Blog - Sandee Everett - CVUSD School Board

My Answers to Student Forum Questions

Student Forum hosted by Ventura County Youth Coalition, September 10, 2020

School Board Candidates were given six questions in advance of the forum. The following are my written responses to these questions.

Introduction:

Hi, my name is Sandee Everett and I’m a current Trustee on the Conejo Valley Unified School District School Board. I am running for re-election and we need your vote in November.

I grew up in a family of ten children and my mom and dad were both public school teachers. I understand teachers and the value of being frugal and staying within a budget.

I am the full-time mother of five children, three of whom graduated from Newbury Park High School and two that are currently attending Newbury Park. Because I currently have children in the schools, I vested interest in their success.

I earned a master’s degree in education from Purdue University and I hold an active California School Counselor license.  One of my guiding principles as a board member is that parents know what is best for their own children. I will always protect a parent’s right to choose what is best for their own children.

Please go to my website, SandeeEverett.com for more information

1. What are your main goals for the District and what changes or improvements do you want to see being made?

My three main goals would be to open our campuses, improve educational outcomes and reverse declining enrollment

OPEN OUR SCHOOLS

None of us expected that our kids would still be sitting in their rooms doing their schooling on the computer rather than back at school with their teachers and friends.

Six private schools in the Conejo Valley have now safely reopened their transitional kindergarten through 6th grade classrooms for in-person instruction. This is because the Ventura County Health Department has now deemed it safe to reopen our kindergarten through 6th grade classrooms using a waiver process. The county health director cited as his reasoning the information put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that have both indicated that for kids, the risks of school closure are greater than the risks of COVID-19.

Among the risks of school closures are severe learning loss; disparities in educational outcomes particularly for low-income, minority students and students with disabilities; lack of social interaction taking a toll on child social and emotional well-being; increased levels of depression, thoughts of suicide, social anxiety and sexual activity; increase in child abuse and less reporting of child abuse; potential lack of proper nutrition; lack of physical activity 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/reopening-schools.html 

Over 12,000 families responded to our school district survey, conducted in May. 78% of parents indicated that they want their kids back on campus this fall. I believe that because the board is elected by parents and the community, we need to respect the wishes of parents while also continuing to offer online learning, especially for teachers and students with health concerns.

The law requires that the school board "offer our children in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible" (EC 43504).

We also need to join together to get permission to open our middle and high school campuses. Until we receive this permission, we need to regularly survey parents to find out how we can improve.  

The District has already received millions in federal stimulus dollars to implement all state required measures to safely open our schools. It’s time to do the right thing and let kids and parents decide if they wish to safely return to campus. 

IMPROVE EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES

In addition to opening our schools, we must focus our resources on improving student educational outcomes and decreasing the ever-widening achievement gaps in math, science and English Language Arts, for all students at all grade levels.

ENROLLMENT

As far as enrollment, CVUSD has lost over 1000 students between last year and this year. This is roughly the size of 3 of our elementary schools. Declining enrollment has been an issue for the District for well over a decade. In 2016, the District hired a firm to conduct a study and it was determined that roughly ¼ to 1/3 of all school age children in the Conejo Valley do not attend CVUSD. Since 2005 our District has almost 5000 fewer students.

For every 1,000 students we lose, it equates to a $10 million loss in funding. The success of our District impacts all of us, whether we have kids in the schools or not. Property values are positively impacted by our schools. Many families choose to move here because of our school district. We must reverse our declining enrollment trend by effectively resolving parent concerns and providing the flexibility and programs that bring students back or convince them to stay. 

2. How do you plan to address equity and access issues among the students in the district?

First, I want to address the inequities going on because of school closures. The District has many students with disabilities as well as other at-risk students that are struggling with online learning and receiving important services. The board is now permitted to allow these students the choice to receive in-person services and instruction. We cannot drag our feet on this. We must do what is best for the students. 

I will continue to advocate at our board meetings for my fellow board members to join me in offering the option for TK-12th grade students with disabilities to return to campus without delay.

Another glaring inequity in our schools right now is that some families can afford to supplement their children’s online learning and others cannot. The achievement gap is growing wider and wider. I received an email from a parent in the district and she stated:

“I urge you and the District administration to apply for the waiver and reopen campuses. It is very discouraging that the District itself is allowing inequities to exist among the children who reside in the Conejo Valley. Children of private schools in Thousand Oaks are beginning to return to campuses and there has been a bit of an exodus of students from public school to private school because virtual learning cannot replace that which is given on campuses. I personally know elementary-age children who think it would be better to be in Heaven at this time. How does a parent respond to that? “I’m sorry, we don’t have the money to sent you to a school that will advocate for your well-being.” The longer the District waits to apply for a waiver, the more significant the inequities in learning, mental and emotional stability will be felt by the children in the Conejo Valley.”

LAUSD did a study during the school closures in the spring. The results indicated that Latino and Black students "suffered deep disparities in online learning." The study indicated that the current crisis has taken a devastating toll on Black and Latino families because many of the parents work in essential jobs as front line workers. This leaves the children at home to get themselves online for school. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiUl5CjhePrAhUEKH0KHfo6DpUQFjAAegQIBBAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.latimes.com%2Fcalifornia%2Fstory%2F2020-07-16%2Flatino-and-black-students-hard-hit-with-disparities-in-their-struggle-with-online-learning&usg=AOvVaw3JiQQzOtaTCISEE20mJ57T

In addition, in our district many students do not having good internet access. Those families that can afford high speed internet are at an advantage over those using District hotspots. Someone in our community offered our District the opportunity to provide every student in our District with high speed internet access for free. So far, the District has not taken these people up on the offer.

We must prevent a two-tier educational system from immerging during our current crisis. We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that students that can afford certain advantages outperform students that cannot afford them.

In addition, our school accountability report cards in 2017-18 and 2018-19 show that there are deep disparities among students in at-risk populations. 

For example, in 2017-18 in the Thousand Oaks High School area only 30% of Latino students met or exceeded the standards. Only 12% of students with disabilities met or exceeded the standards.

In 2018-19 we improved but still only 54.26% of Latino students met or exceeded the standards and 17.5% of students with disabilities. http://www.conejousd.org/SARC-SPSA

I will continue advocating to focus resources on improving student educational outcomes and decreasing achievement gaps, especially in math, science and English Language Arts, for all students at all grade levels.

3. How do you plan on addressing drug abuse and vaping issues in the District?

Drug abuse and vaping are both huge problems in our community. Ventura County has reached a crisis level number of people addicted to heroine.

ADDRESS UNDERLYING ISSUES

The first question we must ask ourselves as decision and policy makers is what is going on with our children that is causing them to turn to drugs? Are there voids our students are trying to fill? Have the students experienced abuse, trauma, neglect, lack of nutrition, bullying? Do they have learning disabilities such as ADHD and smoking is a sort of self-medication?  What feelings are students with drug habits experiencing that are so painful that they are turning to drugs to suppress and cover their feelings? How is social media playing a role in the depression our students are experiencing? What are the impacts of the lockdown? What can we do to help our students overcome their addictions? What can we be doing to prevent students from trying drugs in the first place?

A person can easily become addicted to heroine the first time they use it. Kids need to know.

We first focus on the students and do all that we can at school to encourage them to look forward to a bright future. We must help students to learn coping skills and conflict resolution that effectively allow them to deal with their challenges while continuing to focus on their education. The challenges students are currently facing should not cause a lasting negative impact on their future opportunities to succeed in their chosen careers and educational aspirations.

Every student needs to feel safe and accepted at school. We need to provide a safe environment for learning and give kids the opportunity to discover their passions. Students need to be mentored and encouraged by special teachers, counselors, coaches, music directors and others. I know that some of our schools have programs where students who are sitting alone at lunch are invited by other students to sit with them. No student should feel isolated.

The best thing for students is to develop self-efficacy in an area of interest. The students need to think about the future. How do they envision their life in 5 years? What are their goals. They need opportunities with our local businesses to job shadow and discover their passion. We need to provide more access to Career Technical Education programs for students that prefer to work with their hands and are spatially gifted. Our students with creative and artistic gifts need to be provided opportunities to explore their emotions and talents through art.

SCHOOL PROGRAMS TO EDUCATE STUDENTS

I also support bringing programs into our schools that provide students the opportunity to hear from impactful speakers. For example, I helped facilitate Every Fifteen Minutes at a Catholic HS in Indiana. This is a program to give students insight into the repercussions of driving drunk and ending up in an accident where fellow passengers in the car are killed. The student body also heard from a man that was driving drunk, crashed into a tree and his best friend was killed. The parents of the boy that was killed asked the court not to give the young man the full jail sentence and instead asked that the boy go to jail for a certain period of time and then speak at high schools to tell his story to influence students not to drink and drive. Programs like this can be very effective.  

There are many other programs such as reality parties to demonstrate to parents what goes on at some parties.

In addition, I do not think it is right to have a vaping shop across from Newbury Park High School. This normalizes vaping and gives kids greater access. Vaping is dangerous.

4. What are some solutions that you see to improve safety in our schools?

SAFETY MEASURES DURING COVID-19

First, with our current situation, we need to implement all state required safety measures to provide a safe school environment for our students, teachers and staff that choose to return to campus when they are reopened. As I stated earlier, the District has already received millions in federal stimulus dollars to implement all required safety measures. We must use these dollars wisely for the safety of our students and staff. Safety measures include temperature checks, cohorts and smaller class sizes, face masks and face shields, handwashing stations, hand sanitizer, more effective filters on our air systems, classrooms cleaned between classes, and all other required safety measures.

HIRE MORE CUSTODIANS

We need more custodians. Our custodial staff is stretched too thin for the cleanliness required at our schools. Our schools need to be cleaned at level 1 for custodian standards. Level 1 cleanliness standards result “in a ‘spotless’ and germ-free facility as might normally be found in a hospital or corporate suite. At this level, a custodian with proper supplies and tools can clean approximately 10,000 to 11,000 square feet in 8 hours. ”

https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2003/maintenance/chapter5.asp#:~:text=A%20custodian%20can%20clean%20approximately,square%20feet%20in%208%20hours.

Currently our custodians are required to clean at least twice that many square feet in addition to the kitchen, set ups and tear downs when needed, work orders and even moving things for teachers.

SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS (SRO)

We need our resource officers now more than ever to keep our campuses safe. These officers are there to handle safety and crime prevention on our campuses. Students need to meet these officers and learn about how important they are to maintaining safe schools. 

MEASURE I BOND MUST BE USED TO ENSURE OUR CAMPUSES ARE SAFE

It is important to ensure that we are using our Measure I Bond dollars wisely to make our campuses safe. For example, roofs, stairs, windows and electrical work all need attention, not just big projects.

ACADEMIC SAFETY

In addition to physical safety, students need to feel academically safe to respond truthfully during class discussions. Bullying of students with differing opinions is never appropriate. If our children are to succeed in society, they need to learn respect for all opinions and that it is never appropriate to bully someone because of their values or beliefs. There is a tendency to twist students’ words or assign meaning when that was not intended. This is also bullying and a form of gaslighting.

