Dragon parents raise concerns surrounding over-enrollment and scheduling changes


Anaika Miller

In light of recent scheduling changes, Foothill Tech parents are wondering how current and future students in special programs will be affected.

Noelle Villaseñor, Assignment Editor

Parents of Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) students have raised concerns regarding the major scheduling changes enacted due to the removal of coordinating periods for special program advisers. 

With adjustments due to over-enrollment, program adviser coordinating periods for BioScience, run by Mika Anderson, and DTech, run by Kurt Miller, were replaced by extra periods of freshman Health and Biology classes in an attempt to alleviate overcrowding. Because of these changes, newcomers and returners to Foothill Tech programs will no longer have access to opportunities such as job shadows that were a significant part of previous years’ curriculums. 

Parents expressed disapproval with this choice. “It’s been terrible, it’s been so stressful,” said Katie Shinden, a current BioScience parent. She explained that BioScience was “the main reason” her daughter chose to attend Foothill Tech instead of Ventura High School (VHS), where she takes choir during zero period. 

“She said to me, ‘Mom, I would’ve just gone to VHS and been able to be in all the plays and musicals,’” Shinden said. “She was really upset […] but she was super motivated to try to do something about it,” she added.

Barbara Walker, a DTech parent and Parliamentarian of the Parent Faculty Student Organization (PFSO), shared her concerns about the negative impact these changes could have on Foothill Tech students. “We discussed this with Principal Gibbs in the spring of last year, and he assured us that there would be no […] negative effects on the programs that we have on campus with the over-enrollment of the freshmen, which is exactly what happened,” Walker stated. 

Shinden expressed sadness that program advisers are no longer being given the necessary organizing time. “They don’t want all this extra money […] that’s not gonna solve the problem,” she explained.

Parents have also voiced concerns about student safety in classrooms with enrollment past the seating capacity. Before the scheduling changes, some class periods held over 40 students in a single room. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a classroom that big,” explained Imashi Degambada ‘23, describing how several students “sat on the floor” of her American Democracy class due to overcrowding. “It was kind of shocking to see,” she added. 

Such circumstances prompted Walker to report Foothill Tech and its principal, Russell Gibbs, for violations of student safety under the Williams Act, which states that “the Ventura Unified School District will keep teachers and students safe,” Walker explained. “Overcrowding classrooms is unsafe. It’s also a fire hazard if students […] are all crowded and they can’t get out,” Walker continued.

“I just feel like there’s other teachers,” such as long-term substitutes, “who can teach those extra biology and health classes,” added Shinden. “It just seems like a waste of resources,” to have the program advisers teaching health and biology classes, “for freshmen, when those classes could be taught by other teachers,” she continued. 

Anybody can teach that health class […] It’s not brain surgery, people!

— Katie Shinden

Foothill Tech has maintained its reputation as a top-academic school in the state of California since its founding in 2000—however, parents are concerned that the recent developments regarding special programs may damage the school’s image. 

“We look chaotic,” Walker stated. “We went from a stellar school with colleges like Cal Poly and UCSB taking note of all of our programs and our program directors,” and, “after these last three years […] we look like we don’t know what we’re doing,” she expressed.

“If [Foothill Tech] doesn’t have BioScience Academy and DTech […] then it’s just a small high school,” Shinden stated. “Maybe it still has the reputation for being high achieving,” she continued, noting that the school “does an amazing job of preparing kids for college […] but if it doesn’t have these programs, it’s gonna be not as special,” she explained. 

Walker mentioned that “the biggest problem is just the lack of transparency from Principal Gibbs,” adding, “Every time we spoke about the programs, [Gibbs] didn’t know a lot. He doesn’t know a lot about DTech, he doesn’t know a lot about BioScience,” Walker said. “He doesn’t have the big picture.”

[Gibbs] thinks he’s doing a good thing by eliminating the prep period for these programs. He’s just slowly dismantling all the programs.

— Barbara Walker

As for current actions, “I encourage parents to complain according to the Williams Act,” Walker explained, adding, “There’s a complaint form that they can fill out about the overcrowding.” She also noted that she received a post from Gibbs after filing her complaint, “saying that he’s trying to balance the classes, which still hasn’t happened.”

“It’s really just disheartening as a parent,” Shinden said. “You feel like you were promised something […] and it’s just being kind of pulled out. The rug’s being pulled out from under you.”

“I’m gonna keep fighting,” Walker concluded. She plans to speak at the Ventura Unified School District Board Meeting on Sept. 13, 2022, along with fellow Foothill Tech parents, teachers and students.

What do you think?