Betsy Jenkins: From volunteer to civil servant

Betsy Jenkins sees her candidacy for one of the seats on the

Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education as a logical

next step in her career as a parent volunteer.

She feels that her work, ranging from working with students and

teachers in the classroom to serving as President at Top of the World

Elementary School as well as on the Citizens' Oversight Committee,

has given her the broad perspective necessary to be a member of the

board.

"I've kept my finger on the pulse of what's happening in the

schools," she said. "I care very deeply about education, our schools

and about open communication between all levels."

QUESTIONS:

1. Will the board continue to oversee the details of the ongoing

construction at the schools?

The board has now scheduled an extra meeting before each regular

board meeting in order to review and oversee the ongoing details of

each school's construction. In addition to attending this meeting, I

would also continue to be present at all Citizens' Oversight

Meetings. It is in this committee that the particular details,

timelines and budgets of each construction project are reviewed.

Because I have been a member of this committee since its inception in

April of 2001, I am completely up to speed with all school

construction to date. It is my utmost priority to continue rigorous

oversight.

2. How will the board ensure the district's financial health in an

uncertain economy?

The school board currently has a large reserve of money stockpiled

against a failing economy. Even now, the state is curtailing funding

of many programs and more cutbacks are certain. Although I understand

the temptation to use the reserve for current programs, I am

unequivocal in my belief that we must keep our reserves high. I

remember only too vividly the years when the district had to cut

virtually everything, including teachers' salaries. My vow is to

never return to such times. The only certain way to keep our

financial health is to carefully monitor every penny of spending and

to keep our reserve fund intact.

3. Do you feel that classroom size is an important issue at our

elementary schools?

Large classroom size is a problem at all four of our schools. When

the forums first began in this campaign, I was the only candidate to

speak of this major impediment to an excellent education. Now I am

gratified to hear others mention it as a problem. Teachers cannot be

expected to interact meaningfully with each student when they have

too many in a class. I want to see hands-on excitement and enthusiasm

for learning in each and every classroom. This is where we must focus

our energy, our attention and our spending!

4. Are you concerned that the current curriculum is more geared

toward preparing students for state testing?

Although state-mandated testing is unavoidable in the public

schools, Laguna Beach has always prided itself on keeping its value

in perspective. Having worked closely with my children's teachers

over the years, I know that they do work to prepare their students to

do well, but refuse to do meaningless "teaching to the test."

Therefore I do not believe that the current curriculum is geared

unduly toward state testing.

5. How will the board help create a more global curriculum that

will prepare students for the future?

In an increasingly competitive global society, the education our

children receive will be the single most important tool with which

they will face their future. With the rapid explosion of technology

and the ever-increasing interdependence of world cultures, their

future will be determined by their ability to adapt, to create, to

learn and to change. We must teach rigorous academics in a setting

where our kids also learn moral values, flexibility and a lifelong

enthusiasm for learning. We need teachers who are excellent role

models and classes small enough that the teacher and the student can

interact meaningfully.

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