[Editor’s note: One in a series of six candidate Q&As for the Santa Barbara School Districts Board of Education. Click here for the main story. Click here for Annette Cordero’s Q&A. Click here for Susan Deacon’s Q&A. Click here for Ed Heron’s Q&A. Click here for Jacqueline Inda’s Q&A. Click here for Kate Smith’s Q&A.]

NOOZHAWK: What is the single biggest problem facing our schools, and what is the best way to solve it?

Article Image

Charlotte Ware

CHARLOTTE WARE: We need to provide quality education in a safe and respectful environment that raises the academic performance of all students.

The latest state test scores show areas of progress and identify where academic improvement is most needed: our socioeconomically disadvantaged and English learners. More instructional hours, family training, rigorous curriculum, and diverse classrooms are suggested avenues to pursue. I believe we need to seek answers through communication, collaboration and community investment. Listening and talking is important at all levels. Multiinterest teams bring insight, experience and innovation. Then businesses, agencies, volunteers and families can invest time and resources to make advancements.

NOOZHAWK: La Cumbre Junior High, Santa Barbara Junior High and McKinley Elementary schools have all been labeled “Year 5” schools in program improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act. Technically, this means the schools could be closed and re-opened as charter schools, and the principal and most of the staff could be replaced. The district is allowing those schools to continue their ongoing improvement plans without a drastic change in direction this year. Is this the right course of action?

CHARLOTTE WARE: In the past four years many changes have been made on these campuses. Each school has a new principal. New curriculum in language arts and math have been implemented to better educate our students. Additional training and support have been given to our teachers and staff. The county Education Office did a comprehensive review of each school with a restructuring plan, timeline and accountability path.

These schools are continuing to implement major changes and are on a path to achieve success. Progress has been made and the school cultures are encouraging, hard working and aware of their goals.

NOOZHAWK: Throughout California, the percentage of students in GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) hovers around 5 percent. In Santa Barbara’s junior and high schools, the proportion is more like 20 percent. Should steps should be taken to lower the percentage?

CHARLOTTE WARE: Each student identified by GATE qualification criteria should have access to GATE instruction. One qualification criteria for GATE participation is a score at the advanced level (90 percent to 94 percent) on their annual CST California Standards Test.

Our community, families, rigorous curriculum and excellent teachers are able to foster and inspire the natural intelligence to produce a large group of GATE-identified students. We should continue to offer rigorous GATE classes to this group of students. In the high schools there are other demanding opportunities open to all students: Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and dual enrollment with Santa Barbara City College.

NOOZHAWK: Should the elementary and secondary districts’ open-enrollment policy be maintained?

CHARLOTTE WARE: The secondary district’s open enrollment accommodates for interests and needs of students, which is timely as activities lead toward college and career choices. The movement among our three high schools is fairly even.

The elementary district has eight neighborhood schools, two schools of choice and three charter schools. Movement among neighborhood schools is as space is available. Families have the ability to select their neighborhood school, transfer to another neighborhood school or select one of five options best for their child. Parents are the best advocates for their children and the SBSD allows for parent choice in open enrollment.

NOOZHAWK: Would you support a districtwide school uniform policy?

CHARLOTTE WARE: I believe each school site should decide what is best for its population. Parents, teachers, administrators and staff, community members and student representatives should collaborate to determine the best course of action.

NOOZHAWK: Would you support a proposal to ban certain forms of gang apparel and styles?

CHARLOTTE WARE: Clothing worn should not cause a distraction or disturbance of any school activity and should not interfere with participation of a student in a school activity and should not create a health or safety hazard. The purpose of school is for student academic achievement. Apparel known to intimidate or frighten students should not be worn at school (this could include gang apparel). Each school site should be responsible for identifying and remedying any disruption in learning. The dress code conversation should include teachers, staff, families (including students), administrators and community liaisons.

NOOZHAWK: What are your thoughts on the district’s proposal to hire two gang-intervention specialists, also known as outreach workers — at a salary of $49,000 each?

CHARLOTTE WARE: The district has programs in place that could supplant the outreach worker proposal: community student coordinators, youth service specialists (YSS) and truancy prevention coordinators. Our community student coordinators work directly with students, interface with families, attend IEP meetings and provide additional accountability and direction. YSS has prevention and intervention programs such as reconnecting youth and one-on-one assistance sessions. The truancy prevention coordinator on campus works with students and families to keep individuals in class and connected to academics.

I would rather fund existing measurable programs and facilitate collaboration between groups and campuses.

NOOZHAWK: The district is being asked to pitch in $64,000 annually to keep the truancy program alive. Historically, the program has been funded by Santa Barbara County, but the Board of Supervisors has said it would cut the entire program unless individual districts pony up. Would you vote yes or no on spending that amount?

CHARLOTTE WARE: This five-tiered system starts with a letter from school sent home at 18 unexcused class absences. At 24 unexcused classes a district attorney letter is sent. Habitual truancy is when 36 classes are missed, 90 percent of truant students are deterred from this level. Additional mediation happens at 60 and 84 absences. After four separate interventions, parent/student accountability, and community mediation the process of informal probation begins. Only 0.2 percent of our students reach the fifth level of this truancy intervention. I support programs with measurable results that keep students at school and going to class.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support using one of two unused parcels of district-owned land to build price-controlled housing for teachers?

CHARLOTTE WARE: The Santa Barbara School District focus needs to be on the students and providing a quality education. The up-front costs for looking into workforce housing are very high and labor intensive. Districts should focus on the business of education and partner with other organizations to supply services to their employees. The Coastal Housing Partnership is experienced in finding below-market rates and providing availability data. Financially this is a good time for the districts to observe what is happening with other community workforce housing projects and utilize the resources provided by nonprofit organizations.

NOOZHAWK: Do you generally agree with the direction in which Superintendent Brian Sarvis is taking the schools?

CHARLOTTE WARE: Growth comes with change. There are many changes in SBSD; from district management, to school administration, curriculum and student programs. When we keep the focus on our students and their acquisition of knowledge, the direction we travel needs to be flexible. We have many processes and staff in place to continue to move forward with the mobility to turn in a direction that we may discover on the journey. It is important to have a leader with a heart for students, the ability to see the final destination and the skill to direct the fleet in that direction.

NOOZHAWK: What’s your favorite book?

CHARLOTTE WARE: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Click here for more information on Charlotte Ware and expanded answers on other questions about education issues.