HOOVER CHALLENGES MILLER FOR CAJON VALLEY SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEE, AREA NO. 5

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CVUSD Election, Part Two

By Robin N. Kendall

Photo: Trustee Jim Miller and challenger Stacie Hoover

October 20, 2020 (El Cajon) -- In part one of this series, ECM covered the race for Governing Board Member Trustee in Area No.4 of the Cajon Valley Union School District (CVUSD). Stretching further south of central El Cajon and east into Rancho San Diego lies Area 5. This area includes Avocado, Jamacha, Rancho San Diego and Vista Grande Elementary Schools, as well as Hillsdale Middle School.

For the last four years, attorney Jim Miller has represented Area No. 5. This election, he is being challenged by Stacie Hoover.

Key issues include reopening schools after COVID-19, academic priorities,  racial equity, bullying and civility. Both candidates answered ECM’s questions about themselves, their qualifications to be a school board trustee, and their priorities if elected.  Below are their responses, in alphabetical order.

Stacie Hoover, CVUSD Area No. 5 Challenger

Stacie Hoover is a notary public and retired paralegal raising a grandson in the district.. She said, “I am a native of San Diego and a product of East County Schools. I have more than 40 years of experience with Cajon Valley Schools. I am currently serving on the School Site Council at Bostonia Elementary. I believe in safe schools, a full-time nurse at each school, healthy delicious nutrition for all students, budget accountability, and community partnership.” Her motto is “all students should have the education and tools to succeed in life.”

Below are Hoover’s answers to ECM’s questionnaire.

1.  What do you view as the biggest challenges facing the district this year, and how would you address those if elected? Please include your assessment of how the district is handing the on-going challenges of in-school versus distance learning during the Covid pandemic.

I feel our district did an excellent job in getting students back on campus. There were some particularly good articles in the New York Times about our district and how we pioneered getting students back on campus during the pandemic. I believe our campuses are safe. It is a challenge for all because there just not enough space, nor teachers, to get all students back on campus. Distance learning is a challenge for both teachers and students.

2.  What are your views on curriculum priorities and academic needs? Please include your assessment of the World of Work program, and also any changes you would propose so that all schools can meet the state’s academic standards measured by Dashboard testing in math and English, which several district schools have failed to meet.

I believe it is imperative that we investigate why our district has low testing scores and how we can improve that. Our district must make this an absolute priority.

I like what I have seen with the World of Work program at the school my grandson attends. I was impressed when, for the first time in my life, I saw a class of kindergarteners each write a book about their opinions on farming, in Spanish no less.  My grandson’s opinion was that he does not want to be a farmer, but that’s okay because now we know. Another experience with the WOW program I had: my doctor is a teaching doctor and I am used to him usually having a medical student at his office. However, this past year one of his students was a local high school student. It’s wonderful that our students have the opportunity to explore careers and opportunities for their future as well as learn so much about themselves before they graduate.

I have heard many people are not in favor of the WOW program, however I have not heard why. I am open to and extremely interested in hearing everyone’s assessment or experiences with the program at their personal level, and whether or not they feel it is working for our students and what changes could there be.

3.  Who has endorsed your candidacy?

I am proud to be endorsed by the San Diego Democratic Party. However, I do not believe in bringing politics or political differences into the district’s business--unlike my opponent who posted on Facebook that I was “recruited by the far left” and “comes with a political agenda.”  Nothing is further from the truth.

I am recently retired after spending 30 years working in law as a paralegal. I had the pleasure of working with many of San Diego County’s exceptionally fine lawyers. I have the tenacity and skills to thoroughly investigate issues and find solutions to problems. I would love to bring all my talents to CVUSD and serve this district on the Board of Trustees. I will bring civility, kindness, transparency, and pride back to the values of CVUSD.

4.  The Cajon Valley School Board has experienced a tremendous number of problems in the past few years, including a grand jury report calling for improvements, aging buildings, media scrutiny for spending half a million dollars on promotional videos, controversial travel expenses, disruptive trustee behavior, lawsuits and a restraining order, as well as limited access to tape recordings of past meetings. What would you do to deal with past issues and create a more productive, open and peaceful school board? How would you prioritize spending? Do you support a renewal of the Superintendent’s contract?

I believe in mutual respect and integrity. I have witnessed the bullying and disrespect of board members, students, and parents by my opponent. That kind of behavior is disgusting and does not do anything to promote the success and wellbeing of our students or community.

