Jerry Hill, CA Senator, and Marc Berman, Assemblymember endorse Phil for MVLA!
Jerry Hill, CA Senator, and Marc Berman, Assemblymember endorse Phil for MVLA!
With our MVLA district’s students, parents, and educators in a chaotic situation like no other, the need for the seasoned, successful leadership experience I have gained through six consecutive terms of service on its governing board is great, and has never been greater.
In normal times, I would tell you that our MVLA community has kept me on the job for a variety of reasons, starting with the distinctive responsibility that makes public high schools and colleges unique among public institutions: improving all students’ learning of academic subjects, as measured by students’ performance, and safeguarding their physical and emotional health – a responsibility that includes curing the disease of racism. Those and the other reasons still apply, and you can see some of them in the About Phil section.
The Immediate Concern that Cannot Wait –
Preventing Learning Loss in Distance and Hybrid Learning
However, these are – I hope – not newly normal times. Covid-19 has disrupted the programs that we’ve been perfecting over decades and plunged us into a cold, churning sea of uncertainties. In June, the renowned McKinsey Company published COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime, a study in which the authors state,
“In our second scenario (in-class instruction does not resume until January 2021), we estimate that students who remain enrolled could lose three to four months of learning …”
That's an entire semester's worth of education! To make matters worse, the loss is projected to be substantially greater for students of color and socio-economically disadvantaged students.
If we were able to leave full distance learning in the second quarter and return to campus, social distancing requirements would almost certainly be in effect. The return would be in hybrid mode, an unfamiliar educational milieu wherein our experience would be limited to our few months in the preceding distance learning quarters. Our schools could operate at most to half capacity, so half the instruction would continue to be remote. Students could still lose 2½ to 3 months of learning, and very likely more, because in-person socially distant learning with a plexiglass barrier separating teachers from students is not going to be as effective as pre-pandemic, in-classroom learning.
McKinsey’s third scenario is that students don’t return to in-person learning until the start of the 2021–22 school year, and consequently arrive having forfeited 52% of the learning they would have had from pre-pandemic schooling, with disadvantaged students suffering even more severe losses. (Lest you believe that return date to be too pessimistic, please consider that Bill Gates, who gets the best scientific information lots of money can buy, said in an interview published 8/07/20 in Wired magazine, “The innovation pipeline on scaling up diagnostics, on new therapeutics, on vaccines is actually quite impressive, and that makes me feel like, for the rich world, we should largely be able to end this thing by the end of 2021 ...")
I don’t want us to stay in distance learning a moment more than safety requires, but while we’re in it, it has to be excellent
- we must strive to achieve a rare distance learning program for which at least the academic outcomes are as good as they are in-person learning. Moreover, to the extent it falls short of that goal, we need expanded support programs, particularly of mentoring and tutoring, to prevent the learning loss McKinsey forecasts, certainly for disadvantaged students incurring that loss, but also for other students likewise at a loss.
Students, parents, teachers, administrators and support staff are understandably stressed, many to the point of distress. Educators have worked hard through their summer vacations to produce interesting, engaging lessons tailored to distance learning. Reports from the first few weeks indicate that those lessons are being well received, but that workflow problems are impeding progress. A current example of such problems is that there are too many places where assignments can be posted. As a result, some assignments are being posted in one place, some others for the same class are being posted in another place, and still others for the same class are being posted in yet another place, and so on, all at different unannounced times. This causes an assignment-finding-and-tracking nightmare, even for straight-A students.
Yet more stressful for students (and parents) is the use of assignments to take attendance, because the assignments too often have conflicting deadlines or allow insufficient time for completion. These problems are slowly being resolved, but time is being lost, and other problems can reasonably be expected to arise. We need a means for responding rapidly to those problems and fixing them fast.
Many skilled and talented parents – our district has them in abundance – believe they can help and want to do so, but have not been part of the conversation about solutions. To begin to bring parents into the process, I persuaded the administration to meet with a small group of parents who seemed to emerge as those most reasonably and persuasively articulating student and parent concerns, and identifying means by which parents could help. Now there are regular meetings with some of those parents, so that’s some progress. I am hopeful there will be more. This is a situation that requires all hands on deck.
I was following a lesson I learned in my earliest years of board experience: get the folks having the problem to be leaders on the team crafting a solution. That and other lessons gleaned from my experience have helped me function as part of a leadership team comprising the trustees and the superintendent that, when problems became apparent, freely exchanged ideas with parents and other stakeholders to shape consensus for changes that improved the lives of our students.
The approval of the installation of field lights at both high schools provides the most recent example of the success that shaping consensus solutions with teams that include the persons having the problems achieves.
Prior improvements brought about by leadership teams on which I put my experience to good use include:
- replacing a dysfunctional continuation school with Alta Vista, an award-winning model continuation school;
- requiring that only excellent teachers be offered tenure;
- opening Freestyle Academy of Communication Arts and Technology;
- continually expanding AVID to the limits set by its requirements so that more students could be among their families’ first generation to go to college;
- extending AVID teaching techniques into non-AVID classes to make them more rigorous, while giving students the tools that make rigorous courses accessible to them;
- decreasing the maximum size of 9th grade English and math classes to 20;
- changing the grading policy to give students more incentives to learn and chances to succeed;
- adopting a homework policy that reduced busywork, allowed time for other activities, and lowered stress;
- steering the district through budgetary crises of the 2000 and 2008 recessions without adversely affecting students’ education;
- winning voter approval of three bond measures to improve MVLA facilities.
The list goes on and on, but the success in these examples provides one more reason that breadth and depth of experience plus good teamwork are vital to success in dealing with chaos and its uncertainty. Surprise!, a 2013 RAND think-tank study of how successful leaders deal with the uncertainties of disruptive surprises, identifies four key resources on which those leaders rely. Two of the four are experience and teamwork.
My 37 year record shows I embody both. The challenges of these chaotic times are best met by the qualities I offer. When you vote, please accept my offer.
Phil has worked tirelessly to improve and hold public school education to a higher standard in Mountain View and Los Altos for decades.
Now more than ever we need Phil's experience on MVLA. We are facing unprecedented times and will need his continued guidance.
We need Phil more than ever on the MVLA Board of Trustees! You can help Phil continue his work with your support and your vote! Please join us in keeping Phil on the board and working to achieve a high quality education for all students.
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