What does your school board care about?

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What does your school board care about?

Teachers advocating for the SDFA sponsored candidates at a rally before the elections.

Teachers advocating for the SDFA sponsored candidates at a rally before the elections.

Taylor Rudman

Teachers advocating for the SDFA sponsored candidates at a rally before the elections.

Taylor Rudman

Taylor Rudman

Teachers advocating for the SDFA sponsored candidates at a rally before the elections.

Story by Aiden Fullwood, News Editor

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Newly elected SDUHSD school board officials Melisse Mossy and Kristin Gibson plan on addressing the district budget deficit by streamlining expenses.

“I am looking forward to finding cost effective ways to deliver an exceptional learning experience to each student while becoming a more streamlined, efficient organization in the process,” Gibson said.

Gibson said her previous experience serving on the Del Mar Union School District board has provided her with experience in cutting costs while still “maintaining a balanced budget and slowly increasing the amount in our reserves.”

Mossy agreed that the school board needs to “make sure we are spending wisely and have a strategic plan to get solid financial ground” and plans to “work closely with our superintendent and fellow board members.”

In addition to the budget, Mossy and Gibson said they consider campus safety a main priority and support changes already being made in schools.

“I look forward to learning how the Torrey Pines surveillance camera pilot program is going and also learning more about the exact details of the safety plan that is already in place,” Mossy said. “What are we doing now? What are we planning to do? What are we not doing and should?”

Gibson said the district is already doing “excellent and comprehensive work in this area…campus security is being assessed and improved, staff has been trained to assess threats…an important part of this will be getting input from our students on this topic.”

For both board members, a strong communication foundation between students and staff is essential in making changes in the district.

“The first thing I plan to do in office is to listen to students, the community, and our staff to learn more about what they want and need,” Gibson said.

“We must know what students, teachers, staff and community members are satisfied with and where we need to improve,” Mossy said. “I think it’s important to see my fellow board members as part of an important decision making team.”

Mossy and Gibson provided lengthy responses when emailed by The Mustang, which will be available online at sdamustang.com.

Incumbent Maureen Muir, who was re-elected, replied with an invitation to attend an SDUHSD Board Governance meeting on Dec. 20.

 

Mossy’s Response: 

  1. Now that you’ve been elected, what is the first thing you plan to do in office?
    I’m not officially in office quite yet, but I am excited to be sworn in on Thursday. Besides already attending the California School Board Association conference for four days for training and workshops, I have been very busy meeting, listening and learning from parents, board members, the superintendent, and community members. I have also been attending district sponsored events (suicide prevention & social media workshops) and have participated in more training at the district level. I am very humbly grateful to be elected to this position and I do not take it lightly. I have already spoken to Dr. Haley about surveying our stakeholders to see exactly how well we are doing as a district. In order to have a plan to move forward, first we must know what students, teachers, staff and community members are satisfied with and where we need to improve. I realize that alone, one board member cannot vote in anything without the support of a board majority, and I think it’s important to see my fellow board members as part of an important decision making team. I believe you will find each member of this board to be professional, respectful, and value the ideas and contributions of one another even if we do not agree. On an extremely preliminary level, I am hoping to have board support not only with a district wide survey, but with implementing a wellness plan as soon as possible.
    So to answer your question more succinctly:
    1) Be knowledgeable about my position, the expectations, and laws.
    2) Work hard to meet with and listen to all interested stakeholders (without violating the Brown Act).
    3) Attend every district event I am invited to if at all possible.
    4) Visit all schools and meet as many stakeholders as possible.
    5) Contribute to creating a professional, positive and high functioning board and a strong team.
    6) Thoroughly do my homework and review every agenda, then meet with the executive committee to ask questions over specific items in advance of meetings whenever possible.
    7) Help get a free and anonymous survey widely distributed with a high level of participation in order to get feedback on how well we are performing and where we need to improve. Include students, staff and all stakeholders.
    8) Help ensure a positively impactful and helpful wellness plan is in place and is working to keep kids safe. That includes safe campus facilities.
    9) Understand the full scope of our special education programs.
     