If elected, I would do everything in my power to bring civility and kindness, and transparency back to our district, an extremely high priority. It is extremely important that honesty, kindness and transparency is part of our core values.

I would have to evaluate the Superintendent’s contract when the time comes. I do think that it is excessive that our Superintendent is paid over $400,000 a year, yet we can’t have nurses at our school, nor do we have nutritious delicious lunches. I also believe that if you are doing an excellent job in your position and bringing value to your company, that your paycheck should reflect that. 

5.  Please discuss your views on how you, if elected, could address the issues of both bullying and racial inequities in the school district. For example, do you think there is a need for more diversity training?

I know firsthand about bullying and racial inequality in our schools. If elected I would work toward making sure we solve this problem once and for all. Whether it is through more diversity training or other educational/social programs. This must be a priority and it must extend past just the students to all staff, teachers, principals, and everyone involved in our district.

Hoover's website is https://staciehoover.com/.

Jim Miller, CVUSD Area No. 5 Incumbent

Jim Miller is an attorney whose law firm, NFL Sports Agency, is based in El Cajon. Miller was born in San Diego and attended Cajon Valley schools and Valhalla High. He attended SDSU and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Finance (Real Estate Emphasis) and multiple varsity letters in track and field. He then earned a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. His campaign slogan is, “Common Sense, not Common Core.”

He said, “My older kids have gone through the district. My youngest daughter is still in the district as is my granddaughter. Decisions made are with the best interest of students always at the forefront. I have helped our community through multiple charities including as a board member to the Sharp Grossmont Hospital Foundation and presently as a board member to the East County Posse Philanthropic organization. For over 20 years I have coached youth sports in our community, currently as a nationally licensed club soccer coach. I was born here, raised here, am raising my family here and understand our community as only a lifetime of experience would allow. It is my honor to serve our community as a Cajon Valley Trustee.”

Miller’s answers to ECM’s questions:

[Editor’s Note: Mr. Miller states that he disputes the premises of some questions, but has provided his responses “with that preamble.”]

1. What do you view as the biggest challenges facing the district this year, and how would you address those if elected? Please include your assessment of how the district is handing the on-going challenges of in-school versus distance learning during the Covid pandemic.

The biggest challenge is clearly the COVID pandemic and how it has shut down the economy and schools. Our families were surveyed multiple times and over 70% wanted students back in on campus. The District then worked with teachers and staff to come up with a comprehensive plan to re-open our schools while maintaining multiple options for learning that included continued Distanced Learning for those that required this option. That planning started back in March and involved all stakeholders. I personally attended multiple meetings and workshops writing curriculum and reviewing safety protocols.

Cajon Valley remained open offering summer school and provided free daycare to our staff and other essential workers. Over 6,000 students were on campus during this time and not a single case of COVID was reported from staff or students. Cajon Valley was the only district to operate daycare and summer school and from the experiences learned we were able to determine best practices to open our schools this Fall. Cajon Valley was the largest public school district in the State of California that applied for, and was granted, a waiver to open for in person education.

Cajon Valley families should be very proud of the work put in by the District to re-open our schools, safely.

2. What are your views on curriculum priorities and academic needs? Please include your assessment of the World of Work program, and also any changes you would propose so that all schools can meet the state’s academic standards measured by Dashboard testing in math and English, which several district schools have failed to meet.

First, the World of Work program has received national recognition from the U.S. Department of Education as well as international recognition with multiple countries sending envoys to Cajon Valley to view the program in person as well as asking Cajon Valley representatives to come to them to lecture on the program. I am very proud to have been one of the trustees to pursue this curriculum and then work to have it become a curriculum that is now being sold to other districts creating a revenue stream to the district's general fund. Cajon Valley is the only district in the country with such a business model.

Next, I am working on the history curriculum. It would seem that many of the present problems and unrest the county is seeing in individuals is their lack of understanding of U.S. History. To that extent I am working on, "This Day in American History" curriculum that will apply to every grade level. Often at the board meetings I will give a historical account of an important event in American history and from that, this idea has grown to achieve Board approval to expand to a formal curriculum.

3. For incumbents, what accomplishments on the board are you most proud of? For challengers, what do you most hope to change?

I am most proud of having our students return to school safely and Cajon Valley being the largest public school district in the State of California to receive a waiver to re-open on campus learning. No other San Diego County district was able to accomplish this and many, San Diego Unified being one, did not even try.

