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Know Your School Board Candidate: Marcia Wilson

Image courtesy of Marcia Wilson

 


The Alhambra Source reached out to each candidate, asking for a biography, platform statement and a few reader-generated questions. The Source does not endorse any candidates nor statements.


 

Biography

Marcia Wilson has been involved in the Alhambra Unified School District since she moved to the community in 2000, with her husband and two sons, both graduates from AUSD. She served as PTA president for four, non-consecutive, two-year terms, at Emery Park and Alhambra High.  She also served for three years as Alhambra Council PTA President. She was the District Advisory Council Representative for AHS for six years. She served on the Citizen’s Oversight Committee for Measure C and MM to oversee the completion of the bond construction at our schools. She has been an active member of the Board of the Alhambra Educational Foundation for the past seven years.

After earning her B.A., MSW and Ph.D. degrees from USC, Dr. Marcia Wilson joined the faculty as an adjunct professor and has been teaching for over 30 years at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, teaching in both the MSW and DSW programs. She is currently the Dean of Pathway Innovation and Institutional Effectiveness at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, where she oversees equity initiatives, workforce development, career pathways and professional development. She also has a grant-writing, program evaluation and consulting business which focuses on small grassroots non-profit organizations.

Platform

When elected, I will support initiatives that address key issues that will strengthen our district.

Transparency and inclusion breeds trust among stakeholders. I strongly believe that everyone should have a voice and decisions should be supported and explained in ways that are accessible to all. Data should be shared and presented so that everyone – students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators can engage in discussions and participate in data-driven decision-making.

I encourage exploration of innovative ideas — innovative teaching, innovative uses of technology, and innovative and diverse funding.  Now, perhaps more than ever, we need to think outside of the box to find solutions, expand our capacity and reinvigorate the way we educate future generations of young people.

Equity of access, opportunity, and outcomes are also guiding principles of mine. I embrace the complexity of equity and diversity, which is not simply about race and ethnicity but also nationality, immigration status, culture, color, socio-economic status, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and ability.  When equity gaps are apparent, solutions are not simple and must be evidence-based, resourced and evaluated for impact.

As a PTA parent, I am aware of the importance of parent engagement and it is also important that we encourage family engagement – grandparents, siblings, extended family and foster families play meaningful roles in children’s growth and development and are assets and vital partners to educators.  Family engagement needs to be authentic, welcoming, intentional, respectful, meaningful and interactive.

Finally, public education should focus on the whole person, not only on academic knowledge & skills.  Programs that support the development of civility, leadership, socio-emotional health and development, life skills and gratitude are essential too.

I care deeply about students, teachers, staff and my community and I am looking forward to the opportunity to serve as an AUSD Board Member.

Responses

The pandemic has greatly affected learning in our schools. How are you going to ensure that every student receives a quality education?

It is certainly true that the pandemic has greatly affected learning in our schools as it has affected almost every aspect of our lives. While the scramble to quickly convert from a fully face-to-face teaching model to a fully online/distance education model was swift and challenging, it is my opinion that our district handled it much better than others I have observed.  Was it perfect?  Of course not, but I was proud and relieved to see that our students, teachers, administrators and parents demonstrated patience, flexibility and resilience in these challenging times.

While I think that our students are indeed receiving a “quality education,” there are always things that could be improved and addressed further.  These include:

  1. Addressing the digital divide, since although we have provided thousands of devices and hot spots, there are still some families in need
  2. Addressing the challenges faced by working families who relied on school and after-school programs as their source of child care while they work
  3. Addressing the need for skill-building in the management of distance education curriculum, learning skills and technology for students and their parents
  4. Providing professional development for teachers about pedagogy in a distance education environment
  5. Addressing the social and emotional needs of everyone – this has had a toll on everyone (students, parents, teachers, staff, site and district administrators, etc.)  and ignoring the needs of any constituent group with regard to mental health will result in ineffectual outcomes. 

All of these are important and it is difficult to prioritize them without any data about how one might be having more of an impact than others on educational quality.  If I were on the Board,  I would suggest that we create rapid-response teams to address each of these challenges, as well as any others I might not have identified.

Do you have plans for addressing the long-term effects of the pandemic on Alhambra’s schools and their students to ensure there is not a “lost generation”? Please explain.

The first thing that I would suggest we do is to determine the long-term effects of the pandemic and its impact on learning outcomes, as well as the socio-emotional development & well-being of our youth.  While we all assume that it will have an impact, we need to look at it more carefully, including how this impact might vary based on student demographics.

