I am honored to have received the official endorsement of the Santa Barbara County Republican party.
The following individuals have also endorsed the John Baeke Campaign for SYVUHSD School Board:
Is our School's Safety Faltering?
An Op-Ed, from a candidate for SYVUHS School Board
[subm to SYV News on 10/22/18]
Presently there are eleven of us running for a position on the SYV High School Board. I agree we have a fine school, only I believe it could be better. There are several issues, which need attention: better partnering with teachers in salary negotiations; higher vigilance in utilization of precious Measure-K moneys; encouragement of more parental volunteerism... to name a few. However, one issue should take absolute priority; Improved Student & Faculty Safety! While other candidates trivialize this concern, it is the prime motivator behind my candidacy for the Board.
We all love the beauty of an open-air campus, but the nature of such a design presents challenges for protecting our children from the threat of an active- shooter. Having attended nearly all board meetings for the past 2 years, I am aware of no discussion to spend Measure-K moneys making such improvements. Local law-enforcement's recommendations have been largely ignored.
The monthly ritual of having Freshmen Phys. Ed. students run 3 miles from the campus to Jim's Service Station and back, an exercise called "The Gasser", is putting our children at risk. Much of the path is out of sight below Hwy 246; hidden by forest and alongside board fences. Parents report homeless individuals frequent the path. Students unable to keep the fast pace, trail behind alone as stragglers; easy prey. I have watched this happen. The opportunity for criminal wrongdoing exists. My repeated request that parental-volunteer monitors be recruited, has been ignored.
The drug problem on our campus is significant. In conversations with local law enforcement, it is estimated that at any given time, within our student body of ~900, thirty-five are using hard drugs (e.g. prescription opiates, Ecstasy and heroin) and seven are dealing. Students tell me that use of marijuana in the locker rooms and "vaping" in the restrooms, makes many uncomfortable using the facilities. Off campus, "rave-parties" in the woods continue to occur.
Once upon a time, the district employed a School Resource Officer (i.e. a Sheriff's deputy). For budgetary reasons, this was terminated. Though students are told they can freely (and anonymously) report illicit activities to administration; they are reluctant, due to a perceived fear of peer reprisal. To the contrary, law enforcement relates that students historically are comfortable in reporting this to a uniformed SRO. Further, the presence of an officer on campus is proven to dramatically reduce drug, alcohol and other illicit activity (recall the girl v girl fight in 2017). When other area schools, in more dire financial distress, can afford a SRO, SYVUHS must do likewise.
In 2015, Carina Velazquez was killed crossing busy Hwy 246 in front of the high school. I have proposed a solution for this traffic congestion to SB County Supervisor Joan Hartman. As a board member, I would seek the support of community patrons and parents to pursue this plan.
Anyone walking to a Friday night football game knows how dark and unsafe the parking lots are (esp. the west lot). The lack of proper lighting creates danger for families on game night; and for our teachers working late at other times.
Though bullying has always been a part of young people's life, that does not mean we must accept it. I was bullied ruthlessly as a kid, as was my wife, and now my teenage daughter. In this regard, social-media is not our friend, rather the weapon used by those wishing to torment our children; and we as parents and educators MUST remain vigilant.
My sorrow is that my safety concerns are seemingly not shared by the other candidates; in fact one candidate recently publically mocked me when he said our community is very safe, and "there is no Boogie Man out to get our children". I wonder if he would be bold enough to tell the mothers of Stoneman Douglas High, Columbine High or Sandy Hook Elementary, they needn't fear the Boogie Man? In March, 2018, SYVHS students staged a walk-out to bring better awareness to school violence.
The facts are, our wonderful community is woefully under-protected. During the day, Buellton, Solvang and Santa Ynez are each served by only 1 Sheriff's deputy. That simply does not allow timely and effective protection for our school children.
I believe as parents and patrons we should be proactive, not reactive, to these critical issues of student and teacher safety. Outside of the family, nobody is in a better position to protect our youth and help them develop into fine men and women than the schools, and the School Board.
© John Baeke, M.D.
