Q&A with the School Board Candidates: Peggy Buckles

What experiences have you had that have prepared you for the school board?

My major in college was education for kindergarten and second grade. After I got married I did substitute teaching, but my husband so I took up other jobs because I didn’t feel like signing a contract for a year. And we got transferred every year. I ended up in Seattle, Washington and worked as a cost person for a box company, and when we moved to California I started my own business. It was a small cafe in an office building that did catering and lunches and breakfast. And then when I had kids, I became a stay at home mom and volunteered in their classrooms with PTA. And when we moved out here I got involved with PTA and became council president, which is the person who is president for all the PTA’s in the city. Then I asked to be on the California state board of managers for PTA. I’ve been doing that for about 10 years. I’m on the Education Commission and we do all sorts of things. I’ve also worked on the Resolution Commission; we write resolutions that our advocates take to the state legislature and advocate for laws with education. I currently serve on the Californians for Next Generation Science Standards Alliance, an alliance formed by the California Department of Education, their foundation. I’m the parent representative on that. If they are going to publish things for parents, they run it by me and I run it by our committee after our suggestions and changes. I also, four years ago, served as the parent rep on the Smarter Balanced Consortium. The educators were writing the tests that you guys take, I just got to put parental input on that type of thing. I also was the Resolutions Chair, and we wrote resolutions on various things.

Why do you want to be reelected?

I think we have really good schools, and I would like to continue the things we are doing. We have some contentious issues right now, and I realize that, but I think I’ve listened to parents and I’ve listened to students, and I think I have a vision of where this district should go and how we can make it better.

What is that vision?

We have difficulty getting career tech teachers who are certificated both in secondary education and in their field. Right now we are running career tech classes at all three of the high schools, but they are not the same classes, so if you go [to Thousand Oaks High School] you can do certain classes and if you go to Westlake you can do the anatomy class. I think as time goes on, we will continue to have that kind of problem. I’d like to see the Conejo Valley Learning Center located at Waverly, with a back entrance, so that we can do classes at a central location andkids from all over Conejo Valley can come and do their classes there, and take their career tech classes. We’re starting to have a conversation with Moorpark College, and if we locate the career tech at the Conejo Valley Learning Center there, kids will be able to go to the Conejo Valley Learning Center and take classes through Moorpark that’d count for both their high school credits and their college credits, so kids will be able to get a head start on their college classes. We need a location for the continuation high school, and I think having it located there where those kids can take those kinds of classes, they have a better chance of seeing the value of their education, and they’ll also be able to take classes through adult ed. I think that might be more motivation to stay in school if you see that this is leading somewhere. I just think that that would be helpful for those kids.

What are your main concerns right now for school this year?

My main concerns include budget. If Prop 55, which is an extension of prop. 30, is passed, we will go into difficult financial times again and we’re not quite back to where we were in 2007. We were supposed to be back to the funding of 2007 once we hit 2020, but the cost of everything including utilities, salaries and most importantly the retirement plans for teachers and administrators come out of our general fund. They used to fund the retirement outside of prop 98, but in 2010 the governor moved it over into 98 but didn’t give us any extra money and by 2020 we are going to have to fund an extra ten percent of teachers and administrators, everyone’s retirement, and were not getting extra money for it. So it will have to come out of what we normally spend. I think we have appointed a really good superintendent, and we have a new business manager, but that’s going to be a huge issue for our school district in the future.

What is your opinion on the recent vote by the board to include information on same sex relationship in our district’s new sex education curriculum? What is your opinion on sexual health and HIV prevention education specified by Assembly Bill 329?

I think the more you know, the better off you are, I believe in equal rights in all students. And I know it is uncomfortable for some kids, to have transgender kids in their classes, but we have been installing the floor ceiling changing rooms and bathrooms under Measure I and I believe it gives everybody a place to be more comfortable. I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with their body. I would also like to say that school boards don’t make the law, the state legislature and federal government do but we have to obey the law whether we believe in it or not. So you can’t bring your own personal agenda to the school board because when you sign up for school board, you sign an oath to obey the constitution of the state of California and the federal government, the law of those states, so saying things that the school boards don’t agree with, that doesn’t work. You can’t choose the laws, you have to obey them.

Do you think students are treated equally within the district?

We’re working towards it. We have lots of families with different opinions and it’s hard to strike a balance. We know we have more boys involved in extracurriculars than girls and we’re looking for ways to involve more girls in our extracurricular activities> This year we offered sand volleyball and field hockey. A few years ago some parents came to us and said they wanted to do lacrosse and the coaches from not only our district but surrounding districts came and went against it because they didn’t have enough time on the field and they couldn’t share the field, and I asked for a report on when we can fit these kids in. Now we have both boys and girls lacrosse and I think we just need to continue looking for opportunities that kids are interested in and work towards everybody being equal and having the same rights.

What is your opinion on transgender students using the bathroom of the gender they identify with?

I think that there’s not a problem with that. I don’t have a personal problem with it. Last fall, my husband and I, took a trip through Europe and we landed in Orly Airport, France. I needed to use the restroom and I walked in and a man and his two sons were coming out. I went back out and looked at the sign and went, ‘No, I’m in the right place.’ And in other countries they don’t think anything about it. The United States, they do have the floor to ceiling bath stalls, but most countries in Europe, it’s just the norm. Nobody thinks anything about it and I think as long as we provide privacy for students who want privacy, that there should not be any problems. That means any student. Believe it or not, I was a skinny little thing in high school and everybody would call me ‘spider legs’ and it was a bad thing to do gang showers. I don’t think you guys do gang showers anymore but we all showered together and I hated it. I think everybody has issues.