5. How do you handle input from stakeholders that have conflicting viewpoints?

PROVIDE AN EXAMPLE

Board members should be providing appropriate examples of how to respect differing opinions on the board.   

LISTEN RESPECTFULLY TO ALL VIEWPOINTS

It is very important as a board member to listen carefully to all viewpoints and worldviews and not to try to twist or distort the intentions of others. Personal attacks directed at board members are unproductive and create divisions and tension. We should sincerely focus on issues.

It is important for board members and the community to deliver their comments in a respectful manner that provides a good example for our students of how to advocate appropriately for their perspective to be understood.

BE FACTUAL WITHOUT MISREPRESENTING THE PERSPECTIVE OF OTHERS

Falsehoods are sometimes spread by political groups within our community about the perspective of parents that come to the board meetings advocating for their children. It is not helpful or healthy to twist the intentions of parents or board members and assign false narratives. I think everyone’s time would be better spent focusing on what they feel is best for their own children and not taking away options from others. Very often, there is a reasonable solution that can meet the needs of everyone.

EXAMPLES OF DIFFERING OPINIONS IN THE COMMUNITY

Once we receive the waiver to reopen our TK-6th grade classrooms, some families may choose to return their children to on-campus learning and some families will choose to continue with online learning. It is important that online options are available, especially for students and teachers with health concerns. When both options are provided, more families will have their needs met.

Another example is our book policy regarding books assigned to students to read for class. Prior to the policy being changed about two years ago, parents and students were given a simple heads up about certain books that contain graphic child rape or other violence. These are not the books that parents remember reading when they were growing up. These books describe child rape in graphic detail that has the potential to be disturbing to students.

The prior book policy was much like our district policy on R-rated movies. Before a student can watch an R-rated movie at school, the parents must give permission. With the former policy, when a book was assigned to students that contained graphic child rape or other violence, there was advanced notice and an alternative book option provided. The simple heads up was meant to be respectful of parents and their right to decide what is best for their own child.  We know that one in 10 students under that age of 18 has been the victim of sexual abuse. I believe that parents know their children and their experiences best. Parents know their children's sensitivities.

Detractors of this policy believed that giving parents a heads up about books containing graphic child rape was book banning and censorship. But there were never any books removed from reading lists or the library. Those desiring the heads-up regarding books with graphic content, were not trying to censor or ban books, but just wanted information to make wise choices. One group wanted the heads up, another group did not want to permit this. The group not wanting to allow the heads up told the other parents that they could read all of the books in advance and no heads up was needed. This is unrealistic for some families. Both groups could have their needs met by giving the heads up, but still allowing the books to be used in the classroom. This is what the former policy accomplished.

ONLINE BULLYING

Online bullying is a huge problem for kids and can cause depression. I understand that online bullying can also negatively impact a student’s ability to focus and thrive at school. We need programs in our schools that teach students what it means to bully someone online. We also need to teach students what to do if they are being bullied online and how to get help.

Unfortunately, some adults in our community do not provide a positive example to students. As a board member, I have personally experienced online bullying and harassment (such as fake twitter accounts mimicking my real account created solely to mock and disparage me). For this reason, I truly understand how students feel that are bullied online.

Students need to understand that spreading false information online about someone is bullying. Mean-spirited personal attacks meant to damage someone’s reputation should never be tolerated.  I have tried to be a positive example to students who are being bullied online by not allowing bullies to invade my personal online/social media accounts. I believe students should ensure that they can go onto social media without being bombarded with nasty comments or tagged by online bullies. We are all one community, which is generally a very kind and friendly place. Whether it is students in school or local political races, online platforms should not be so contentious and nasty that after a disagreement is over, it hard to heal.

6. Do you agree or disagree that public schools should put a greater emphasis on critical thinking over testing?

CRITICAL THINKING

I believe both critical thinking and testing ability are important to student success and that they are not mutually exclusive.

Our Board Policy 6144 Controversial Issues indicates that:

“…Teachers should not spend class time on any topic that they feel is not suitable for the class or related to the established course of study.”

The Board also expects teachers to ensure that all sides of a controversial issue are impartially presented, with adequate and appropriate information. Without promoting any partisan point of view, the teacher should help students separate fact from opinion and warn them against drawing conclusions from insufficient data. The teacher shall not suppress any student's view on the issue as long as its expression is not malicious or abusive toward others...”

It is very important that students learn to think critically for themselves.

It is never appropriate for a teacher or other students in a classroom try to prevent all perspectives from being presented on a topic. Students should be taught how to think, not what to think. It is important to allow all students to safely express their opinions in the classroom. 

Here is a quote from my oldest daughter who is now twenty-six and working in NYC in her dream job. This is about one of her high school teachers at NPHS – my youngest son is lucky enough to currently have the same teacher.

“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.”

TESTING

Testing is also a very important skill for students to master. Students need to be held to a high standard. Low expectations are a disservice to students if they are to succeed in today’s economy.

The value of students learning to demonstrate their competencies on an exam cannot be underestimated. Test taking is a learned skill and, with effort, can be mastered. There are many coping skills students with testing anxiety can learn in order to overcome it. Examples of coping skills include learning to calm one's nerves by picturing themselves in a favorite place right before the exam begins. Students can also learn to use breathing exercises to calm their nerves. Earplugs can be very useful if a student is easily distracted during an exam or becomes nervous if other students begin turning in their exams early.

Once students learn to think critically and to be able to effectively demonstrate their abilities on exams, they will be much more prepared for their future. 

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My Answers to Acorn Candidate Questions

CAMPAIGN PLATFORM:

Put Kids First.  All students from all backgrounds deserve the opportunity to achieve and be challenged academically while enjoying a safe school environment.

Support Teachers. Providing sufficient technology, professional development and the freedom our faculty needs to innovate are essential to ensuring the best education possible for our children.

Respect Parents' Rights. Parents know what is best for their own children and should have the greatest influence over how their children are educated.

Fiscal Responsibility. We must stop deficit spending and balance the budget. When making budget decisions, the overarching question I ask myself is how the spending helps students improve their educational outcomes.

Safely Open Our Schools Without Unnecessary Delay.

  • The law requires the board to "offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible" (EC 43504).
  • Over 12,000 families responded to our school district survey, conducted in May. 78% of parents indicated that they want their kids back on campus this fall.
  • The Ventura County Health Department has now deemed it safe to open our kindergarten through 6th grade (K-6) classrooms. CVUSD must secure the county waivers without delay.
  • The board must permit students with disabilities the opportunity to receive in-person services and instruction.
  • As a community we need to join together to get permission to open our middle and high school campuses.
  • We must also provide online and homeschool options, especially for students and teachers with health concerns.
  • The District has already received millions in federal stimulus dollars to implement all state-required safety measures into our schools.

Age: 53

Profession: Trustee, Conejo Valley Unified School District School Board; School Counselor

Family: Married to Craig Everett (a Pepperdine finance professor) for 27 years. We are the parents of five children ages 15-26. My oldest three children graduated from NPHS, where our two youngest children currently attend. The newest member of the family is our puppy, Beau.

Relevant Education/Experience:

  • Master’s Degree in Education, Purdue University
  • Active K-12 California School Counselor License
  • 2010 recipient of the Indiana School Counselor Association’s Ike Womack Scholarship Award, given to one outstanding school counseling student in the State of Indiana each year.
  • Member Chi Sigma Iota (International and Professional Academic Honor Society for Counseling Students, Counselor Education and Professional Counselors).
  • Every 15 Minutes, Retreat Team at Central Catholic Jr/Sr High School, Lafayette, Indiana. The program challenges students to think about driving while drunk and the impact of alcohol-related crashes.
  • 2009 Study Abroad, The Netherlands with Purdue University. The program provided an immersive experience into the primary and secondary educational system in Holland, with an emphasis on learning about their delivery of services for kids with concerns.
  • The Bridge Group Counseling Practicum for bereaved families, Purdue University. Provided small group counseling for elementary-aged members of the families.
  • School Counselor Internship (one year) at Harrison High School. Provided group and individual counseling for at-risk students. Other duties included assessments and events such as back-to-school night.
  • School Counselor master’s degree practicum at Crawfordsville Middle School and Miami Elementary School. Provided group and individual counseling to at-risk students.
  • ON TRACK Group Counseling, Lafayette, Indiana. The program delivers small group counseling experiences for local schools with low-income, mixed-culture, high-stress populations. I provided group counseling for 5th graders as well as groups at an alternative high school that included a group for pregnant girls.
  • President, Ball’s Bluff Elementary School PTA, Leesburg, Virginia.
  • CVUSD Booster Club Volunteer: Choir, Band, Dance Team
  • Member, CVUSD Student Publication Manual Committee 
  • Cub Scout Den leader

Email address:

Sandee.Everett@gmail.com or Info@SandeeEverett.com

Website:

SandeeEverett.com

 

 

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The Importance of Helping At-Risk Students

A number of years ago, I had internship opportunities to work directly with public school students who were at-risk for not graduating. I helped 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 exclusively with at-risk students at a large high school. I helped ensure they had appropriate teachers and classes to meet their needs. I counseled with them one-on-one about personal issues so 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 a 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 my work on the school board because ultimately, the board decides District priorities, how funds will be allocated and whether we focus our resources on the tools and opportunities students need to succeed, or on something else. If board members do not intimately understand the needs of at-risk students, the board may end up making decisions that limit the students' positive outcomes and ability to go on to become productive members of society. 

When the school board focuses on helping all students to succeed, it helps the whole community succeed.

 

Sandee Everett, M.S. Ed.

Notice: the above opinions are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CVUSD or any of the other board members.

 

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My Letter that the Acorn Refused to Print

[This was submitted as a letter to the editor of the Thousand Oaks Acorn, but they would not print it.]

My name is Sandee Everett and I am running for re-election to the CVUSD School Board. I was elected four years ago as a “voice for parents” that was sorely lacking on the board. Since then, I have consistently advocated for parents to be the greatest influence over how their children are educated.

As the daughter of two public school teachers, I was raised to love public education. I have current CVUSD students and a vested interest in our schools.

My top priority is to provide students with an excellent education to help them become productive, successful members of society.

During this time of mandated online education, I will advocate to:

  • Regularly survey ALL parents and teachers for input
  • Encourage teacher innovation that maximizes student achievement
  • Provide meaningful supports for students with disabilities and IEPs
  • Pre-assess all students for learning loss
  • Ensure students are placed in the cohorts and classes that meet family and student needs

I support safely opening our schools for in-person instruction, just as childcare has reopened on CVUSD campuses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) indicate that, for kids, the risks of lockdown are greater than the risks of COVID-19.

In May, over 12,000 CVUSD families and 750 teachers/staff responded to a CVUSD survey. The results showed that 78% of parents and 74% of teachers want in-person, on-campus instruction this fall. I believe the board is ethically obligated to respect the parents' wishes and seek permission to open our schools.

