Q&A with the School Board Candidates: Sandee Everett

What experiences have prepared you to be on School Board?

So, basically, I have five kids. Two of them graduated from Newbury Park, and I have a senior at Newbury Park, and then I have two kids at Sycamore. And so, I think it’s really important that at least one member of the school board has children in the schools because currently none of them have children in the schools. And, so, that’s one of my qualifications is that I have children who currently attend the school, so it makes you feel more connected and you’re more aware of what is going on in the schools when you’re a parent that has kids in the schools. I also have a masters’ degree in education and I also have a current and active license in school counseling, and what that means is that when I was doing my training to be a school counselor–so since graduating and getting my degree I chose to be a full time mom because I had all my kids at home and like many professionals, I decided to stay home with my kids until they get to be a certain age when I feel like they’re ready for me to move forward–so essentially when you’re getting a masters, when you’re doing a school counseling master’s program, I worked in the schools for about 750 hours and I did that in all three levels: I was in the high school for about 600 hours and I was in the middle school for about 140 hours and then elementary. I’ve experienced working in all the schools I worked with a lot of at-risk students I did all of the things that school counselors do, like, I had an office and I saw students on a regular basis, I did individual counseling, group counseling, whole class interventions, I helped administer standardized tests, IEP meetings. Some of this doesn’t mean anything to you guys, probably. But school counseling, changing schedules for students, I did all that, so I think that brings a nice perspective to the school board to have someone who’s had that experience, but I think the most important part of that is that I developed really good listening skills. So, I was trained to be a very good listener, and also not to impose my values and my world views on other people. And, so, I know what mine own are and trained as a school counselor, I know that everyone gets to decide what their own values and belief systems are. And, so, that’s kind of my background and what I tell people when I’m running.

Why do you want to be a school board member?

Actually, I think that I would connect well with the parents because I have kids currently in the schools. So for example, they were talking one time at a board meeting about the policy for the boosters, and you know how they changed that several years ago, that you can’t ask for donations, you can only ask — well you can ask for a donation, but you can’t require one anymore. And, so, none of the current school board members [that] were there have had kids in the school while this has gone on, so they had a meeting one time and they had all these experts come in and an attorney and all that stuff and they were talking about it, and I felt like, ‘Oh they’re not asking the right questions’ because they haven’t experienced the booster rules and some of the frustrations that come with that for members, for parents who participate as the booster leadership, in just paying the fees and how that all works. So, the reason that I’m running is because I think that I would bring something to the board that isn’t already there.

What are your main concerns for the school district?

One of the concerns that has been publicised somewhat is that our enrollment is going down, and so we have to still provide the same kind of education for the kids, but with enrollment going down that means that the amount of money that we get goes down, because the school receives funding based on enrollment. But it’s kind of complicated, it’s based on how many days children attend school, so that’s one of the things that I really look into. They also have a large amount of money that they get, it’s called the Measure I fund and that needs to be managed really carefully, and that’s something that the school board votes on, how that money is spent and just in general all of the policies and the different things, there are many different reasons. There’s lots of things that the school board is involved in: curriculum, they vote on all kinds of things. They’re not the ones who investigate it and choose it and do all of that, but ultimately they are the ones that vote on it to approve buying it and all that.

Are there any specific changes you’d approve for the general education curriculum?

Not really, I think that that should be up to — I really believe that teachers should be the ones who determine the curriculum, and I really like it because they’re starting to buy new textbooks. And, so I believe last year they bought new math textbooks; they can only buy one set, I guess, for each subject, and this year I think they’re looking at history textbooks. And, so my kids, in their classes, they’re in some of the classes that actually test. They were doing pilots for the new textbooks, and I like that because you spend a ton of money on the textbooks and we want our teachers, our actual teachers, using those textbooks, with the kids, and they did stop using some of them last year and said ‘no’ to this one, and so then by the time you come up with the right textbooks that our teachers like, then that’s that. So, as a board member you vote on it, but then you also know that it has been tested. The teachers have looked at it; they’ve tested them out; they like them. And, so, changes to curriculum, no. I would let the teachers kind of determine where that goes, and there is also a curriculum department at the district offices and Dr. Boon is over that, and she’s really awesome, and works really hard. When you’re on the school board, you kind of leave all of that to them, but then you should also be aware and just make sure that all of the procedures were done and that kind of thing and then you vote on it.

