Thomas Wilson wants to bring his 30 years of experience in
teaching and school administration to the Laguna Beach Unified School
District Board of Education.
He teaches business ethics at Pepperdine University Graziado
School of Business while directing the Paulo Freire Democratic
Project at Chapman University. After moving to Laguna three years
ago, Wilson became involved in the district’s Quest for Excellence
service learning sub-committee because it gave students a foundation
in community involvement while earning them practical credits for
He would like to intensify and broaden service learning projects.
“How can we use the community as the curriculum?” he said. “I
think the kids can handle that.”
1. Will the Board continue to oversee the details of the ongoing
construction at the schools?
Of course! The board has the final responsibility to approve the
results of the construction as a function of policy and fiduciary
oversight. However, embedded within this responsibility would be a
close analysis of the word “detail.” It would not be wise for the
board to attempt to micro-manage building details requiring
construction expertise any more than it would be wise for the board
to oversee the details of classroom procedures requiring teacher
curricula and instructional expertise.
2. How will the board ensure the district’s financial health in an
By prudence, by wisdom in the exercise of reason, foresight and
self control. Its financial health is determined largely, save
efforts such as SchoolPower, by external sources. Because of its
wealth, the district receives virtually no federal funds and relies
upon property tax for about two-thirds of its entire school year
revenue. Thus, the board’s budget is tied, to a large degree, to the
value of property within the district. Per average daily attendance,
it is the wealthiest unified school district in the county. As such,
it is able to carry a reserve fund beyond that demanded by the state,
a prudent move.
3. Do you feel that classroom size is an important issue at our
Small class size (20 to 1 as now constituted) is necessary but not
sufficient. Would it be better to have 20 to 1 with an ineffective
teacher or, say, 30 to 1 with an outstanding teacher? Just reducing
class size without addressing teacher quality is not a formula for
improving student authentic achievement. If teachers in smaller
classrooms continue to teach the way they did in larger classrooms,
the result has a strong chance of becoming counter productive.
Related to question two above, reduced state budgets and
corresponding reduction of state aid to support 20 to 1 requires
further wisdom on the part of the board.
4. Are you concerned that the current curriculum is more geared
toward preparing students for state testing?
Absolutely! While it is necessary to have authentic measures of
student learning, state-mandated testing is more and more becoming an
encroachment upon the wise idea of local control. The more teachers
have to spend on preparing students to take external tests, the less
time they have to exercise their expertise. This in turn leads to the
further de-professionalization of teaching, which helps explain why
more than 25% of teachers drop out of the profession during the first
three years of teaching. And the problem of large class size is not
limited to the elementary level.
5. How will the board help create a more global curriculum that
will prepare students for the future?
By providing the resources by which teachers can construct the
curriculum. Any curriculum is much more than the content of
instruction. Curriculum needs to be grounded in a larger, supportive
educational environment characterized by small class size,
personalization, content aimed at specific and locally-derived
competencies, teacher ability to adapt instruction to student needs
and abilities, a fair assessment system, flexible support to ensure
student learning and powerful teachers supported by collaboration in
planning and problem solving. Global education will arise when these
conditions are met.