The District already received federal stimulus money to implement all CDC safety measures when reopening.

Once campuses reopen, we need to continue offering online education options especially for teachers and students with higher health risks.

Due to the district’s financial crisis, painful budget cuts will need to be made. I will work to ensure that these cuts don’t negatively impact student educational outcomes and experience.

I believe as all stakeholders work together, we will find innovative solutions to ensure all students, despite the current challenges, receive the superior education for which CVUSD is known.  

I would be honored to have your vote.  

- Sandee

Note: An important development occurred after I submitted this letter. On August 19th, Dr. Levin, the county health officer, announced that he would be granting waivers so that elementary schools can open for in-person instruction. It is very exciting that everyone seems to be coming together regarding the science. This is great news for the children and parents of our community!

-----

Sandee Everett, M.S. Ed.
info@sandeeeverett.com

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Sandee Everett for School Board

Notice: the above opinions are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CVUSD or any of the other board members.

 

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My Email to Superintendent and Board President Regarding Applying for Waivers to Re-Open Schools

From: Sandee Everett
Sent: Wednesday, August 19, 2020 7:06 PM
To: Cindy Goldberg <CGoldberg@conejousd.org>; Mark McLaughlin <mmclaughlin@conejousd.org>
Subject: Dr. Levin K-6 Waiver Announcement Today
 
Good Evening Cindy and Mark,
 
I hope you are both doing well. It was quite a day for the District. 
 
I am very pleased that VC Health Officer, Dr. Levin, announced today that he will be granting waivers to K-6 public and private schools to open up for in-person instruction. His reasoning is that "...for person to person education for little children, I now feel that the benefits outweigh the risks." I passionately agree with Dr. Levin's assessment and I am very pleased that he cited the science showing that young children are at low risk for catching COVID-19 and spreading COVID-19. The kids need to be in school with their friends and teachers. 
 
I am writing to recommend that we do whatever is necessary to immediately submit forms to apply for these waivers and open our K-6 classrooms. 
 
Thank you for your attention to this very important matter.
 
Take care,
Sandee
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Re-Elect Sandee Everett to the CVUSD School Board

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My name is Sandee Everett and I am running for re-election to the CVUSD School Board. Please vote for me on November 3rd.

I am seeking re-election because our schools are in the middle of a crisis. I am a seasoned school board member that intimately understands the budget and our programs. If re-elected, I will be the most senior board member and the only independent voice on the board. 

I understand the impact that a top-quality school system has on our community. As the daughter of two public school teachers, I was raised to love public education. Three of my children graduated from Newbury Park High School, where my two youngest children currently attend. I have a vested interest in our schools.

I was elected in 2016 as a “voice for parents” that was sorely lacking on the board. Since then, I have consistently advocated for parents to be the greatest influence over how their children are educated. Because the school board is elected by parents and community members, I believe that the board is ethically obligated to respect the views, insights and wishes of parents to the greatest degree possible. 

My top priority is to provide students with an excellent education to help them become productive, successful member of society.

I will not prioritize the political or financial desires of special interests or unions over the needs of our children. When voting for budgetary items, my primary consideration is always how the decision will improve educational outcomes for students.

My Top Priorities for the Next Four Years

I will continue to put students first. During this time of mandated online education, I will advocate to:

- Regularly survey ALL parents and teachers for input

- Encourage teacher innovation that maximizes student achievement

- Provide in-person services and instruction for students with disabilities and IEPs

- Pre-assess all students for learning loss

- Ensure students are placed in cohorts and classes that meet family and student needs

I will support and push to get the permission we need to safely reopen our schools for all grades, for in-person instruction, just as CVUSD childcare has already reopened on our CVUSD campuses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) indicate that, for kids, the risks of lockdown are greater than the risks of COVID-19. Here are the links to a CDC article and an AAP article about re-opening the schools.

Sandee EverettGovernor Newsom’s school closure order allows for Districts to seek waivers to immediately reopen our elementary schools. I will continue advocating for these waivers.

I will support measures to provide our teachers with all necessary technology and professional development to effectively educate our children. I will work to ensure they have a safe working environment and the freedom they need to innovate.

I will ensure that parents’ concerns are brought up during board discussions. I will always advocate for finding and implementing the best solutions to resolve parental concerns.

In this current financial crisis, we will be forced to make painful financial cuts, but I will work to ensure that the students’ educational experience is the top priority and cuts do not negatively impact student outcomes and experience.

I am passionate about my work on the school board. I believe as all stakeholders work together, we will find innovative solutions to ensure all students, despite current challenges, receive the superior education for which CVUSD is known. 

I would be honored to have your vote on November 3rd. Thank you!

- Sandee

If you would like to help, please DONATEVOLUNTEER and PLEDGE YOUR VOTE!.

 

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Here's how you can respond to the smear tactics being used against me

[This is an email that I sent to my supporters to help them clarify misinformation that has been spread about me.]

Dear Friends,

You may have seen the mean-spirited tactics that are being used against me for the 2020 school board race.

As school board candidates, we sign something called the "Code of Fair Campaign Practices." When candidates sign it, we agree not to use "character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander or scurrilous attacks" on our opponents. I was elected in 2016 without using such tactics and I am once again dedicated to running a positive campaign, based on my own record and qualifications. 

Thank you SO much for your support. So many of my friends have been eager to help correct the misinformation that is being put out there by a small group of activists in our community that are trying to take over the school board completely. I thought it might be a good idea to give a rundown of some the falsehoods that are being spread so that you can answer them if they come up in conversation or on social media.

The following is a list of attacks that were used against me in a recent mailer, along with the truth about each one so that you can respond. Pretty much everything that I have ever said on any topic is either on my YouTube account or on CVUSD's school board meeting recordings, so it is easy to prove that the caustic mailer was untrue. It's just a matter of getting the truth out.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, one of the main donors to the political action committee (PAC) that funded the mailer is one of my fellow board members, Betsy Connolly, who contributed $850. (She contributed $8600 in 2018 to the same committee that helped get 3 new board members onto the board). 

I have been falsely accused of:

1. Censoring the curriculum

I have never voted against any book or curriculum since being on the board. What they are referring to is the book policy where I asked that books that have graphic depictions of child rape have an asterisk placed beside them on the syllabus to give students and parents a heads-up. Surprisingly, we have multiple books that graphically describe child rape scenes in our curriculum.

My position on this was driven by my school counselor intern experience and the knowledge that one in ten students is a sexual abuse survivor. There is a whisper campaign going around that asterisks were an attempt to force religion into the schools, which is completely false. My position on this issue was a professional opinion, not a religious one. No reasonable person, religious or not, believes that putting an asterisk on a book containing child rape scenes is censorship or book-banning.

2. Encouraging parents to leave the district for private schools

This has never happened. If someone tells you this, you might ask them to provide a quote of me saying anything like that. There are recordings of all board meetings and all events at which I have spoken. They won't be able to provide a quote, as I have never said anything of the sort. Again, this comes from the defamatory "whispering campaigns."

Both of my parents were public school teachers. I went to public school. All of my kids went to public school (or are attending). I have never encouraged anyone to leave public school and have always encouraged parents to stay involved in our schools.  

3. Bogus accusations of corruption that damage the district

I am not aware of ever making any accusations against district personnel. Those that produced the mailer need to provide exact quotes or recordings. What has happened on occasion is that a district employee or parent has come to me with information regarding questionable practices and I have asked questions about them in open meetings. I am careful not to make accusations, but I feel that I am ethically obligated not to brush aside these complaints, because that in itself would be corrupt.

4. Demanding steep budget cuts & voting against a funding request to offset COVID-19 losses

I am in a 4-1 minority on the board, so I can't demand anything. CVUSD is in a budget crisis that began well before COVID-19. I do indeed think that we need to be cautious with our budget. I believe that our district is very top-heavy and cuts could be made that won't impact the classroom. Yes, I voted against borrowing $25 million when we could have used our rainy day fund instead. There is no reason to pay all that interest, fees, etc. Why do we have a rainy day fund if not for a crisis like this? The interest saved can be used for our children's education. I also disagreed with giving raises that amounted to a $6.4 million increase to our 2020-21 budget. I believe that a financial crisis requires some sacrifice and that pay raises can be reinstated when the budget stabilizes.

5. Political extremism

I am not politically extreme, but my accusers seem to be. I have never taken any position that is politically extreme, so I think the burden is on them to provide evidence and direct quotes when I have ever done anything extreme. They will not be able to find any quotes, as I do not say anything extreme. 

One area that I consider an extreme position of those that are smearing me is that they support teaching "gender identity" to the K-5 children. This includes teaching young children that their parents guessed their gender at birth, and the children can now decide for themselves. If a parent feels that they guessed their child's gender, they should share this with their own child at home. It is not developmentally appropriate to teach this to young children at school. 

It is also important to me that the individual needs of children with gender dysphoria be addressed on a case by case basis to ensure understanding and kindness of their classmates. I believe every child deserves to be loved, respected and treated with kindness at school. Bullying should never be tolerated.

6. Lack of preparation

I am actually very prepared for board meetings. I spend countless hours preparing for each meeting, which people can see for themselves if they attend or watch online or on TV. I prepare detailed questions regarding agenda items.

I think the point that my detractors are trying to make is that they want me to ask my questions and get answers in a "back-room" way, not in public meetings. I do not use the back-room method because I have found that when the questions are asked in open session, I get the most accurate answers, because open session meetings are recorded. In addition, many of the questions I ask during board meetings come from parents, students and taxpayers. They want to hear the answers directly and transparently. I do all I can to ensure that everything is above board and transparent and thus ask my questions publicly, not privately. This takes a lot of preparation, but I am willing to put in the necessary time.

ONE MORE IMPORTANT ITEM

My ballot designation is "School Counselor / Mother" and my detractors have made a point of complaining about this. California election law allows me to use school counselor as my profession because I hold an active California school counselor license. 

I worked very hard to earn my license and, by law, my license gives me the right to use this ballot designation. Those that would try to disparage me and take that away from me are participating in defamation. It is a concerted effort to ruin my professional reputation. I earned my masters in education at Purdue, with a concentration in school counseling. I also worked for a year and a half, UNPAID, as a school counselor at a high school and middle school in order to get the hours I needed qualify for my license. I also worked at an elementary school for many hours as part of my license requirements. I did this while all 5 of my children were home. I was given an award by the School Counselor's Association of Indiana as the "Outstanding School Counselor Student of 2010." Only one student in the entire state is given this award each year.

My experience working as a school counselor, especially with at-risk students, is a foundation for the positions that I take on the school board. Being a school counselor is an important part of who I am, regardless of whether or not I am currently paid to be one. I think that generally our community is very supportive of women who put their professions on hold to be full-time mothers. But even as a full-time mom, I still keep my license active, which means that school counselor is still my official profession according to the State of California.