Candidate for SYVUHSD School Board
John L. Baeke
Question 1: SYV has a fine high school. I just believe it could be better. There is no greater opportunity to positively develop our youngest generation into virtuous parents, skilled workers and noble leaders than through excellent secondary schools. Our children are faced with distractions and obstacles, which threaten to prevent them from achieving greatness. School boards are on the front line in this battle. The board needs to provide our young people with excellent teacher-mentors; necessary learning tools; and a safe environment; all while using taxpayers’ resources in a responsible manner.
I am a medical doctor. Much of my academic success was due to parents and teachers devoted to helping me achieve my dreams. I want nothing less than these same opportunities for the students of SYVHS. My youngest child is a Junior. I have been actively involved in all of her academics and extracurricular activities. I have witnessed first-hand the changes happening; some are good. I do not claim to have answers to all the issues for which the board is struggling, but it is my belief that I might offer a different perspective, which would be of value to the board and make our high school even better.
Question 2: SYVHS is a (relatively) safe campus; however it faces internal and external threats to the safety of our children and staff, which need addressing. Our school should never be in a position of reacting to problems, which could have been anticipated. Here are a few:
a) H.S. parents know about the “gasser.” This is the PE exercise requiring students run down the wooded path from campus to Jim’s gas station, and back. This route is 100 percent unchaperoned. There are many stragglers running alone through areas totally out of public sight. I need not elaborate.
b) Student v student; student v teacher. The attack of a young girl last year by another girl should alarm us all.
c) The drug problem on campus is more pervasive than some are aware, largely due to student reluctance of reporting. A priority of the board MUST be School Resource Officer funding. Students and parents overwhelmingly support this.
d) Better nighttime lighting for teachers’ security.
e) Development of a volunteer Parent Safety Patrol.
f) Improved school parking lot design and traffic flow. (Measure-K funding should address this).
g) Consideration of new strategies for protecting an open campus from an active shooter.
h) Reducing traffic flow on Highway 246.
Question 3: Fortunately, much of the money annually withdrawn from the Deferred Maintenance Account has been (or will be) eliminated by Measure-K funds. Many of these expenditures were for items of deteriorating infrastructure (e.g. collapsed plumbing, alarms not to code, leaking roofs, wood rot, crumbling concrete, etc.) which previously received temporary (and expensive) band-aids and have now been properly addressed and should reduce stress on the budget. Unfortunately, other Measure-K items for which the district has already committed are demonstrating cost over-runs. The school budget will be expected to sustain that shortfall.
Due to the successful fundraising efforts of the Aquatic Center Foundation, full implementation of the new pool facilities are expected to eliminate the need for tax-dollar support of this wonderful asset.
$463,000 has already been reserved for construction of the new baseball field bleachers.
Thus, with a newly upgraded campus, modern stadium/tennis courts, soon-to-be completed aquatic center and steady enrollment, I cannot foresee any single major expenditures (e.g. new construction). Any ten-year plan should involve routine maintenance and necessary custodial staffing.
Forum draws 7 of 11 Santa Ynez high school district candidates
Mike Hodgson firstname.lastname@example.org Oct 12, 2018
Seven of the 11 candidates for three seats on the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District Board of Education who attended a forum Wednesday are, from left, Eileen Preston, Carl Johnson, Jan Clevenger, Kros Andrade, Jessica Yacoub, Tyler Sprague and John Baeke.
Jason Anderson, Staff
Seven of 11 candidates for three seats on the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District Board of Education met at a forum Wednesday night to answer questions ranging from how to assure students’ safety to how funds should be spent.
Unlike candidates at some other recent forums, the seven generally kept their answers short and concise, resulting in the event taking less than the two hours allotted for the use of the Little Theater on the high school campus.
About 35 members of the public turned out to hear what they had to say at the forum sponsored by the Santa Ynez Valley Star.
Moderator Dave Bemis said the fact that four candidates were not present shouldn’t be seen as a lack of interest on their part.
“We knew with 11 candidates there was no way we could find a date when all of them could attend,” Bemis said.
Those who participated were retired patient financial counselor Eileen Preston, musician Carl Johnson, retired school administrator and incumbent Jan Clevenger, business owner Kros Andrade, business owner and social worker Jessica Yacoub, lawyer Tyler Sprague and surgeon John Baeke.
Those who did not attend were association executive Elizabeth Breen, writer, retailer and substitute teacher Lori Parker, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Eric Zivic and retired teacher Tory Babcock.
