/sbedrafthssfw.asp

The following information from the FAIR Act website explains who worked on the FAIR Act material for the framework (See http://www.faireducationact.com/about-fair/):

Making the Framework FAIR

In partnership with the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History (CLGBTH), an affiliated society of the American Historical Association, Our Family Coalition  and Gay-Straight Alliance Network supported the project of putting together recommended revisions to the existing framework. You can access the recommendations and learn something new about LGBT history in the 2014 report Making the Framework FAIR .

Parent Involvement in the Process

Parents and the community are supposed to give input about the selection of instructional materials [See Ed Code 60002].   The parent involvement I spoke of in the board meeting on January 3rd is not about speaking at board meetings regarding the vote on the policy (although this is a very important aspect of the process as per Ed Code 35145.5).  This is about parents actually working on a committee to participate in textbook and supplemental material selection.  Curriculum review will take place in approximately one year, and thus textbook selection is at least a couple of years from now.  I hope that many parents from different backgrounds and viewpoints participate in the textbook selection process so that we can make decisions that are broadly acceptable to students, parents and teachers.

Also from the CDE FAQ sheet on the FAIR Education Act (http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/senatebill48faq.asp):

How should school districts address questions and concerns from parents and other members of the community about this legislation?

As with any other district policy, school districts should be open and transparent in determining policies with regard to the implementation of this and any legislation. As noted in the answers above, the law provides a great deal of flexibility on how it is implemented. Education Code Section 35145.5 requires that local governing boards include opportunities for public participation in their regular meetings, subject to local regulations, to ensure the proper functioning of those meetings.

 Conclusion

Most of the controversy surrounding the amendment of CVUSD Board Policy [6142.94] appears to be due to misunderstandings and/or misinformation. The board has never debated whether or not to implement the FAIR Education Act (SB 48), since following the law is not up for debate. Many of the public comments during board meetings have indicated a mistaken impression that the board is somehow voting on the FAIR Act (SB 48). This is not the case. The discussion has not centered around the law itself, but rather the history-social science curriculum framework, which is a non-mandatory guideline that is utilized as a tool for teachers and others working on curriculum, as discussed above [See Ed Code 33308.5]. There is no question about whether or not FAIR Act instructional material will be incorporated into the CVUSD curriculum, since that was decided by the California legislature in 2011. All that is being decided right now is the board policy that will guide the district’s process for deciding how material will be incorporated and in which grade levels.

Sandee Everett, M.S.Ed.
Trustee, Conejo Valley Unified School District

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Relocation of Conejo Valley High School

cvhs1The sale of the historic Timber school (circa 1924) which houses Conejo Valley High School on Kelley Road has set off months of debate and controversy in our community over where our CVHS students’ will be relocated. Selling this property with no solid relocation plan was a disastrous board decision.

Not only was the property sold far below its value (sold for $8.9MM and a year later it is now back on the market by the new owners for $20MM), but the district has relocated maintenance and operations (M&O), which was also housed on the Kelley Road property, to a location that is too small and does not meet safety standards. The district has spent at least $11.4MM relocating M&O and is renting the school back from the buyer who took advantage of us for $25,000 per month (it was $50,000 per month before M&O was relocated).  We have already spent over $600,000 renting the property back and have signed another year lease.

The financial side of this is devastating but what pains me even more is the way the students and staff of CVHS have been put in the middle of this controversy. These are some of our most vulnerable students. Their school never should have been sold out from under them.

Each time a location has been publicized as a possible option for housing CVHS, it has been met with strong resistance. I understand this. Proposing to place a high school in a facility that was originally designed as a neighborhood elementary school is not going to be an easy sell. No one wants their neighborhood school to be repurposed and completely changed. Unfortunately, this has put the students of CVHS in the very difficult position of not knowing where they will be located.

Many solutions have been offered up for where to move CVHS. There were a total of ten existing sites plus new construction options that were explored this summer by a CVUSD ad hoc committee. See link for reports: http://www.conejousd.org/TheConejoValleyLearningCenter(CVLC).aspx.

sandee-everett-2016The committee was charged by the superintendent and the board with finding a solution that would house CVHS, Century Academy (online program) and a future Career Technical Education (CTE) program which would be the Conejo Valley Learning Center (CVLC).

If the mandate is removed that all three of these programs must be housed in the same facility, then many more location options open up for CVHS.

Because the option chosen by the committee (which was not unanimous) was to put the new CVLC at Waverly, I cannot support this option. This would displace and potentially damage too many successful programs that serve vulnerable populations. These possibly include the Adult ESL program and the United Cerebral Palsy program (which has been housed at Waverly for the past 27 years). No relocation plan that adequately addresses the concerns of moving these programs has been provided. Moving these programs will cause further disruption to other successful CVUSD programs.

