As the only trustee who is not a current or former school employee -- and the loving father of four Chico Unified kids -- I am the only reliable advocate that parents, and families generally, have on the Board. For this reason, I bring a balancing perspective that puts the needs of our students at the front and center.
During Covid, which saw the disastrous shutting down of our entire school system for the better part of a year and a half, I was the LONE VOICE OF REASON on the board who favored reopening our schools as soon as possible, and all my colleagues felt the opposite. My fellow trustees voted (or failed to vote) 18 times either to shut down schools, keep them closed, or boast about having done so during the past 2 years. All around us – Durham, Roseville, Shasta County, and many other places up and down the state – responsible school districts opened for business, providing learning, nurturing and support to kids and families, but in Chico it was sheer misery as our kids had to endure hours per day on computers in pathetic “zoom school,” and many disadvantaged kids didn’t even have that.
Grades plummeted and the district saw a FIVE-fold increase in Ds and Fs, and abuse and depression ballooned as children became isolated from teachers, peers and mentors; a situation that hit the poorest in our community the hardest. Working parents, like my wife and me, were stuck home with them. Meanwhile, in a huge insult to families, our schools were leased out to C.A.R.D., which literally ran “school time” day care at the cost to parents of $500 per student, per month, which most families could not afford. It was an elaborate racket and I was the only person in the room who tried to fight against it.
Even though phony grade inflation by the State has tried to mask the massive learning loss (they overhauled the State testing mechanism in the middle of the crisis in order to mask the widespread damage, and my board colleagues gleefully voted to suspend standardized testing for the 20-21 school year), the negative aftermath has been made clear by independent studies. According to the Inverness Institute, an education think tank based in the San Francisco Bay Area, 94% of veteran teachers surveyed in Spring of 2022 reported that their students have had at least some “significant learning loss.” 56% of these believe children have suffered “a good deal” or “a great deal” because of the shut-downs, and they also do not work as well with teachers or their peers due to the isolation. 92% believe students have suffered significant social-emotional disruption. As a parent of 4, I can affirm that our kids did suffer and continue to suffer.
It is BY NO MEANS guaranteed that the whole Covid debacle is over with, and the possibility of a repeat performance of district-wide shutdowns cannot be ignored, either for Covid or some other reason. If I am re-elected in November, the kids, parents, grandparents and friends of Chico can rest assured that I will continue to fight hard to protect every child's right to a high-quality, in-person education.
The California Legislature also seems poised to make testing and regular shots a normal part of our lives moving forward in schools. Legislation that is currently zipping towards becoming law in Sacramento would lower the “age of consent” for receiving a Covid shot to 12 years old and prohibit parents from learning whether their child has received a shot. These measures are clear infringements on a parents’ right to oversee healthcare services their child receives while at public school, and as a Board Member I will do whatever I can to limit this kind of overreach at Chico Unified.
There is also groundwork being laid in the Legislature and at CDPH to make Covid testing a never-ending aspect of school life. This is also something I oppose -- our kids and teachers should be able to focus on learning, not be constantly solicited or harassed with Covid testing.