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Q&A with Paso Robles School Board Candidate Kathleen Hall 

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of Q&A’s for all candidates running for Paso Robles School Board. 

Q&A with Paso Robles School Board Candidate Incumbent Kathleen Hall

 

What motivates you to become a school board member?

Everyone running for this position has a passion for the youth of this community. That is a given for each and every one of us. But we have to know that we have the ability to create and sustain change. I have been part of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District as a Trustee the past four years. We have a core belief that every student will have success that every student will be prepared for college, career, and community. Our mission has been to deliver an exemplary education in a safe environment empowering students with the skills, knowledge, and attributes necessary for success.

Because of my work, the work of the board, the school superintendent, and faculty and staff, we are achieving these goals. I want to ensure that we stay on this track for the next four years. We have become a “District of Excellence.” We have put in place rigorous academic programs, strengthened our dual emersion program, athletic programs for elementary students, put in place a new VAPA Program of visual and performing arts, all-day kindergarten, preschool programs. We insured the success of Measure M and its implementation for continual growth and stability of our school district. We have an award-winning Crimson Newsmagazine, a growing, and successful career technology program, (resulting in many finalists in SKILLS USA), a new online public school program, a new community day school, non bullying programs, hired the needed counselors and behavior therapists, Parent education classes and most importantly a close working relationship with Cuesta College that lets many of high school students graduate with many hours of college credit. Shortly we will have the new aquatic center, which will open our athletic program to more and more students.

Our high school was ranked among the top 500 in the nation. Our high school and two middle schools, Lewis and Flamson have been recognized as State Gold Ribbon Schools. We have achieved all this because we have a guiding principal of “One Team, One Dream.” I have worked hard this last five years along with our district staff to be part of this “One Team” and I want to continue this work.   

What attributes are essential for successful school board members?

  • A school board member must know that education is a pathway to both individual and society success and must embody the talents of judgment, wisdom, and courage.  We must be able to commit to a high level of expectation to define clear goals and a means to measure the achievement of those goals. That is we must be accountability driven.
  • A board member must have experience in education and a level of professional skills. We must see ourselves as part of the solution to improve student achievement.
  • A board member must know how to allocate resources to needs. That is we must be able to analyze the budget, put in place the best we can find, and keep a sufficient reserve.
  • A school board member must also represent the community, providing leadership in addressing community issues relating to education. This means establishing two-way communication between the schools and the community and collaboration with key stakeholders within the community by establishing partnerships with local businesses and city and county agencies.
  • A school board member must recognize that they act as a group, not an individual and that members have no authority to act as an administrator. We select and evaluate the Superintendent, establish goals for our district and put in place the policies to achieve and measure those goals.
  • A school board member helps plan and provide needed facilities that match current and future programs and enrollments.
  • A school board member must ensure that learning is done in a safe and secure environment.
  • A school board member must take the time to research board agendas before making an educated evaluation and vote.

 

What is your vision for education in the community?

To borrow from the National School Board Association, we must continue to ensure that we offer high-quality student programming so that our graduates are prepared to compete in a “global society.”  These last two words of the NSBA are extremely important to me. I know that our dream as parents is to have our children find a job down the street, build a house within a block of us, and children and grandchildren are at dinner each Sunday. I have two highly successful sons and it took me a while to realize that this dream is a very selfish one. My sons cannot come to Sunday dinner because one is in London this week and Hong Kong the next. One is doing a marketing segment on CNN one day and a tradeshow in Australia the next week. Our sons have become part of the global society and our grandchildren grow up traveling the world. Maybe one day they will both become rich enough to buy that winery down the street, but right now both are part of a global network with some of their children serving as interns in the White House. This is the life they chose and the education they received helped them in this choice. I want our children in this community to be able to compete on the level they choose. If they want that welding shop up the street, I want to help them become the best welder and build the biggest shop. If they want that winery, I want to ensure they have the knowledge in agriculture and marketing to make it in the Wine Spectator. I want to prepare the children of this community with the knowledge and experience to ensure these choices.

How does the school board decide what is important?

