Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Q & A with CUSD School Board Candidate Dr. Helen Anderson-Cruz

The Coronado Times is conducting short interviews with all candidates for Coronado Unified School District board of trustees. All candidates have received the same six questions and the answers are in their own words; each candidate is invited to share photos; interviews are published in the order received. November 8, 2022 is election day.

Dr. Helen Anderson-Cruz is running for CUSD school board.
Dr. Helen Anderson-Cruz is running for CUSD school board.

Q: What kind of experience do you bring to the school board?

A: I am running as a true non-partisan candidate unaffiliated with any political party, and accepting no donations; my campaign is self-funded. As the incumbent, I am invested in continuing the legacy of academic excellence at CUSD. I am running for re-election because my priority is to remain laser focused on academic achievement for ALL students to ensure they are prepared for the future of their choice. As a retired educator with over 30 years of classroom experience at both university and public school settings, I understand the importance of rigorous academic standards. I have had extensive experience writing, implementing, and assessing content area academic standards and working as a professional educational consultant.

My professional credentials include a doctorate in education from the University of Southern California, a Master of Governance, a Master of Arts in Education, and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and French. I have taught at the USC Graduate School of Education, SDSU College of Business and College of Arts and Sciences faculty, and at National University in the Graduate School of Teacher Education. As a consultant, I also served on two Blue Ribbon panels for the California Department of Education, Commission on Teacher Credentialing: (1) The Language Arts Advisory Panel where I was as one of the authors who revised and aligned the K – 12 Language Arts Content Standards with the Professional Teaching Standards and (2) The Language Arts Program Review Panel as one of the reviewers of the Language Arts programs at public and private universities for accreditation.

I have also worked for the National Evaluations System in Sacramento, California where I was tasked with test item analysis to ensure that each test item on the California Subject Exam Test for Teachers (CSET) was aligned with the California Board of Education K – 12 Academic Content Standards for Language Arts.

My ties to the Coronado community and CUSD run deep. My daughter attended VES, CMS, and CHS (class of ’99) and my granddaughter is a 6th grader at CMS. As such I bring both a parental perspective and a professional educator perspective. Experience and expertise are the basis of my decision making process.

For over three decades I have served on a number of school-specific and District-specific committees. My three decades of service are the foundation for my appreciation of the significant role parents play in their students’ academic achievement. Clearly, parents want the best education for their children in our care. My priority is to use my extensive educational experience to ensure that CUSD students have the tools, strategies, and research based instructional programs necessary to continue to close the achievement gap that occurred post-COVID.

As a Trustee, I look forward to continuing to support ALL students in the Coronado Unified School District to ensure they are able to actualize their full potential within a safe and secure environment. Civic leaders, business professionals, educators, and many of my Coronado friends and neighbors are enthusiastic about my re-election. I ask for your vote to be re-elected to the CUSD Board of Trustees so I may continue to serve our community with an unwavering focus on student achievement and vocational and academic preparation for the future of their choice.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing CUSD today?

A: Since COVID, there has been a nationwide gap in student achievement, especially in Language Arts, Science, and Math. At CUSD students have been closing the gap in Language Arts subsequent to a return to full-time instruction. Additionally, at the direction of the Board and in response to stakeholder feedback, the Superintendent has included a K-3 reading achievement goal in the Long Range Plan (LRP) to implement instructional strategies that will provide students a strong foundation in literacy so they will be better prepared for upper grade academic success.

Recent test scores indicate that there is still work to be done in Math and Science achievement. Post-COVID there has been a District wide focus on academic intervention strategies, age appropriate math and science instruction, and research-based professional development for faculty that hones best practices. Our dedicated CUSD teachers have been and are continuing to work very hard to close the math and science achievement gap using these strategies. As a Trustee my focus continues to be on student achievement with the goal of eliminating the post-COVID achievement gap. This includes supporting research based instruction and best practices, providing students with appropriate instructional scaffolds, and reviewing academic outcomes using appropriate summative and formative assessments.

