The three candidates for the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District (GJUESD) Board of Trustees answer questions about important issues the district is facing. Traci Skinner, Jared Gaynor and Casey Raboy share their thoughts on challenges ahead.
Gaynor’s top priorities are to keep the district funded knowing the current pandemic has set all districts back financially and to look closely at curriculum.
“(I would) seek additional funding sources such as grants, etc. to enhance support for our learners most in need, including English Second Language (ESL), Special Needs, as well as our most gifted students (GATE),” Gaynor said.
Skinner wants to focus on preparing students for high school and improving communications between staff, teachers, students and parents. Her number one goal is that every student is well educated for a successful future.
All three candidates believe the district teachers have done a good job under very difficult circumstances by providing lesson plans for distance learning.
“The teachers are motivated and helpful,” Raboy said. “If we were going to continue for a significant length of time, I would like to see the district invest in more curriculums for online instruction and in technology infrastructure.”
“I also think, as time has gone on, more teachers have been able to become more comfortable teaching over distance, which definitely shows to our students,” Gaynor said.
The lack of social interactions and the consequences on student’s mental health were all concerns by the three candidates.
Having time for friends and for learning on their own is what Raboy said is missing from distance learning.
“Distance learning reduces time with teachers, the ability to access school resources, the social connections made between kids, and hinders their development educationally and socially,” Raboy said. “I also believe that distance learning is not optimal for at-risk children and our special education students. I would like to ensure that every student has the opportunity to learn during the pandemic.”
Gaynor said social skills are very important and hopes that teachers will be cognitive of the lapse in that area once the students return to school.
The candidates shared their thoughts on returning students to classrooms and seeking a waiver to get back on campus.
“As a district we need to focus on how we can get students safely back on campus,” Skinner said.
“I’m supportive of returning to campus, but not at all costs,” Gaynor said. “The application process is extensive, and I would not support making an application until county and local transmission rates have dropped more and after gaining support from all constituencies (such as) parents, administration, teachers and staff, as required …”
“A majority of parents support returning to in-person learning as shown in the last school survey,” Roboy said. “I know that my child is missing out on socializing and her motivation to learn is lower with distance learning. I want to see our children return to in-person learning as quickly as possible when it is safe.”
Equity between Schools
State test scores vary drastically between district schools. The candidates were asked how to provide equality in education at each school.
Skinner said she would like for schools to learn from each other.
“I would like to look at what is working well on campuses and what schools can learn from each other,” Skinner said. “When we see success in one school, we must work together and achieve similar results at all our schools. This can happen if we work collectively as a team of parents, teachers, administration and board members.”
Gaynor had other thoughts.
“An ‘all schools need the same thing’ tactic simply doesn’t work, and is wasteful,” Gaynor said. “Some schools may need more specialized ESL support, while others may have exceptional amounts of students with disabilities. A gap analysis will allow administration to plan and propose a course of action to meet everyone’s needs.”
Raboy believes early childhood education is the key to having students enter school on a level playing field.
“I believe the district has worked hard to provide equitable learning environments and I supported the last bond measure to continue this path,” Raboy said. “I am excited about the new grant that the district just received to assist Pre-K English learning students as this will help to promote literacy.”
Better Preparing Students for High School
Gaynor and Raboy both said that early intervention is key to getting students ready for high school.
“We cannot wait until middle school to prepare students for high school success,” Raboy said. “The schools should encourage parental involvement from preschool forward and take an active role in measuring successful learning. Teamwork between parents and teachers can set children up for a successful high school experience.”
Gaynor said each learning milestone must be mastered with parents and teachers monitoring their progress.
“Increasing the ability to both meaningfully assess mastery, as well as having the resources to assist children before they fall too far behind, are both imperative in ensuring students are prepared for high school and beyond,” Gaynor said.
Skinner said a task force is needed with collaboration between middle school teachers and faculty and high school educators.
Funding for Facility Projects Yet Needed
Measure K money has been spent and more projects have yet to be addressed. The candidates were asked how we keep equity between campuses in regard to spending money on projects and what projects they would like to see tackled.
“Equity should not be the measure of success between campuses; rather, we need to have a list of existing needs and prioritize those projects based on safety, providing effective learning spaces and supporting whole student development,” said Gaynor.
“As a board, we need to evaluate needs and wants,” said Skinner. “Our maintenance budget should help with our district’s needs. We will have to look to our general budget and prioritize our wants.”
“Most of the schools in Galt do not have adequate lighting around their parking areas,” Raboy said. “This is such an important safety issue, as adequate lighting helps prevent vandalism and crime.”
Should a New Joint Powers Authority be formed?
The previous JPA partnered both school districts but it has timed-out. Candidates were asked if a new one is needed.
“I think, given the separate elementary and high school governance boards here in Galt, a new JPA should be formed,” Gaynor said. “The growth in the city keeps coming, and a JPA ensures communication and organization between the two districts necessary to meet the demands of new families in our city.”
“Definitely, all new developments need to pay their fair share to enable the school districts to address the impacts of new development,” Raboy said. “I lived in Galt when growth outstripped our schools. I would never want that to happen again.”
“From what I understand, the JPA should stay intact,” Skinner said. “Mello-Roos should stay in place. As new growth happens in the district, the JPA should stay involved setting fees and guidelines.”
All three said students should take top priority before any other spending is done by the district.
“I would like to have a study session as a board to prioritize funding,” Skinner said. “In addition, I feel we need to evaluate where money is being spent and ensure money is being spent for the betterment of our students.”
“Curriculum and student support must be prioritized over any other discretionary spending,” Gaynor said. “Students come first.”
“After prioritizing the health and safety of the students and teachers, the focus should be on student learning,” Raboy said.
Editor’s note: To see the candidates’ full answers to these and additional topics, log on to The Galt Herald website at www.galtherald.com.