• Name: Craig Foster
• Age: 53
• Occupation: Teacher
• Neighborhood in which you live: Malibu
• Own or rent: Own
• Marital status/kids: Married/one child
• If you have children, do they attend local public schools? If yes, which ones? Webster Elementary.
• Education: Amherst College, B.A. in economics with honors, and political science; University of Phoenix, B.A.E in elementary education; California Teaching Credential in 2012.
• Why are you running for the school board and what do you want to accomplish if elected?
I am running for school board to rethink and reimagine our district and provide a new perspective on what are clearly two different communities that were forced together and should now be separated.
• What do you believe is the role the school board should play?
I believe the board should limit itself to setting and monitoring policy, leaving the implementation of that policy to the superintendent. What we have is a board that micro-manages. What it should do is set broad, achievable goals and empower the superintendent, staff and the various site leaders to achieve them.
• What was your favorite subject in grade school and why?
History, especially American history!
• Prop. 30, Prop. 38, or neither?
Both, especially 38.
• Everyone’s a critic, especially a parent when it comes to their child’s cafeteria. How would you rate the food served in Santa Monica-Malibu public schools?
The elementary schools have improved their food offerings significantly in recent years. We have to develop a better effort in the middle and high schools.
• What’s your position on chocolate milk? The school board heard from parents who wanted it banned because of the sugar. The board decided to leave it on the menu and give parents the option of having their kids opt out. How did you vote (incumbents) or how would you have voted if on the dais?
This is an excellent example of how the board has gone astray in recent years. When class sizes keep rising, when we are laying off teachers, we should not be debating about chocolate milk.
• What is the right amount of homework for students in middle school and high school?
It’s not how much homework, but whether they are learning. In support of increased student success, the superintendent and her staff, working collectively with the teachers and administrators, need to review our policies and implement best practices.
• If elected, what would you do to close the achievement gap? Does it come down to something as simple as more tutoring and after-school help, or something more significant, such as new, culturally-relevant curriculum?
We know that programs like quality pre-kindergarten and after-school mentoring and tutoring can help level the playing field for children who are falling behind. We know that smaller classes make it possible for every child to get more individual attention from their teacher, we know that a punitive approach to testing will not help the children who are struggling in school and, most importantly, we need to look at the community issues and build a support network for all the schools so children get the attention they need and the support that is best drawn from every element of the community.
• Where do you stand on inter-district permits? How many should Santa Monica-Malibu Unified issue each year?
It is impossible to get to grips with many crucial issues because there is simply no available data upon which to have thoughtful debate.
• Some residents in both Santa Monica and Malibu have called for the break-up of the school district. Would you or would you not support such an effort if elected and why?
Separation will bring much-needed funds to each independent district resulting in as many as 20 new teachers in Santa Monica and 10 more in a new Malibu district. It would also result in better fiscal balance, increased innovation, clearer focus, more unity of purpose, and greater academic advancement in both districts.
Watching old movies. Playing board games. Reading. Listening to music. Hiking.
• What are you reading?
Malcolm Gladwell, “Blink”
Larry Niven, “Ringworld”
Dacher Keltner, “Born to Be Good”
Susan Wise Bauer, “Story of the World, Vol. 3”
• If you could ride the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier with three people in history, who would they be and what would you want to talk about?
John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt and Aaron Sorkin.
We would explore the four days Roosevelt and Muir spent together in Yosemite in 1903. Their time together lead to both the creation of the National Park system and the president’s epic Grand Canyon speech on May 6 of that year. Sorkin is there to capture the meeting of these two giants and the breathtaking gifts they gave to American conservationism, as only he can.
• What will you do to ensure that our public schools are safe?
We need to increase community participation in schools. Getting the community to better support each school helps facilitate a safer environment and brings parents back onto campuses for assistance.
• How can schools cut down on the amount of drop-off, pick-up traffic? What would you do to cut down on car trips to and from our schools?
The district should support city efforts to improve local transportation programs. I support the initiatives in place to increase the convenience and safety of bicycle travel. Creating a geographic database of students could facilitate car pooling while building community.
• What’s the right way to address the parking problems at Samohi?
The carpool and bicycle ideas above would reduce demand for parking. I like solutions that expand the possibilities, so looking at parking best practices might help; solutions like better traffic management IP and/or stacked parking. In a worst case, a parking lottery would eliminate the problems of congestion and encourage the car pooling behavior suggested above.
• What are your plans to help make the school district more sustainable?
Implementing sustainability best practices like grey water, solar power, solar water heating, and green building design can all be significant cost reducers. In particular, we should be using capital money to buy or pre-pay leases on solar panels at all our sites. By doing so, we would reduce or eliminate our use of coal and nuclear generated electricity while we simultaneous eliminate electricity costs from our operating expenses.
• Should the school board place another parcel tax on the ballot in 2014 if statewide tax measures fail to pass in November? If they fail, district officials are predicting cuts in the millions. What’s the best way to deal with the potential deficit?
Rather than proposing a $385 million bond for largely unspecified uses, we should have had a comprehensive effort to find broad-spectrum solutions to the financial woes of the district. The solutions should include:
1) A careful examination of Measures 30 and, especially, 38. These measures, if successful, would eliminate the need for an additional and difficult parcel tax campaign.
2) Efforts to reduce the district administrative costs, possibly including outsourcing some parts of some services such as finance and site maintenance.
3) Creating an independent Malibu Unified School District, with the corresponding $4 million or more increase in revenues.
• Districtwide fundraising is not without controversy. What are your thoughts on the decision to move to districtwide fundraising? Do you support the model or feel there’s one better?
The board’s conduct was a textbook example of how not to conduct policy. With its predetermined conclusion and widespread use of intimidation, the school board fractured the district and created animosities and scars which will outlast the tenure of the board members involved.
• What is the appropriate level of discipline for a student who is caught: bullying; with drugs or alcohol on campus; selling drugs; fighting; cheating; or vandalizing school property?
Each one of the infractions mentioned represent very different learning challenges for the students involved. No single response or consequence will be appropriate for all. Instead, the guiding principle should be to do what best supports the life outcomes of the students.
• What role do you envision playing on the school board?
Make significant change to a board that has grown too fond of politics of education over the practice of education.
• How would you address concerns that there are racial and or gang tensions at Santa Monica High School?
Community involvement is the only way to address this concern: greater parental involvement, increased education of parents and guardians, and the ability of children to have a sense of hopefulness about their future and themselves. This has to be a community effort, not merely an issue of increasing security or teacher education.
• What are some things the school board could do to get the business community engaged in fundraising as well as working directly with students?
True engagement between our schools, our students, and the business community would make for a wonderfully enriched community and a more fertile environment for fundraising.
• If elected, would you vote to close smaller schools and consolidate to save money?
The decision to close schools requires serious strategic consideration. Closed schools become easy targets for charter takeovers, which have profound implications for district efficacy. The only way to explore such action is slowly, openly, and in full communication with all affected parties.