Other accomplishments include: Establishing the World of Work curriculum is a top accomplishment on the academic side. It also is a financial accomplishment in that it will bring in money to the District's general fund which has never been before by a public school district. As an attorney I was able to work with the District's counsel to come up with the initial plans on how to create this program. Making Cajon Valley Schools a model for school safety and security is another accomplishment that I am very proud to have made happen. Using my background in the shooting sports and Second Amendment arenas I spearheaded our District's movement to bring in experts to really evaluate the safety of all the campuses in the District. Not only did we improve the physical safety of the schools but we engaged in experts to further train our staff and students. This second part is not typical in other district's plans and has set Cajon Valley out as the modern example to follow.

I collaborated with Supervisor Dianne Jacob on two occasions, bringing in the City of El Cajon via Mayor Bill Wells on one of those, to put sports lights in at Hillsdale Middle School and Montgomery Middle School. As a former collegiate athlete and current club soccer coach, I can attest to the lack of fields in East County for our kids to have safe places to play. Since new fields are not being built, the only way to increase field space is by increasing the time the fields can be used. That meant installing lights. Between the two projects I saved approximately $500,000 to Cajon Valley by having the County and City partner with us on these lighting projects.

We established the first multiple year contract for our teachers and staff that had been negotiated in well over a decade. Cajon Valley was in a constant rut by renegotiating employee contracts every year. I brought with me my experience as an NFL Sports Agent with knowledge of collective bargaining agreements to the table and worked to reach a fair multi-year deal not once, but twice, in my first term as a Trustee.

In 2016 there was not a district wide policy on how to address students with allergies. It was site by site. This was one of my motivations in running as my daughter has allergies. I came to discover that much of the issue was based on CPR certifications. This did not make sense until I was informed that in order for anyone to administer an Epi Pen injection to counter a severe allergic reaction, they first had to be CPR certified in case that injection resulted in a cardiac "event". To fix this problem I was able to implement a program where any staff member could take CPR training and become certified for free. We then worked on allowing students with severe allergies to have their emergency medications in the classroom and not just at the front office along with other updated safety protocols.

In 2019 Cajon Valley Union School District was named as one of the "Best Places to Work" by the San Diego Union-Tribune. That recognition is something everyone at the district should be very proud to have earned as it was a collaborative effort.

While not being directly related to my position as a Trustee for Cajon Valley, in 2019 I was named the "Difference Maker of the Year" by the East County Posse charity organization for my work on the school board, the community at large and my charitable contributions to our community. I grew up in the East County. I have my legal practice and sports agency here. It is my honor to be able to serve the community I was raised in. In 4 years, I have been very fortunate to contribute to the District due to my diverse education, background and experience. I hope with the vote of the people in my Area 5, that I will be able to continue to help the students and families of Cajon Valley.

4. Who has endorsed your candidacy? Please name the most significant endorsements.

Below is a partial list of my endorsements: Cajon Valley Education Association (Cajon Valley's Teachers Union); Republican Party of San Diego County; Congressman Darrell Issa, candidate for the 50th Congressional District, Senator Brian Jones; Senator Joel Anderson, current candidate for County Supervisor, Assembly Member Randy Voepel; County Supervisor Dianne Jacob; County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar; City of El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells; La Mesa City Council Member Bill Baber; La Mesa City Council Member Kristine Alessio; Chula Vista City Council Member John McCann; Santee City Council Member Rob McNelis; San Diego Board of Education Member Mark Powell; Cajon Valley Union School Board President Tamara Otero; Cajon Valley Union School Board Member Jo Medina-Alegria; California State Employees Association Chapter 179 President Mark Reagles; East County Transitional Living Center Founder Harold Brown; San Diego County Gun Owners PAC; Former San Diego City Council Member, Carl DeMaio; Neighborhood Market Association Co-Founder, President and CEO, Arkan Somo.

5. The Cajon Valley School Board has experienced a tremendous number of problems in the past few years, including a grand jury report calling for improvements, aging buildings, media scrutiny for spending half a million dollars on promotional videos, controversial travel expenses, disruptive trustee behavior, lawsuits and a restraining order, as well as limited access to tape recordings of past meetings. What would you do to deal with past issues and create a more productive, open and peaceful school board? How would you prioritize spending? Do you support a renewal of the Superintendent’s contract?

