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November 6, 2018 — California General Election
School

Ventura Unified School DistrictCandidate for Trustee, Trustee Area 4

Photo of Deborah Meyer- Morris

Deborah Meyer- Morris

Attorney/Parent
2,767 votes (28.56%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Provide equitable educational opportunities and educational access to ALL students. Struggling students need early intervention. Buena HS needs the same number of class periods per day as VHS & Foothill.
  • Improve communication and transparency between the District & ALL parents/students on social-emotional issues. Reduce bullying by responding quickly and consistently, train staff/counselors on the Uniform Complaint Process & suicide prevention plan.
  • Develop integrative career technical education pathways for students where they can learn employable skills and trades. Strong communities need ALL citizens prepared for careers and life, not just college.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Attorney/Parent
Attorney, DK Law Group, LLP (2012–current)
Oxnard School District, Expulsion Board, Oxnard School District — Appointed position (2005–2007)

Education

Loyola Law School, Los Angeles Juris Doctor (JD), Law (1991)
California State University, Northridge B.A., English Literature (1986)

Community Activities

Ventura County 4-H Council, Home Arts PDC Chair, Event & Project Leader, Ventura County 4-H (2009–current)
Mock Trial Attorney Scorer, Ventura County Office of Education (2015–current)
Nut Chair Island View Service Unit, Girl Scout Leader, Girl Scout's of California's Central Coast (2006–2016)
Co-President Anacapa MS PTO, PAC Reprensenative, Anacapa MS PTO (2010–2012)
President, Oxnard Council of PTAs, PTA (2005–2007)

Biography

 A graduate of Simi Valley High School, West Ventura County has been my home, since my husband Jeff and I moved to Oxnard in 1994. While today I am a practicing attorney, my success has been self-made as I worked my way through both CSUN and Loyola Law School, class of 1991, attending law school at night in downtown LA while working a full-time job with CIGNA/INA in the San Fernando Valley. Together Jeff and I have raised two daughters, both graduates of Ventura High School. 

As a parent of two daughters with exceptionally diverse educational needs, I started my educational advocacy early asking questions when our oldest daughter (now a proud alumni of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) was in first grade and was diagnosed with ADHD, and later with Dyslexia. I continued my odyssey into the special education world when our second daughter (now a student at CSUCI), who was born with a congenital heart defect, had heart surgery and later six ear surgeries requiring her to be a special education student from K-12.

 

As the daughter of a PTA President, I followed in my mother’s PTA footsteps during the early elementary school years at Emilie Ritchen School in Oxnard School District. Moving up the ranks through committee level work, fundraising and board positions, I was ultimately elected President of the Oxnard Council of PTAs, a position I held for two years. During this time I also served on the Oxnard School District Expulsion Board and the Oxnard School District Re-Districting Committee, as well as on School Site Council.

 

Working within the educational system to find ways to make education accessible to my daughters, I began an extensive study of the IDEA  (Federal special education laws) eventually amassing critical knowledge about timelines and compliance designed to provide students with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Based on my “on the job” training as a parent advocate for my own special needs daughters I eventually began providing pro bono student advocacy and assistance to other families in Oxnard School District (OSD) and beyond trying to navigate confusing and often times frustrating procedural requirements, understand their children’s IEPs and 504 plans and parent/student rights. Ultimately, this led me to advocating for systemic compliance by the OSD with statutory timelines for assessment, assessment protocols and testing of all areas of suspected disability.

 

I first realized the power of the PTA motto "every child, one voice" after attending a PTA convention in 2003.  Later, as the President of the Oxnard Council of PTAs for two years during this pivotal time in 2005-2006, I was part of the original grass roots organization to oppose the BP LNG Platform proposed off the Oxnard shore. My contributions included networking PTAs and parents and unifying them and collaborating with local government, environmental groups, stakeholders, as well as testifying before the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission. It was during this time that I began working on behalf of the students and citizens of Oxnard, and that I met many local government officials in Oxnard and Ventura County as we collectively successfully opposed the construction of numerous gas pipelines throughout the city in roads adjoining numerous public schools. 