The board decides what is important by constantly looking at our goals and determining how a decision affects those goals:

  • We look at budgeting and implement plans that allow us to stay within our goals, hiring the best, bringing in the needed programs and ensuring a safe reserve for our school system in the future.
  • We look to maximize parent participation in the choices and decisions of the board
  • We look to provide the highest quality and most effective teachers and administrators providing them with the most up to date resources including digital.
  • We look to provide accountability within our system, professional training, and collaboration.
  • We learn to partner with other higher-level education institutions to provide our faculty and students with every advantage possible.
  • We learn how to leverage community assets and resources working with our local City Council, Police Department, Business Owners, and Parents.

 

What is your education background?
I graduated from Bradley University Magna Cum Laude with a degree in education and biology.  I received a Ph.D. from Ohio State University in Molecular Biology. I received a Post Doctoral Degree from UCLA in Molecular Biology and Mechanisms of Aging.  I have taught science in high school, environmental science, biology, genetics at Ohio State University and lectured all over the world. I have published approximately 40 peer-reviewed research articles.

Do you represent the school system or the community?
The school system and the communities are one and the same. I am preparing excellence in education for the children of our families. We are all part of one community. The 12 years between six and eighteen are very short.  Our children are pulled into responsible positions within the community in very short order. It is my job to improve student achievement. To do this I work with the community in compliance with state and federal laws to establish best practices for our school district.  

What have you accomplished in regards to school-related situations that make you a good candidate?
I usually take part in the vigorous debate on agenda items. I research all new courses and personally sit down and read through new textbooks. I make an effort to divide my time between LCAP, classroom walkthroughs, open houses. All the current board members running for reelection put in many many hours effectively donating their time for the success of our school system.  We sit in workshops besides regular meeting defining goals for both our board and the superintendent. We draw up guidelines for future boards so that the district runs smoothly after we are gone. Many of us even make the effort to sit down with local state representatives in Sacramento to see how our school will benefit for certain bills being passed in the state legislature. I, with the all the current board members, have put in extreme hours on the passage of Measure M and the subsequent building initiative.  We together as a group have made possible many of the changes referred to above.

Can you comment on recent disciplinary issues within the school district, and how would you resolve them?
All schools, particularly middle schools and high schools have certain discipline problems that much be addressed for safe learning environments for all students. I recognize this. Brains and bodies in children of this age group are growing by leaps and bounds. According to leading neuroscientists, the brain is in its “final stretch of major neurobiological change.” Problems are bound to occur as these young adults begin to butt heads with authoritative figures. Every parent knows this. Scientists are just starting to appreciate that these brain changes lead to changes that might lead teenagers to make poor choices sometimes.  

We know this and our school district has put in place several programs to help our faculty deal with these problems.  A big one is a program called PBIS or Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, which allow our students social, emotional and academic success.  It is an evidence-based approach to teaching that focuses on engaging academics, positive community, and a developmental awareness. It has been very successful in place with this system we have added several layers of guidance counselors, behavior consultants, school psychologists, and mental health therapists. We have also added a new Paso Robles Community School to our alternative education sites of Liberty, Independent and online. At the Paso Robles Community School, our students have a very high ratio of instructors to students, which is a way to keep our students in our school system ensuring they get the help they need.

I do know there was a survey released a few months ago that indicated there was a discipline problem in our schools.  I can tell you for a fact this is not so. I went through the results of the survey in detail. I talk to the teachers. It was put together by an instructor and is not a reliable guide to the actual facts in the classroom. Questions and answers were cherry-picked to prove a pre-conceived judgment. I have published many research papers and correct statistics are my guideline. This survey had nothing of the sort. Most importantly, it lacked any control so we had no way to know how this related to every other school in our county or state. The small survey of cherry-picked questions was meant to be a political item. That is sad. Sad for our teachers and sad for the image of a great school district.

What are some of the issues facing the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District?
We have several large issues facing our district currents. We have a growing need for an adequate reserve for health and retirement benefits for our employees. We must keep our salaries up to compete with other schools to bring in the best in both faculty and administration. Our city is growing and our need for expansions will grow. Thus we are looking at developer fees to help in this expansion. Fortunately, our schools have become so successful including our Dual Immersion School that there are waiting lists to attend.  This increased enrollment will mean an increase in funding for all our students.

 

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