Cindy Wilcox announced Monday she will not seek reelection to the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board after serving two “inspiring and uplifting” yet “frustrating” four-year terms on the board.
Wilcox joined the school board in December 2003 and began her second term in December 2007. She ran unopposed both times, first with Jinny Dalbeck in 2003 and again with current board colleague Jeanne Broberg in 2007, as one of two candidates for two open positions. Wilcox and Broberg’s seat will be up for grabs in the upcoming Nov. 8 election.
“I regret that I will be leaving the board during a period of financial crisis, but the hard times are not going to end soon,” Wilcox said in a prepared statement. “We need people with new ideas and a fresh approach.”
Throughout her years of service, Wilcox has often been the “odd man out” in matters of business, such as teacher evaluations and the possibility of operating the district under a charter status. Fellow board member Joel Peterson said in an interview Monday that regardless of her methods, he’s always respected Wilcox's dedication to students and to the district.
“I think Cindy has always been much more independent to the extent where she has been willing to often voice things, which maybe in some people’s opinions was less than prudent or not within standard procedures, but she was also focused what she thought was the best intent of what she was doing,” Peterson said. “Because of her efforts our school district, even after she leaves the board, will continue to be set up for success for years to come.”
When Wilcox first came to the board in 2003, she set three main goals to accomplish. Ultimately, she admits, she’s been unsuccessful with all of them.
“After I got on the board, the board agreed to work on class-size reduction and we did,” Wilcox said. “We started bringing class sizes down but now, in this financial crisis, class sizes have gone back up. We made some progress but it didn’t last.”
Wilcox also wanted to establish a clear system for documenting the district’s underperforming teachers. The board hasn’t gotten there yet but may be on its way, she said. Her final goal was to implement a way to survey La Cañada Unified students and parents about their experiences with the district, including an in-depth evaluation of district teachers, but that also hasn’t been accomplished.
“Those are three things that haven’t been done, but a lot of great things have happened (in eight years),” said Wilcox, noting increases in API scores as one example.
Despite the district’s academic gains, there are still areas where it could stand to improve, Wilcox said, chief among them the teacher tenure system. She hopes the day eventually comes when teachers are laid off based on their effectiveness in the classroom instead of their seniority.
“Speaking for myself, we should be laying off our least effective teachers first, and I urge the state Legislature and the La Cañada School Board to continue to actively work toward that objective,” she said.
Overall, the biggest current threats to La Cañada Unified, Wilcox said, are a continually declining enrollment and reductions in state funding .
“The district needs two things to maintain programs, students and funding,” Wilcox said. “Today, La Cañada High School offers programs that are the envy of many public and private high schools…However, in order to offer this array, the district needs enough students to fill all these classes, and when we look at in-district students, enrollment is shrinking.”
LCUSD enrollment, which stood at 4,023 during the 2008-09 school year, is projected to drop to 3,516 by 2013.
Wilcox encourages local families and businesses to support the district by giving to the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation to help keep LCUSD solvent and maintain the district’s programs in the years ahead.
“This financial crisis is not the fault of the children in school today, and we all need to pitch in to help our current students enjoy a productive educational experience,” Wilcox said.
The candidate-filing period for the Nov. 8 school board election begins in July.