Purely Political, By James Buckley
Last week, we printed part one of my conversation with Santa Barbara County superintendent of schools candidate Christy Lozano. What follows is part two, edited for clarity and space considerations.
Q. I’m a parent. I just learned my child is being taught something that I don’t agree with. What do I do? What are you going to make different for me that I can’t do now?
A. Well… Let’s see. I don’t think parents are being listened to right now. My door will be open. If that becomes part of the policy from the county superintendent’s office and the doors are open to the districts to come and discuss things or vice versa, then, hopefully, leading by example, it would have a trickle-down effect.
Q. Do you believe that the current superintendent, Dr. Susan Salcido, is an advocate for teachers, the administration, and the system rather than for parents and students?
A. I wouldn’t say (the current superintendent) is an advocate for teachers. For example, teachers gave the superintendent of Santa Barbara Unified School District a scathing negative review. What was the county superintendent’s comments about that? I’ve never read that she commented on it at all. She does have oversight over that district. It was 53 pages of negative feedback, and so far, she has not said a word about the review.
Q. So you believe she should have said or done something, or at least had a public opinion on the review?
A. Yes. It’s doing nothing that has caused schools to fail and teachers to become upset in school districts… I mean, I would think that a 53-page negative review of a superintendent of the largest school district in the county would be a red flag warning to the county superintendent. Yet, she didn’t get involved in that.
Somebody defended her by telling me, “Well, she doesn’t have the power to control it.”
I disagree. She does have the power of her influence and her position to have conversations with people and to question what’s going on and see if she can do something to help make it better. And, so far, I have not been made aware that she has said a word about the review.
California went from first to worst in the past 40 years. The state is now ranked 50th in literacy of all 50 states in the entire United States of America.
Q. If elected, you’re going to be overseeing a one-hundred-million-dollar budget. Is there some place you’d like to cut or at least repurpose some of that money that could bring a real change to the district? Do you plan to shake things up?
A. I first have to find out where the money is being spent and for what purpose. My first priority is “restoring transparency” and making budgets available and accessible to the public. Budgets are currently very hard to find. Once we find out where the money is and what it is being spent on, it may need to be repurposed and most definitely brought back into the classroom.
When you look at how many people were in the classrooms, let’s say, 20 years ago, you’ll see that there’s been a tilt, a full tilt. At the elementary level, for example, teachers now have 28 kids in a class. It used to be 20 just a short time ago. There were more aides in the classrooms too. These are positions that come at a reasonable cost and are very effective for students and really help to meet their needs.
Q. Let’s say you’ve just been elected county superintendent of schools. What do you do on Day One?
A. On the first day, I will commit to refocus my core team to restore transparency and budget accountability in the county office of education and all districts below it. On day one, I would also implement the Franklin Elementary School model for students enrolled in the county office education school. Lastly, I will request specific data from all districts regarding LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) monies and programs to determine if they are focused on positive educational outcomes.
Q. Can you, as county superintendent of schools affect the curriculum?
With regard to curriculum, I would affect it by first directing districts to make their curriculum transparent for parents to see. I believe it is important for the parents and community so see it and engage the community so that decisions can be made about what is best for students. Secondly, in the 10% of the lowest performing schools in the county, I would implement the Franklin Elementary School model immediately.
I know a little about what goes on over at Franklin. Casey Kilgore is a principal who supports her teachers. She listens to them, and because of her strong leadership skills, they’re successful. So, success is possible in this environment.
Q. So what goes on beyond Day One?
A. We went from first to worst over the last 40 years, and for 40 years people haven’t had a choice who would lead the schools in the position of superintendent. Now people have a choice. To get back to where we belong, we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.
We have to commit to these five fundamental priorities to turn our schools around:
1) Restore transparency.
2) Restore positive educational outcomes.
3) Restore safety.
4) Restore nonpartisanship.
5) Restore engaged leadership.
Q. Any thoughts about the amount of spending taking place?
Yes, the county superintendent of schools oversees more than a billion dollars, and the outcome is that over half of the 67,470 students in the county’s schools are below state achievement levels. A website that tracks educational progress (edsource.org) has determined that California is 50th of 50 states in literacy in the entire United States of America. This is a terrible outcome for our one billion dollars.
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find Jim’s Journals on file at jimbs.substack.com, and he invites you to subscribe to Jim’s Journal.