Blog - Sandee Everett - CVUSD School Board

Blog

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

My Endorsements for the 2018 CVUSD School Board Election

Dear friends,

The vote-by-mail ballots will be arriving in the mail this week, so I thought I should reach out to let you know who I think should get your vote. I am not up for re-election until 2020.  

I am very pleased to endorse Dr. Amy Chen, Mike Dunn and Angie Simpson for CVUSD Board of Education. You have three votes this year, and I am asking you to thoughtfully consider voting for Amy, Mike and Angie.  The California School Board Association states the following regarding school boards:

Citizen oversight of local government is the cornerstone of democracy in the United States. School board members are locally elected public officials entrusted with governing a community’s public schools. The role of the school board is to ensure that school districts are responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of their communities.

I believe the biggest issue currently facing our district is the decade-long declining enrollment which is causing a budget crisis and will inevitably result in neighborhood school closures. This is because most of our school funding comes from the State of California - and is based on enrollment numbers. The school board must take on this issue and solve it. Amy, Mike and Angie will solve this problem. They are all different from each other but are all exceptional in their own way. Our community would be fortunate to have them on the board.  If neighborhood schools close it will negatively impact our community and property values. We need to solve this problem before we start to really feel the negative impact and have to make heartbreaking decisions. 

Dr. Amy Chen has consistently demonstrated that children and their needs come first. Amy’s professional and personal experiences will provide the leadership necessary to innovate and turn around declining enrollment. She has the professional background to ensure transparency and accountability for the district budget. I also appreciate that Amy has unique insights into the challenges facing ESL students as she herself learned English in public school after immigrating to the United States.

Angie Simpson is a community member of stellar character with solid, proven leadership skills. I have observed her ability and gift to work with people from many different viewpoints and bring them together. She will be an excellent representative of the community and we can trust her to ask questions, listen and gather data before making decisions. 

Mike Dunn has always listened to the community, employees and parents – especially if they are underdogs. As board president, he solved decades old problems. His work as a firefighter prepared him to bear up under the extraordinary pressure that board members are subjected to from time to time.

Please join me in voting for these exceptional individuals.

Warmest Regards,

Sandee Everett, M.S.Ed.

 

Add your reaction Share

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.

Add your reaction Share

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.



1 reaction Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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

1 reaction Share

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.

1 reaction Share

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

1 reaction Share

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 level. They were dedicated to their work and I hope that my work on the school board will be a continuation of their legacy of teaching and service.

Judi_Roe__Sandees_Schoolteacher_Mom_Caption.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 sixty CVUSD teachers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandee Everett, MSEd

Donate  Join Us

 

Add your reaction Share

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

 

Add your reaction Share

Meeting the Needs of Gifted Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Sandee Everett, MSEd & California Licensed School Counselor

 

Add your reaction Share

Horizon Hills Parenting Program: A Gem Worth Saving

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

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

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

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

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

Sandee Everett, MSEd
Candidate for CVUSD Board of Education

1 reaction Share

The Importance of Helping At-Risk Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Sandee Everett, MSEd

 

Add your reaction Share

Schools Win When Parents Are Involved

Sandee_Everett_2016.jpgOur schools need engaged parents. I had an experience as an elementary school PTA president that brought this fact home to me. I was asked to speak at career day and share my career as a parent volunteer and full-time mom. All presenters were asked to give a short speech to the entire student body and staff before breaking off into smaller groups to hear from us. I was positioned between the stunt man and the doctor. After the stunt man, I got up and showed my pie-chart entitled “Mom and Volunteer: 24/7/365” which I had divided up into how I used my time each day. I had barely gotten the title out when, to my surprise, the entire gym erupted into applause, then the teachers and staff stood on their feet and gave a standing ovation. Given my apprehension about being compared to the stunt man or the doctor, I was quite shocked by the response.

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

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

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

- Sandee Everett, MSEd

Add your reaction Share

CVUSD Introduces Home School Option

The CVUSD School Board recently approved the 2016-17 Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) which includes a major new homeschool partnership initiative.  The new K-6 Independent Home Study Program is designed to provide a “personalized and flexible home-based learning experience.”  So far, the details of this new program are sparse, but apparently the district is already starting to gather applications for enrollment.