I know in my English class we’re looking at textbooks right now and we get to vote on them.

So the kids also get to have a say in it, and they get to say, “I don’t like this about it.” That’s cool because one of the textbooks that they were looking at and they showed us at back to school night for the eighth graders, it had worksheets in it, and it was a tear out, and so they didn’t have to take their notes the same way. And, so there’s all these new things and so it’s kind of exciting that we’re getting some new curriculum.

What are your views on the increased use of technology in schools?

I love that we can use technology in the schools, and I know that we’re trying to spend more money on that and use it really wisely. I also think that with that there needs to come a lot of training, for the teachers so that they can use it to its full ability. We’ve all done something where for like 20 minutes we’re still trying to figure out how to start it and you’re like ‘just a minute’. So, I love that we can have some professional development for teachers to be able to use the new technology, because I think that with the Common Core Standards, there’s a lot of new technology, to kind of implement it properly, and I know that [Thousand Oaks High School] has already started bringing more technology and they do it campus by campus, but eventually we’ll all have a lot better technology. What do you guys think about technology?

I think like it, I think it’s good, but I do agree that teachers need a little bit more training, because I know that sometimes it’s helpful once they get the ball rolling, but when they’re trying to set it up, it takes up unnecessarily long amounts of time.

Yeah, and you guys are all like ‘I can do that’. That is where, it’s called professional development, and teachers can be trained. We also have people that work for the district, that their specialty is technology, there isn’t a ton of them, so they have to come around and help as they can, but I love technology. I think that it can be a great thing, but I also love just paper, and looking at real books, so I think there needs to be a balance.

How would you provide this technology to students who can’t afford it?

So, I know that there’s groups and someone actually told me that they try to do a grant, so this one group was telling me that the kids go home and they don’t have wifi, so even if you provided them with a computer, they wouldn’t have wifi and access to that kind of thing, so that was kind of an interesting thing that he said. He was trying to get a grant for the low-income areas, that the kids would then have the wifi, they also have after school programs where students can go so that they have access or at the library, and that kind of thing. But I believe that you have to spend the time to ensure that all students have equal access, so if some students don’t have that at home, then you can’t be requiring students to do thing that all students don’t have access to, because then that puts them at a disadvantage and they’re not going to do as well in the class. So I definitely would want to, and I do believe the district already does this, but I would support them in ensuring that the students have the access that they need to all the technology that is necessary to complete their work.

What is your opinion regarding the relocation of CVHS?

So, I worked a lot with at risk students. And, so I really believe in what they do there and I really believe that those students have the potential to do great things in their life, and some of them get off to a bumpy start, and that doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to eventually be very successful, so I think the program is very beneficial and necessary. I feel bad that they are sort of stuck in this limbo. I wish that there had already been a plan made before they sold the site that they are located on, but I would be committed to ensuring that they have the proper facilities, that they’re relocated to a place where they would get their needs met.

If there was a possibility that NP is going to move away from block schedule, how would you vote on that proposal?

I like the block schedule. My kids like the block schedule too. But, I wouldn’t vote based on my own personal beliefs, because my kids go to school there, so it would be very easy for me to say “no”, but what I would say is that if the teachers like it, then I’m not going to change it because I would have to see why they want to do that, and if they’re not able to offer everything they need to for some reason, I don’t understand why they would want to change it. I hadn’t even heard that, but I think the block schedule is great because it gives everybody a chance to not have homework for every class every night, and the other schools don’t have that, so they probably don’t understand it as much. It’s not the best for every student, because some of my kids liked it better than others, but some of my kids really like just saying, ‘I’m not doing math tonight, I don’t have to do math tonight.’ I like the block personally, but I wouldn’t support it unless the teachers and the students could see the benefits and see why we needed to adopt it.

