10/15/12 School Board President Review of Progress – October2012
The past four years have been tough for education. The worst budget crisis in California history has made it a constant struggle to provide our students with the teachers and resources they need. However, by keeping our priorities straight and working collaboratively with teachers, parents, and the San Diego community, we have:
Kept teachers in the classroom
Ensuring students have the teachers they need has been my top priority. Only with a stable staff and reasonable class sizes can we continue to prepare our kids for college and careers. By negotiating with our employees, we achieved cost savings that allowed us to recall 1,500 teachers who were slated for layoffs. Despite four years of the worst state funding crisis in the history of California, class sizes in our district are now among the lowest in the state, particularly for our youngest students.
Improved student achievement
Over my four years on the board, our test scores have steadily gone up in math, language arts, science, and social studies, to the point where we now have the highest achievement levels in the history of our district for every group of students. We are in first place among the large California districts in both our reading and science results. We are recognized as one of the leading urban districts in the nation.
We are also excelling in other areas, and on metrics beyond test scores. In 2010, we received a national award for outstanding music education from the Kennedy Center. We are also focusing on physical fitness, character education, and critical thinking. Our graduation rates are up, our dropout rates are by far the lowest among large California districts, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has recognized us for our success in improving student attendance rates.
Rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the latest top-down reforms, we have achieved success by actually listening to the people working directly with students in the classrooms – our teachers, principals, support staff, parents, and students themselves. By listening rather than dictating, we have learned about exciting success stories of student achievement in neighborhood schools where everyone works together and kids don’t fall through the cracks. This community-based reform model, which continues to produce proven results, lies at the heart of our approach to improving schools.
Cut administration and sent the money to the classroom
At the same time, I have advocated for adequate funding from Sacramento and Washington. I am organizing other board presidents across the state to fight for funding for our schools. We are all responsible for preserving and improving great public schools, and we must all follow the example of our district employees in being willing to make sacrifices for the sake of our next generation.
John was in Sacramento to hear Governor Brown’s “State of the State” address, and to personally tell the governor about the devastating impacts that continued cuts could have on our students and schools.
Crafted a long-term vision for our schools
I authored the Vision 2020 plan for educational reform in San Diego Unified. It broadens the ways in which we measure student success to go far beyond standardized test scores. It includes critical thinking, creativity, physical fitness, music, and the arts. It places an emphasis on our neighborhood schools as the backbone of local communities, with a quality school and great teachers in every neighborhood. It means our students will graduate from high school ready for both technical careers and college.
With adequate revenue we can do so much more. On the November ballot voters will have a chance to weigh in on three ballot measures that will affect funding for San Diego Unified.
San Diego schools have a lot to be thankful for in this holiday season. We are steadily moving towards a quality school in every neighborhood. We have many California Distinguished Schools. We have received awards for our exemplary career technical education programs. We are increasing access to college prep programs through our a-g program. We received a national award from the Kennedy Center for outstanding music education.
We are improving our schools through Prop S with state-of-the-art facilities for auto tech and broadcasting. We are leading the nation in technology. We are putting a laptop in the hands of every student over the next few years. We have rededicated ourselves to athletics and fitness as an important part of the school experience with updated athletic facilities. We are also adding arts facilities to offer a broad curriculum that includes music and the arts.
We have seen increased community involvement in 2012. Mira Mesa High has a community school agreement with the district. The Clairemont and Madison clusters have formed a Clairemont Mesa Educational Foundation to support their schools. Central Elementary in City Heights has a Dads Club with 200 fathers in attendance. We also voted to protect Title 1 funding for students living in poverty at schools with 40% or more students in that category, while giving additional funds to the schools with the highest concentration of poverty.
We are all aware of the economic crisis affecting our community, our state and our nation. Since I came on the board three years ago we have cut hundreds of millions from the budget and have reduced our teaching and support staff. We are now doing the same job with about 2,000 fewer employees. Nevertheless, the teachers and staff continue to work hard. Test results this week will show that we are doing an outstanding job in improving student achievement in comparison with other districts across the country.
As a board member, I will do everything within my power to continue the fine work of our schools. We can only divide up the money that the state decides to give us. We will take whatever measures necessary to make sure we balance our budget to protect our local control of the schools. This will require shared sacrifice on the part of our employees, students, parents and community. We are making the tough choices. Now the Governor and the legislature need to make the tough choices to ensure that our schools have the funds we need to operate.
San Diego schools are worth investing in and we have the results to prove it.
John Lee EvansVice President, Board of Education
7/21/2011 Read John Lee Evans' comments on the State's Budgeting Process on the John Lee Evans Blog.
6/25/2011 Read John Lee Evans' comments on the 2011-2012 budget on the John Lee Evans Blog on this website.
San Diego Union Tribune Opinion Article
by John Lee Evans
05/08/2010 Rally to Save Our Schools
Everyone is invited to a city-wide rally in support of our public schools at Balboa Park. This is designed to occur the weekend before the Governor announces next year's funding proposal for education in California. For more details go to www.educate4future.org.
What? Rally in support of public school funding: NO MORE CUTS!
Where? Balboa Park
When? Saturday, May 8 at 10 AM
Who? All parents, teachers, students, community members
Everyone who believes in saving public education
04/14/2010 Superintendent Search Town Hall Meeting
Do you care about what happens in San Diego schools next year? All parents and community members are asked to come give their input on the Board's 2020 Vision (long term plans for the district) and the type of Superintendent we want to implement that plan. This is the second of a series of meetings across the district. People from University City, Clairemont, Madison and Mira Mesa communities are especially invited.
