Editor’s note: This is part of a series about local candidates in advance of the Nov. 8 general election.
Dr. Richard Mayer, a professor of psychology at UCSB, has served on the Goleta Union School District board for 40 years and is running for re-election to District 1 against Caroline Abate.
“I have been on the board for 40 years. I have a long history,” Dr. Mayer, an advocate of small class sizes, told the News-Press. “All three of my children went to Goleta’s schools. I stayed on board because I found it a worthwhile activity. I have learned a lot about how to be involved in an effective and caring school district, and I think that is what Goleta is.”
Dr. Mayer discussed how his career has helped him with his work on the board of the district, which oversees elementary schools in Goleta.
“I am a psychology professor at UCSB, and my teaching and research are in educational psychology with a focus on instructional methods for science, math and reading,” he said. “We have done a lot of work on instructional subject methods and study skills on how to be a more effective learner. It has increased my respect and value for education.
“I deeply value public education,” he said. “I think children are our most precious resource, and I want to ensure that every child gets a quality education. I see public education as a way of helping students achieve their dreams. As a school board member, an important value is to care about kids. I’m really running because I care about every kid getting a high quality education.”
Dr. Mayer addressed his accomplishments during his time on the school board.
“One of the things I am most proud of is maintaining small class sizes. That helps every student achieve,” he said. “During the pandemic, we had extremely small class sizes. Our students on average maintained a pretty good academic level during the pandemic. We have established an all day summer school.
“I am proud of our after-school programs on campus, about one third of families participate,” he said.
“I am proud of how we have developed welcoming, neighborhood schools,” Dr. Mayer continued. “We have policies in place designed to make every child and every parent feel welcome. I am proud of the progress we have made in campus safety. We have safety plans in place.”
Additionally, “…we have been able to provide extra services to those who need them,” the school board member said. “For example: small group participation in areas in which students are struggling. I am very proud of how we are able to adapt to the needs of each student.”
Dr. Mayer is also proud of the food service program. The district provides free meals to any kid in Goleta (breakfast and lunch). The free meals started during the pandemic and have continued.
And Dr. Mayer is proud of the district’s dual-language immersion program, which is aimed at making participants proficient in English and Spanish.
“The academic performance of students in this program is high, and the program is an asset to the district,” said Dr. Mayer.
He has also served on the district’s task force for social justice and equity. The task force explores ways to make the district more inclusive.
“I have worked to maintain a respectful and cooperative environment with the community and at board meetings. I want to communicate with the community. If anyone writes to me I always write back. I am proud that our meetings have been respectful. Even if we don’t always agree, we work together,” said Dr. Mayer.
“We have developed a recycling program at every school, and we are very committed to recycling and committed to converting to electric vehicles as well as incorporating solar into our schools,” said Dr. Mayer.
Dr. Mayer discussed what he would like to do if re-elected.
“I think we have a very challenging year ahead in terms of financial uncertainty. I want to make sure we are prudent in the way we use our funds,” Dr. Mayer said. “I want to work through spending the bond money from measure M consistent with what we promised.
Additionally, “I am focused on maintaining small class size and high quality education and on providing professional development for teachers,” he said.
Dr. Mayer also would like to establish school psychologists on every campus for kids having problems adapting to a post-pandemic world.
“We are doing all this in addition to the core mission of education. I want to make sure we have a rich curriculum including: art, music, physical education, technology and hands-on science at every site,” said Dr. Mayer.
Dr. Mayer explained why he feels he is a better candidate than his opponent.
“I feel that I have a lot of deep experience in understanding how the school district works and a strong commitment to represent everyone in the district,” he said. “I feel my job is to work with and listen to everyone and come up with consensus along with the board members. I think my values and experience make me a better candidate.”
“I think the first few years are really important in helping children develop skills and knowledge they need,” said Dr. Mayer.