Issues - Q&A
1.Why are you a candidate for TUSD school board? Why run?
I have always had a deep commitment to education and giving back to my community. This opportunity allows me to invest in my community and help make a positive difference in public education, teachers, administration-district staff, parents and board colleagues. The teachers are why Torrance schools are great and why people move to Torrance. I want to help ensure the safety and health for students and teachers while at school. I want to keep TUSD moving in the right direction with shared visions and goals created by all who serve TUSD. I want to create stronger ties between the teachers, administration-district staff, parents and school board. Teaching can be frustrating and a thankless job with low teacher morale. We can continue with the status quo or look at change to become a 21 St century school district, change is not always bad. I am an effective communicator and good listener. I want to inspire dialog with leadership and vision. I can work with everyone to bridge this gap. Harry Truman once said “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”.
2. What are the top three challenges facing TUSD today and what will you propose to address them?
Covid – 19 and the Opening of Schools - During a Torrance survey of 11,000 parents, 76% wish to have students return to school. 80% prefer to have blended learning, while 20% prefer not to send students to school. My opinion is YES students need to be back at school. I am sure many teachers want to be back at school also, but SAFETY FIRST! Let’s not be an example of a bad opening, let’s be an example of a well thought out model of forward thinking. Let TUSD be the Example. Teacher Retention & Teacher Recruitment – At the core of the strategy Teacher Retention & Teacher Recruitment is the understanding that there are no great schools without great teachers. No other profession is as important to the fate of the next generation. 1.Create the right climate for leaders to establish supportive school cultures. 2. Transform support for early career teachers 3. Build a career offer that remains attractive to teachers as their careers and lives develop. 4. Improve Teacher Morale. Funding & Budget - School funding has to be addressed. With the education system supported by taxes and a recession looming, and revenues generated by sales and income taxes, both of which drop in times of recession it will create smaller staffs, fewer programs, and diminished resources for students and teachers. One survey discovered that teachers in California spend an average of $664 of their own money on classroom supplies a year. The coronavirus pandemic has drastically impacted the budgets. State revenues have declined due to delays in income tax collections, some states may receive aid from the federal government to cover deficits, many may still need to dip into reserve accounts, commonly referred to as rainy day funds. TUSD’S rainy day fund looks good for 2020- 2021 but 2021-2022 is uncertain due to Covid – 19. Hopefully the federal government will start a Covid - 19 emergency funding. I am not in favor of classroom cuts or furloughs to teachers.
3. What do you see as the most important duties of a school board member?
I think it’s important that he or she shows respect for fellow Board Members, Members of the Administration and Community, Teachers & Stakeholders. It’s important that he or she works together with the Teachers Association, Board Members, administration and stakeholders to create a shared vision. As part of the board, he or she must: - Set a vision, goals and oversee the general operation of the school district. - Establish and adopt policies, set priorities, set up Student Performance Standards, adopt Curriculum & Academic programs - Establish and adopt school budgets for presentation to the community - Approve the school calendar - Evaluate and/or hire the superintendent of Schools - Approve contracts with outside vendors - Manage & Ratify collective bargaining agreements for district employees The board balances the business of actually running the district while establishing and monitoring its academic priorities. A school board election can help bring important issues to focus. It is one of the most important local election where voters have direct influence.
4. What do you think a school board member’s role in the collective bargaining process should be?
Collective bargaining is a process of negotiation between employers and a group of employees. It represents the Shareholders, Residents of Torrance, Torrance Teachers Association and Students equally. Negotiations usually set out wage scales, working hours, training, health and safety, overtime, grievance mechanisms, and rights to participate in workplace or company affairs. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed December 10, 2018. It appears that the prior agreement expired on July 1, 2017. The current agreement is from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2020. If I understand this correctly, the agreement has expired and the terms of the agreement continue under the “Evergreen Clause” - a provision that automatically extends the collective bargaining agreement if notice of termination is not given in a timely manner. As I mentioned previously, one of the duties of a Board Member is to manage & ratify collective bargaining agreements for TUSD and District Employees/Torrance Teachers Association. A school board election can help bring important issues to focus. This would be a key issue to focus on. I could be wrong, but employee/employer contracts are very important to protect the employment interests of District Employees, Torrance Teachers Association and TUSD. It is the primary function of TUSD and the Board to represent the basic interests of ultimately ratifying the terms of the agreement reached by the negotiations of the Board, TUSD and the Torrance Teachers Association.
