Meet the Candidates Part 5: GUSD Q & A continued

On April 5 voters who live within the Glendale Unified School District area will be asked to choose two candidates out of the eight vying for a seat on the district’s school board. The school board members are elected by voters to establish the educational policies of the district. In addition to guiding policy decisions they are also charged with hiring the superintendent of the district. School board members are elected to a four-year term and receive minimum compensation. In an effort to inform the public of the candidates running for the board of education the Crescenta Valley Weekly has sent to the candidates questions pertaining to the district’s governing board. Below are their answers. This week we present responses by Ingrid Gunnell, Jennifer Freemon and Ami Fox

1) What do you feel you can bring to the Glendale board of education?

Ingrid Gunnell

I am a 13-year classroom teacher in Los Angeles Unified School District.  I have worked under the extreme budget cuts of over $18 billion to public education over the last 2 years in the state of CA, which have led to larger class sizes and the elimination of programs and personnel.  Under these cuts we have seen student achievement and expectations continue to rise due to the perseverance of students, classroom teachers, health and human services personnel, classified staff, and parents.  I am also the parent of a current kindergarten student and another son who will attend kindergarten next year.  I feel that I was afforded a wonderful education in Glendale Public Schools and the state of CA and want that for my students and my own sons.

My top three priorities for GUSD are:

*Parental and Community Involvement.Parents and community stakeholders should be well informed of educational issues and legislation so that they can make informed decisions which help advocate for public education.  Parents need to be given the tools to become more involved in their students’ academic lives.  School communities need to think outside of the box in planning for parental involvement, and be willing to accommodate different schedules of working parents.

*Resources Focused on the Classroom and School Site Levels. Resources should be focused on serving students first.  Class-size, length of the school year, and student services need to be the key consideration when allocating financial resources.

*Transparency and Accountability.As a school board member, I will have the duty to see that taxpayer money is spent on what is best for students.  Budgets need to be open and easy to understand, and school board members should be forthright with rationales for budget allocations and curricular decisions.

Jennifer Freemon

The single strongest asset I bring to the Glendale Board of Education is my ability to create open lines of communication. The current school board has seen a severe breakdown in communication with its teachers, neighbors, Glendale City Council, and parents. I bring the dedication required to create and build bridges in the community. I look forward to creating and repairing bridges between all of our teachers, the City Council, and our neighbors. I will advocate for improved communication with the communities surrounding our neighborhood schools. It is the responsibility of the school board to include all the stake holders in meaningful discussions about our schools.

As a parent of children in the district and a former teacher at Toll Middle School and Hoover High School, I bring a variety of skills and strengths to the Glendale Board of Education. I am a parent of a first grader at Franklin Elementary with two more children on their way into the district. I have the perspective of a parent and will bring the dedication and concern of a parent to the board. As a teacher, I have Master’s Degree in Education and many successful years in GUSD teaching and mentoring other teachers.

Most importantly, I bring dedication and passion to the school board. I am passionate about public education and I believe it is the duty of the school board to educate each and every child. I look forward to sharing that passion for public education and fighting for our quality schools.

Ami Fox

The perspective of a parent, classroom teacher and concerned resident of Glendale. I have no aspirations to use this as a platform to launch a political career. My primary objective is keeping the quality of our educational standards high.

2) What is the number one challenge facing the Glendale school district and what is your plan to address this challenge?

Ingrid Gunnell

The budget is the single biggest challenge facing the school district.  To address this issue I will work with employees, bargaining units, parents, and community members to listen to their concerns and invite their ideas to work through this crisis in a manner that is open, transparent, and accountable to students, families, employees, and other taxpayers.  Each group may not agree with all of my decisions, but they will know that their voices were heard and that I will do what is best for student achievement.  I want to keep cuts as far away from student services as possible.

Jennifer Freemon

By far, the number one challenge facing the Glendale school district is the state budget. Unfortunately we can not control how much money we receive, but we can determine how we spend that money. There will be no easy way to balance the budget and still provide the high quality education and small class sizes we expect of our Glendale schools. The only way to be successful is to have all of our stakeholders, parents, teachers, school officials, and community members, working together to find new and creative solutions.

First and foremost we need to take a long, hard look at where we are spending our money. Every dollar that can be redirected to supporting the classroom and keeping class sizes low needs to do so. We also need to look at ways of increasing our ADA and other district revenue. Programs like the immersion and arts programs that keep our neighborhood kids in public school, rather than switching to private, should be supported. Schools with historically low enrollment figures should be encouraged to develop diverse and high quality programs to increase the population with out of district transfers. Outside funding sources should continue to be explored, including grants and community partnerships. All of this only works when we all commit to working together. The school board must provide the leadership to bring the stake holders together facilitate the process to create relationships, trust and then we can create solutions, together, to keep our schools great.

Ami Fox

The greatest issue is facing GUSD is money, or lack of it. My plan includes fiscal responsibility while continuing grant writing to acquire additional moneys. The first thing to do is to sit down and take a hard look at how money is being spent and see what we can continue to pay for with less money and what needs to be cut.

3) Glendale district is unique in the diverse student population it serves. How do you avoid painting all the schools in the district with one brush or do you feel universal district policies are more productive?

Ingrid Gunnell

I feel that universal policies have a place so that there is equity for the needs of all students.  However, I feel that many decisions need to be made at the school site level so that parents have input and the needs of students are addressed where the students are.  I would like to host forums for employees where they have the opportunity to freely discuss the positives and challenges happening at their schools.  I want parents to know that they have legal and parental rights to have input into their student’s education.  To accomplish this, meetings need to be held when parents can attend.  This may include evenings and weekends.  We also need to provide childcare, adequate parking, and food.

Jennifer Freemon

As difficult as it can be at times, each school is a distinct community whose needs may be different than other schools in the district. As we create policies and look at how to best serve our students we need to take a close look and see which policies are beneficial for all schools and which programs are specific to a particular school.

Community input is vital to keeping our neighborhood schools relevant. As we look for solutions in these difficult budget times we must reach out to the community to determine priorities at each school site. Those priorities need to be considered with the priorities of the other schools in the cluster (ie. CVHS, Rosemont Middle, Valley View, Lincoln, Dunsmore, Mountain Avenue, Freemont, La Crescenta Elementary schools combined) so our children have a consistent experience as they move from elementary, to middle, to high school. This allows each area to develop their own identity as a community have the schools that reflect that identity.

Ami Fox

I believe that each school has its own climate that should be respected. Many ideas implemented are top down which does not serve the individual personalities of the schools and students. I feel that ideas should be cultivated by the people who are working the most closely with our students, the parents and the teachers.