Patch asked each school board candidate the same questions via email for our online candidate's forum. A different candidate's answers will be posted every day over the next week. This is the sixth installment. Read . Read . Read . Read . here.
1. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background and why you should be elected or reelected to the Monrovia Unified School District Board of Education.
I’m Ed Gililland. I am currently president of the Monrovia school board, and a retired US Forest Service Engineering Manager. I periodically do technical consulting for the US Forest Service relative to facility planning, design, and construction.
I have three children and six grandchildren from my first marriage, and have three step-children with my wonderful wife Connie.
I have been a resident of Monrovia for over 18 years and had children in both private and public elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. I have been involved with Monrovia schools for over 15 years, serving on PTA and school site committees, booster clubs, district committees, and now as president of the school board. In 2003, before bond money was available, I spearheaded the volunteer project to raise funds and construct a replacement for the decrepit snack bar and restrooms at football stadium.
I am committed to insuring a bright future for Monrovia’s youth and am ready to continue my work on the school board. I believe my experience, proven results, and dedication are all factors that make my re-election the right thing for Monrovia Schools.
2. What unique qualifications do you have to guide us through the ever tightening and shrinking budgets due to funding issues caused by the budget mess in Sacramento? (submitted by blogger )
I have been a school board member through the tough fiscal times the district has experienced over the past five years. We have had to look hard at every program and every expense to decide what cuts to make to keep MUSD fiscally sound. I know and understand the depth and breadth of the cuts we have been forced to make and the impacts on students, teachers, staff, and parents. I have experienced the gut wrenching feeling a board member gets when they must vote to cut valuable services and staff, and am committed to doing everything I can to avoid further cuts.
While I believe the state legislature has their priority wrong, and has abandoned our school districts and our youth, I understand the state budget is what it is. We cannot totally depend on the funding the state provides for our district. We must continue to work hard and think creatively in order to increase revenue.
I have been a part of the leadership that has increased our academic standing and brought additional programs into the district, making us one of the few districts that has experienced an increase in enrollment.
I understand the importance of grant funding, as well as the rules and limitations that come with that funding. We currently have some wonderful grants that help us provide counselors, nutrition programs, and other services. However, one day those grants will run out and we will need to find other alternatives.
My primary qualifications are that I have been working with this budget mess, I understand how tight the budget is at this time, and am committed to continuing to provide the highest quality education in spite of the failures of the state to provide adequate funding for our students
3. With limited funding, what are your priorities for educating our students? (submitted by reader Betty Sandford)
Our highest priority must be high quality instruction. Learning happens in the classroom, therefore we use our resources to support teaching and learning. The classroom teacher must have the resources, knowledge, support, and encouragement to bring out the best in every student.
Differentiated instruction that assesses each student appropriately and provides individualized instruction is possible utilizing the technology we have available today. Our teachers and staff are doing a wonderful job especially considering the cutbacks we have experienced. They are finding creative ways to use the assessment tools we have (including tests) and the technology available to make sure they know what each student needs, and can ensure each student gets the help they deserve.
Through uniquely designed instruction to meet individual needs, the student that needs extra help with three digit addition and the student that needs help with single digit multiplication both get the help they need without holding up the whole class for one concept.
My priority is making sure the classroom teacher gets the administrative support, technology, continuing educational opportunities, and resources to make each student successful.
4. Do you think No Child Left Behind is working? If not, how do you intend to influence the State Board of Education on the option to opt-out of No Child Left Behind, as well as any other regulation of education that the teachers insist is holding kids back. (submitted by reader Danielle Elgin)
The short answer is no. Unattainable requirements were set in to law under No Child Left Behind including a requirement that all English language learners be proficient in English. To me it’s a no brainer that if the student is an English language learner, they are (by definition) not proficient in English. It doesn’t mean they have been “left behind”. They need to have the opportunity to learn English, and then be tested on their proficiency.
This is just one aspect of No Child Left Behind that does not make sense. It is estimated that over 80% of Districts will not meet all the requirements by the end of this school year, and without waivers or a change in the law, the number will continue to climb in coming years.
We have three ways that we (board members) influence these issues. One is direct contact with the state Department of Education through personal communication and school board resolutions. We have done both and will continue to do both when appropriate.
The second way we exert influence is to provide position papers, encouragement, and support for members of the public, PTA’s, the city, and other groups to increase the volume and quality of feedback going to the members of the state Department of Education and state legislature.
The third way we do this is membership in and involvement with the California School Board Association (CSBA). The Association is very active in lobbying efforts, education of legislators, consolidation of input from local school districts, and advocacy for local School Board effectiveness. We, as a district, are members of CSBA. Other board members and I attend the annual meeting to gain information and to network with state personnel and other School District representatives.
My personal interaction with the state architect at one of these meetings directly resulted in the local Department of State Architecture agreeing to allow our volunteer project to build the snack bar/restrooms for Monrovia High Stadium seven years ago after they originally insisted it be built by a contractor.
5. What do you think of the test score trends in the district? Are state test scores an accurate measure of the performance of teachers and the school district?