I hope this has been helpful. It is unfortunate that a few people feel they need to attack me personally and professionally and be untruthful and that some local media outlets have been complicit in the dishonesty. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an honest person that takes my role on the board very seriously. I put the kids first and listen to parents. I love teachers and my children have all received an excellent education in the CVUSD. I am hoping that my friends can help me get the truth out by speaking up on social media and when talking to friends and neighbors.

On that note, it is clear that I will need to send out mailers to set the record straight on these issues. If you can, please donate to help offset this extra cost.

Thanks!

- Sandee

https://www.sandeeeverett.com/donate

-----

Sandee Everett, M.S. Ed.
sandee.everett@gmail.com


Sandee Everett for School Board

Notice: the above opinions are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CVUSD or any of the other board members.

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My Letter to Dr. Levin - Ventura County Health Officer

My Email to Dr. Levin, Ventura County Health Officer, on August 6th regarding opening the schools
From: Everett, Sandee R <severett@conejousd.org>
Sent: Thursday, August 6, 2020 2:28 PM
To: Levin, Robert <Robert.Levin@ventura.org>
Subject: Re: School
 
Dear Dr. Levin,
 
Thank you so much for your email and reply to my public comment during the Board of Supervisor's meeting. I gladly waited 8 1/2 hours for the chance to provide a 60 second comment because I believe it is vital to the well-being of our children that they be allowed to return to their classrooms with their friends and teachers THIS FALL. It is not right for these children to be locked down. Healthy children should not be shut inside. 
 
Before our superintendent decided to close our schools (and then Gov. Newsom mandated the closures the next day), our District planned to comply with all CDC safety guidelines. We received $10 million in federal stimulus money to safely open our schools and to address learning loss. 
 
Now, with schools completely shut down for in-person learning, the parents that work are left scrambling to know what to do with their children. I fear that children that are far too young to be left alone, will be at home trying to get themselves onto their computers for school. This is NOT RIGHT. 
 
I received the following statement from a mom in our District even before we completely shut school down. She was concerned with only having kids at school for a couple of hours and then having to pick them up.:
 
"Many of the Spanish speaking students are thinking about the remote learning alternative because of the responsibilities they have within their respective family units. With the parents back at work, it is them the ones who will have to drop off and pick up the younger sibling from school and baby sit until the parents return."

How can we, in good conscience, keep our schools closed when we know what the negative educational, emotional, and physical consequences will be to the children. Schools are essential for a reason.
 
The CDC, AAP and NIH indicate that, for kids, the risks of lockdown are greater than the risks of COVID-19. Science shows that children are not super-spreaders of COVID-19, are unlikely to catch COVID-19 and teachers are unlikely to catch COVID-19 from the children. 
 
I am petitioning you to advocate at the highest levels to get our schools open. Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks and Westlake are not hotspots in our county. We can protect any vulnerable populations within our community without punishing the kids. Teachers or students that feel more safe at home should still be allowed to do so. But please do not force that on everyone. The kids are suffering. They need socialization. They need to use their minds in school and their bodies on the playgrounds and during sports, dance, and other important activities. We have been sitting in our houses for 5 months now. We cannot continue to do this to the kids.
 
If anyone can get the shut down orders reversed, it would be county health officers. I am asking that you do all in your power to make this happen - for the kids.
 
Thank you so much again for your kind response.
 
Very sincerely,
 
Sandee
Trustee, CVUSD
 
My comments are my own and do not necessarily represent the CVUSD or the board as a whole.
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Letter to VC Officials About Scientific Evidence Supporting School Opening

From: Everett, Sandee R
Sent: Friday, July 24, 2020 3:54 PM
To: Goldberg, Cindy S <CGoldberg@conejousd.org>; McLaughlin, Mark W <mmclaughlin@conejousd.org>
Cc: robert.levin@ventura.org <robert.levin@ventura.org>; Stan Mantooth <news@vcoe.org>; kelly.long@ventura.org <kelly.long@ventura.org>; steve.bennett@ventura.org <steve.bennett@ventura.org>; linda.parks@ventura.org <linda.parks@ventura.org>; Supervisor Huber <Supervisor.Huber@ventura.org>; john.zaragoza@ventura.org <john.zaragoza@ventura.org>
Subject: Evidence For Opening Schools This Fall
 
Dear Cindy and Mark, 
 
I hope your summer is going well.
 
I am hearing from parents that are upset about CVUSD offering child care on our campuses/in our classrooms this fall for $850 per month per student (see copy of CVUSD letter sent to parents and CVUSD child care website below). If this is true, it seems hypocritical that CVUSD classrooms are "safe" for child care workers and kids, but not safe for teachers and kids. 
 
There is also the issue that many cannot afford the child care option. Parents have mentioned FAPE and want to know how CVUSD can justify kids attending child care all day, sit on a computer to listen to their teachers (while on CVUSD campuses) and be required to pay for this.  
 
Education is either essential or it is not. Teachers are either essential workers (like child care workers, grocery store workers, food service workers, doctors, nurses, etc.) or they are not. 
 
I believe we should be advocating for our schools to open this fall as planned. The science does not justify closing the schools (see linked articles and studies below). 
80% of our parents and teachers responded to our District survey in mid-May indicating that they want to be back in the classroom this fall (see results below). Over 12,000 CVUSD families responded to the survey. Over 700 Certificated staff responded to the survey. 
Please consider strongly advocating to Governor Newsom and any other decision-makers, that schools should resume in-class instruction this fall. Opening up campuses for child care and not in-person instruction is wrong. Students will be best served this fall  by being on campus in their classroom receiving instruction from their teachers, not sitting on a computer with child care workers.  
Thanks for your attention to this matter. 
Sincerely, 
Sandee
Autism Autism and Screen Time: Special Brains, Special Risks Children with autism are vulnerable to the negative effects of screen time. Posted Dec 31, 2016
Wearing a mask and face guard as protection against the spread of COVID-19, Garland Independent School District custodian Maria Concha wipes down a chair in the library at Stephens Elementary ...

A Department of Public Works worker places a closed sign near an entrance to a playground at an elementary school in Walpole in March out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus.
 
While most California school districts are planning only virtual instruction to start the academic year, some are offering child care programs that will bring students into the same buildings that ...
There has been no recorded case of a teacher catching the coronavirus from a pupil anywhere in the world, according to one of the government’s leading scientific advisers.Mark Woolhouse, a leading
As the schooling dilemma continues to daunt millions of parents, some with the means to front the steep costs are hiring private educators and tutors. Sara Elahi isn't waiting to find out whether ...

Title: Student Engagement Online During School Facilities Closures: Author: W10 1903 X64 Created Date: 7/8/2020 3:57:02 PM
Introduction and Background The Challenge Before Us. These are extraordinary times. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in force in March 2020, every state closed its schools in response, disrupting the education of over 60 million children.

Millions of young minds are going to waste. Education is the surest path out of poverty. Depriving children of it will doom them to poorer, shorter, less fulfilling lives.

A study of 2,000 children and teachers at schools in the German state of Saxony has found very few antibodies among them. The study was carried out in May by the Medical Faculty of the TU Dresden ...
* Abbreviations: COVID-19 — : coronavirus disease HHC — : household contact SARS-CoV-2 — : severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) presents arguably the greatest public health crisis in living memory. One surprising aspect of this pandemic is that children appear to be infected by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the ...
Swedish flags fly from a tourist souvenir shop in Gamla Stan in Stockholm, Sweden, on Thursday, March 26, 2020. Sweden is starting to look like a global outlier in its response to the coronavirus.

Conejo Valley USD Child Care is committed to ensuring that all materials on this web site are accessible to students, staff, and the general public.

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Letter to County Leaders for In-Person Graduation Ceremonies

Dear Mr. Powers, Chair Long and Board of Supervisors,

Thank you to each of you for your tireless work on behalf of our county during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am truly grateful for all you do.

Because I was unable to finish my public comment due to the time limit, I am submitting my entire comment for you to consider.

What I am requesting is that each of you to go to bat for our seniors. Please take the time to contact by phone and email the governor and anyone else that needs to be persuaded to allow us a variance to the current rules for large gatherings so that we can provide a safe, in-person graduation ceremony for our seniors and their families. Even if in-person graduation ceremonies are held later than originally scheduled, please do all in your power to continue trying to get a variance to large gathering so that in-person graduation ceremonies can be held.  The seniors and their parents deserve for us to at least try. 
Many of our seniors and parents have been working in businesses that are open during COVID-19 and most, if not all, parents and seniors have stood in lines at grocery stores and other businesses. We understand what is required by social distancing rules. I am asking you to place your trust in our seniors and their parents, as well as our CVUSD staff and teachers, to host in-person graduations on our football fields that fully comply with all COVID-19 safety guidelines. The parents asking us to hold in-person graduations are bright, educated, professional individuals that would never put the health of their children or anyone else's children at risk. They simply understand that if the owners of stores, restaurants and other businesses can be trusted to open their doors to the public, CVUSD can be trusted to hold in-person graduation ceremonies on our football fields. 
Please do all in your power to allow in-person graduations. Please call and email those that can provide a variance to current guidelines.
Thank you so much. I appreciate all you are doing for our families. I value your work very much.
Sincerely,
Sandee Everett, MSEd
805-559-3609
These opinions are my own and do not represent the board as a whole or the CVUSD.

-------

Sandee Everett public comment for the Board of Supervisors 5/28/20 emergency meeting:

Thank you so much for your service. 

I am a Trustee for the Conejo Valley Unified School District. My comment is regarding in-person graduations for our seniors. My comments are my own opinions and do not necessarily represent those of the Conejo Valley School board as a whole or CVUSD.

I would like to start by stating that my comments are not intended to ask you to violate the law or to put anyone’s health at risk. I am simply asking for PERMISSION to hold safe and carefully planned and executed in-person graduation ceremonies for our seniors and their parents.

While a drive-thru graduation may be the choice of some students – which I absolutely respect – it is my understanding that the overwhelming number of our seniors and their parents want in-person graduation ceremonies.

A parent in our community, Clinton Muir, has worked very hard to come up with a carefully thought out plan for the CVUSD to hold in-person graduation ceremonies. I am asking that the county consider issuing the CVUSD a variance to implement this plan and hold in-person graduations for the seniors.

The plan includes many, many safety measures but here are a few:

Participation is optional, Chairs on the field 6’ apart, signed liability forms, temperature checks prior to participation, hand washing stations, all social distancing guidelines will be guaranteed to be implemented to their fullest. 

The parents are even willing to pay any costs that are not covered by any remaining CVUSD graduation budget (if there is any). The parents also want to volunteer and do as much work as necessary to implement such a plan.

If all seniors that want to participate in an in-person graduation cannot be allowed on the field at the same time – please consider permitting us to hold two separate in-person graduation ceremonies. One parent suggested that if we are permitted to do this, that we allow the seniors to sign up for a time so they are able to attend the ceremony that all their friends are attending. I am fully supportive of this idea.  

