Joelle Mancuso, mother/college trustee, joellemancuso.com
I am a mother and educator who can add a fresh perspective to a district that is hemorrhaging students and teachers. I have been especially focused on the current CVUSD Board meetings for the last 3 years and believe that systemic change is desperately needed to renew public confidence in how we educate our youth.
Additionally, I have experience as a board trustee and have the skills to bring about real change that our district requires to get back on its feet. An effective Board trustee must be a voice for the parents and teachers in our district and have enough common sense to know that politics must be kept out of the K-12 classroom. I feel that I’m such a person for a time like this as I’ve experienced public school, charter schools and home school with my children. It is my belief that partisan politics have polarized our community, creating division and the pursuit of personal agendas. If we continue to vote in leaders that perpetuate these extreme views on either side, our students will pay the price. My support of students, parents, and educators spans all backgrounds, beliefs, and political views, and I want to represent all types of families.
The most pressing issue today is the lack of transparency between the elected CVUSD Board of Trustees and the people for whom they are accountable~the Conejo families and taxpayers.The Board has been unresponsive and deceptive, which has fractured the trust of its teachers and parents. For example, the current sex-ed curriculum Teen Talk was approved even though community members and teachers were not in favor and wanted to find a more age-appropriate curriculum for students. The health classes for 4th graders became co-ed simply because one board trustee thought mixed health classes at 9 years old would prevent children from becoming shy adults. Parents and teachers were not consulted, and the fallout from this ill-conceived decision has led to embarrassment for both girls and boys. A Board that is not willing to listen to professional educators and families is irresponsible to the culture of our school district. Great care must be taken when choosing sensitive curriculum, and the present comprehensive sex ed called Teen Talk and the viewing of personal growth material to a co-ed class of 9-year-olds should be reviewed.
I also believe routine town halls, as well as focus groups where there is dialogue, will help to strengthen the relationship between the board and the public. There is a need for a time of healing, and this is a way to build back trust.
An equally pressing issue in the district is the current Board welcoming of special interest ideology that is taking precious instruction time from reading, writing, mathematics, history, and science. The Covid years have caused many students to fall behind, and we must refocus extra attention on core subjects to close educational gaps. Massive Covid funding coming from Washington, D.C., and Sacramento has dumped millions into our district, but the only thing that seems to be growing is our district administration. We must utilize our network of local businesses and professionals that can be consulted and used to implement workable solutions for our children who [need] extra help to catch up academically.
We are incredibly top-heavy and have added members to its ranks while teachers and parents continue to dip into their own pockets to provide materials for classrooms. Currently, we have 4 assistant superintendents, even though the state only requires 2. Funding should be going into teaching assistants and extra academic aids before going to more administrators and special interest consultants from out of the area.
The Board continues to adopt policies without proper teacher and parent feedback, and the growing administration positions continue to devour funds that should be going into the classrooms. As the classroom sizes shrink and teachers leave the district, proper leadership would require introspection and a pivot to correct weaknesses. I am confident that the slate of Gorback, Goldberg and new-recruit Powell love kids and public education, but they will not be able to fix the problems that plague our district. The people who got us in this mess cannot get us out.
Voters should know that being a mother, educator, and seasoned trustee makes me the perfect choice for being a CVUSD Board member. Additionally, having grown children means I have the time and earnestness to commit to this position. A good public school system starts at the top, and we’ve lost our way because of poor leadership from the current board. Good leadership requires good listening, communicating, and a healthy dose of questioning before allowing anything in front of our impressionable children. A trustee must be trusted.
I am excited to represent voices that have been ignored for far too long. The students of Conejo Valley matter, the educators in Conejo Valley matter, and the families of Conejo Valley matter. It’s time to fight for a strong public school education system, and I’m ready.