The Aptos Times asked three questions of the candidates for Pajaro Valley Unified School District in the Nov. 8 election. Here are their responses. (Candidate Olivia Flores did not respond.)
Are you satisfied with the board policies of the last four years reflecting the wishes of the Pajaro Valley community?
Kim De Serpa: I do feel satisfied that board policies and priorities reflect our community’s demand for safety, excellence, achievement, improved opportunities for students and their families, innovation, mental health and wellness, arts music and sports programs.
Pajaro Valley Unified School district’s response to the pandemic was nothing short of amazing. Our administration pivoted to distance learning in a 5-day period and as a result learning loss was minimized and our students have shown amazing learning despite the hardships we faced.
I attribute this to our leadership, teachers, and staff who working in concert with parents made the very best of a difficult time.
Our commitment to wellness is evidenced by increasing mental health counseling to address the difficulties students faced in isolation.
Our achievement continues to grow, up 63%. No longer at the bottom ranking of California schools, PVUSD is providing excellence in learning and increased programs that make learning fun!
Our community wants to ensure art and music education are in our curriculum and they are through partnerships with El Sistema, Save the Music Foundation, Band programs, Latino Film Institute, and VAPA and music teachers.
Having students college and career ready is a concern for parents. PVUSD has AP classes, Career Pathways such as Graphic Design, Computer Programing, Bio Agriculture and many more. After school programs at all school sites that are free and readily available for students to attend. Health and safety of students is also a concern.
Upgrades to our facilities, new fencing, additional academic and social emotional counselors at school sites and the opening of the Wellness Center on Palm Ave are ways Board policy is satisfying community wishes.
All are concerned with the amount of violence and drugs on school grounds. Students can’t learn if they are in fear. In July 2020, four members of the then current board voted to remove the School Resource Officers (SROs) permanently from the 3 high schools while keeping outside security at the district office.
The SROs should have never been removed. Even after the killing at AHS, the lack of action by the schools and PVUSD board of trustees was concerning.
Some of my ideas are:
- Keep SROs on campus permanently.
- Continue to give students the anonymity to report potential problems via the StopIt! app.
- Ensure all schools have cell service for communication.
- “One strike and you’re out!” for violent students. For other altercations, a student’s return would require attending anger management with parents.
Teacher shortages have been an issue, to the point where administrators have filled in as substitutes. How can this be solved going forward?
Kim De Serpa: Teacher shortages area nationwide issue. The truth is teaching is a calling, by that I mean genuinely big hearted, highly trained professionals who care deeply about kids.
Teachers should be compensated greatly. Although there are perks like a great retirement pension in our district and much more time off than the average worker, our country needs to prioritize teacher pay.
In PVUSD we have the highest daily sub rate in the county. Sadly, this means often recruiting substitutes from surrounding districts. If you have a bachelor’s degree and have a desire to try teaching, our district can help you to train, substitute, and even earn your credential.
Jennifer Schacher: The teacher shortage is being experienced across the State. A competitive salary and benefit package offering teachers a real living wage in their take home pay is mandatory.
PVUSD has also taken steps to increase substitute pay for our substitute teachers and longterm substitutes to make sure each classroom has a qualified teacher. TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignment) also have gone back into the classrooms to fill vacancies.
The district is also exploring the idea of affordable workforce housing to help alleviate the cost of living and housing shortage that teachers face. Valuing the commitment that teachers make to our students, allowing teachers prep time, classroom aides, paying a living wage will allow PVUSD to recruit and retain qualified teachers.
Natalain Schwartz: What many teachers and staff are currently experiencing is unacceptable. To reverse the teacher shortage, a better compensation package needs to be offered.
- Adjust the health benefit package for younger teachers who may not need all the bells and whistles and use the savings to increase salary.
- Offer rental housing stipends or low-cost home loans. Explore partnering with local developers to offer teacher/staff housing at a lower cost.
- Revisit our school budget to focus on existing hiring issues.
- Lobby at the state and federal level for more funding.
- Identify and eliminate unnecessary district expenses.
How does teacher pay compare to pay in other districts? What incentives can be offered to encourage teachers to stay?
Kim De Serpa: School district funding is not equal across counties or regions. This is the sad reality. Pajaro Valley Unified gets more funding than many of our surrounding districts, but we cannot compete with “basic aid” districts who pay a lot more than we can afford to.
PVUSD provides the highest total compensation (salary and benefits) in our area. We also recently negotiated with our unions to provide a retention bonus of $2,500 for this school year.
We are additionally looking into workforce housing. Our hope is that once implemented, would serve to recruit and retain excellent teachers to our district.
Jennifer Schacher: Teacher pay compared to other schools in the county is finally moving in the right direction. This past year the teachers were able to have their first significant raise since 2017.
PVUSD has offered signing bonuses up to $7,500 for teachers. PVUSD also gave our teachers a $2,500 retention bonus. Working with teachers to improve step and column scale, robust health benefits and a collaborative working environment will encourage teachers to stay.
Natalain Schwartz: What is more important than the district pay differences is teachers need to paid enough to live here and must feel supported and valued.
It is the responsibility of the board to find a way to adjust the budget and to make trades or allowances or look deeper into reserves to have the teachers we need. Without excellent teachers, our students will not receive a quality education.
Kim De Serpa: www.kimdeserpa.com , cell phone 831-588-7388.
Natalain Schwartz: www.vote4nat.com.