Ventura county is now “open for business.” Grocery stores, retailers like Home Depot, Target and Walmart and now, at last, our small businesses, restaurants, hair salons and barber shops, as well as the malls are all either open or are beginning to open up as they are able to demonstrate that they can do so safely. Beaches are also open. Many of our seniors and parents have been working in these businesses during COVID-19 and most, if not all parents and seniors have stood in lines at grocery stores and other businesses. We understand what is required by social distancing rules. I am asking you to trust our seniors and their parents, as well as our CVUSD staff and teachers to host amazing in-person graduations on our football fields and to do so very safely.

I am asking each of you to go to bat for our seniors. Please pick up the phone today and make calls to the governor and anyone else that needs to be persuaded to allow us this variance – even if graduation is held later than originally scheduled. As elected officials and county leaders, the seniors and their parents deserve for us to go to bat for them and at least try.

I would also like to put a plug in for our 8th graders and 5th graders that are promoting to high school and middle school. Please consider trusting them and their parents as well to also follow a very strict plan but to have their in-person promotions for those who would like to attend. 

Together we can demonstrate our ability and professionalism to hold these important milestone gatherings safely for our kids during this unprecedented time. 

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Sandee Speaks about AB 329 Sex Ed Law at Town Hall in Northridge

Here is a video of my speech at the sex education town hall meeting hosted at Houses of Light in Northridge on 2/29/2020. I talk about the California Healthy Youth Act (AB 329), a 2007 study by a Berkley professor on Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) and some proposed curriculum for the public schools.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was originally scheduled to present its sex ed curriculum at the event but at the last minute they cancelled and said they were "too busy." The moms organizing the event invited me present some of the curriculum to the parents. Please note many of the parents in attendance were minorities and non-English speakers. It is important for all parents to be informed about what their children are being taught in school regarding sexuality. 

Because this meeting was held in Northridge (which is part of LAUSD), I covered aspects of Positive Prevention PLUS (PPP), the sex ed curriculum that has been adopted by LAUSD. At the time of the town hall, CVUSD has yet to adopt a new sex ed curriculum, however, PPP is one of four curricula that CVUSD stated it referenced to design its own outline for AB 329 compliant supplemental material.

 

 

 

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Alternative Literature Assignments Support Trauma-Informed Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DATE: September 19, 2018

BY: Sandee R. Everett, M.S.Ed

 

THOUSAND OAKS, CA--- In a typical high school classroom of thirty students, an average of three of those students are survivors of sexual abuse – and the teachers have no way of knowing which ones they are.

On September 4, The Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) Board of Education formally passed a policy that notifies students and parents when there are titles on the syllabus with potentially traumatizing content and provides a way for survivors of sexual assault and other trauma to select an alternative book if desired. The process is completely confidential with no mandatory disclosure of the reason required. The policy has no impact on other students in the classroom that choose to read the regularly assigned book.

The new policy passed in the CVUSD ensures students and parents are provided with an idea in advance of what is contained in some of the required English literature so victims of abuse or trauma are not unwittingly blind-sided and experience re-traumatization through such content.

“Darkness to Light applauds the efforts of the Conejo Valley Unified School District to bring trauma-informed care into their classrooms and to their students,” states Katelyn N. Brewer, President and CEO of Darkness to Light, a non-profit organization focused on the prevention of child sexual abuse. “With the many challenges students face, it’s vital that educators and other adults partner with students to show we see them, hear them, and are prepared to help them overcome those challenges and head toward bright futures.”

Helping the Public Better Understand The Need for Trauma-Informed Education

Even though most high school classrooms have students who are survivors of sexual abuse, it is easy to think that this only happens elsewhere. We want to believe that it cannot possibly happen here in the Conejo Valley. Unfortunately, it does.

“At Forever Found, we have seen the tragic reality and regularity of child sexual abuse here in Ventura County,” observes Katie Rhodes, Director of Local Programs at Forever Found, a non-profit organization dedicated to support the prevention, rescue and restoration of child trafficking victims. “Abusers use power dynamics, manipulation, and threats to control victims. Therefore, it is crucial to give young people choices in their healing process--to empower the return of their autonomy, dignity, and free thinking. We support any efforts to be sensitive to young people who maybe have been traumatized and to educate adults in helping roles on the importance of being trauma-informed.”

Definition and Statistics Regarding Child Sexual Abuse

According to the RAINN website, a national anti-sexual violence organization, “child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity, period. When a perpetrator engages with a child this way, they are committing a crime that can have lasting effects on the victim for years. Child sexual abuse does not need to include physical contact between a perpetrator and a child. Some forms of child sexual abuse include:

  • Exhibitionism, or exposing oneself to a minor
  • Fondling
  • Intercourse
  • Masturbation in the presence of a minor or forcing the minor to masturbate
  • Obscene phone calls, text messages, or digital interaction
  • Producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or movies of children
  • Sex of any kind with a minor, including vaginal, oral, or anal
  • Sex trafficking
  • Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare.”

People are generally very shocked to learn the percentage of our students that are impacted by sexual abuse.  A study from the organization Darkness to Light provides some additional little-known facts about sexual abuse including:

  • About 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before age 18
  • 1 in 7 incidents of sexual abuse perpetrated by juveniles occurs on school days.
  • Of children who are sexually abused, 20% are abused before the age of 8.
  • A history of sexual abuse increases the chance of dropping out of school. 
  • Use of alcohol or drugs at an early age can be a sign of trauma such as child sexual abuse.

According to the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 16(1), the public is not fully aware of the magnitude of the child sexual abuse problem and one primary reason is that only about 38% of child victims disclose the fact that they have been sexually abused. An article in Child Abuse & Neglect, Issue 24, reveals that some survivors never disclose.

CVUSD Takes Steps Towards Trauma-Informed Education

Many required reading lists for high school English classes, including in the Conejo Valley Unified School District, have books that contain graphic and potentially disturbing portrayals of child rape and other violence.

The new CVUSD book policy empowers students so that, if they choose to do so, they have a private and embarrassment-free way (with no questions asked) to receive an alternative reading option if they feel it is necessary for their emotional and mental well-being.

Providing alternative choices signals to the hundreds of abuse victims that attend CVUSD schools that they are cared about, understood and that the teachers and staff are willing to do whatever possible to ensure they are emotionally, as well as educationally, supported at school.

All victims of sexual assault, rape and abuse are encouraged to confide in a trusted friend or loved one and to seek help from professionals. They need to be believed and provided with assistance. Their well-being and recovery should always be of the greatest concern and importance.  


For Further Information, Please Contact:
Sandee Everett, M.S.Ed
Trustee, CVUSD Board of Education
sandee.everett@gmail.com
http://SandeeEverett.com

 

ABOUT SANDEE EVERETT

Sandee Everett was elected in 2016 as a Trustee on the Conejo Valley Unified School District Board of Education. She is the mother of five children. She holds a master’s degree in Education from Purdue University and a bachelor's degree in English from BYU. Sandee is currently a full-time mother, but maintains a current California license in School Counseling. Sandee Everett’s opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of CVUSD or other trustees.

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Open Letter from Sandee Everett to Rocky Capobianco Regarding Exclusion of Dr. Amy Chen from the PTA Forum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Note: This letter was sent via email to Mr. Capobianco on September 13, 2018. It is only posted publicly here because he did not respond.

September 15, 2018 - Thousand Oaks, CA - It has recently come to my attention that one school board candidate is being excluded from the PTA School Board Candidate Forum.

My understanding is that certified letters were sent to all the candidates and that they were required to reply by a certain date.  Based on a discussion with Dr. Amy Chen, she never received the certified letter and is therefore being excluded from the forum on an invalid technicality. Surely, Mr. Capobianco must have received notification from the post office that the invitation was never delivered.

Regardless, Mr. Capobianco has the discretion to allow her to participate.  At the most recent CVUSD Board meeting, Dr. Chen communicated in public to Mr. Capobianco her desire to participate and that she did not receive her invitation. Any refusal to be inclusive does not give parents the benefit of hearing from all available candidates and could tip the scales for the candidates that were included. This action is simply not appropriate for a leader of an important parent organization.

I therefore call on Mr. Capobianco to exercise his ability to be flexible and allow ALL school board candidates to participate in the PTA forum. The PTA is an inclusive and welcoming organization. School board candidates should be no exception.

The seemingly arbitrary exclusion of a school board candidate could potentially cast the PTA and the CVUSD (by association) in a negative light. This is not the Conejo Way.

Respectfully,

Sandee Everett, MSEd

Trustee, CVUSD

 

ABOUT SANDEE EVERETT

Sandee Everett was elected in 2016 as a Trustee on the Conejo Valley Unified School District Board of Education. She is the mother of five children. She holds a master’s degree in Education from Purdue University and a bachelor's degree in English from BYU. Sandee is currently a full-time mother, but maintains a current California license in School Counseling. Sandee Everett’s comments are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CVUSD or other trustees.



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Parental Rights and Alternative Literature Assignments

Disclaimer: this article represents my personal insights on the new core literature policy and does not necessarily represent the views of the CVUSD Board of Education. - Sandee Everett

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

There has been much unnecessary controversy concerning the new CVUSD Core Literature policy. Most of this can be cleared up by simply reading the actual policy and the associated administrative regulation (AR).

CVUSD Board Policy 6161.1 - Selection and Evaluation of Instructional Materials

CVUSD Board Policy 6161.1 - Administrative Regulation

To summarize, the new core literature selection policy accomplishes four main goals.

  1. It ensures parents are notified that their child can receive an alternative assignment if a book is in conflict with the student’s sensibilities and/or values.
  2. It establishes a standard for notifying parents/legal guardians if there are titles on their child’s syllabus that were annotated by the California Department of Education as having mature content.  The CDE recommended that educators and parents should read such a book and know the child before giving the book to a child. 
  3. This policy brings the district into compliance with Education Code 60002, which requires that, along with substantial teacher involvement, the district shall encourage and promote the participation of parents/legal guardians and community members in the selection of proposed instructional materials.
  4. It puts forth a process for an alternative book selection.

There are a few common misunderstandings regarding the new policy which should be clarified. The policy:

  • Does not ban any books
  • Applies only to 9-12 Grade Core Literature (not other grade levels)
  • Does not rewrite or change the current curriculum. 
  • Does not add additional work to teachers outside of their contract. Alternative assignments will be produced by the District. Prior to this policy, when requested, teachers were responsible to provide alternative assignments.
  • Informs parents/students that they have the right to ask for an alternative assignment for ANY book (see CDE district selection policies) that conflicts with a student's sensibilities and/or values, not just those books that were annotated by the CDE as having mature/adult content. The parents/students have always had this right. This policy just ensures notification.

 

INTRODUCTION

During my 2016 campaign and subsequent service on the board, I have always tried to be a voice for our district’s parents and families. Study after study has shown that one of the most important factors in a successful education is parental involvement and it is only by parents and teachers working together that we can ensure the best possible education for our community’s children. (See Ed Code 51100)

In an effort to balance the board’s responsibility to parents, the community and teachers, the board adopted a policy regarding parental notice and alternative assignments.