  2. Over the next four years, what challenges do you expect the district to face and how do you plan to address them?
    Some of the Challenges We Face:
     
    Students: Academic/ Wellness
    Making sure NO student, regardless of ability or graduation status, falls through the cracks, including our special ed students and those in the ATP (Adult Transition Program). By understanding the full scope of all of our programs and working with staff and families, I am hopeful we can continue to improve all of our programs district wide. We must ensure we are doing everything possible to support the wellness of our students. We can visit other school sites and districts to glean from best practices and bring new ideas and innovation home. Surveying our students, giving them resources and tools to get help, having an easy to use app for students who need help to reach out or to help a friend who needs help would be of great benefit. There is a lot already in the works on this issue, and I look forward to learning more about each program in detail as well as the roll out timelines. I am hopeful we can make a real difference in this area and will work hard to do so.
    We need to ensure our studentsare as safe as possible. I look forward to learning how the Torrey Pines surveillance camera pilot program is going and also learning more about the exact details of the safety plan that is already in place. What are we doing now? What are we planning to do? What are we not doing and should?
     
    Class Size- We need feedback, data, and a plan to ensure our students are given optimal learning environments. Does class size affect academics and wellness? We need to know the absolute truth on this issue and make sure we are all in agreement if possible. If we can lower class size, again we will need to look at creative solutions and partnerships to increase funding. I plan to work with our superintendent and fellow board members closely on this issue as well.
     
    District:
    Shoring up our Budget & Reserves, We need to look at the budget very, very closely and streamline any extraneous expenses. We need to make sure we are spending wisely and have a strategic plan to get to solid financial ground. Again we need creative solutions and partnerships to increase funding. I plan to work closely with our superintendent and fellow board members closely on this issue and really dive into the budget to fully understand where the money is going, why and how can we save.
     
    Communication: We are doing so many things really well at SDUHSD we need to share them. We can do this through video emails, apps, texts, a youtube channel, or something else. We also need a seamless way to communicate to students and families. I think the website could be more user friendly. I think that opt in text alerts could also be helpful. We need to make sure students have a voice in the policies that are made and that all citizens feel heard and respected. We need to make sure the public is heard and their concerns are addressed.
     
    Having a school board who works as a team ( this is already happening as of today). Modeling professional and ethical behavior at all times.
     
    Staff: Contract Negotiations
    I believe anyone who is dedicated and engaged working with children deserves to be paid well. The challenge lies in our restrictive budget that is currently under strain. We need to know how our new governor plans to fund education and how’s policies will directly affect SDUHSD. So far everything I have heard is favorable. We need to look at creative solutions and partnerships to increase funding. I plan to work with our superintendent and fellow board members closely on this issue.
     
  3. What can be done to address the district budget deficit and increase school safety from shootings?
    See above

 

Gibson’s Response: 

1. The first thing I plan to do in office is to listen to students, the community, and our staff to learn more about what they want and need. I also want to invest time in building healthy, trusting relationships with all stakeholders which will serve as a foundation for all our future work. I also have some studying to do in certain areas that are new to me, such as high school athletics. 
 
2. I believe our main challenge going forward will be the same challenge faced by most districts: our budget.  However, challenges bring opportunities. I am looking forward to finding cost effective ways to deliver an exceptional learning experience to each student while becoming a more streamlined, efficient organization in the process.
 
3. I believe we address the deficit by prioritizing what is most important to the community and collaboratively exploring creative funding opportunities. When I served on the board of the Del Mar Union School District, we were able to cut costs as needed while improving our instructional program, creating and maintaining a balanced budget and slowly increasing the amount in our reserves. In terms of school safety, the district is already doing excellent comprehensive work in this area. Social emotional learning programs are being evaluated and implemented, campus security is being assessed and improved, staff have been trained to assess threats and respond to active shooter situations, and the district is exploring technology and training that will allow us to identify people who may be of harm to themselves or others before a violent incident occurs. However, this will be ongoing work, and we will continue to explore other options for making our schools safer. An important part of this will be getting input from our students on this topic.
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