I think the test score trends in the district are headed in the right direction. The school board uses API scores as one of the measures of success for our schools and staff, but certainly not the only measure. A one shot test is not an adequate measure of anything other than how the students did on that test on that day.
Trends on the other hand do help us evaluate if the students are mastering the material they are expected to learn in each grade level. Specific concepts are taught at specific grade levels. We can track the extent to which the students as a whole are learning those concepts, and if the scores are holding still or decreasing we know that our schools are not improving instructionally. Therefore, I do believe the scores are one of the many indicators of district performance, but not the only measure.
I am convinced that a specific teacher’s performance cannot be measured by how the students do on one test. Since a teacher starts each year with a new class full of students, one test cannot adequately measure the progress made by the students that year in that classroom. The test is a better measure of the total education the student has received up to that point. It is not an absolute measure of the district performance either since it includes students that have not attended Monrovia schools before.
6. Did you send your children to Monrovia schools? If so, what did you think of the education they received. If not, why not?
My three children did not attend Monrovia public schools since I lived in Glendora when they were in school. They did attend a private Christian school in Monrovia for part of their education. At that time (1980’s) I did not feel the public schools were providing an adequate education.
My “second” family includes three step-children who did attend , , and . They are successful, confident adults who contribute positively to society. One has a master's degree and works for the State Department and two attended college and are now business managers. I think that says they got the exact education they needed to be successful!
7. Considering the reaction from some in the community to the rejection of Rent being performed at Monrovia High School, what moral responsibility does the superintendent and school board have in determining what students are exposed to? What principles would guide you in such decisions?
Some members of the community reacted with approval and some reacted with disapproval. I receive feedback from both sides of the issue.
The school board has the overall responsibility for establishment of policy relative to school district operation. We establish the policy and continually evaluate the policy for adequacy and currency. The superintendent is hired by the board to oversee day to day operations of the district. We expect the superintendent to use the policy, her staff and her judgment as a trained, experienced, professional educator to determine the appropriate activities for every grade level and every campus.
In the case of Rent there were some members of the community that felt the superintendent had erred in her decision to require a different production be staged by the drama department at MHS. The issue was presented to the school board and we decided as a board to support her decision.
Our responsibility for what students are exposed to is a long held responsibility given to us by the community. We are locally elected so that if the community as a whole feels the responsibility is being misused, the community can elect different board members. To me this is far preferable to the state mandating standards or controlling the schools.
The moral principles that guide me in my decisions revolve around age level appropriateness and creating a positive learning environment for all of our students. For example, “Every Fifteen Minutes” is the program we use at Monrovia High School to discourage driving under the influence. It involves a depiction of death and injury that would not be appropriate for elementary or middle schools. Art classes that explore depiction of human anatomy utilizing nude models are appropriate for college level art classes, but not for high school or middle school art classes.
My moral compass is my Christian faith as well as my belief in the freedoms and rights we have as Americans. I want every student and parent to take great pride in their school and to feel welcome to participate in the activities at that school.
8. One issue the district has grappled with is how to manage community use of school facilities by outside groups like the Monrovia Youth Baseball League. How do you think this has been handled, and what, if anything, would you do differently?
Since I am on the board, I do approve of the way we are handling it. In the past, the school district has had the luxury of providing fields for after school use by non-profit programs that benefited the youth of Monrovia without charging to cover the district’s costs. With the current budget situation, that is no longer appropriate.
Since these organizations do charge the players a fee to cover their costs, paying rent will increase the costs they must cover in the fee they charge. We have been working hard with the affected organizations to identify ways to ease the impact on them and the players. We have postponed the fees for almost a year so we could look at options.
Our staff is looking at the district’s actual cost of keeping these fields up, policies in other school districts, opportunities that might exist for the organizations to provide volunteer labor in lieu of a portion of their fees, and other possible methods of covering the costs. I personally have met with the MYBL representative to discuss costs, options, and concerns.
This issue is scheduled for discussion on the November school board meeting agenda. We have made every effort to make sure the final decision will be based on accurate, well researched information including actual costs, and feedback from the affected organizations.
9. Given the continued budget pressures, what has the current school board done well to navigate the district out of the crisis. What about their performance needs improvement?
Increased attendance results in additional revenue so we have implemented new programs to attract more students and to reduce absences. We are looking toward adding Mandarin and possibly other languages to our new dual emersion program, and adding a fee based program to attract foreign students.
Music programs, art programs, and athletics will continue to be emphasized as enhancements to our academic programs such as the Math/Science Academy and Renaissance at Monrovia High School. The hard work that has been done to expand these programs is paying off in increased enrollment.
It appears now that we may take an additional $2.7 million cut when the mid-year budget is released in a few months. The revenue we will receive from the additional 100 students enrolled this year will certainly ease the pain of the expected mid-year cut.
What needs improvement? Our work is never done. The board must continue to take full advantage of every opportunity to keep MUSD financially and academically sound. That includes increasing attendance, encouraging volunteers and donations, applying for grant funding, and wise use of the funding we do have. We probably should step up the public relations effort to make sure everyone knows how great our schools have become so that we continue to attract new students.