Thomas Wilson: Building on a lifetime of teaching

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


uncertain economy?

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

elementary schools?

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.