Importantly, the Waverly neighborhood does not want the change of a new CVLC in their neighborhood and I understand and respect their wishes. I believe we need to look elsewhere.

I cannot wholeheartedly support the TOHS option either. I was given a tour of CVHS a few days ago. This was a tour from outside the gate and after hours. The superintendent does not allow school board challenger candidates, only incumbent candidates, to tour programs and speak to principals during school hours. After having the CVHS campus explained to me I know the TOHS option would not provide anything near what they have on Kelley Road. We owe it to the students of CVHS to find a solution that most closely matches what they have. Their current ideal location is about a 5-acre property and provides 17 rooms, a large soccer field, a woodshop, gardens, a weight room, an auditorium and more. I believe it was the right thing to thoroughly vet the TOHS option – especially because the community sees the huge cost difference between the Waverly and TOHS option. However, ultimately the students should not pay the price for poor board planning and decision-making regarding their school. They deserve a comparable replacement.

At the current board majority’s direction, the solutions the CVUSD ad hoc committee seriously considered this summer were only solutions for a complete Learning Center concept. In order to find the best solution, I believe we need to thoroughly consider options that do not keep CVHS, Century Academy and a new CTE program in the same location. The Learning Center concept might be a good idea but may not be feasible – especially because Ventura County just built us a brand-new CTE facility that apparently the current CVUSD board members do not want our students to use. For me the most important thing is ensuring we find a home for CVHS where they will be able to continue their program substantially as they have it now and no current successful programs that serve vulnerable populations are displaced and/or harmed.

This is a complex issue that will require much more planning and stakeholder input before final decisions should be made. The current board majority is rigid and unwilling to revisit decisions when legitimate and important concerns are brought to their attention. I believe we need fresh ideas and new people on the board who provide new directives and vision for finding the proper location for CVHS before we will come up with the best solution.

– Sandee Everett

Teachers are our District’s Greatest Asset

sandee-everett-2016I believe that teachers are our District’s greatest asset. The role public school teachers play in society is critically important – it is one of society’s most important jobs. What could be more important than the education of our children? Teachers need to be understood and supported by parents, staff, administrators and District leadership to succeed in the goal of providing an excellent education for our children. Education is a collaborative effort. Providing teachers with sufficient technology, professional development and the flexibility to innovate are all essential to ensuring the best education possible for our children.

I am the daughter of two public school teachers and I was raised to love teachers and the public school system. I intimately understand teachers. Below are yearbook pictures of my mom and dad back when they were teaching (both are retired now). My dad taught at the high school and my mom taught at the middle school level. They were dedicated to their work and I hope that my work on the school board will be a continuation of their legacy of teaching and service.

judi-roe-sandees-schoolteacher-mom-caption

ken-roe-sandees-schoolteacher-dad-caption

I believe that teachers go into their profession because they know the value of what they do and they enjoy helping kids. I have found this to be the case with both my parents as well as the teachers that my own children have had. My children have benefited from amazing teachers in this district. Between my five children, they have had more than sixty CVUSD teachers.

I have volunteered in many classrooms. I have seen excellent classroom management styles, experienced the concern teachers show to individual students, witnessed teachers giving of their personal time during lunch and after school to ensure students were supported, and seen their professionalism while teaching. We really have some of the most amazing, caring, and dedicated teachers there are.

Members of the school board need to understand teachers in order to be effective. The school board represents the community and provides a check and balance to the administration – but the board also makes a lot of decisions that affect teachers as well as the day-to-day happenings in their classrooms.

My oldest daughter is twenty-two. When I asked her about some of her experiences with her high school teachers, here are a couple of her responses. I feel these examples can provide us all with a glimpse into what our teachers do and the lasting impact they have on their students:

“I loved Mr. LaRocca because his class was super interactive. We often did debates and he always made sure to stay neutral during them. He never told us which political party he affiliated with and encouraged us to figure out for ourselves what we believed as far as politics went.”

“Ms. Rayl challenged me intellectually and I actually looked forward to doing readings for her class. We read Hamlet that year and ever since I’ve always loved it. I was able to connect the things we learned to my own personal beliefs and found a lot of value in coming to class as far as my personal growth went.”

I am committed to working well with teachers, staff, parents, the community and administrators. I will listen to teachers and work to build relationships of trust and understanding. If elected I believe teachers will find me to be someone that works hard to ensure our focus always stays on what is best for all students – and I believe this is also the focus of our amazing teachers.