What is your opinion on the recent Assembly Bill 329, which changed our curriculum for sex education?

We have to be compliant with the laws, and so when there is a new law that comes down, the school district has to comply. They did pass it, and you have to do that to comply with the law, and something that our district decided to do, that I liked, was they left the opt-in for parents. And, so, I’m really big that parents should have a say in that particular subject. That’s something that families, you know, there are a lot of differences, just family values and that kind of thing. And, so I like that there’s an opt-in, and so therefore when they voted on that, because they had the opt-in I liked that, and I would have voted for that.

How do you feel about transgender students using the bathroom of the gender they identify with?

So, I believe every student should feel comfortable at school, and that includes transgender students. I don’t think anyone should not feel able to go to the bathroom at school, or feel uncomfortable to go to the bathroom, or have to hold it until they get home. And, so this is also another, thing like that where we had to comply with the law, so I don’t believe in ever breaking the law, so I would comply with that, but beyond that I want all students to feel comfortable and safe, but I also want to ensure that every students feels comfortable and safe in the bathrooms and in the locker rooms. I did read in the paper that they are installing individual stalls in the locker rooms, and they’re putting up curtains in the showers, and that would just ensure that all students feel comfortable, and they don’t need to say ‘oh this is why I’m using it.” You just go in there if you want to, and I think then for all students it wouldn’t draw attention for why you’re using the stall, or why you’re not. Going back to that, every students needs to feel comfortable at school, and needs to feel safe and needs to feel like they can learn and they don’t feel any people that feel negativity towards them, so that would be my stance. This is also with my school counseling, I’ve worked with students on several occasions, when I was doing my training, that were LGBT, from that population, so I understand that population, and I understand what the different concerns are.

Do you feel that all students receive equal opportunities and treatment at school, regardless of sexuality, race, gender, and financial status?

Well that’s hard to say, because you can look at it in a couple of ways. You can look at in ‘how does the money get spent?’ So you can say ‘does everyone get equal opportunities?’ But, some populations require more funding in order to ensure that they are able to have the education they need, some kids require more of that than others, but I think the focus should be on ensuring that all students feel comfortable and safe at school at that school is a place where they want to be and school is a place where they don’t feel singles out. We don’t tolerate bullying or picking on people for differences, and I think that the schools do a pretty good job of that. I mean, I’m not there during lunch to see what actually goes on, but I think that the kids are generally respectful of each other, and if there was ever a problem I would want them to know who to talk to, and I know school counselors work a lot with this issue, and no students should just have to take it, and it leads to depression and all those kinds of things. So I think that if you are having an issue, if you have any differences with people and people are being negative towards you because of it, then you need to get some support and some help.

Along with that, how would you maintain and improve the enforcement of the anti-discrimination?

I think anti-bullying programs are great. Just once a year, or whenever, you usually can get a grant to have a group come in and do a really good assembly or something like that, just to lead to awareness because I think when we all understand each other and where each other is coming from, because we’re not all going to be the same and have the same viewpoints on things, but we can all be respectful of each other and be able to go to school together and so I think students need to understand that their actions, their negative actions, affect people. I think anti-bullying programs are really good at helping students realize that their actions can impact people. I know that there have been students who even committed suicide because of bullying and that and that just cannot be tolerated. It goes on on social media, and it goes on outside of school, but I would just have zero tolerance for that, and I would support any policies that help the kids to recognize to respect each other.

Do you think students are aware of their resources at school?

