Election 2020

Ojai Unified School District Board Area 4 candidate: Shelly Griffen

web Shelly Griffen copy
Photo courtesy by Shelly Griffen
Shelly Griffen
Voters in new Trustee Areas 2 and 4 will choose two Ojai Unified School District Board members Nov. 3. The two vying for one seat in Trustee Area 4 are Shelly Griffen and Chiany Dri.
1. Do you support Measure K? Why or why not?
Measure K is necessary. We had $100 million in facilities repairs and only $35 million from our last bond. Without a new bond, we will continue to have inadequate classrooms and will likely lose our aquatics programs.
This bond will improve our pool, update our buildings, and facilitate solar power and improved fields, saving money that is better spent in the classroom. We are in a difficult economic moment, and this bond will be a stimulus for our community. Indeed, over $4 million of our previous bond went directly to Ojai businesses. With interest rates incredibly low, no payments until the end of 2022, the ability to seamlessly continue the work being done, now is the time for a new bond. Currently, we have one of the lowest rates of local support in the county. Our schools deserve our support.
2. Do you support the lease of the district office property? If so, what would you like to see there?
It is not about what I want to see there, it is about what our community wants to see there. Every year, we see our schools underfunded in state and federal budgets. Exploring ways to bring in revenue to fill those gaps is an important step toward bringing innovative programming and educational opportunities to our students, as well as improving our teacher pay to competitively attract teachers to our district. What goes into that space, however, should not be decided by any one board member. I look forward to robust community conversations as we explore this opportunity to determine the best use of this property.
3. Do you have any business interests in the district?
While my husband and I both work in Ojai, we do not have any business with the school district.
4. How should future district budget deficits be addressed?
We must be proactive about our budget and that is why I am pushing to see the passage of Measure K and other potential revenue sources. With this bond money, we can add solar and improve our fields, saving money better spent in classrooms. I have personally spoken with our representatives, Hannah-Beth Jackson, Monique Limon, and Tony Thurmond, explaining the issues facing small districts like ours. We cannot continue to balance the budget on the backs of teachers, but must look at every opportunity for efficiency and revenue.
5. How should the district deal with declining enrollment?
Creative endeavors like Summit School, an independent learning school partnering with Rock Tree Sky, has brought over 80 students into the district in its first year. Being responsive to families is key. I would like to explore the idea of a K-8 model in the future, as well as other ideas families have requested. A focus on professional development, Social Emotional Learning, and improved academics, including Levered Math in elementary, ensures a quality education for every student. I have done my homework and understand that magnet schools require millions in grants, while dual-immersion language programs require more bilingual teachers than we have, and are shown to have difficulty retaining students over time. Instead, we can make sure every elementary school has Spanish class offerings, use our small-district advantage to build strong relationships which we know improve outcomes, and be flexible and responsive to the needs of families. I will continue to focus on improvements for every child in every school.
6. Do you support attracting interdistrict transfers to help address declining enrollment?
Our schools should be jewels in our community that attract students inside and outside our valley. We can do this by creating opportunities for students to explore many interests, while learning skills and academics at high levels so they are able to access higher education or careers. I am focused on strengthening hands-on science and art at the elementary level, bringing more Career Technical Education opportunities, internships, and robust academics that are accessible to all students. Families are adamant about having educational options and we have responded by creating more independent learning opportunities with the benefit of access to both clubs and sports.


7. Has distance learning in OUSD been effective thus far?
Distance learning has been more effective for some than others. This year has effectively made every teacher a new first-year teacher again, and every student a first-time student. Still, every day, improvements are being made. Our teachers work tirelessly to make this new platform the best it can be, while our staff continues to help families with tech issues so that every child has access. We will take what we have learned from distance learning back to campus with us to make classrooms even better than before.
8. What is the role of a school board member?
To listen, create a vision, and seek solutions with staff to implement that vision. Before I became a board member, solutions seemed easy and straightforward. After four years on the board, I understand the complexities of each decision. My role as a board member is to listen and understand the barriers and work with staff on solutions. The board is tasked with focusing on a broad vision for the whole district and expressing that vision so that staff can develop plans to reach those goals.
9. Why should people vote for you?
During this challenging time, when everyone’s stress levels are high, having experienced board members who understand the district and provide consistency and support to teachers and families, while continuing to implement board goals, is important. I look forward to bringing to all decisions the additional knowledge that I have acquired from completing a master of arts in education with a concentration in Social Justice and Leadership; my perspective as a parent and classroom volunteer; my background in accounting; and my four years of experience on the school board. I served 10 years on the Ojai Valley Library Friends and Foundation board, promoting education through the library, and acted as liaison between the school board and Ojai Alliance for Education Equity. I have pushed for more opportunities for community involvement, which brought forth our Guiding Coalitions. In the next four years, I aim to improve our budget, support teachers as they create new educational opportunities, and set a vision for innovation, equity and achievement for all students.
10. If you have a candidate website, what is the address?
11. If you have a candidate email, what is the address?
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