Safety and security of our public schools is an increasingly serious matter. Shortening response times for security threats and ensuring that responses to those threats match existing protocols is paramount. Hiring additional security staff and improving training of existing staff, making sure our campuses are secure both physically and in terms of security systems like cameras and digitized visitor systems, and creating an “internal 911” at each school site will go a long way in improving staff and student safety.
Current class sizes in our district are 34 to 1 for General Education classes, 45 to 1 for Physical Education classes and some of our Electives, and 28 to 1 for Special Education classes. These are far too high and must not only be reduced but must be protected through contract language. In addition, as our communities grow and our school populations increase, caseloads for counselors do so as well, and yet there is no contract language in place to cap counselor caseloads. The issue of large caseloads is not limited to counselors, but it impacts Special Education teachers as well, who are currently overburdened with lengthier Individualized Education Program (IEP) writing. These teachers need smaller caseloads as well as release time to write IEPs.
Currently, a significant amount of monies are being spent to fund purchases at the District Office, the location whose employees have the least contact with students. We must ensure that funding is spent first and foremost in the classroom and on academics and only used for purchases by and for district staff when absolutely necessary. Funding must be evaluated to find room in the budget to provide wraparound services that will benefit students. Opportunities such as after- school programs and health and nutrition services should be made available to students. Services that address students’ mental health and well-being should also be provided. When the general fund cannot bear the costs of these programs, we should look to finding and applying for grants and supporting bond measures that will cover expenses that the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) does not.
Our shifting demographic has created campuses where the school staff does not reflect the diversity of the current student population. We can easily address this issue by coordinating with the education programs at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) and University of California, Riverside (UCR) and actively recruit teachers who are not only academically proficient, but that reflect the diversity of our students. We can also offer bonuses for these first-year teachers that will help them with moving costs. Finally, we can increase salaries for all of our teachers in order to retain those already here and our new recruits.