To provide insight on my perspective, I am the daughter of two public school teachers, so I believe in public schools and that they are the best education option for most families. I am also a California licensed K-12 school counselor, and as such, I am trained to help students get the resources and learning environment they require in order to succeed.  But for some students, homeschool is the most appropriate option for their needs.  It is encouraging to see that CVUSD is starting to reach out to this segment of our community.

This type of homeschool partnership initiative was first proposed two years ago by CVUSD trustee John Andersen as a way to serve the needs of certain students and families so that they would not feel like they have to leave the CVUSD schools for private school or home school.

Home study students will have access to resources at Lang Ranch Elementary.  I am told that there is no cost associated with participating in the program.  The K-6 program is now accepting students and people wanting more information should contact Jeanie Valentine, CVUSD Director of Elementary Education at 805-497-9511 Ext. 241, or her assistant, Kate Potter. The website is http://www.conejousd.org/Portals/0/Landing%20Pages/home-study/

As a candidate for school board, I of course support initiatives that will improve the educational experience for more students in our community.  I believe that the new Independent Home Study program has the potential to do this.  And as a member of the school board, I will support expanding this K-6 program to include all grades, K-12.

 

1 reaction Share

Sex Education Curriculum Changes Postponed Yesterday by CVUSD School Board

The CVUSD school board voted 4-0 last night to postpone (until August 16) the vote to replace Board Policy 6142.1 regarding sex education starting in 7th Grade. This policy would implement the new California Law AB 329. Board member John Andersen proposed the delay in the vote so that more input could be gathered from the community.

I hope that this information will be helpful for each family in making “opt-in/opt-out” decisions for your own seventh grade children. 

First, there is an interesting terminology change: Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are now called Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).  It is not clear why this change was made. Additionally, the new curriculum would talk more about the varieties of ways that STIs are transmitted, including tattoos and piercings.  There is content in the new curriculum about the new anti-viral therapies that now mean that HIV is not fatal.

In the past, only abstinence was taught as the foolproof way to prevent STIs.  Now in addition to abstinence, additional methods of preventing infection would be discussed with the seventh grade children.  In the new curriculum there are now “medical” photos of diseased organs versus healthy organs.

The new curriculum would talk about same-sex relationships, definitions of gender, gender identity and gender expression and more broad definitions of family.

As has been done in the past, there would continue to be a pre-meeting for seventh grade parents each year where they can review the curriculum and ask questions before they make their “opt-in/opt-out” decision.

I hope that my overview of these proposed sex education changes will be helpful for you. 

- Sandee

P.S. Here is the link to the full text of California AB 329: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB329

And here is the link to this week’s CVUSD agenda.  The sex education policy section starts on page 36: http://www.conejousd.org/Portals/0/usersdata/Board%20of%20Ed/Agenda%2006-28-16.pdf

1 reaction Share

Marrianne Merrill Wins Best Online Supporter for May!

Congratulations to Marrianne Merrill (Los Robles ward) who was the campaign’s top social media influencer for the month of May, with 85 points!  Marrianne wins a free campaign bumper sticker magnet!  Laura Wright and Kim Jones earned 2nd and 3rd place, respectively.  

Business_Card_Back.jpg

Points are earned by doing a variety of campaign-related online actions (volunteer, donate, etc.) but the way to get the most points is to refer friends to the campaign, which is done easily by using “Spread the Word” (http://www.sandeeeverett.com/spread_the_word). These points are set up like a game to add fun to the campaign. 

People can check their points at any time on the Leaderboard page.

1 reaction Share

Hello Conejo Valley!

My name is Sandee Everett and I am running for the Board of Education of the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD).  I am a licensed school counselor, but I feel that my most important qualification for this office is that I am the mother of five children, two of whom graduated from Newbury Park High School, and the other three are still in our district schools.

My husband and I will still have children in CVUSD schools until 2023, when our youngest child will graduate from high school.

I will be a compassionate and effective advocate for parents of students because I am actually the parent of CVUSD students right now. None of the current school board members have children in the CVUSD schools.

My current career is as a full-time mom. For me, and at this time in my life, this is the most important job in the world. 

I have a masters degree in education and I am a licensed school counselor in the state of California (K-12).  My background provides me with a deep understanding of the needs of students and how schools should operate in order to foster an optimal learning environment while remaining consistent with community values.  

I sincerely hope that I can count on your support in my campaign and your vote in November.  My commitment is to be your voice on the CVUSD School Board.

Business_Card_Back_White.jpg

1 reaction Share