 

Seeking a better middle school fit for our daughters, both of whom had two different learning styles and educational needs, we chose to enroll our older daughter in the inaugural 6thgrade class of Ventura Charter School. Three years later our younger daughter, a special education student, entered Anacapa MS as a 6thgrader and our family moved to Ventura in January 2010.   

 

At Anacapa MS, I continued my volunteer efforts immediately joining the PTO. I then served as Co-PTO President for 2 years along with Lisa Beamer. Together, along with a very dedicated PTO leadership team, and after extensive fundraising and in an effort to have better communication with Anacapa families and teachers, the Anacapa PTO paid for and erected the beautiful electronic billboard that is still present and functioning at Anacapa MS on Mills Road today. Also during this time I served on multiple VUSD committees and was the Parent Advisory Committee Representative (PAC) from Anacapa and Ventura HS for more than two years.

 

When our oldest daughter entered Ventura High School I began volunteering on board leadership and committee roles on the PTSA, and working at the VHS Snack Bar during football games along with Jeff. I also served as secretary of the VHS Cheer Boosters. It was during this time that I first began to advocate for female students Title IX rights, as well as the rights of all students to attend schools which are free of unlawful discrimination, bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment and retaliation. Later my advocacy efforts extended to include the District as a whole, including employees, and has resulted in changes to the District’s published notices, policies and procedures related to investigation and handling of these important education issues through its Uniform Complaint Process, as well as inclusion of The Athlete’s Bill of Rights (Ed. Code 221.8) in the District’s student athletic packets and on its high school and district websites.

 

In addition to my volunteer work in public schools, I was also a Girl Scout Leader, and eventually earned a 15 year pin from Girl Scouts of the Central Coast, reflecting 5 years membership as a Girl Scout myself, and ten years as a Girl Scout Leader, including two years as Nut Chair of Island View Service Unit (Ventura's service unit). My Girl Scout involvement concluded upon our younger daughter’s graduation from high school as an Ambassador level Girl Scout, and Gold Girl Scout Award Recipient in 2016.

 

I have also been extensively involved with Ventura County 4-H for nine years where I have been, and continue to be active mentoring 4-H Youth from such varied positions as project leader, to Secretary of the Ventura County 4-H Council, from grant writer, Chairperson of the Home Arts PDC for several years, and other active leadership roles. In the coming year, I will be serving as the adult mentor of the Ventura County 4-H Ambassador Program, the countywide 4-H youth leadership program. Based on these experiences, and my daughter's experience at Ventura Charter School, I am a proponent of hands-on learning and project-based curriculum. I am not a proponent of common core. 

 

Professionally, I have been an attorney for 26 years. I began my career as a claims adjuster, and later as an attorney doing insurance defense work. Ultimately, due to my experiences in the special education world, I began providing pro bono services to families of other special education students.  Along with paid legal work, I have also provided considerable pro bono advocacy services to the Ventura County deaf community, and served as a pro bono educational advocate for VUSD families. 

 

Based on these professional experiences, both in the insurance industry, and as an attorney I have a deep understanding of best practices for risk management, negotiations, and am able to communicate clearly and effectively with diverse groups of people to build consensus and effect change.

 

Among other things, I am a member of the: Ventura County Bar Association; Disability Rights Bar Association; Council of Parent, Attorney Advocates and the American Bar Association. I also proudly support Casa Pacifica's programs for foster youth, and the United Way’s Woman United initiative, empowering single mothers through education and financial literacy efforts.

