Vote for Michelle de Werd

Education Is an Equalizer: The More You Have, the More Doors Open

I am running for the Santa Barbara County School Board District #4 because I believe it is time for a fresh set of eyes, ears, and ideas on the board. I am in a three-way race with Roberta Heter and Jim Richardson in a district that extends from a small part of Ventura County to San Luis Obispo County, includes the Santa Ynez Valley, sections of Lompoc, Guadalupe, Santa Maria, and unincorporated areas nearby.

Perhaps this public entity, the County School Board, is unfamiliar to many because it turns out that the incumbents for the County School Board were appointed by the former County Superintendent of Schools and unopposed for almost a generation. I have not seen these school board seats on my ballot for 21 years. The more I reviewed this public agency, that did its best to stay out of the public eye, the more intrigued I became. This county school board oversees 22 school districts, 72,000 students. What do the incumbents have to show for a $58 million budget? I want to know how the SBCEO serves our students and how the public’s money is budgeted and allocated to our county school districts?

Unfortunately, the school board incumbents have watched our schools decline, to the point where we are now witnessing a generation of kids from this county who are graduating without the academic or vocational skills necessary to succeed in the workplace or life. The pandemic will only make matters worse.

If elected, my top priorities are to raise the urgency for school safety, focus on reversing the downward trend in reading, writing, and math proficiency, and seek greater transparency and fiscal responsibility.

The state data for county schools is alarming. Santa Barbara County schools are failing our kids. The test results for Santa Barbara County show only 36 percent of the students met or exceeded the standards for math and only 47 percent met or exceeded the standard for English language.

On a more local level, in the Santa Maria/Bonita school district, only 26 percent of the students met or exceeded math standards and only 34 percent for English. In Lompoc Unified, as little as 28 percent of students met math standards, and only 44 percent met English standards. In my local school district Santa Ynez High, only 38 percent of our students met math standards. In Santa Barbara Unified School District, only 45 percent of students met math standards and 54 percent for English in 2019.

I am a 21-year Los Olivos resident, married for 29 years, and mother of two daughters, both college graduates and productive in their careers. I passionately support quality public education, student engagement, and learning opportunities for all. I believe that fiscally responsible and accountable decisions made today create a sustainable system for future students. I earned a B.A. Degree in Economics from UCLA. I was a Division 2 NCAA All-American swimmer at California State University, Northridge. I spent my career after college working in investment management specializing in municipal bond finance and asset management.

Currently, I serve as Chair of the Santa Ynez Valley High School Bond Measure K 2016 Citizens Oversight Committee (COC), a designated member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Our COC committee monitors expenditures for school bond projects, ensuring the public funds are used as intended by the voters. I also co-founded and serve as President of the non-profit Academic Booster Club (ABC+), which provides financial assistance to enhance academic achievement and funds scholarships.

Transparency is a huge issue for me. After attending many sparsely attended school board meetings and observing numerous inconsistencies in the Board’s decisions, I personally hired a videographer to videotape all the meetings. I post these videos to YouTube on a Facebook group page called the Transparency Project.

I am excited to focus my time and energy on bringing all voices to the table and discuss changes to a 50+ year-old bureaucracy. Educational spending is an investment in our youth. I will dissect the issues and, at the end of the day, take action. It is never going to be perfect, but I believe we need to focus on new solutions for today’s everchanging environment without abandoning the fundamentals, which are reading and math.

Education is an equalizer, the more you have, the more doors will open.

I will not accept any compensation nor health care benefits that are afforded to our incumbents currently. This public money should go to the students.

I will work collaboratively, foster greater transparency for budgeting and spending, and emphasize programs that will help develop skills that are relevant for today’s economy, creative constructive thinkers, responsible citizens, and future leaders. I humbly ask for your vote.

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