Can you give me some basic background information about you and your career in education?
I attended Riverside City College where I majored in Administration of Justice. I moved to Ridgecrest in 1982 as I accepted a police officer position with the Ridgecrest Police Department. I worked for the RPD for 19 years achieving the rank of Sergeant. I taught the D.A.R.E. program, where I saw first-hand how important class size reduction was to our students as it allowed a manageable teacher-to-student ratio. I subsequently ran for school board in 1996 and was elected. Shortly after, the district approved K-3 class size reduction which has helped provide a solid educational foundation for our students. In 2001, I accepted a deputy position with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. There I promoted through the ranks to Lieutenant and achieved a management certificate from the State of California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. After 32 years in law enforcement, I took a position as a security specialist with the Federal Government and have been working at NAWS China Lake since 2014. Since joining the School Board, I have enhanced my knowledge by attending yearly training through the California School Boards Association and have completed their Masters in Governance program.
Why are you running for the school board this year?
I am running for school board as SSUSD needs experienced board members leading the recovery efforts, ensuring we maintain quality education, and staying fiscally solvent.
During the past 14 months, SSUSD has faced some serious hurdles. The earthquakes caused serious damage to our schools. Our teachers, staff and community came together and fought through the destruction. In March, we were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic which forced our county’s schools to close. We entered uncharted territory with no road map to guide us. Again our teachers and staff stepped up to the plate and instituted a comprehensive Distance Learning program. This pandemic is also creating a fiscal crisis for California as well as every school district including SSUSD. Over the past several years, our school board has been extremely financially conservative in order to keep the district fiscally solvent. We intentionally increased our reserves from 3% to 5% in order to develop a “rainy day fund” for economic uncertainties. These three major events (earthquakes, COVID-19, fiscal crisis) are a devastating chain of events at a time when we are also in the process of executing the newest DOD grant in order to build the new Richmond School.
What are some things you hope to accomplish if you are elected to the board?
As we enter these extremely challenging times, I recognize the importance of providing the very best educational opportunity to all students during this pandemic, and possibly beyond. Looking ahead, I would like to help provide the guidance and oversight required to ensure innovation during this time. As we move forward, there will be families who seek the quickest pathway back to on campus learning and some who are not quite ready for that. I would like to see our district develop pathways that bring choice to families so that there are both on campus and virtual opportunities as we transition back to our new normal. As I look forward to the next couple of years, l would like to see the successful completion/construction of the new Richmond Elementary School using our experience and “lessons learned” from Murray School construction to enhance and speed up the construction process while keeping the district fiscally solvent. This includes maintaining our staffing levels and pre-COVID programs and activities.
Are there any federal and/or state programs that would provide financial assistance to the district that we have not taken advantage of yet?
I do not feel that we have “left any money on the table”. SSUSD has always been aggressive in the pursuit of bonds, grants and all federal/state programs that provide financial assistance to the district. We have been awarded grants and bonds totaling over $100 million dollars during my tenure on the board, which has allowed us the ability to update our aging infrastructure, modernize our schools, build the Burroughs High School CTE Building and build a brand new Murray Middle School. The most recent DOD grant which will be in excess of $50 million dollars will allow the district to build a new Richmond Elementary School. Since COVID-19 we have obtained over $5 million in federal relief funds (CARES Act) which are being used to ensure appropriate technology and resources for Distance Learning. At the same time, use of these funds will ensure our safe return to campuses when we are authorized and able to do so. We continue to receive annual grant monies to build and sustain our award-winning career/technical education program. Lastly, we have been very fortunate to receive multiple Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) grant awards which place additional counselors in our schools.
What are your top priorities for the district?
First and foremost the safety of our students, staff, and community is my top priority. We need to ensure we are following CDC guidelines in order to keep our students and staff safe while maintaining a quality education program. This situation is very fluid and dynamic and changes on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. My next priority is the need to transition into “on-campus” classes. Studies have shown that students excel and learn more when they are in a classroom setting. Students with special needs can be especially disadvantaged in a virtual-only educational environment, which is why I am so supportive of the efforts currently underway to bring back small cohorts of acute-needs students back on to our campuses for targeted and specialized support/services. But one of my top priorities moving forward includes identifying the silver linings that are associated with the impact of pandemic. We now have new opportunities that we can seize as a result of the pandemic and the forced closure of our schools. We now can look at all delivery methods and possibly develop new and permanent choices as we look to the future. We have invested a tremendous amount of faculty and staff expertise into building up a rigorous and comprehensive Distance Learning program. When we go back to on campus learning some of our students and their families may prefer a virtual program. We have really moved the needle on distance learning and I see tremendous opportunity for enhancements to our permanent offerings when the pandemic is over.
What strengths do you bring to the board as an individual?
The strengths I bring to the board are my dedication, honesty, work ethics, leadership experience, management skills, problem solving and my positive mindset. I have always worked in positions where teamwork was always a major portion of the position and I have always excelled working with all team members. I am in a unique position as I have taught in the schools, been an active member of different unions, and have held positions at the City, County and Federal levels of Government. I have developed a network at all levels of government and this experience coupled with my twenty-four years of experience on the school board has given me some valuable insight/resources that assists me in this position. When the district built the new Murray Middle School, this four-year process required us to deal with twenty-three (23) regulatory agencies at the local, County, State and Federal levels. We successfully navigated this complex process and these “lessons learned” will assist us as we move into our next construction project-Richmond School. I am passionate about the success of Sierra Sands Unified School District and I look forward to bringing my strength of experience as a trusted board member.