Craig Foster

Craig Foster is running for School Board. The following answers were submitted in response to questions from the Daily Press.

Name: Craig Foster

Age: 56

Occupation: Teacher

Neighborhood of residence: Malibu

Own/Rent: Own

Marital status: Married

Kids: 1

Political affiliation: DEM

Schooling: Amherst College ’80 (BA hons Econ/PolSci), University of Phoenix ’12 (MAA Elementary Education)

Highest degree attained: Masters

Hobbies: Board games, tennis, hiking, reading

Reading list: Hardwiring Excellence, The Good Jobs Strategy, The Smartest Kids in the World, Creating Innovators, The Innovators Dilemma, How Children Succeed, The Wisdom of Crowds,

Favorite song: A Talk With George by Jonathan Coulton

Favorite restaurant: Cholada Thai

Would you rather spend a day at the Third Street Promenade or Santa Monica Beach? Santa Monica Beach.

Do you have kids in SMMUSD?

Yes, a daughter in 6th grade at Malibu Middle School, six years at Webster before that.

Some residents in Malibu believe the best thing for their kids is to create a separate school district. How can the district keep Malibu in the fold or should it split? How can you ensure Malibu representation when there is no one on the board from the seaside city?

Two independent school districts are best for the children of both communities. $2,000,000 of money from Santa Monica is currently spent in Malibu. Those scarce resources would return home to Santa Monica! At the same time, Malibu would become a basic aid district and would operate with $2,600,000 million more than it currently receives. In addition, the current Santa Monica-Malibu school district could not be formed today. Geographically unconnected districts were made illegal in 1980 because they don’t work very well. Each independent community has its own potentially very different sets of wants, needs and challenges. SMMUSD is the last geographically unconnected school district in California. Those different wants, needs, and challenges are made even harder to jointly resolve here because of the huge difference in the populations of the two cities. Santa Monica has 84% of the voters and therefore dominates the politics of the district. Historically, Malibu has had only one school board member out of seven. There has not even been one Malibu school board member elected since 2004. Independent districts would receive more focused leadership and have more money with which to teach their children, all without a penny of new taxes. It’s a clear winner!

What kind of discipline should be used within the district? Is zero tolerance still the right philosophy? What other methods of student discipline are effective?

Schools are places of learning. Included in that concept of learning is support for each child’s maturation and social skills. Our disciplinary model should be based on that principle, with rules established to allow children to become better citizens, neighbors, and people. Of course, in such a structure, there need to be distinctions made regarding various transgressions and there absolutely need to be consequences. Both for the good of the student and of the school community there need to be clear rules and a clear ethical structure. However, those rules and that ethical structure needs to be based on the goal of giving all the children of the district the best education possible, not merely on maintaining order or punitive satisfaction.

How can Santa Monica-Malibu remain competitive with private schools such as Crossroads, St. Monica, Wildwood, New Roads, etc..?

The success of Vision for Student Success is critical to maintaining and enhancing SMMUSD’s competitiveness with local private schools. With both the academic and enrichment opportunities it offers today and will offer in increasing quantities in the future, SMMUSD’s school can and should present an attractive alternative to private school. Fully embracing a student-centered educational philosophy and working hard to provide a curriculum that prepares our kids for success in the 21st century will also add to our competitiveness. Finally, an inclusive, collaborative spirit teamed with an exciting, innovative district philosophy, staff, and school board will make for a world class school district acknowledged and loved for its excellence!

Do you believe in performance-based pay for teachers? How many years should a teacher have to work before being granted tenure? Do you agree with the recent court rulings over tenure?

Our teachers are not a cost to be managed, they are our primary resource and the source of the vast majority of our success. In a very fundamental way, they are the district. Given that, their contractual circumstances need to be established in collaboration with them, working toward a shared goal of high job satisfaction and educational excellence.

When remodeling a campus, what should be the top priority? Has recent construction met with community standards?

The top priority for construction and every other decision made in the district should be one thing: how can we give our children the best education possible? That means we choose the projects and design the new buildings with educational efficacy foremost in our minds. There needs to be an educational master plan for the district, and a master plan for our facilities which ties to that overall educational plan. With this structure established, we need to harness to power of our community to imagine and execute our facilities vision in the most thoughtful, effective manner possible. Our new buildings will be with us for quite a while. We need to take the time and spend the collaborative resources as a community to ensure that our new facilities once constructed will represent our ideals.

Is Common Core good for SMMUSD students?

Common Core’s goal is essential to raising children to succeed in the 21st century. Common Core is a shift from rote learning to flexible problem solving. That is excellent! In execution, like anything, flaws emerge in design and implementation. The Common Core our children are experiencing is a rapid rollout of a new educational curriculum. In both the transition and in the newness, there are problems. Many of those problems are beyond the control of SMMUSD. Our job is to the very best we can to provide a smooth and successful implementation of the new curriculum and to monitor and adjust that rollout as needed. The district is trying extremely hard to move rapidly but wisely into this new world. My only suggestion, as always, is that full inclusion of our community, in this case, students, teachers, and parents in particular, would add resilience to our efforts.

Does the District do enough to keep parents informed about important issues?

The district faces a very difficult challenge that it compounds with poor handling. Communicating with a large group of people is incredibly difficult. There is no one media which reaches all. Different people have different attention levels for district matters. Some of the material is complex and does not translate well into anything other than dialogue. These all make communication extremely hard. However, there is a fundamental aspect of engagement that, I believe, can reduce the frustrations around communication. The district needs to set as a priority having a tight integration with employees, students, parents, and community members. This means regular open dialogue, the sharing of ideas and problem solving, and the building of trust that stakeholders are heard and considered. All too often, decision are made in district headquarters with insufficient stakeholder engagement and find little favor in the community when implemented. This dynamic drains trust, time, and energy from the system. We need to make fewer major moves and take the time to reach agreement with the majority of the community and community opinion leaders before those moves are made.

Are schools in Malibu safe? If not, what should be done to improve the situation. If so, what should the district do to communicate that message to parents? Is the district in financial jeopardy due to the situation in Malibu?

Nothing could be clearer than the three steps that our community and our school district can and should be taking. First, there needs to be thorough testing of the environment at both schools. Second, the parents, teachers, staff, classified employees, experts, school district leadership, and students all need to discuss, explore, and understand the results of that thorough testing together. Finally, based on that understanding, those same people, our school community, must agree upon and see to completion appropriate remediation – however large or small. We can all agree that first and foremost comes the safety of the children and adults who frequent school premises. I believe that our children learn far more from what we do that what say. This is an opportunity to teach them how to begin to responsibly address the problems our generations have left for them by acting responsibly and mindfully now.

Does SMMUSD have the correct plan for funding schools? Is centralized funding working? Should the program be revised? How has local control funding changed the status quo?

Vision for Student Success is the largest undertaking in SMMUSD right now. Its promise is all children benefiting from very high and equal levels of resources. There is much we need to accomplish over the next four years. The future is ever more rapidly moving away from the educational dogmas of the last two centuries. The demands of the workplace have changed enormously as has the level and type of skills required. Adapting to a child-centered, 21st century teaching model will require more resources and more ethical integrity in how we treat members of our communities. The challenge for us is to create a vision of VSS as it will evolve over the next four years such that it can change the entire ethical, material, and pedagogical context in which learning takes place.

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