OP-Ed from Jeffrey Starkweather: Challenges and opportunities ahead for OUSD school board

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By Jeffrey Starkweather
It has been a great honor to campaign for a school board seat in the newly created Meiners Oaks and Mira Monte school board district.  My wife, Dee Reid, and I met a lot of wonderful neighbors in our door-to-door canvassing of this entire district.  
I want to congratulate my opponent, Rebecca Chandler, on her election victory, as well as Shelly Griffen in her election in District 4.
I want to truly thank all the school advocates, parent leaders and concerned residents of the Ojai Valley who encouraged me to run for this seat. I want to especially thank everyone who supported my raising of critical issues facing our public schools. And I want to thank everyone who took the time to read my campaign platforms and used the information to guide their voting. A special thanks to my mother, Martha Starkweather, who by her example as a PTA leader taught me about the importance of public service and strong public schools.
Local political campaigns should be about issues and that is certainly the way I went about seeking support for my candidacy, as did Chiany Dri in her campaign in District 4. I believe together we raised some serious concerns about three crises facing our public schools:  
1. Ongoing loss of students resulting in significant loss of school operating funds for improving educational offerings.
2. Low student performance indicators.
3. Significant racial and income gaps in the demographic makeup of our elementary schools, teachers and school board membership, and in student performance indicators.  
I ran on the belief that solutions to these problems must come from the ground up, not top down. That is, the school board and administration need to do more to seek input from parents, teachers, residents and community leaders on how to address these problems. 
I also ran on the idea that you cannot solve a problem unless you clearly can identify and come to agreement on the causes of those problems. That again requires seeking input from parents and community. Only then can the school board and administration, working with parents and the community, develop long-range strategic plans to address these crises, including seeking funding sources for equitably expanding educational offerings that attract students to our public schools and improve student performance.
I am glad the voters approved the additional $45 million in facilities funding through Measure K. There is actual empirical research as to what types of facility improvements have the potential for improving student performance, most of which focus on the lighting, air quality, heating and air conditioning in classrooms.  
Another area where research associates improved facilities with student performance is the greening of schools in both indoor classrooms and in school yards.  
Finally, certain amenities, such as a swimming pool or aquatic and performing arts spaces, can attract students to a school district. I recommend the school board and administration work with the town council, the arts community and environmental advocates in the valley to combine school and community resources to provide a pool that can also be used in the summer by the community.  Similarly, I also recommend developing “deeper learning” environmental and arts education programs that will highlight us as a state leader in both of these 21st century innovative strategies. 


— Jeffrey Starkweather of Meiners Oaks was a candidate for Ojai Unified School District Area 2.