Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Interview with MTUESD School Board candidate Kendall Morlan

Why are you running for MTUESD School Board?

I have always been passionate about wanting to help kids to receive the best education possible.  Serving on the board will allow me, along with my fellow board members, to directly implement and monitor policies which meet the needs of all students.

What, do you feel, are your qualifications?

I served on the Copperopolis Elementary School Site Council for 4 years.  I also volunteer in the after-school Homework Club, so I am able to see the homework provided for multiple grade levels on a weekly basis.  Additionally, I am the 4-H Community Leader for Copper Hills 4-H, and I have been involved with 4-H for 10 years.

I grew up in a family of educators, and have been listening to lively conversations about education literally all my life.  My mother was a district administrator and my father was a teacher and coach, so I learned to appreciate both sides of many educational issues. I believe this background will help me to bring people together to accomplish the goal of achieving student success.   My daughter and I were both GATE students, and my sister was a Special Education student.  I, therefore, have a strong appreciation for special needs programs which serve the learning styles and needs of every student.

I have two bachelor’s degrees, and I was a business owner for 5 years.  I then was a stay-at-home parent for 15 years, and now I work part-time at Saddle Creek Resort. 

What will you bring to the Board that you feel will make a difference?

Along with the qualifications mentioned above, I feel that I am a rational, fair, thoughtful and patient person, who is able to work well with others to achieve the goal of providing the best educational experience possible for our students.  I am a good listener, and want to hear the thoughts and concerns of students, parents, teachers and administrators.  I thoroughly study all sides of an issue before forming my opinion and making decisions.

Courtesy photo

What are your feelings on the common core teaching methods being utilized currently?

This issue is an example of just what I mentioned above.  I have been reading and studying all aspects and opinions of Common Core, as well as talking with teachers and children, and although I have heard many things, both positive and negative, I am still in the learning phase. This is a major shift in education for our entire nation, and it deserves our utmost attention!  I plan to be a close watchdog of this program, and I am able to directly monitor actual student learning through serving in the Homework Club.  I do believe extensive teacher training is imperative to the success of the program.

What are your three overall priorities if you are elected?

It is difficult to choose just three.  My campaign slogan is “Striving for Excellence”.  This is not just a slogan for me.  I believe we have a great school district, but I also believe that it can always be better.  There have been several changes made by the state regarding how money is allocated to each district.  Two things that have been eliminated due to these changed allocations are Music Education and the GATE program.  I would like to bring these back.  I cannot go into detail here about the extreme benefits both programs provide students, as well as the district, but they are many and important.  As I mentioned earlier, I also want to keep a close eye on the Common Core program.  Additionally, in our ever-changing world, we must keep close tabs on our Safety policies.  I worked on this with the School Site Council, and will continue to monitor and improve these policies if I am elected to the board.  I would add that teacher satisfaction is important, and of course, my ULTIMATE goal is to serve the best interests of EVERY child in the district.

Does our district have a Local Control and Accountability Plan? If so, please explain how this plan works.

This is a requirement by the State of California just implemented last year.  The state gives a set of requirements that must be implemented by the districts, which is tied to state funding.  It focuses on primarily low income, English learner, foster youth and students with disabilities, and also on the school environment, such as bullying prevention. The “Local Control” comes in when each district decides how to best implement the appropriate services to meet these requirements.  Our district does have a plan, or LCAP.   Before formulating the LCAP, the district held meetings with parents of students receiving Special Education services, the ELAC (English Language Advisory Committee), students, parents and community members from both Mark Twain and Copperopolis, bargaining units (ACE and CSEA) and  the LCAP Advisory Committee. After the plan was formulated it was submitted to the Board, then to the County Office of Education, and then on to the State for approval. 

Do you support or oppose expanded public education to include preschool in our district?

I believe preschool education should be made available to every child.  The major question is, how will it be funded?  At this time, no funds are provided by the state to implement this program.  So, in order to incorporate preschool into the public education system, funds would need to be taken from our existing “pot,” which is already strained.  We don’t want to sacrifice the needs of our Kindergarten through 8th grade students in order to achieve this goal.  In our district, we currently have two available preschool programs on-site at Copperopolis Elementary – Head Start and Calaveras County Office of Education Preschool.  Mark Twain Elementary also houses a Head Start preschool.  In addition, the district provides a Transitional Kindergarten for those children who are slightly too young to attend regular Kindergarten. 

Are you familiar with Vergara v California? What is your understanding of this case and what is your position on tenure?

This was a case filed by nine public school students against the State of California.  The students challenged three statutes of the California Education Code, claiming they violated the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.  The trial court’s decision was just written on August 27, 2014.  I have read the judge’s decision in its entirety.  Basically, the students believe they were denied a quality education due to “grossly ineffective” teachers that were disproportionately located in schools serving minority and low-income students.  In a nutshell, the three statutes govern the tenure policy in California.  The issues involved are 1) the fact that it only takes 16 months for teachers to receive “permanent employment” status, 2) the fact that it currently takes so long and so much money to dismiss a teacher, that dismissals are “extremely rare” in California, and 3) that the Last In, First Out policy of employment does not take into account the quality and efficiency of the teacher. 

The judge found all three statutes unconstitutional.  The judge wrote that it was his responsibility to remain objective and focus only on the legal aspects of the case.  It will be the duty of the California Legislature to update the state policies and laws.  This case will surely be appealed, so only time will tell what effect it will have on education in California. I could go into much greater detail about the content of the decision, as it was extremely interesting.   I strongly urge every citizen to read the judge’s actual written decision, and I would be happy to provide a copy to anyone who requests it.  In any case, it is the function of Mark Twain Union Elementary School Board to follow the policies set forth by the California Education Code.

At this time you may present a maximum 300 word statement.

I would just like to say that I would be honored to have your vote on November 4th.  You can be confident that I will work hard to ensure the success of every student in our district, and do so with integrity and accountability.  I welcome your thoughts and concerns, and will continue to keep an open dialogue with all as a board member.  I can be reached at and (209) 840-3289.  Thank you!