Aging Buildings: We have approved to place "Proposition T" on the ballot. This a tax neutral bond, it will not increase taxes. The Tax Payer's Association has supported this bond and the Republican Party which typically opposes all bond measures is neutral.

Expenses: Many of the expenses you allude to, in particular travel, were reimbursed by sponsoring entities. Many are for training of staff, teachers and administrators where that training was not available in San Diego. Finally, the World of Work as a revenue generating curriculum and product requires marketing as with any business venture and promotion at places such as the California School Board Association's statewide conference is a key component to the marketing strategy.

Trustee Behavior: There is only 1 Trustee who is "disruptive" and she had to have a court issue a temporary restraining order against her. The Board as a whole asked to stop and she refused. The resulting lawsuits are extremely unfortunate and very avoidable. [Editor’s note: The court declined to issue a permanent restraining order against the trustee, who filed a suit against the district claiming her rights were violated. The district filed a separate suit alleging inappropriate actions by the trustee, who is not up for reelection. Each side denies wrongdoing; both cases are pending in court.]

Recordings: I supported revising the previous policy of Board recordings being maintained for a limited period of time so that now they are kept and made available to the public much more easily and for a much longer period of time. [Editor’s note: The board did vote to retain recordings and make them available to the public for a year, as a recording of the vote confirms. But later the district denied a records request, claiming the vote was to retain recordings a year, but not provide them to the public for meetings over a month old. ECM has submitted a new records request to determine if the district is now fulfilling requests for recordings between one month and one year old.]

"Peaceful" School Board: There are 5 members of the Board. While we do not always agree, 4 of us work exceptionally well together. The last member is the one referenced in my answer to, "Trustee Behavior". Even with that particular Trustee, if you review the voting records over the past 4 years you will find that she votes in the same fashion as I do on most topics. 

Spending is prioritized as to how can we best serve our students and families with advanced curriculum and in the world of COVID, how to keep our students safe.

Our Superintendent is outstanding at what he does. He really is. At the forefront of any cutting-edge industry, or change of the status quo in a particular field of endeavor, you will find people who are ridiculed and disrespected by those that either don't share that person's vision of moving forward or simply do not understand it. Dr. Miyashiro has taken every meeting with every person who has ever asked on any topic in our district. How can you not appreciate that time commitment to personally answer questions? This man has brought 21st Century thinking to how education is to be provided to our kids when other districts across the country, and certainly in San Diego, are still stuck believing what they did in 1984 to educate kids is still the way to do it in 2021. Without his leadership this district would not have had the 1 to 1 take home Chromebook technology already in place when the pandemic hit us. That vision alone put Cajon Valley students far ahead of their counterparts in other districts when that advantage was needed the most.

6. Please discuss your views on how you, if elected, could address the issues of both bullying and racial inequities in the school district. For example, do you think there is a need for more diversity training?

Cajon Valley does a tremendous job on student's Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).  The District partnered with National University on implementing the Sanford Harmony program with a focus on social and emotional learning which celebrates the diversity in our classrooms. With a grant from ASA the District has built social and emotional learning into our World of Work curriculum. The focus is to help students understand other perspectives.

The District has employed counselors at each school site to support our students. Tami Johnson, the lead counselor, is the District's leader on anti-bullying protocols. School site counselors offer a "You Belong Here Week" at each school site that focuses on anti-bullying. There is also a counselor programs called, "Know More" for students.

The District has a dedicated Family and Community Engagement (FACE) department which is headed by Michael Serban. This program has been nationally recognized. Our staff offers "poverty simulation" training to all sites. This program assists in understanding of what our families and students living under the poverty line go through daily. Understanding a student's situation certainly assists in how to help them.

"Safa's Story" is used as a presentation on bullying. This is a program that involves professional actors in a live setting acting out a real story of a middle school girl of Middle Eastern heritage who was bullied in school here in the USA. Throughout the play the actors pause, interact with the student audience and talk about better choices students can make to prevent bullying. Finally, Ms. Johnson and her staff also offer Cultural Responsiveness Training to school staff.

Cajon Valley is an open-minded District that seeks input from all stakeholders. If there is a good idea on this topic, I would love to hear it and see if it can be implemented. If it is good for students and families, I want to know about it.

Miller’s Website is at http://millerforschoolboard.com/ and his Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/millerforCVUSDboard

If you missed the previous story on Cajon Valley School Board Trustee, Area 4, click here to read it.


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