The goal in updating this policy is to provide more information to parents which will enable them to be more involved in their children’s education. By informing parents of high schoolers, in advance, of the books their children will be reading, we will be better equipping them to take an active role in the education process, especially if they choose to read along.

Prior to the adoption of the amendments to BP 6161.1, CVUSD was not in compliance with Education Code 60002 which states: “Each district board shall provide for substantial teacher involvement in the selection of instructional materials and shall promote the involvement of parents and other members of the community in the selection of instructional materials.” Therefore, the policy also includes the formation of a committee of parents and community members to provide the board with their opinion regarding whether or not future proposed books should be approved. This committee’s recommendation will be in addition to the recommendation of the teacher/administrator committees that currently recommend literature before it comes to the board for approval.

 

TRANSPARENCY WITH PARENTS REGARDING CORE LITERATURE CONTENT

This policy requires informing parents whenever the California Department of Education (CDE) annotation for a particular book states the following (as is the case for several of our books):

"This book was published for an adult readership and thus contains mature content. Before handing the text to a child, educators and parents should read the book and know the child." (For an example please see the CDE annotation for The Bluest Eye)

Note: In a move that inexplicably reduces the protection of children, the California Department of Education has recently removed the above annotation from books on its recommended list. There was no explanation provided regarding why the CDE no longer wants parents to know about these books or to read them. Again, as an example, please compare the original annotation of The Bluest Eye (official snapshot from the Internet Archive) with the new annotation.

Based on the six books I have read from our district’s approved list that carry this CDE recommendation, the mature content may include graphic rape, graphic violence, graphic sex, graphic abusive human rights violations and suicidal ideation.

For example, one book on our core literature list that has this recommendation explicitly describes a father raping his 9-year-old daughter.  The rape is depicted from the father’s perspective. 

I do believe that whenever such a book is used, our teachers would treat it with care and be professional in presenting the book to the students. However, they cannot know a child like a parent does, especially if there has been trauma in a child’s background, depression or other difficult issues that may be exacerbated by reading the graphic details of someone else’s trauma.

When such a book is used in the classroom, I agree with the California Department of Education that we should inform the parents so they can read the book and then make the choice. This is also protective of teachers as the responsibility for making this decision is shifted to the parents. This particular book (The Bluest Eye) is not currently being taught by any of our teachers (to my knowledge) but since it is on our core literature list it can be chosen by students as an individual reading assignment.

It should be noted that the vast majority of the books on our core literature list do not carry this CDE recommendation because even if rape, abuse or violence is treated, it is not depicted in graphic detail. CVUSD High School Core Literature Lists can be found here.

The reading list also contains a number of books that are not on the CDE recommended list, therefore there is no CDE annotation for these books. All books on the CVUSD approved list were requested and vetted by our professional teachers for their educational value.

 

ALTERNATIVE ASSIGNMENTS

Prior to these board policy amendments, there was an informal process in place for students to request alternative assignments if they desired. This process worked well in some cases, but poorly in others. One of the main purposes behind our policy amendments is to formalize the process so that it is consistent and evenly applied across the District.

In some cases, students have indicated that they were made to feel embarrassed by the previous informal policy. We need to make sure that all students feel safe and comfortable in their school learning environment. Principle I of the Code of Ethics of the California Teachers Association (CTA) states, “In fulfillment of the obligation to the student, the educator... shall not intentionally expose the student to embarrassment or disparagement, shall not on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religion[sic] beliefs, family, social, or cultural background, or sexual orientation, unfairly a) exclude any student from participation in any program; b) deny benefits to any student; c) grant any advantage to any student.”

I believe that parents know what is best for their own child, therefore, when making recommendations to my fellow board members regarding the policy, I recommended that teachers include the following statement in all 9-12 English-Language Arts syllabi: "Parents/legal guardians and students have the choice to request an alternative assignment when the content of these materials does not align with or is in conflict with personal sensibilities and/or values."

I firmly believe that if teachers, administrators, parents and the community have open communication, greater transparency and work together, we will continue to provide a strong, rigorous curriculum that prepares our children for college and life.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OPTING-OUT AND ALTERNATIVE ASSIGNMENTS

There has been some confusion regarding what it means to opt out vs. an alternative assignment. Many consider opting out the same as an alternative assignment and use the terms interchangeably, however there are important distinctions between the two.

When a student opts out of an assignment, the student is not required to complete a different assignment to replace it and the student’s grade will not be impacted. When a student is given an alternative assignment, the student is still responsible to complete this standards-based assignment or it will be reflected in his/her grade for the class.

 

UPDATED SYLLABUS REQUIREMENTS

Before this policy was adopted, teachers sometimes put TBD (To Be Determined) on their syllabi rather than listing every book to be used during the course. Now, teachers will include in the syllabus all books that will be studied by the class, as well as all books offered to students for individual reading assignments.

This will give parents plenty of time to take the advice of the CDE and read books with mature content well before their child is asked to read the book. It also gives parents the information they need if they wish to help their child choose a book for an individual reading assignment. The books used for individual reading assignments will not be processed by the teacher with the class, therefore, some parents may wish, and are encouraged, to read the book and discuss it with their child at home.

It has long been the practice of CVUSD teachers to notify parents of R-rated movies shown in class, as well as send home a permission slip for parents to sign and return before allowing students to watch R-rated movies in class. This policy serves a similar purpose except a permission slip is not required for the books.

The syllabus is for notification not parental permission. It includes parental notification of the right to ask for an alternative assignment, as well as which books being taught in their child's class (if any) have the CDE annotation that the book contains mature/adult content and therefore the CDE recommendation that parents read the book first. The parent signature is not for the parents to give permission to read the books, but simply a parental acknowledgement that the information has been received and read (just as parental syllabi signatures have always indicated).

It is important to note that a parent can choose an alternative assignment for ANY book that conflicts with a student's personal sensibilities and/or values, not just those with an asterisk indicating the CDE annotation for mature content.

Transparency and providing information builds trust. Updating the syllabus to include more transparent information about literature will continue to build the trust teachers and parents have with one another.

 

TRANSPARENCY AND VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, RAPE AND ABUSE

It is important to be transparent about the fact that the CVUSD approved literature list includes books that have adult and mature content including graphic rape, graphic violence, graphic sex, suicidal ideation, graphic abuse and other content that can be disturbing to some students. 

To my knowledge, it is not a common therapeutic practice to utilize books that describe a fictional character's graphic rape and trauma to help recent victims of such trauma in their recovery. I have also never heard of using large group therapy with a group of diverse students to help recent assault victims, thus a classroom does not make sense for this.

If small group therapy is used, it is done by a trained professional in a controlled environment where everyone has experienced a similar trauma, trust and confidentiality is established and, therefore, victims feel safe sharing their experiences. At the right time in a person's recovery, hearing another's experience in this type of environment can be very helpful and therapeutic, especially if some of those sharing recognize the abuse was not their fault and have made positive progress in their recovery. 

Thus, it is important to distinguish between trying to teach non-victimized students to have compassion and understanding towards rape and abuse victims and how actual victims themselves may be perceiving the same material.

A person that has recently experienced such a trauma often suffers from PTSD and other debilitating forms of anxiety. We would not ask a soldier suffering from PTSD to read a book with graphic war violence or watch a movie with such violence in order to help him/her recover. For victims of sexual or physical violence, the approach should be the same. The statistics for the number of high school-age students that have suffered some kind of sexual assault is alarming. Date rape, rape while a person is intoxicated or passed-out, and other scenarios where sexual abuse take place are unfortunately all too common to high school students, even here in the Conejo Valley. Students and parents should have some idea in advance of what is contained in some of these books so victims of abuse are not unwittingly blind-sided and experience retraumatization through some of the content. We must empower these students so that, when they choose to do so, they have a private and embarrassment-free way to receive an alternative reading option if they feel it is necessary for their emotional and mental well-being. 

It is important to note that only the victim and the victim's parents should be making decisions about what is best for their child.

All victims of sexual assault, rape and abuse are encouraged to confide in a trusted loved one and to seek help from professionals. They need to be believed and provided with assistance. Their well-being is of the greatest concern and importance.  

 

PARENTAL CONCERNS THAT LED TO THE POLICY

At board meetings people spoke on both sides of the issue. Some wanted to ensure their students could read whatever book the teacher had prepared and others wanted the option to choose an alternative assignment if the book conflicted with personal sensibilities and values. In addition to hearing public comments at board meetings, as board members, we received many other communications from parents, community members, teachers and staff. It became clear to me that many parents were unaware of their right to ask for an alternative assignment if a book conflicted with their child’s personal sensibilities or values. In addition, it was clear that the experience of those that used this right varied and some students had negative experiences when they asked for an alternative assignment.

The California Department of Education webpage regarding District literature selection policies uses a series of questions to ensure literature selection policies promote best practices within the District. The following is one of the bullet points from the webpage which clarifies that students receiving an alternative assignment should not impact other students:

  • Is there an established procedure to inform parents of the literature and nonfiction that will be taught during the school year? Is the right of students to use an alternative assignment addressed? (The right to not read a selected text does not mean one can prevent others from reading that text.)

The District’s new selection policy will not impact those students that do not choose an alternative assignment. Because the policy only impacts those students choosing to use an alternative assignment, I will use some of the parent emails I received to demonstrate the concerns board members were trying to resolve with this policy. It is best practice for school districts to have such a policy. The many concerns from parents are what led to my decision to approve a District alternative assignment policy. I have removed identifiers.

The first is from a parent that was concerned when the board approved the 9th grade book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. The following email was sent to all five board members in response to one board member. This is one of a number of emails I received from parents and community members with concerns about the book.

 

Thank you for your response... I am not trying to discount the very important messages of tolerance, friendship, and persistence in the book. But placing value on one particular book because it teaches these lessons does not trump a parent's concern about the sexually explicit content in the book. And I feel you are dismissing my concern over it. I absolutely agree that high schoolers should read books that teach these valuable lessons. But I also believe that there are many alternative books that teach these lessons without the graphic sexual content. As an educator myself, I value books that serve as a springboard for great conversations with young people. But the district and teachers who chose this book are clearly desensitized to the fact that our children are being overly sexualized by the world around them, and leaders are contributing to that when they introduce inappropriate material to minors in an English class. My daughter is an incoming 9th grader and she is very innocent to world and its ways. She chose a book from the Little House series for free reading in 8th grade. Her choice, not mine. Why should I give you the freedom to expose her to the graphic sexual imagery of a young boy masturbating when she is not ready for that? Do you not realize that there are many, many children like my daughter who are not ready for this kind of exposure? And it is not your place or the district’s job to introduce it to her, especially outside the context of a sex-ed class or private conversation with parents at home. This one book is not the only avenue we have to teach our children the very important lessons of tolerance, friendship, and persistence. Thank you for your time.

 

Another parent contacted the board with concerns about the 11th grade book Snow Falling on Cedars. The following is an email from this parent.