Sandee Everett, MSEd

Grant Brimhall Endorses Sandee Everett for CVUSD School Board

During the more than two decades that I served as the City Manager of the City of Thousand Oaks I had the privilege of working closely with exceptional members of our School Board, their administrative staff and scores of faculty members. Excellent leadership in our School District is extremely critical to ensure that all our students have the opportunity to experience solid and balanced educational opportunities. Your children and ours deserve it; and, provide it we must! Therefore, I enthusiastically endorse Sandee Everett and invite you to join me in her candidacy for the Conejo Valley School District Board of Education. Sandee has the background, the temperament, the experience, and the values that we need on our school board.grantbrimhallwithgrandkidsatlibrary

In my view Sandee is by far the most highly qualified candidate for our Board of Education that I have seen in years. Above and beyond her years of volunteer service in the schools and community, she has a Master’s Degree in Education from a highly respected program (Purdue University), and holds an active California license as a K-12 School Counselor. Sandee understands education issues inside and out from the perspective of helping students succeed, and she will bring this valuable expertise to our School Board.

Sandee is levelheaded, good-natured, hard working and works well with people of all backgrounds and worldviews. I am sure that, in part, this is the result of her training as a school counselor. Additionally, her readiness to serve our children and our school district is enhanced by her long history of community and church service.

Sandee brings enormous energy, insight and solid values to education issues. She is the daughter of two public school teachers. Public Education is in her blood and she will work tirelessly on behalf of students, teachers and parents. She has continually shown tremendous dedication to our school district by faithfully attending School Board meetings since early 2015, by serving on the Student Publications Handbook committee, and through her involvement in the schools where her children have and do attend.

Because Sandee is the full-time mom of children currently in CVUSD schools, I am confident that she will be particularly sensitive to the concerns of parents, our children, and their families. She will represent our district with integrity and solid educational expertise. For these reasons, I will be voting for Sandee Everett on Election Day. Please join me in supporting this exceptionally prepared, well-educated, devoted and integrity-laden woman.

Dr. Grant R. Brimhall
Retired City Manager
City of Thousand Oaks, California

Meeting the Needs of Gifted Students

During my school counseling training at Purdue University, I was privileged to be mentored and instructed by a leading expert in high-ability/gifted students, Dr. Jean Peterson. My understanding of this important student population will bring valuable insight and perspective to the school board if I am elected.

All students are unique. Their learning styles and abilities vary considerably, creating interesting challenges for teachers as they strive to meet the needs of their students.

However, the diversity among gifted students can be extreme. The importance of keeping this population of students engaged and thriving at school is critical not only to their academic success, but to society as a whole – as what they have to offer is a new generation of innovation and genius as we move into an even more competitive and global economy.

Gifted students, especially when they are young, can sometimes be targeted as problems because they are often bored at school. They can also be hard on themselves and demand perfection of themselves. If individual gifted students are understood, their social/emotional needs are met and their thirst for knowledge and achievement is nurtured, they will not fall into the common pitfall of underachievement.

In addition to CVUSD’s impressive offerings for gifted students, I believe we can provide more options, especially at the grade school level. I would work to ensure that the gifted program at each elementary and middle school campus is meeting the needs of those gifted students who wish to stay at their neighborhood school.

I believe our high schools already do a great job at serving high-ability/gifted students. The Honors, AP and IB level courses, impressive labs, our wide array of foreign language classes and other rigorous class offerings are examples of how our high schools engage and challenge gifted students.

We just need to ensure gifted students reach high school already excelling and ready to take advantage of these opportunities rather than bored, jaded and drifting into underachievement.

If elected to the Conejo Valley school board, I will support gifted student offerings at all levels and advocate for the individualized needs of these exceptional students. Each one of them has the potential to change the world.

– Sandee Everett, MSEd & California Licensed School Counselor

Horizon Hills Parenting Program: A Gem Worth Saving

eilene_landscapeI was given a tour of the Horizon Hills school and its Parenting Program and Preschool by Eilene Green (the director). The philosophy there is that the parents are the students while they fully engage in the pre-school experience with their children. This is an opportunity for parents to learn and put into practice proven, successful parenting skills in a warm, supportive environment. Parents who participate in this program learn important skills that often help them continue being very actively involved in their children’s education throughout their K-12 education.

The setting for this school is truly special. Each of the classrooms are inviting and have access to outdoor spaces – which is an important part of the learning environment the school creates for the children. It is also tucked away in a neighborhood where the playgrounds are private and with plenty of parking for the 200 plus families that attend each day.

This award-winning school serves approximately 700 families at any given time. The Horizon Hills Parenting Program and Preschool is a program that makes CVUSD special. It is impossible to completely understand what this school offers parents until you explore it for yourself. I encourage anyone with young children – who is interested in learning and developing proven parenting skills – to go and take a tour.

