INTERVIEWER: What is your background as a Venturan?
STEVE OFFERMAN: I’ve been a parent in the district for over 15 years. In fact, my daughter Julia was a Foothill Dragon Press member for about 15 minutes last year, or earlier this year actually. My daughter Madeline graduated from Foothill in 2015 and is now at UCLA.
So I’ve been a parent and a volunteer in the schools for the past 15 years. My job is across the street at the government center where I’ve been a staff analyst and assistant to county supervisors for the last 20 plus years. I currently work for supervisor Steve Bennett, previously worked for his predecessor Susan Lacy.
At the end of your term, if elected, how will Ventura Unified School District be using technology in ways they aren’t right now? What will be your steps to achieving the result?
OFFERMAN: Well I’m not entirely certain of that. I know that the district has made great strides. I think there are both things they could do administratively. I understand that there’s a newer and more streamlined mechanisms for managing the district’s affairs that I would encourage them to adopt. I know with county government we’ve made great strides in implementing information technology.
In fact, the plan for county government is to migrate from the main frame for all of the county’s internal business operations to the cloud in five to ten years and mothball our mainframe. So I’d like to investigate and explore what sort of business practices is moving towards to maximize the use of IT.
And as far as students and the schools go, Foothill’s been very good about the white boards and the short-throat projectors and all that which is migrating into the other schools. Foothill’s been a real leader in technology in the classroom and I’d like to see the other schools follow Foothill’s fine example. Certainly communicating with the community and the families could be enhanced through Facebook and some things that are probably lagging in some aspects with the schools.
In your opinion, what is the next step to ensuring high school students are prepared for the new common core testing?
OFFERMAN: Certainly studying hard in their classes and mastering the common core curriculum would be the best preparation for any test taking. Certainly would encourage all the students to do that. I believe the district has the technology to administer the test currently.
So the Ventura Unified budget for this year is about $180 million, if I gave you $10 million more today to invest in our school district how ever you see fit, how would you use it?
OFFERMAN: I would hire more teachers actually to teach specialized classes. I know that there’s interest in more technology classes and more music classes and more art classes. I would like to be able to meet the interest of all of the students in their course work first. Also reducing class sizes. I know there’s been some impacted class sizes in some of the schools and so relieving that through the hiring of additional teachers would be one of my priorities.
What do you think is the most pressing issue facing our district today?
OFFERMAN: Well today and tomorrow it’s always going to be funding and having the funds available to hire sufficient staff, to maintain technology, to offer options and to support the extracurricular activities that the students would like to have.
So passing Measure R, passing Prop 55, and Prop 51 at the state level, are all very important in the near term. Extremely important in the near term just to hold us steady. That’ll always be a challenge, to keep the community engaged in their schools and supporting the funding of our schools.
So sometimes to students school board policy decisions seem to come out of nowhere. Most students don’t know their school board members, don’t know when the board meets, and aren’t informed about the decisions the board makes on a regular basis, like for example the decisions about curriculum or disciplinary policies. If you are elected, how do plan to cultivate a closer relationship between the board and students, ensuring that they get a chance to speak on issues that pertain to them and are informed on decisions once they happen?
OFFERMAN: Well I’ve attended quite a number of school board meetings and the highlight is always the student leadership council that presents at the beginning of every meeting. There are representatives from all the high schools there from the leadership groups with the high schools and it’s really my highlight of the meeting every time is hearing from the students about what they’re doing as students in their schools.
So there is a fair back and forth between the board, the administration and the schools. If that’s not getting out to the students then certainly we need to work on that. The board agendas are posted in advance and I think it’d be great for every student to have an app on their phones so they can flag and review the board agendas as frequently and often as they wish and submit their commentary by email or by appearing at the meetings.
There is public comment at every meeting where student input would be warmly welcomed certainly I believe by every board member. Myself or any other board member would love to hear directly from the students at the meetings. And maybe there could even be student clubs that review the board agendas as they come out.
Anything else to add?
OFFERMAN: I strongly support listening to the students and to the community and to the families so if students have other ideas of how they could better communicate with the school board I would be very much interested in hearing that.