Thank you again for electing me to the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Board of Educa¬tion in 2016.
I am now at the halfway point of my first term. Here are a few of my shared accomplishments:
Passed resolution recognizing Indigenous People’s Day;
Increased teacher pay by 15 percent to attract the best and brightest to our classrooms;
Banned discriminatory discipline to keep Black and Latino boys in school and out of jail;
Saved No Child Left Behind Act transfers to give families choice;
Saved the School Resource Officer program to keep students safe;
Stopped the takeover of San Pablo public schools by Rocketship Charter Schools;
Saved our second-highest performing high school, John Henry Charter, from closure; and
Hosted two career fairs to help students obtain high paying jobs with benefits in the building and construction trades after graduation.
Nevertheless, there is still much work to do.
87.5 percent of Black and Latino students in the WCCUSD are not proficient in mathematics. 77.5 percent are not proficient in English language arts. In my opinion, the school board should declare a state of emergency.
I have attempted to offer short and long-term solutions to our problems, including:
Reorganizing the WCCUSD internally: the current system simply does not work for the majority of students;
Adopting Let’s Go Learn (LGL): LGL is an internet-based reading and math assessment and supplemental instruction program that has shown promising results in communities like ours;
Converting Stege Elementary School into a dependent charter school owned and operated by the WCCUSD: Stege requires drastic change; a new structure could give the WCCUSD the flexibility it needs to make such a change;
Converting John F. Kennedy High School into two schools, a school of the arts and a trade/vocational/technical school: unfortunately, many students have checked out; if the WCCUSD wants to bring them back, it must offer alternative yet proven programming that will reignite their fire, like art, trade, vocational, and technical;
Using proven practices: lower performing schools should not be allowed to exper¬iment on students; they should be required to adopt proven practices from higher performing schools that fit their stu-dents’ respective needs;
Continuing efforts to recruit, hire, and retain quality teachers, administrators, and support staff: an organization is only as good as its people; and
Starting a massive volunteer drive: the WCCUSD does not have enough adults to work with its approximately 29,000 students.
Of course, the community should have an opportunity to weigh in on these proposals. However, I am reminded of the following quote from our late president, Franklin D. Roos¬evelt:
“One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment… If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.”
The WCCUSD must do something. Time will not heal all wounds. If we truly want to educate our students, we must take direct and deliberate action now. The future of 29,000 students depends on it.
Mister Phillips is an attorney and member of the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education. He lives in Richmond with his wife Angela and four children.