Q: What is CUSD good at?

A: The CUSD Board and administration are committed to preparing CHS graduates for the careers of their choice by offering a variety of Career Program Pathways. There are currently nine CHS Pathways and eight Coronado School of the Arts (COSA) Pathways. The nine CHS Career Technical Education (CTE) Pathways provide students with a sequence of courses that bridge students’ interests with their career goals. These CTE Pathways include: Art Media and Entertainment, Health Science and Medical Technology, Information and Communication Technology, and Building and Construction Trades (e.g. Woodworking) Engineering and Architecture. The eight COSA pathways offer a variety of courses in instruction specific to the Arts. One of the primary benefits of Pathways includes dual enrollment that offers early college credit (A.A. degree) with a high school diploma. CUSD has partnered with Southwestern Community College to ensure students who qualify can receive an Associate of Arts Degree with their high school diploma subsequent to enrolling in and passing courses taught on CHS campus by SWC College instructors. The traditional course offerings and enrichment courses (AP, Honors, College Prep) required for a high school diploma are still available to CHS students who do not opt for dual enrollment.

Q: What do you think about local control?

A: I am a strong advocate for local control. As a representative government, we elect local officials whom we believe to be the most qualified individuals to uphold our community standards, and to address local needs, challenges, and concerns. I support this premise and believe that locally elected officials with the support and input of their constituents are in the best position to make decisions in the best interest of their community. I am also an adherent to the rule of law and as an elected official I have sworn an oath to honor all county, state, and federal mandates even when I do not agree with them. This does not mean that I have not opposed legal mandates that I believe are not in the best interest of our schools. I have; but I have done so in writing through the appropriate legal channels. Recent events have shown that it is a misdirected act of futility to blame local agencies for mandates which originated in Sacramento.

Q: What is your stance on social-emotional learning? Do you think it is important in schools to teach children empathy, responsible decision-making, and emotional awareness?

A: A fundamental responsibility of public education is to prepare students to be good citizens and positive contributing members of society. Character education for CUSD students begins in elementary school where they are taught to be kind, to be thoughtful, to behave responsibly and to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. Social emotional learning scaffolds socially appropriate behavior and is not a new concept in education or in Coronado. By continuing to provide academic instruction within the construct of appropriate behavior, CUSD teachers are supporting, not supplanting parental authority.

Q: As you know, school board meetings can be contentious, but it’s important that board members work together. Do you think you are good at building consensus? Give examples if possible.

A: As evidenced by my extensive experience on a variety of professional boards, panels, and partnerships, I am by nature and experience a consensus builder. I work well with others, and have the ability to see the value of maintaining a professional demeanor when discussing and negotiating different viewpoints. Throughout my service as a Trustee, I have remained measured, professional, and polite to all stakeholders, colleagues, and school partners. As has been noted, there have been some very energetic and passionate behavioral displays at a few public meetings. Throughout these unprecedented meetings, I have not be deterred or derailed. It has been and will continue to be my modus operandi, to be centered and to participate calmly within the bounds of civil discourse, and to focus on doing what is best for CUSD students.



Christine Van Tuyl
Christine Van Tuylhttp://islandgirlblog.com/
Christine was born and raised in Texas, but moved to Coronado with her family as a teen in 1993. Although initially horrified by surfers, flannels and skateboards, she ultimately grew to love all things So-Cal. A graduate of UCSD, Christine got her first writing job on the KUSI ten o’clock news while simultaneously juggling a reporter position at the San Diego Community News Group. She worked as a public relations professional, a book editor, real estate professional, and a freelance writer before eventually succumbing to motherhood in 2008.A decade later, Christine resurfaced to start the Island Girl Blog, a Coronado lifestyle blog. In addition, she writes a monthly page for Crown City Magazine. Christine loves hanging out with her husband, Ian, and their two spirited daughters, Holland and Marley, who attend Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, spilling coffee at school drop off, meeting friends for sushi, or sailing the Bay with her family and English Bulldog, Moshi. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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