 

Dear School board members,

Excerpts from the book Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson which is on the 11AP required reading list for...:

on page 91 of the book:

“She put her hand around Kabuo's hardness and squeezed it, and it pulsed once in her hand. Then, because she wanted it this way, she fell onto her back without letting go, and he was on top of her with his hands on her buttocks. ....

The head of his penis found the place it wanted.  For a moment he waited there, poised and kisser her - he took her lower lip between his lips and gently held it there.  Then with his hands he pulled her to him and at the same time entered her so that she felt his scrotum slap against her skin.  Her entire body felt the rightness of it, her entire body was seized to it. Hatsue arched her shoulder blades--her breasts pressed themselves against his chest---and a slow shudder ran through her.”    

page 298-299

"...She washed his large penis and felt it harden in her fingers. She put her arms around his neck, locked her feet at the small of his back. Carl held her up with his strong hands clenching the muscles of her legs and leaned the side of his face against her breasts and took to licking them. They moved that way, standing up in the bathtub with the water pouring over them....,"

These expressions are not acceptable as correspondence to a school board member and they are equally unacceptable as ‘literature’ for children. This book must be taken off the required, or even suggested, literature list for students in the Conejo Valley.”

I hope this book being on the approved reading list was an oversight and will be rectified soon. I can't believe any persons would force/require minors to read graphic sexually explicit material.

The key word being "forced/required," we are not censoring it from the library or telling people what they should not read, we are saying it is a bit sick to force/require minors to read such pornography. The imagery that this brings us when you actually pay attention to the words is pornography.  

This is exactly the kind of shocking thing that parents are afraid of when they send their kids to public schools. This is why many opt for other school choices such as private or homeschool. Please don't let Westlake High and CVUSD become the epitome of why people should not send their kids to public schools. The homeschooling community is using this kind of delinquency as a selling point for people (especially new mothers) to leave the public schools and homeschool. I have 2 kids in public school here, it may be too late to transplant my older child, but I'm going to have to look very hard about whether to take out my younger one from the public schools if this is sort of perversion exists our public high schools.

Public funds should not be used to require minors to be introduced to soft porn in the guise of a valuable book. This issue has nothing to do with the value of the book. I have read it and it is a great adult read about the Japanese American struggle with discrimination and the internment camp written by a non-Japanese/American. However, there are numerous, over 50, other excellent books, some actually written by Japanese Americans on this topic. Many are award winning literary masterpieces.

Possible substitutes:

No-No Boy

" No-No Boy has the honor of being the very first Japanese American novel," writes novelist Ruth Ozeki in her new foreword to John Okada’s classic of Asian American literature. First published in 1956, No-No Boy was virtually ignored by a public eager to put World War II and the Japanese internment behind them. It was not until the mid-1970s that a new generation of Japanese American writers and scholars recognized the novel’s importance and popularized it as one of literature’s most powerful testaments to the Asian American experience.

No-No Boy tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a fictional version of the real-life "no-no boys." Yamada answered "no" twice in a compulsory government questionnaire as to whether he would serve in the armed forces and swear loyalty to the United States. Unwilling to pledge himself to the country that interned him and his family, Ichiro earns two years in prison and the hostility of his family and community when he returns home to Seattle. As Ozeki writes, Ichiro’s "obsessive, tormented" voice subverts Japanese postwar "model-minority" stereotypes, showing a fractured community and one man’s "threnody of guilt, rage, and blame as he tries to negotiate his reentry into a shattered world."

The first edition of No-No Boy since 1979 presents this important work to new generations of readers.

When the Emperor Was Divine

Author: Julie Otsuka

Julie Otsuka’s commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any we have ever seen. With crystalline intensity and precision, Otsuka uses a single family to evoke the deracination—both physical and emotional—of a generation of Japanese Americans. In five chapters, each flawlessly executed from a different point of view—the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after more than four years in captivity—she has created a small tour de force, a novel of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion. Spare, intimate, arrestingly understated, When the Emperor Was Divine is a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times. It heralds the arrival of a singularly gifted new novelist.

Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience

by Lawson Fusao Inada (Editor)

An Important Classic in Heyday's California

In the wake of wartime panic that followed the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, more than 100,000 Japanese Americans residing along the West Coast of the United States were uprooted from their homes and their communities and banished to internment camps throughout the country.

Through personal documents, art, and propaganda, Only What We Could Carry expresses through words, art, and haunting recollections, the fear, confusion and anger of the camp experience. The only anthology of its kind, Only What We Could Carry is an emotional and intellectual testament to the dignity, spirit and strength of the Japanese American internees.

 

The superintendent committee charged with working on a recommendation for a board policy heard from a number of parents regarding their thoughts and experiences with alternative assignments. Several sent emails to the superintendent and I was copied on those emails. The following are from among those received.

 

To Members of the CVUSD School Board,

First of all, I’d like to thank you for your service to our community.  Our children receive an excellent, advanced, enriched education as students in this school district.  I thank you for your continued support as we raise our children to be the best individuals they can be.

I am writing in regards to the matter of giving our students an opportunity to opt out of literature that is offensive, vulgar, and degrading.  I understand that to be an educated, well-rounded individual, we must be exposed and familiar with all different types of literature; however, as a parent, I don’t feel that these children should be exposed to certain subjects until they are emotionally ready and mature enough to be able to handle it.  For example, I have a daughter who is currently a freshman at a university.  I spoke with her on this subject this week.  She said that as a sophomore in high school, she opted out of a particular book that she felt was offensive and upsetting to her.   As this book was deemed “a classic”, she felt that she could now probably go back and read it in college with a different perspective and be okay.

Three of my children have gone/ go to... As mentioned before, my older child had opted out of two books in her English Classes.  On both occasions, the teachers were understanding and respectful and gave her a different book to read.  She completed all of her assigned work on task with the other students who were studying the original book.  Several of her friends in those classes expressed to her later that they wished they had read the alternative book as they were troubled by reading it.

My second child; however, had a different experience.  When she spoke to her teacher about opting out of the required reading material, he was angry with her.  He yelled that she “couldn’t live in a bubble forever,” and“ she needed to be exposed to all of this at some point.”  Any child in public school does not live in a bubble.  They are exposed to so much vulgarity every day.  As parents, teachers, leaders, let us help them and provide a place where they can be uplifted and inspired and educated and not dragged down to a place that is offensive and traumatic for some.  I am just asking for you to consider the opportunity for our children to opt out of certain books, not because of their difficulty, but because of their extreme, graphic content.   

Thank you for your consideration on this matter.  It is greatly appreciated.

 

Another letter received:

 

My name is... and I was asked to speak at the meeting Tuesday regarding the Districts Core Literature policy.  Unfortunately, I have to work at the time of the meeting and won't be able to attend.

I am a mother of four children.  Three of my children graduated from... and my youngest is in 8th grade at...  For the most part, I have left my children's education in the hands of their teachers, trusting that they had my child's best interest in mind.  As far as literature, I always assumed that if anything was given to my child to read that it would be within a standard appropriate for children of their age.  My assumption was based on the fact that I had to sign a release to allow my child to watch an R rated movie.  If I have to give permission for that, then a book with similar material would also need to be approved by me.  I was wrong.  

When my daughter was in an English class a few years back, she was required to read "A Handmaid's Tale".  It looked interesting so I decided to read it along with her.  I was shocked to read some very explicit sexual details that I can still remember and have been unable to forget.  Fortunately, ...she had not read that part yet and so I told her to discontinue reading the book and I would tell her what she needed to know.  There was no mention ahead of time that this book contained explicit and potentially offensive material.  

I am disappointed to hear that there are more books with even more explicit content that are approved for classroom use.  I am not a believer in banning books, however I do feel that students should have a choice about what they read.  I spoke with my children about this and they would love (or would have in the case of three of them)  to have a choice to be forewarned about potentially offensive material in a book and an option to opt out and read another book.  Their hesitation with an opt out policy is that they might be singled out or made to feel uncomfortable because of their choice.  The attitude of the teacher would play a vital role in this situation and the opt out would need to be presented as an option that the student should not feel guilty about choosing.   My children would suffer through something rather than feel like they are causing more work for the teacher or be ridiculed in class for their choice.  They should not have to do this.  

So far, the only other book that my children have been offended by is, 'The Catcher in the Rye'.   When I asked them why it offended them, they answered that it was specifically because there was so much profanity.  Most people's typical response to this is that there is no more profanity in this book than they are exposed to every day at school.  True, but my daughter made a very valid point.  She is offended and uncomfortable with profanity.  Because of this, while she was in high school, she created a situation where she didn't have to hear it.   She avoided people and situations where she would hear profanity as much as possible.  Her friends and teammates  knew how she felt and so they respected that and didn't use offensive language around her.  My sons had similar experiences.  

I know that we cannot avoid or protect our children from all offensive things in the world.  My hope is that school can be a safe place for them.   We can show respect to all of our students values by giving them a choice as to what material they are required to read in class.  Thank you for your consideration.  

 

The following is another letter received:

 

Dear CVUSD Leaders,

Five of our children have graduated from... Our sixth and final child is a freshman there. We have loved the CVUSD for more than 25 years and appreciate the talented teachers and administrators who have guided our children.

During the last ten years, there have been several R-rated movies promoted by CVUSD teachers to teach curriculum. These movies should have been edited to be appropriate for minors. What movies are currently being used as teaching tools? These should be appropriate for minors and cleared through CVUSD leaders.

We have recently learned that inappropriate literature has been selected for CVUSD minors to study in English courses. As you know, there is a wealth of profound and appropriate literature to be selected for our students, without recommending detailed sexual material. See the below paragraphs from a Toni Morrison novel which is included on a current CVUSD English reading list.

We have elected our Board Members to ensure the CVUSD curriculum is appropriate and inspiring.

Thank you.

 

"The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison

Approved for 11th grade reading both for the class or as an individual reading assignment. *This book is on the CVUSD approved reading list but I do not think any teacher has taught it recently.  Essentially, we have a list of about 50 books that CVUSD is promoting, endorsing and using as great literature for our English classes.

***WARNING: This scene is a father raping his 9-year-old daughter***

"The tenderness welled up in him, and he sank to his knees, his eyes on the foot of his daughter.  Crawling on all fours toward her, he raised his hand and caught the foot in an upward stroke.  Pecola lost her balance and was about to careen to the floor.  Cholly raised his other hand to her hips to save her from falling.  he put his head down and nibbled at the back of her leg.  His mouth trembled at the firm sweetness of the flesh.  He closed his eyes, letting his fingers dig into her waist.  The rigidness of her shocked body, the silence of her stunned throat, was better than Pauline's easy laughter had been.  The confused mixture of memories of Pauline and the doing of a wild and forbidden thing excited him, and a bolt of desire ran down his genitals, giving it length, and softening the lips of his anus.  Surrounding all of this lust was a border of politeness.  He wanted to f*** her - tenderly.  But the tenderness would not hold.  The tightness of her vagina was more than he could bear.  His soul seemed to slip down to his guts and fly out into her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made - a hollow suck of air in the back of her throat.  Like the rapid loss of air from a circus balloon.

