Cambrian: Opinion

Coast Unified’s school board must work together

The Old Cambria Grammar School building, 1350 Main St.
The Old Cambria Grammar School building, 1350 Main St.

Inspired by Cambria Community Services District Trustee Amanda Rice’s Viewpoint of June 23, I would like to echo her call for elected boards to set a clear vision and to build adequate infrastructure. Coast Unified School District (CUSD) now serves 704 students from San Simeon, Cayucos and Cambria on four campuses. We have had declining enrollment and are projecting a student population of 600 in 2018-19. As a school board, we need to turn this trend around and energize our scholastic offerings by setting a clear direction toward excellence.

To operate effectively, the CUSD board must have unity of purpose and operate openly, with trust and integrity. We have repair work to do in that area. We are charged with communicating a common vision. Keeping the district focused on learning and student achievement for all students is our mandate.

Our superintendent, Dr. Victoria Schumacher, has led us in the past two years to adopt new career pathways in agriculture, arts, media and technology. These programs, partly funded with grant money, will prepare our high school scholars for both careers and college. Under the superintendent, the district has improved professional development for teachers, introduced Common Core and adopted a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). The LCAP, required by the state of California, addresses the needs of our low-income students and English language learners, providing concrete additional funds to be spent in areas targeted to improve learning. We are grateful for this leadership in curriculum development and professional development for teachers.

But the district still has real problems and must “build a communication infrastructure and develop community trust through real accountability,” to quote Rice.

It is the role of the CUSD Board of Trustees to create a shared vision of the future and to provide the map and the means to meet our students’ educational needs.

A clear vision of the future also requires knowing our unique community by listening carefully to its concerns. Welcoming stakeholder input as a policy can help us make changes in the future that reflect community support and trust.

The board should guarantee a commitment to a fiscally sound vision for the future. The board needs community input to help ensure that local public education will be guaranteed for our children for generations. We must make needed expenditures based on a facilities and transportation plan to budget for future needs. Our district relies on property tax money for almost all of its funding. We can plan our future with more certainty than most districts, and we need to understand our Basic Aid finances.

Because we are a uniquely democratic community, very few new teachers or administrators will have ever experienced living as we do.

We have a very active and largely self-governing community of generous, committed volunteers, supporters and elected officers. We are fundamentally respectful of others (with some lapses) and interested in hashing out our future together. Our commitment to discussion, debate and involvement is very real. Our reputation for contentiousness can be our strength — if we temper it with mutual respect and civil discourse. We can disagree without being disagreeable. We can also elicit input in a nonpublic format, using such methods as polls and surveys to give time for thinking and provide privacy.

Our community’s advisory and governing boards help govern schools, parks, health, coastal lands and natural resources — all with members volunteering their time, passion and expertise. When these boards hire administrators for these agencies, we probably should provide an orientation session, explaining that in Cambria, we aspire to govern through logical policies and open communications. Administrators serve the needs of our community; they work for us. We can also acknowledge that many residents of our district have taken pay cuts precisely so they can live here. The value system of caring for the land and for others is evident in our village’s long history of preserving our land and culture. We worked hard to raise funds to preserve the Fiscalini Ranch and the Guthrie-Bianchini House, as recently reported in The Cambrian. The generosity of many local families has provided land for schools, churches and parks. The more clearly a board can set direction that conforms to this strong community vision, the better job the administrator and staff can do.

Please plan to attend a school board meeting and get involved. I would like to thank all the elected or volunteer members of governing boards in our community.

We have a very active community of generous, committed volunteers, supporters and elected officers. The CUSD board and the district feel honored to serve such a worthy cause. Our primary responsibility is to teach our students and give them the necessary tools and information for success.

Sue Nash is a Coast Unified School District trustee. Contact her at 805-927-2899 or