Note: The most recent issue of the Conejo Guardian ran a story about all the candidates for local office. We were asked six questions. Here are my answers to their questions:
Sandee Everett is a current CVUSD School Board Member, holds a California school counselor license, and is a full-time mother of five children. She earned a Master of Science degree in Education from Purdue University and is married to Craig Everett, a finance professor at Pepperdine University.
1. What motivates you to run for reelection to the School Board?
My main motivation as a board member is to improve student educational outcomes and decrease achievement gaps for all students at all grade levels, especially in reading, writing, math and science.
I am a seasoned board member that understands the budget. When making budget decisions the board must prioritize student classroom experience. We need board members that will balance the budget and stop expecting families to subsidize programs and activities to make up the difference for budget shortfalls.
I was elected as a “voice for parents” that was sorely lacking on the school board. Since then, I have consistently advocated for parents to be involved in their children’s education and to have the greatest influence over how their children are educated.
Because I am a mother with children in our schools, I have a vested interest in the schools.
2. Please share your thoughts about online instruction and reopening schools.
The school district surveyed families in May with over 12,000 responses. 78% of parents indicated that they want in-person, on-campus instruction for their children this fall. I believe we need to respect the parents’ wishes and provide in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible.
Ventura County has now deemed it safe to grant waivers for transitional kindergarten (TK) through sixth grade students to return to in-person instruction. The board can also offer TK through twelfth grade special education students in-person services and instruction. I believe the board is ethically and legally obligated to provide all opportunities available for students to safely return to the classroom. Education Code 43504 requires Districts to “offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible” during the 2020-21 school year.
The District has already received millions in federal stimulus dollars to implement all required safety measures.
In addition, we must continue offering online and homeschool options, especially for teachers and students with higher health risks and other concerns.
While secondary schools are only permitted to provide online education right now, I will advocate to regularly survey all parents and teachers for feedback and input.
3. What role do charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling play in our community?
I support choice in education, while also believing public schooling is often the best option for many families. While my own children are receiving (or have received) wonderful educations in CVUSD, I recognize that parents sometimes find the best educational fit for their child in charter, private or homeschool options.
CVUSD itself offers a homeschool program, SHINE. This program has grown tremendously this year. One of my children’s favorite and extremely talented elementary school teachers is now a SHINE instructor.
Roughly one-third of all school-age children in the Conejo Valley do not attend CVUSD. The District has 1,000 fewer students this year than last year. This is equivalent to the enrollment of three elementary schools. As a board, we must prioritize listening to parent concerns and providing any needed flexibility and programs to bring students back or convince them to stay.
4. Last year, there was a great deal of controversy about graphic child rape in books on the required reading list for high schoolers. Please share your position on this matter.
The District has books on its reading list that contain graphic depictions of child rape and other extreme violence. These are not the books parents remember reading in school while growing up but are much more graphic and potentially disturbing. I support providing parents with a heads-up regarding such books for the same reason that we inform parents when an R-rated movie is going to be shown to a class. I believe parents have the right to choose what is best for their children.
One of my main concerns with requiring students to read books containing graphic child rape with no advanced warning, is the potential for re-traumatization of sexual abuse victims. One in ten children are victims of sexual abuse, and for this reason I strongly advocate providing parents and students enough information to make informed decisions.
The board’s current book policy does not require teachers to provide parents or students with advanced warnings about graphic content in our reading books. In addition, the policy does not permit students that choose an alternative reading assignment to remain in class with their peers during that unit of study. I am opposed to forcing students to leave the classroom for weeks if they choose an alternative book, as it may embarrass them and be perceived as a punishment.
5. What is your position on our schools allowing students to leave school for abortions without parental permission or notification.
California permits minors to have abortions without parental knowledge or consent, however the law does not require schools to be involved in this practice. Last school year, the CVUSD parent handbook was changed to inform parents that the District now allows students to leave school for abortions and other “confidential medical procedures” without notifying parents.
My position is that schools should not facilitate rides to clinics or deceive parents about the whereabouts of their children. If a student is not in school, the parents should know. If a child is in crisis, school employees are mandated reporters and county services should be notified to help the child.
I agree with surrounding districts that choose not to participate in this practice.
6. Please share your position on teaching gender identity in grades K-6.
The updated California sex education law (AB 329) does not require sex education and gender identity to be taught in kindergarten through sixth grade (K-6). The decision is left up to the school board. I support ensuring that all transgender students are treated with love, kindness and respect at school. However, I am opposed to K-6 students being taught in school that their parents guessed their gender and the children can choose their gender for themselves. My position is that values on this matter are best taught at home, and parents should decide when it is developmentally appropriate.
I support providing classroom interventions on a case-by-case basis to help with ensuring understanding and respect for a child. Teachers should be offered any needed support and training. Bullying should never be permitted.