"Following the disintegration - the falling away - of sexual desire, he was conscious of her wet, soapy hands on his wrists, the finger clenching, but whether her grip was form a hopeless but stubborn struggle to free, or from some other emotion, he could not tell.

"Removing himself from her was so painful to him he cut it short and snatched his genitals out of the dry harbor of her vagina.  She appeared to have fainted.  Cholly stood up and could see only her grayish panties, so sad and limp around her ankles.  Again the hatred mixed with tenderness.  The hatred would not let him pick her up, the tenderness forced him to cover her.

"So when the child regained consciousness, she was lying on the kitchen floor under a heavy quilt, trying to connect the pain between her legs with the face of her mother looming over her" (pg. 162-163).

 

I should emphasize here that the above-mentioned book, "The Bluest Eye," is rarely (if ever) specifically taught or assigned by teachers in our district. However, since it is on the approved reading list, it can be chosen by students as an individual reading assignment.

Another parent letter received:

We have had good success with opting-out.  However, in talking with other students, they don’t even know they have the option.

There are two English teachers in particular that each of my daughters have been afraid of to approach, and in fact won’t talk to the teacher without a friend.  In talking with other kids, every single girl has felt this way.  It is sad when a student is afraid to approach a teacher, because of the inappropriateness of that teacher.

That being said, when there is literature that is discussed that contains material that makes kids uncomfortable, namely content of a sexual nature, the students are even more uncomfortable and do not feel safe whereas they should feel totally safe in their classroom in order for optimal learning to take place.

So looking at this from another angle, why have the students read books that will not only make students uncomfortable, embarrassed, but even scared?  For instance, in Bluest Eye, the detailed child rape scene as provided by the perpetrator can cause problems for a student that may have experienced a similar trauma.  I find it interesting that we make the kids read these dark, depressing novels, and then wonder why we need more psychologists on campus and why more students are dealing with anxiety and depression issues more than ever before.  According to the CDC, teen suicide rates are at a 40-year high.

I read The Kite Runner while on a vacation, and while the author is an excellent writer, the story itself was so depressing that it actually overshadowed my vacation.  I’m an avid reader and an English Literature major and am used to these types of books, but I can’t help to wonder if reading this put me in a depressive mood, and clouded what was a fun and sunny vacation, even years later, what does literature like this do to kids who are still developing, who are trying to figure out who they are, whose brains are not yet fully formed, and hormones are surging?  I’m not suggesting to not challenge kids with sensitive topics, but there are so many other books out there that can be enlightening and actually show how to get out of precarious situations, how to deal positively with what life throws at you.   I would like to see options that kids can learn and grow in a positive way, not need psychiatric treatment.  I would think that it is hard for developing kids to not mirror poor behavior if that is what they are filling their heads with; profanity, racial epithets, illegal and/or immoral behavior.  

Just the other day I saw a recent graduate of...who is now studying film in college and she mentioned that there were a few books that she had to read in English in which she experienced an emotional collapse afterwards.  Is that the goal?  I like books to be challenging, I like horizons to be broadened, but I also think that can and should be done in ways that uplift, instruct, enlighten, bring joy, and are a positive experience for these growing minds.

The bottom line is that parents shouldn’t have to pre-read every single book on the syllabus.  They should be able to trust that the teacher has every student’s best interest in mind.  If a book has content that is inappropriate, have alternatives publicized.  Or just have books that are of an amazing quality to begin with so young minds can be edified, not defiled.  The classroom, including the teacher, should be a safe place for students.

 

RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF PARENTS AND STUDENTS

During public comments a couple of people stated that if someone does not like the book a teacher has chosen they can leave the school district. I have also heard people say that the CVUSD should only try to do one thing well and not try to please all students. I find these kinds of statements narrow-minded.

This is a public school system and all students from all worldviews, backgrounds, belief systems and varying educational needs are welcome and encouraged to attend. Public schools provide differentiated education for many students and offering an alternative assignment when something conflicts with personal sensibilities and values is the respectful thing to do.

Would we tell a gifted student, an at-risk student or a ESL student to go somewhere else because they do not fit the one thing that we do well? Who chooses which needs we meet and which needs we ignore? Which students should be forced to pay for their education rather than utilize the excellent free public education in the CVUSD? The correct answer is none of them! These attitudes are entirely unacceptable.

It is also important to understand that we have alarmingly declining enrollment that is creating a budget problem. It has been suggested that the decline in enrollment is a result of the birth rate, however, there are approximately 7,000 school-age children living within the CVUSD boundaries that choose not to attend our public schools. 

(There are approximately 25,000 K-12 age children in the CVUSD boundaries. Approximately 17,500 of them attend our schools and about 1,000 students from outside our boundaries opt to come to CVUSD for a total of about 18,500 students currently attending. There are also about 1,000 students that live within CVUSD boundaries but attend another public school district [most attend Oak Park or Las Virgenes]. Another 700-800 children attend the two charter schools within the CVUSD boundaries [the largest drop in our enrollment occurred when these two charter schools opened]. This leaves a little more than 6,000 students that live within the CVUSD boundaries that are either attending a private school, are homeschooled or use some other form of alternative education.)

It is hard to blame the birthrate when there are that many students living within CVUSD boundaries and choosing not to attend our schools. Therefore, when someone suggests students should just leave the district rather than receive an alternative assignment, they are forgetting that not only is that entirely inappropriate, but we cannot afford to treat students that way.

We live in a very diverse community.  Most of us wish to send our children to our excellent public school system. We also need to attract back students who have left for a large number of reasons. This new policy finds a way to respect students with varying sensibilities while also respecting every students’ right to study the teacher-selected reading material. It also gives all students a rigorous standards-based assignment while ensuring teachers are not having to come up with rigorous standards-based alternative assignments at the last minute. This policy ensures the alternative assignments are provided by the District and the teachers will simply be asked to explain the assignment to those students wishing to complete an alternative assignment. These students will then be assigned an area where they will go to complete the assignment, while the rest of the class will study the original teacher-selected book. This is not asking too much of anyone, but respects the fact that every student's needs should be met.

The new core literature alternative selection policy is a compromise which allows all students the choice to read a book they are comfortable with.

 

Sandee Everett, M.S.Ed

Trustee, Conejo Valley Unified School District

 

Copyright © 2017-2018 by Sandee Everett. All rights reserved.

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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

 

Copyright © 2017-2018 by Sandee Everett. All rights reserved.

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Thank You

I feel very honored to have received such wonderful support from the voters of the Conejo Valley. As the most newly elected member of the CVUSD Board of Education, I promise to work hard on behalf of the students, teachers, staff and parents of our amazing community.

I would like to congratulate the other candidates on a great campaign. Through this process, I have had the opportunity to make many new friends and meet wonderful community members who selflessly work on behalf of our schools, students and families. I feel especially close to the other challengers in this campaign. Throughout this process, I have had the chance to get to know both Angie Simpson and Julie Freedman, and I have considered them primarily friends and colleagues, rather than opponents. We are truly blessed to live in such a great community.

Tonight's result was a team effort. There are so many people whose work made this all come together with a positive result. First of all, I would like to thank my husband and campaign manager, Craig, and my five children: Jessica, William, Anna, John and Lizzie. I could not have done this without their tireless support. I would also like to thank, in alphabetical order: John Andersen, Wayne Baldwin, Bart and Melodie Bennett, Jeanne and Stephen Bilson, Cheryl Bisera, Bob Bowen, Grant Brimhall, Andrea Bristol, Carrie-Lynn Busch, Bea Clemens, Gary Chaffee, Bruce Chantra, Gina Conti, Michelle and Tim Cooley, Joann Cordia, Melanie Cortes, Kay and Dennis Degenarro, Jim Doolan, Mike Dunn, Amy and Michael Eschenberg, Trisha Finn, David Fox, Peter Foy, John Fronefield, Becky Garrett, Eilene Green, Elise Haglund, Sandra Haglund, Rachelle and Trent Hamilton, Darby Hardisty, Marlo Harsuyker, Ryan Hatcher, Sheryl Henrickson, Jessica Henkel, Darin Henry, Tamara Howard, Tom and Tina Hunt, Becky Johnson, Kim and David Jones, Myron Jones, Joelle Mancuso, Elaine McKearn, Jennifer and George McLeod, Emily Mehlhoff, Ron and Karen Meyer, Rob McCoy, Marrianne and John Merrill, Sharon and Marvin Merrill, Diana Merville, Alan Munson, Kerry Nelson, Doug Nickles, Heidi and Todd Nielsen, Ruby Nygren, Diana and Garry Pace, Lindy and Josh Pace, Sheri Polisini, Angela Rockwood, Debbie Saunders, Bret Shellabarger, Barbara Sponsler, John Taylor, David and Katie Thayne, Carolyn Thorup, Jaime and Shawn Villalovos, Matt Waldman, Julie Woolley, Laura and Chad Wright and Don and Lee Yates.

Also, more than one hundred and thirty people made financial contributions to my campaign, and we could not have succeeded without their generosity and kindness.

Most of all, thank you to the voters of the Conejo Valley. I am honored to have your confidence and support and I will work hard to represent you well.

- Sandee

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Ready to Serve our Children and our Community

Sandee Everett, Candidate for CVUSD School BoardIt has been an honor to be a candidate for the CVUSD school board during this important election. I congratulate each of the other five candidates for their courage, hard work and commitment to our schools and community.

During this campaign, I have met many wonderful community members, developed friendships and made important connections with individuals who selflessly work for our schools, charities and other civic groups. I am excited about the possibilities for our school district and believe we need board members that work to build strong community bonds and relationships of trust.

I will be a board member that listens to understand, spends the necessary time developing working relationships and will represent the community with honesty and integrity. 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 believe we need fresh eyes and new board directives in order to solve the problems created by fiscal irresponsibility and a lack of planning. I am eager, qualified and prepared to take on this task.

I am ready to serve our children and our community.

I believe my background has prepared me well. Perhaps most importantly, I have three children in the district schools. I would be a voice for parents.

I would be honored to have your vote on November 8th.

Sandee Everett, MS.Ed.

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Relocation of Conejo Valley High School

Conejo Valley High School

The 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, Candidate for CVUSD School BoardThe 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

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Teachers are our District's Greatest Asset

Sandee EverettI 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. They were dedicated to their work and I have worked hard on the school board as a way to continue their legacy of teaching and service.

Judi_Roe__Sandees_Schoolteacher_Mom_Caption.jpg

Ken Roe

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 seventy 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 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-six. When I asked her about some of her experiences with her high school teachers, here are a couple of her responses. 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. As a board member, I work 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

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Grant Brimhall Endorses Sandee Everett for CVUSD School Board

Grant Brimhall with Grandchildren at Brimhall Library

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.

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

 

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