What do you think of ed code requirements giving high school journalists the same rights as professional journalists?

I was on my middle school and high school paper and I think that while you’re learning to be journalists and to be professionals, you should have those rights. I just can’t imagine going around saying ‘you don’t have the right’ but in two years you will. I think that journalism plays a huge role in a democratic society and we have to depend on journalists both in high school and in college and out in the working world to get the truth out because people don’t always tell the truth and this is the front line of defense for democracy. I don’t know if you were on the committee or consulted on the committee we just had for the journalistic standards. I would never vote not to let the students publish whatever they want and I understand there are people who are concerned that their children not have sex ed or not read these things. And I think we should send out an all call saying, ‘If you don’t want your son or daughter to read this then you need to warn them.’ I think students have to be responsible for what their parents want them to do too. I know that if my parents told me I couldn’t read something, that it was inappropriate, I wouldn’t and I think that it’s up to the parents if they don’t want their students to read the Panther Prowler or some other article. It’s appropriate for us to give them notice that they might not like something that’s printed but they have to regulate their children themselves.

What do you think of current technology use in the district, and how would you provide for those without easy access to technology?

There are kids that don’t have access to it and we’re working to make sure that every student has access. That they’ll either get something they can take home or something they can use at school while they’re here, and I think that textbooks and the textbook companies in a few years will figure out how to provide their textbooks online so that you won’t have to do the heavy backpack thing. They’re not quite there and I’m not sure, I guess because they can’t charge as much for it, but when we can get to that point that would be fabulous. When we get to that point, I think it would be fabulous to have kids taking home their own laptops or iPads and reading their assignments on those instead of carrying their books. We just need to figure out how to insure them. And we need to do a better job at training teachers: some need practice and professional classes to become digital natives. There is a whole department in the district office that is dedicated to technology, and they are no longer providing us with paper copies of agendas. We are hiring more people who can help with those kinds of things, and a lot of our servers are located in Camarillo.

How would you promote a healthy lifestyle for students? 

I think at the elementary level we can have walk clubs. A lot of this, is hard to mandate from top down; if I said you had to walk or had to do this, you don’t get by in. At the district level, if we asked for suggestions from students and teachers on what they would like, I think we would get more people enthusiastic about those kinds of things. I think neither teachers or students like to be told what they’re going to do. We can hire more counselors, because we are finding that more and more kids, even at the elementary level, are having mental health issues and the teachers are not trained to deal with those kind of things. We need to continue looking at ways to save money and do the right things by all of our students and hire more psychologists. There is also something called the Breakthrough Program. Every year we go to a school board conference in December, and our district does workshops. One of the districts talked about how instead of expelling or suspending kids they have them come in with their family and sign a contract, and they have a counselor that meets with the kids and refers them to people in the community. If they have a drug problem, they have to go through a rehab program; if they have an alcohol program, they have to go through counseling, and then they do counseling for both the students and the parents. And if they do what they said they will do, then they don’t get suspended or expelled and we have has really good success with this program. The first lady who started this program (the Breakthrough Program) four years ago, Kathleen Marvin, retired last year; I went to her retirement party, there were a couple of kids who were there and said had it not been for this program, “I would not be alive because I was on drugs” or “I was on alcohol and I was in a really bad place.” I think as long as we continue to do that kind of thing, we will be headed in the right direction.

How would you access this program?

I don’t know that the kids are that aware [of this program]; the counselors are and you can self refer, you don’t have to do something to get suspended or expelled. They do group sessions, it’s one of our best kept secrets. But it’s available to any student. I think if you went to your counselor and asked if you could be referred to it or asked if you could refer yourself to it, then you could go.

What are some things we could improve within the district?

I think we need to explore more career tech options, and it doesn’t matter if you’re going to college or going straight out to the work force, a lot of people don’t know what they want to do when they get to college, so it gives kids an idea if you love that or if you just hate it. My kids went to Westlake and my daughter thought she wanted to be a doctor and she was going to take the anatomy class, and then she decided she didn’t want to take the anatomy class and then she decided she didn’t want to be a doctor. And I have a sister who went to college to become a forest ranger and could not get a job after graduation, could get part time jobs and had to go back to get another degree. I think if kids had an opportunity to explore things in high school, they will figure out if they really love it or really hate it and it’s just a better way of helping kids make decisions for their future, so I would like more career tech.

How would we be able to provide this career tech with the current budget?

You know, a class is a class, so if we have enough students that are interested in something it doesn’t cost anymore to have that kind of a class than to have regular class, and we have to do a better job of partnering with the community because it’s in the best interest of the community, of businesses and hospitals to have trained people coming out of our schools and coming back to our community. So if we ask for partnerships and money to set up labs and whatever we need I think that the money could be found.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I have enjoyed working with kids. I have worked — you probably don’t know about this program either — I’m on the board of the Conejo/Las Virgenes Future Foundation and we are running a youth leadership program. Your counselor should be sending out a link to that. We meet kids at different venues to have people from government and education and business talk to the kids and show them what they do so that possibly our students can become interested in working for the government, or working for the fire department or the animal shelter, things like that. And you get volunteer credit for doing that. It’s 10 weeks during the year from 4 to 5 30. So that’s another thing I’d love to have. And I’m the chair on that so I take 80 kids around and would love to have you guys sign up or anybody who is interested in that.

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