The Horizon Hills Parenting Program is a gem in our community.  We need school board members who understand how much this program means to the parents and families of the Conejo Valley.  The incumbents cannot be trusted to keep Horizon Hills in its highly successful current form.   It is time for school board members who listen to and value community input.  I would be the only member of the school board with children currently attending our CVUSD schools.  This is a perspective that is currently lacking and may account for why some programs that are very important to the community do not seem important to the current board.

Please consider voting for me on November 8th so that I can advocate for the Horizon Hills parenting program.

Sandee Everett, MSEd
Candidate for CVUSD Board of Education

The Importance of Helping At-Risk Students

There has been some discussion recently regarding the relocation of the CVUSD continuation high school. Since I have worked with at-risk students, I think it would be valuable to add my perspective to the conversation.

I believe that each student is capable of achieving his/her potential if provided with appropriate tools and opportunities. I have direct experience working with public school students who were at-risk for not graduating (for a variety of reasons), and this has provided me with a lot of insight into the mission schools play in the community. Helping all students to succeed in school helps the whole community to succeed.

A number of years ago, I had the following internship opportunities to work with at-risk students in multiple settings to help them learn skills to cope with their difficulties while preparing for their personal and professional futures.  Because school counselors advocate for children and adhere to a code of confidentiality, barriers often can be overcome even where other interventions have been unsuccessful.

I worked at the high school level exclusively with at-risk students. I helped ensure they had appropriate teachers and classes to meet their needs. I counseled with them one-on-one about personal issues to ensure they could stay focused at school and could do their best. In addition, I worked at an alternative high school site in group settings. I facilitated small counseling groups for teen moms in this setting. I thoroughly understand the issues facing students who are at-risk for not graduating.

I also had the opportunity to work with a group of middle school students that were placed in the alternative program. Each week I provided approximately eleven students with a small group counseling experience where they were able to discuss topics such as bullying, relationships, and stress. I also did individual counseling for several members of the group. I saw how receiving unconditional positive regard can provide children with support they may otherwise be lacking. I learned first-hand about a whole host of struggles these children face and I saw them learn and grow throughout the group process. On the last day the students gave me thank you notes. The following examples from among those notes reflect how important supporting these students is:

“Dear Ms. Everett,
I liked when we did the yarn ball and liked you coming because I could tell you anything and I could trust you and we will miss you!”

“Dear Ms. Everett,
Thank you so much for taking time and your patience with class because it can get a little mean. I love having you come and we talk about what’s been bothering us, also getting our feelings out. Come and see us soon!”

I am passionate about the mission of helping continuation high school students and at-risk students succeed and go on to become productive members of society. The current site of the Conejo Valley High School (CVHS) has been sold, prompting debate on where the continuation high school should be relocated.  The students and staff of CVHS deserve better and should not have been put in this controversial situation with no prior plan for where their school would be relocated. If I am elected to the Conejo Valley school board, I will work to ensure that the CVHS has the best possible facility to meet the needs of these important students, their teachers and staff.

– Sandee Everett, MSEd

Schools Win When Parents Are Involved

sandee-everett-2016Our schools need engaged parents. I had an experience as an elementary school PTA president that brought this fact home to me. I was asked to speak at career day and share my career as a parent volunteer and full-time mom. All presenters were asked to give a short speech to the entire student body and staff before breaking off into smaller groups to hear from us. I was positioned between the stunt man and the doctor. After the stunt man, I got up and showed my pie-chart entitled “Mom and Volunteer: 24/7/365” which I had divided up into how I used my time each day. I had barely gotten the title out when, to my surprise, the entire gym erupted into applause, then the teachers and staff stood on their feet and gave a standing ovation. Given my apprehension about being compared to the stunt man or the doctor, I was quite shocked by the response.

However, upon reflection, I started to understand their reaction a little better. Schools need parents and parents need schools. When teachers, parents and administrators collaborate and understand each other, children win. When parents invest their time and energy into supporting their children’s education, children win.

I will be a critical voice for parents on the Conejo Valley school board. More important than being the only board member with an advanced degree in education, I would also be the only member of the board with children currently attending CVUSD schools. I will bring unique insight into the issues facing real students and real parents every day. For me, the issues are not hypothetical. They are not theoretical. This is real life.

As a licensed school counselor, I am trained to advocate for the educational needs of every individual student, and as a member of the school board, I will advocate for you and the individualized needs of your child. I want every student to be challenged and succeed in school. Through better communication between school board, parents, teachers and staff, our children will enjoy even greater success.

– Sandee Everett, MSEd