5. What is your knowledge of and position on Proposition 15?
Proposition 15 increases Funding for Public Schools, Community Colleges, and Local Government Services by Changing Tax Assessment of Commercial and Industrial Property. The initiative will change how commercial and industrial property is taxed and will increase funding for K-12 public schools, community colleges and local governments by requiring that commercial and industrial real property be taxed based on current market value. Residential properties will not be affected. The proposition is scheduled to raise $12 billion dollars a year. Increased property taxes on commercial properties worth more than $3 million providing $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion in new funding to local governments and schools. The drawback is businesses will pass the cost to the business owners and inevitably pass it on to the consumer. We are suffering all across our nation with businesses closing. The hardest hit has been the restaurant industry. Yelp’s research counts 15,770 U.S. restaurants permanently closed due to the pandemic. Out of every 10 restaurants that closed temporarily, six eventually closed permanently, an alarming 23 percent increase in just the last month. This proposition would be very disruptive to our economy. There is no doubt whatsoever the education system has been suffering to long for lack of funding. Honestly, I have not made up my mind that Proposition 15 is the funding source to save our schools. I am open to have conversation and brainstorm new ideas to support more funding for our school district. ****If you have comments or questions please email me at: Voteronriggs@Gmail.com
6. When the District prepares for budget cuts in the spring, how will you prioritize cuts?
It is my understanding the TUSD Budget is around $240 million and about 80%-85% of it is payroll. After looking at the 2020-2021 Proposed Budget Unrestricted General Fund, our risk areas are: enrollment/attendance, additional cost for protective equipment for staff and students, loss of local revenues such as lease/rental revenues and donations, and decrease in lottery revenues. With a possible recession, personal income down, and tax revenue down we will see cuts in the state budget. I will separate expenditures by wants and needs. I am not in favor of classroom cuts, layoffs and furloughs. These options would be my last preference.
7. Describe and evaluate the District’s current plan for reopening schools.
Covid – 19 and the Opening of Schools - With a survey of 11,000 parents, 76% wish to have students return to school, 80% of families prefer blended learning, and 20% of families choose to not physically send students to school. It is obvious the parents voiced their opinions. My opinion is YES students need to be back at school. I am sure many teachers want to be back at school also, but SAFETY FIRST! Let’s not be an example of a bad opening, let’s be an example of a well thought out model of forward thinking. Let TUSD be the Example.
8. What is your understanding of “due process rights” for teachers?
Through my research on the internet I found this: The Due Process Clause provides that no state may “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This clause applies to public school districts and provides the minimum procedural requirements that each public school district must satisfy when dismissing a teacher who has attained tenure. I believe every teacher should have a right to due process, Innocent till proven guilty. In most states, due process laws require that teachers that is being dismissed must be informed about their deficiencies and urged to improve. I was a manager at Bank of America and my policy as coach up not out.
9. What sort of priority do you feel the district should put on teacher recruitment, development, and retention, and why?
Of these three which would you consider to be the highest priority? This answer depends on the current need. As an example, if we have ten teacher vacancies, recruitment would be the priority. My priorities are as follows: #1. Retention #2. Development #3. Recruitment I feel this is one of the more important assets to our education system. My bachelors’ thesis was on employee retention. “At the core of the strategy teacher retention & teacher recruitment” is the understanding that there are no great schools without great teachers. No other profession is as important to the fate of the next generation. Here are some examples for teacher recruitment, development and retention: 1.Create the right climate for leaders to establish supportive school cultures. 2. Support for early career teachers. 3. Build a career path that remains attractive to teachers as their careers and lives develop. 4. Improve teacher morale.
10. What importance, if any, do you place on the concept of academic freedom as it relates to state/federal mandated and/or “lock step” curricula?
As a basketball coach I start making the game plan days in advance before my game. Practices are subject to change on a daily basis. During the game many variables change. Players get hurt and none of them have the same personality or motivation. As a coach I need to change according to the tempo and mood. I am a teacher of the game of basketball just like a school teacher is to their students. If I used the “lock step” curricula and had no freedom to step out of the box, I may lose the attention to achieve the task at hand. Having the freedom to teach different techniques is beneficial in many instances, the teacher/instructor/coach can get the best out of the individual by understanding when that person has lost interest and a different approach needs to be introduced. I feel it is ok to follow the academic freedom concept, trust goes a long way. I am confident and have trust in our education system. After speaking to a few people about this subject I am satisfied that teachers are professionals and will follow the standards of the curriculum provided. I am being told “This is the art of teaching and academic teaching”
11. If elected, will you seek input from Association representatives on a regular basis?
ABSOLUTELY! I am big on communication and team building.