What? Superintendent Search Town Hall Meeting
Where? Media center at University City High School
When? Wednesday, April 14, 2010 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Who? Parents, teachers, students, community members
Speak up now when you can help us set the right direction for our schools. Your opinion matters.
1/25/10 - Open process for superintendent search
At the 1/26/10 board meeting, the Board of Education will address the issue of an open process for a search for a permanent superintendent. Bill Kowba is serving as the Interim Superintendent and has been working hard to unite the district for a successful year in spite of the budget crisis.
1/22/10 - La Jolla group wants to form a cluster association
Board members attended an organizing/informational meeting of parents and staff in La Jolla who are interested in forming a cluster council in their community. This year in District A cluster associations have been formed in University City, Mira Mesa and Madison/Clairemont.
1/21/10- Myths about San Diego Unified in a San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed
Please see the editorial by John Lee Evans about who really controls San Diego Unified:
(Also, there is an excellent Q&A with San Diego Unified Board President Richard Barrera in the Sunday editorial section on January 24, 2009.)
1/15/09 - Board Adopts Priority Based Budgetting
Rather than starting with an endless series of cuts in this budget crisis, the board has decided to first define what our priorities are. At our 1/12/09 meeting we identified six key priorities out of a list of fifteen:
1. Raise the achievement level of all students
2. Broad-based (full) curriculum
3. Diversity, integration, and choice
4. Safe and supportive environment
5. Class size maintenance
6. 21st Century learning environment/technology
We have directed staff to come up with a budget that starts with these six priorities. This does not mean that we will not fund the other priorities. How far we go down the list will depend on how much revenue we receive from the state. The staff has been directed to be as creative as possible in funding these priorities. Various stakeholders will be consulted in the process.
The staff will present their findings at the next budget workshop on February 9.
12/1/09 - Budget crisis: What would YOU do?
The reality is that our budget may be cut more than $200 million on top of all of the serious cuts that we have experienced the last two years. We have already made major cuts in the central office, we have reduced office staffs to the bare minimum, we have 600 fewer teachers than last year, we have consolidated bus routes, we have increased class size in some grades and we have instituted spending and hiring freezes. We must now enter into a deeper austerity program for at least two years.
What more can we do? In my opinion, further cuts are unconscionable, but at this point the state treasury is going down every day. To put the cuts in perspective, our budget could be balanced if we denied education next year to 40,000 students. In fact this is what the state universities are doing—limiting enrollment and leaving students outside. Of course, that is not an option for us. So we have to find a solution that saves the same amount of money as “laying off” 40,000 students. The only other alternative is for the state legislature to raise the funds that we need to operate our schools.
The Board has expressed an interest in developing a budget based upon our priorities rather than simply looking at a list of outrageous cuts. We have seen long lists of cuts proposed by staff. Even if we approved all of them it would not come close to closing the gap. Of course, we are restricted by many state laws as to how we are allowed to spend our money. But we must at least declare our priorities. Which of these is YOUR first priority?
a) We must maintain reasonable class sizes, many of which are already too high. It would be better to make other cuts, such as the number of school days or certain academic programs than to have even more students in every classroom.
b) We must maintain the current minimum of 180 days of instruction. Decreasing the number of days in the school year would have an unacceptable effect on our student achievement.
c) We must keep all academic programs in place. A full curriculum is the key to student success. This is more important than class size or the number of school days.
Remember that saving $10-$20 million will not do it. At this point we need $200 million. The only thing that can change that figure is for the state legislature to take bold action. So far, the two political parties have not found common ground on a way to fund public education. We currently rank somewhere between 47th and 49th in per pupil spending in the
We have designated 2009-2010 as the Year of the School Volunteer. While we have had volunteers donating their time for many years, our goal is to have hundreds more volunteers at the schools to read to and with our young students. For more information on volunteer opportunities, please contact my Community Liaison, Carol Hunter email@example.com. Our kickoff day for the Year of the School Volunteer is October 9, 2009. Watch for details. Read about it in the Union Tribune.
We are developing advisory boards from each of the communities I represent. The purpose is to work for the improvement of schools within your community and to have a united voice to address the Board of Education on your community's needs. We already have groups forming in University City, Clairemont/Madison clusters and Mira Mesa. There will be one additional At-Large advisory group to speak to me. This group will be open to anyone throughout the city. To participate in these advisory boards or to get more information please contact Carol Hunter firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are off to a great start for 2009-2010 in spite of our severe budgetary limitations. We had significant gains in our test scores in 2008-2009 and we plan to do even better this year. The Board of Education has named Bill Kowba as Interim Superintendent. We are going to continue to refine our San Diego Plan before we begin a search for a permanent superintendent to implement our San Diego goals. In the meantime, we have a great management team, excellent teachers and support personnel. They deserve the credit for the gains we have made.
My Opinion Articles
For more details on what we have been working on this year, please read the following op-ed pieces that were published in the San Diego Union-Tribune:
If you would like to receive occasional email updates on important school district issues from John Lee Evans, please email email@example.com with “Add me to constituent list” in the subject line and include your name and community or school(s) in the text.