 

 

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • Ventura County Democratic Central Committee
  • Central Coast Labor Council
  • James "Chip" Fraser, Former President Ventura Unified Education Association

Organizations (2)

  • Democratic Club of Ventura
  • Ventura County Young Democrats

Elected Officials (3)

  • Denis O'Leary, Oxnard School District Trustee
  • Carmen Ramirez, Mayor Pro Tem of Oxnard
  • Judge David Long (retired)

Individuals (3)

  • Tammie Helmuth, Board Chair, Girl Scout's of California's Central Coast
  • Kristin Mayville, former VUSD Asst. Superintendent of Human Resources
  • Heidi Sohn, former Administrator VACE (VUSD Adult Ed)

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

After more than two years of regular school board meeting attendance I am aware of the facts, which include the District's strengths and weaknesses. The District has many fine teachers, educational programs and opportunities, but it lacks equity and efficiency because many families are unable to access these opportunities due to lack of knowledge and poor communication.  

All students should have equitable educational opportunities and access to choice whether they are at magnet schools or traditional high schools. Foothill HS, with its block schedule, is a shining star, and Buena could be as well if it had the same amount of periods per day and a block schedule.  Buena High School students have one less period per day than Foothill students which translates into eight less semester classes over the course of their high school careers. This is inequitable and forces students to decide between taking a sport, music class or AP class because Buena school does not offer a seven period day like the other two traditional high schools in the District. 

This inequitable situation, which also exists in the middle schools (not just the high schools) for at risk youth including ESL students, low income and foster youth, deprives these student sub-groups who are supposed to be the focus of our LCAP spending to close their achievement gap, of electives. These student are required to use their sixth period for remediation of core subjects. However, it is these student sub-groups that have the highest rates of chronic absenteeism and are most likely to transfer out of the District or drop out. These students most need a positive school connection or self esteem building activity, such as an elective. It is well documented that being engaged in a sports team, a music class or a hands on ROP or vocational class has the secondary effect of boosting student success and attendance rates. However, our most vulnerable students  are denied these engaging opportunities while other students on accelerated tracks, such as two-way immersion are not.

Equity is not about giving every child the exact same education, rather it is meeting the educational needs of all students -- where they are at,  and preparing them for careers and adult life, not just the next four years in college. A strong community needs ALL citizens to be educated and employable adults.

Growing up in a union family, I know first hand the value of career technical education. One of my uncles started the IBEW's  Pension Fund in the 1960's, and his only formal education after high school was night accounting classes at community college. However, modern society has gone away from encouraging people to go into vocational training programs and trades, and is focused on preparing all students for college. While this is an admirable idea, it is not in the best interest of our community nor many students whose ideal classrooms do not have rows of desks in them. 

I am also a strong proponent of early intervention for struggling students. As a young child I had a profound hearing impediment that was not diagnosed until the end of first grade at which time it was surgically corrected. Effective education is not one size fits all.  Further, common core as implemented is failing to serve many VUSD students because there are insufficient supports and interventions to assist struggling young elementary students who do not read at grade level before thrid grade. Educational testing results from the 2017-2018 school year indicate that more than 40% of VUSD students were not proficient in Language Arts and more than 50% were not proficient in math. 

Change and self evaluation are difficult.  The District is at a crossroads and needs to take a hard look at it's educational outcomes, budget, other potential uses for its empty and under utilized office space,  the empty seats at El Camino High School and the number of  students transferring out, leaving or dropping out of the District. All of these factors have a negative economic impact. The District needs to address these issues because it’s ADA (average daily attendance) funds from the State of California are paid based on average student daily attendance. If the root causes of declining enrollment in VUSD and chronic absenteeism are not addressed, these issues will continue to have a negative economic effect on the District’s economic bottom line. 

It is only  by thinking outside the box to innovate and constructively improve its educational offerings, support struggling students, and streamline its product delivery system the District can meet the complex needs of its diverse student population. ALL VUSD STUDENTS need to have engaging, equitable and meaningful life-long educational opportunities at VUSD, not just those lucky enough to win the lottery to a magnet school. 

A vote for me is a vote for common sense, transparency and improvement. Think outside the box, vote for Deborah Meyer-Morris for Ventura Unified School Board Trustee, Area 4. 

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