At Ventura’s Board of Education meeting passion and intensity took center stage

The voices were loud and at times raucous throughout the passion filled meeting.

Part 1 of 2
by Ross Williams

Arriving at the parking lot of the VUSD building on Stanley Ave, I didn’t know what to expect. A long line of cars waiting to pull into a nearly full lot, directed by what seemed to be an ecstatic security guard with a huge welcoming smile on his face, waving everybody in place.

Approaching the building at 6:45 pm on Tuesday September 13th there was a huge crowd outside. There were boxes and boxes of pizza, sodas, people with guitars, tambourines and somewhere in the crowd someone tooted on a jug. Laughing, hugs, the buzz of conversation, everything pointed towards a celebration except for the picket signs and posters with sayings such as “We Love Kids,” “Save The Heart of Foothill,” “For All We’re Worth” and “VESPA Strong.”

As I entered the meeting room I realized that all of the people here were not going to fit inside as I had to weave through people to make my way closer to the front. Taking position, I took up as little room as possible as more and more people began to push their way in. The meeting came to order but the buzz of chatter that still permeated the air and was enough for the board to ask if they could close the door. Which was met with a resounding “Nooo!”

At heart today were two topics of deep passion and deep frustration, the compensation package currently being negotiated between VUSD and the Teachers Associations and the removal of Foothill Technology High Schools prep periods for teachers. This had brought together the community of people now focusing their energies on the small handful of VUSD board members that sat beyond the wooden pony wall.

First up were students who attend Foothill Tech. At the start of the semester coordinating periods for teachers were cut from their schedules in order to add more classes and shrink class sizes. This previously allotted time allowed for teachers to build, coordinate and facilitate programs that students and faculty alike had become so passionate about. Students declared their appreciation for the opportunities that they had been given at Foothill and stated that the prep periods were an absolute necessity for the teachers.

Foothill Tech’s Principal Gibbs was present at the meeting and explained the need to make the painful balancing corrections in order to address classroom overflow stating that in some classes up to 10 students at a time could be found sitting on the floor.

However, Foothill Tech’s instructor Mika Anderson stated in a passionate, moving and at times teary speech that she had worked for decades to build and provide programs and activities that were varied and vital to their students’ futures. From job shadows and internships to networking and special projects. This adjustment was not taken as just a change in schedule, but a disregard for years of hard work as well as a lack of support for staff and a lack of understanding of the repercussions of these changes.

“What I can say is that as the Bioscience Academy advisor and teacher, I want to do more than just teach or deliver curriculum. It is my life’s mission to provide students access to rich and relevant experiences so they can be inspired to break barriers and achieve beyond any limitations they or others might have set for themselves. I want to light their passion, sometimes in areas of study that they never heard of by providing them with rich, relevant and meaningful experiences. Finally, I love helping students grow their leadership and show compassion towards others through acts of service.

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