That is a good question, and you guys can probably answer that better than I can. During my time when I was training for my school counseling I had tons of students come in, but you don’t know which ones don’t know that they can come in and what to do, if it’s happening to you. That’s why I think a program that says ‘Listen, if this is happening to you, you need to go talk to your counselor, or talk to a trusted teacher.’ Not necessarily a peer because they may not know, but peers can support each other and say ‘hey leave her alone’ and that kind of thing, I like that, but if you’re actually having a problem, you can tell your parents, but you can also talk to someone at the school. I’ll just give you an example, so my son he had someone that was teasing him when they were lining up after recess and he would come home and he would cry about it and so finally I said this is it, we’re going to go and we’re going to tell the administrator that he is being bullied and, so essentially they do it in a very discrete way and they just kind of maybe catch him doing it and then say, ‘you can’t do that, that is bullying, you’re not allowed to do that.’ Therefore, the person bullying the other person doesn’t know that they told on him, because sometimes that doesn’t work and it’s a disadvantage to the person getting bullied and they don’t want to tell because it’s just going to get worse and ‘no way am I telling anyone, because then they’ll just come after me. In my school counseling training, I saw a lot of that, a lot of really good interventions for how to prevent it, and I saw a lot of really good professional interventions that worked, and so I want the students to know. That would be a good article for you guys to write ‘what to do when you’re being bullied.’ Because it is something that no student should have to endure, when you’re an adult, you just don’t go around that person anymore, but when you’re a student and they’re in your class you don’t have that same control.

How would you promote a healthier lifestyle for students?

I always have a lot of ideas about this. There are studies done about sleep and how long students should sleep and what time school should start because students need this much sleep and teenagers. In some areas in the country they start later in the day for the high school because they found that teenagers are nocturnal and they like to stay up late and so no matter when school starts, they’ll still stay up late and then lack sleep, there are lots of studies out there, and it would probably have to be something that the principles come up with and then they present it to the board. Or, as far as exercise, I like PE, and they only really offer it freshman year, but then you can do your sports and that kind of thing, but I do think it’s nice to during the day while you’re at school to have that because not every student is going to get up and go running before school, especially when we get in as early as we do. I know my daughter takes an A period so that’s pretty early, so you’d have to get up really early if you were going to exercise before school, but I think exercise is super important to be able to focus and I think nutrition and just talking about nutrition, they probably talk about that in health, right? Like in the video about eating the junk food and everyone’s all like ‘I’ll never eat it again’. So yeah, I support having a healthy lifestyle and teaching kids hot to have a healthy lifestyle.

What is your opinion on the ed code that grants student journalists the same rights as student journalists?

Well, it is a law, and so that is exactly true. I was on the student publication manual committee, and I think both of your advisors were on that committee with me, and one thing that I discovered was that I was the only non-journalist on the committee. I was there as a parent. One thing that I liked about the committee was that they talked about the code of ethics because in all professions, you know lawyers, doctors, counselors, we all have our ethical code, and so, I liked the balance it provided, because the law allowed a lot of things. SO, with the code of ethics it also provides you with, you can read through that, and say okay this, is this something we should do,, we can do obviously, but should we do it? And then you just determine it for yourselves just to be good members of the community and be good fellow students. Actually, it was my suggestion that we put ethical dilemmas in the manual because I think that helps people internalize the ethical code because you have to actually think through it and say ‘oh okay, how does this actually apply if I have this scenario how would I apply the code of ethics to this scenario.’ So, yes, I understand that the law is the law, I would never think about breaking the law or telling other people to break the law or whatever, but I also believe that professional ethical codes are very useful in sort of providing the balance for the law.

One thing that’s interesting is that one of my teachers does yoga at the beginning of every class.

In the breathing, even when I was helping students who had anxiety during testing, we would tell them about the breathing because it does help you calm down, so yoga is also a very good focus thing, so you have to pay attention so you can clear your mind of other things, and I like that. I know they do that at one of my daughter’s classes. Health care is super important.

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