For example, with regard to age, the impact the pandemic might have on our high school seniors is likely to be very different than its impact on Kindergarten students. In partnership with district & school administrators, teachers, students and parents, we should gather both qualitative & quantitative data and use this data to create a “pandemic educational recovery plan.”  This plan should also be informed by the work of other districts, CA Dept. of Ed and empirical data.

In the last three months, articles have been published in respected educational journals on the topic of COVID impact & recovery.  AUSD needs to customize responses to the unique needs of our communities, but we can also learn from others in the region and across the state, the country & the world.  This recovery plan will likely include innovative ideas from students, teachers & parents about ways to bridge the gaps identified such as supplemental instruction and trauma-informed emotional and social support.

I would hope that we can also look at this from a strengths-based perspective as well.  The pandemic & the resulting online/distance education strategies likely resulted in some strengths and new skills including increased computer literacy (for the kids & their families), increased independent learning skills, time management & self-monitoring.

For teachers & administrators, I think it provided them with a whole new skill set as they were forced to be exposed to distance education & educational technology that they perhaps had not been exposed to or embraced. I personally believe that it is vital that we take time to reflect & fill gaps, but also celebrate the strength, courage & resilience demonstrated by students, teachers, parents, administration and our community at large.

What is your plan for increasing funding for AUSD schools? Where would you allocate these funds first?

I am keenly aware of the budget challenges we will face.  We were going to be facing challenges due to declining enrollment long before COVID and this has only made it worse.

I am fortunate that as part of my role at LATTC and the South LA Promise Zone, I chair the “Education Budget Crisis Sub-Committee: Responses and Solutions for COVID 19 and Beyond,” a subcommittee to convene a group of educational administrators from LAUSD and LATTC to explore strategies to look at innovative ways to cut costs, get additional funding that is not tied to enrollment and think outside of the box for funding solutions including government, corporate and foundation grants and private-public partnerships and to learn how K-12 and higher education partnerships can create cost savings.  I will use this knowledge, my own experience and the experience of our administrators and provide input to develop an innovative strategic plan to increase funds available for AUSD’s budget.

In determining where to allocate the funds, I would work closely with our administrators, teachers and parents to get input and their assessment of needs and prioritization. While I have my own perspectives, it is vital that input is sought and that the decisions are made with a consideration of a collective voice. In my opinion, the additional funding will need to address COVID-19 recovery. By the time the new board members are sworn in, and appropriate steps are taken to increase funding availability, hopefully, the acute phase of the COVID-19 crisis will be over and we will be in a recovery period.  There will still likely be a need for PPE, safety protocols and perhaps some distance learning will still be implemented.  This is where funds will need to be allocated first, and then, funding to assess and address gaps in educational knowledge and skill attainment, and also to address the emotional and social trauma the pandemic has caused for our students, their families and our teaching and classified staff as their families.

What recommendations would you make to the district when creating the curriculum for its social justice and equity training program for teachers and administrators?

My recommendations to the district would be to ensure that the social justice and equity training program be evidence-based, inclusive, on-going and only part of a strategic equity and diversity plan adopted district-wide. There is a rich body of literature on this topic and dozens of curricula so there is no need to reinvent the wheel. We should not be “creating” curriculum, but choosing and customizing a curriculum.

The curriculum selected should be based on one of many evidence-based social justice and equity training programs. The team tasked with working on the curriculum should base it on one that has proven success and to have had demonstrated impact on school communities that are similar to the size and level of diversity of ours.

I think that the challenge with social justice and equity training programs is that people think of them as just that – a training program.  You send your teachers and administrators to this training, perhaps when they are hired and perhaps to a “booster” once a year or every other year, check the box, and say that you have social justice and equity training.  This is not enough. However, if that training is part of a system-wide social justice and equity initiative and policy, it holds more power and has a more sustained engagement and opportunity for real impact over time.

We should also build on the strengths that already exist within the district. For example, Alhambra High School has a group of teachers who have been meeting regularly to address equity and have been working to develop and find funding for professional development. The other high schools and elementary schools might have similar groups or teams of which I am not aware.  We need to engage these teachers and administrators who have demonstrated interest and commitment to be part of the planning.  We also need to be fully inclusive and engage students and parents to provide some context of how they experience social justice and equity gaps.

Visit Marcia’s website.

 

Return to the main page for the other candidates’ biographies, platforms and responses.

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