Q&A with Laura Parker, candidate for Paso Robles School Board
Questions and answers with Laura Parker
Editor’s note: The Paso Robles Daily News invited all candidates running for the board of trustees of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District to participate in a Q&A to help inform local voters. We will be running them this week as we receive them.
Why are you running for trustee?
I decided to run for School Board because now we need leadership that is compassionate, visionary, and committed to working across differences. The many challenges facing public education and families require strong leadership and compassionate action to address in ways that will build our community up instead of tearing it apart. Running a school presented many similar challenges and I believe both my experiences and my temperament will make me an effective coalition builder and problem solver.
Some of my goals are:
- Build a cycle of mentoring starting small with a cadre of mentors, coaches, and involved adults to give students positive adult small group attention and support and growing to include graduates mentoring seniors and older students mentoring younger students to build success especially during transitions — elementary to middle, middle to high and high school to adulthood
- Increase revenue and participation in system-wide reform efforts by pursuing public and private grants and other funding sources to identify areas of success and replicate them and to learn from similar school districts around the state and nation
- Increase partnerships with vocational, service, and community groups to connect learning to the community, including project-based learning, internships, and work experiences
- Increase transparency of decision making and use of various communication tools to include all members of our community in our schools
What is the school district currently doing well, and what would you like to see improve?
The school district is being creative to communicate with more families and staff by using traditional outreach and adding a YouTube channel. The fiscal outlook is more positive because many difficult decisions and new procedures have been implemented. People have great relationships and are concerned and committed to the students. Depending on conditions in January 2021, monitoring and adjusting distance learning and safe school re-opening will be paramount. In addition, I would focus on making our schools more attractive to more families by focusing on these key areas:
- Fiscal stability – close all loopholes and procedural gaps that led to current fiscal challenges and develop new funding streams – grants, donations, etc.
- Leadership for the long term – coaching for staff taking on leadership roles, programs to recruit and develop leaders from within, ongoing recognition of staff contributions
- Instruction for the real world – increase mentor/coach programs and connect with small school redesign and other school improvement initiatives including all elementary students having access to entry-level ag, art, and athletic programs, and maintaining options for middle and high students
- Social-emotional development – restorative practices across the grade levels, peer leadership, communication circles, and increased access to supports like grief groups, stress reduction programs, and individual counseling
What is your position on re-opening classrooms and protecting students from COVID-19?
COVID19 continues to mutate and change— both the virus itself and as a worldwide social phenomenon. Therefore our response must adapt too. Following public health guidelines is the minimum and a must. We also need to be responsive and I see the best way to do that is to have several options that both families and staff can choose from to meet their needs the best. This may require some moving around and cross-school site class assignments but if more people are safer and less stressed out it will be worth solving the logistical challenges. Crafting solutions that are safe and effective require working with the city and community partners. Presenting both staff and students and their families with two to three choices would give each family the option to find a solution that matches their situation. This may involve some new logistical challenges like matching students with a teacher from another site for distance learning for example. Flexibility will make for a calm and safe transition for all concerned.
How can the school district better serve students and meet its budget responsibilities?
PRJUSD needs to develop dynamic and in-demand learning to attract more students and to graduate students in demand by businesses and schools. Learning for the 21st century needs to adapt to use technology as a learning tool and a way to demonstrate understanding in multiple ways. The classroom needs to access students’ tech skills and increase their critical thinking and grappling with the ethical issues associated with new technology.
Real-world project-based learning can also be more engaging to more students because a variety of thinking styles are required. Students need to be prepared for doing well in life, which is not the same thing as doing well in school!
Fiscal solutions need to be responsible and fair. Living wages that are fiscally responsible is always a priority. In addition, to pay, it is important to honor the work people put in by finding ways to share the load, increase accountability and have resources and plans in place when additional support or intervention is warranted.
Building ongoing structures to communicate and share ideas with all stakeholders is essential to serve students within budget limitations and to make informed difficult decisions. I would like to communicate regularly, perhaps monthly, in various ways to develop relationships and explore issues and possible solutions, beyond the contract, with staff, students, and families.
A trustee’s role is to bring all the pieces together – What is the long term vision? Are the day to day operations reflecting that vision? Is the superintendent implementing steps to make the vision a reality? And none of us does our best work in a gotcha environment, it requires trustees working in partnership with all stakeholders to make the vision of every student having success in college, career, and community a reality.
Is there anything else you would like voters to know about your candidacy?
My message to students, families, staff, and teachers is — We are facing unprecedented challenges AND we are a diverse community with many strengths and advantages. Now more than ever we need to work together with compassion, commitment, and creativity to craft solutions that meet the needs of everyone in our community. We need each person. The days of a solution benefiting a few are over. We will all have richer experiences if we work together to build solutions that work for everyone. It may not always be easy but it is certainly possible. Listen to others and share your contributions!
About Laura Parker
Laura Parker has 10 years of experience in public education as a public school teacher, 20 years as a public school site administrator, three years as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), three years volunteering in PRJUSD schools. “In addition to dedicating my career to public education, my two adult sons both are products of public education,” she says, “They were in Spanish dual immersion K-8th grade, graduated from public high schools, community colleges and CSUs. My eldest is 31 and a union electrician and my younger is 29 and a bartender not able to return to work yet due to COVID workplace restrictions.” Parker received a bachelor’s of arts in American Studies from the College of Holy Cross, and earned teaching credentials and a master’s degree in Education Administration from San Francisco State University.