Babcock was appointed to the board of education in a special meeting Oct. 3 to fill the remaining two-year term of Steve Foley, who resigned Aug. 10.
State law required Foley’s seat to be filled within 60 days, so the board of education had to make an appointment prior to the Nov. 6 General Election.
However, Bobcock’s name will remain on the ballot, and if she is one of the top three vote-getters in the election, she will take one of the open four-year seats.
The board will then have to make another appointment to replace Foley.
In addition to Clevenger’s expiring four-year term, seats to be filled are those of Kyle Abello and Jerry Swanitz, who chose not to seek re-election.
Questions and answers
Candidates were asked about the school’s role in addressing student drug and alcohol use revealed in a student health survey, the most effective way to keep students safe on campus and what they see as the school’s biggest strengths and weaknesses.
The seven were also asked how to balance the needs of the school with those of the faculty and staff, what proportion of funds should be allocated for career technical education and traditional academic courses, what the priorities should be for the 10- year facilities and the maintenance master plan.
In addition, they were asked why they are running for the school board, what issues are important to them and what they believe caused the race to draw such a large field of candidates.
For each question, the order in which candidates responded was determined by a random drawing, and often they agreed in their answers, with certain themes recurring in their responses to more than one of the questions.
Drugs and alcohol
Regarding the school’s role in dealing with drug and alcohol use, Yacoub said the school can provide education on the effects and consequences of substance abuse, students should have access to a mental health professional and students should be held accountable for their actions.
“The solution starts at home,” said Johnson, who also cited the percentage of students who reported being bullied, in a fight and seeing a weapon at school. “To me, this is almost more alarming and concerning.”
Clevenger said there has been a decrease in alcohol use but an increase in prescription drug use, and while the solution starts at home, it requires “the entire community, parents and (school) staff embracing this issue and doing what’s right for kids.”
Sprague also said the problem is a community issue but the solution mostly falls on parents, although the school can support their efforts. He said the lack of a health class at the school is “kind of outrageous and needs to be changed,” adding he believes in restorative justice.
Preston said drug and alcohol use on campus has been a problem for years, and solving it is not the responsibility of any one person.
“I really think nothing works better than parents, the schools and everyone working together,” she said.
Baeke said the problem is far greater than anyone believes, noting sheriff’s deputies told him there are 35 students using hardcore drugs, seven dealing drugs on campus and “marijuana use in the locker room is not uncommon,” and he said the Sheriff’s Office should provide a campus resource officer.
“Students simply do not feel comfortable reporting such drug use to administrators, but they have no problem reporting it to a uniformed officer,” he said.
“I personally feel the responsibility should be taken care of at home,” Andrade said, adding students who know of drug use can go to the Drug Free Coalition office to ask for help.
Keeping students safe
Candidates were told campus safety concerns not only include an active shooter but also bullying and even mold contamination and were asked what the most effective policies, procedures and services would be to keep students safe.
Baeke said the recommendations for making the campus safer made by the Sheriff’s Office should be implemented, and he called for more illumination in the parking lot.
He also criticized “The Gasser,” a 11⁄2-mile physical education run along the trail beside Highway 246 to Alamo Pintado Road and back, because it offers “many opportunities” to harm stragglers but is only monitored at each end.
Preston said the district has a comprehensive safety plan, but the staff needs more training on identifying potentially dangerous situations, especially those indicated on social media.
Andrade said he would like to see an officer assigned to the campus who would walk around and talk to students.
Yacoub said the district should hire security professionals to provide advice on how to deal with such things as an active shooter. She also said the district must be equitable in administering discipline.
Johnson said current safety policies are adequate, noting three staff members are on patrol and in constant communication with each other.
“More guns on campus will not make it safer,” he said, but he also advocated better lighting in the parking lot, addressing traffic at the dangerous corner of Highway 246 and Refugio Road and hiring a mental health professional to moderate disputes and help students with the transition in their lives.
“We don’t need to be worried about boogeymen jumping out and attacking students,” Sprague said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn't be prepared.”
He said the district needs to constantly review and revise its security plan.
Clevenger said she feels “relatively safe” and it’s “probably highly unlikely anything would happen here,” adding the school has a caring staff, a great student support system and a good parent motivation system, but the school could do a better job enforcing antibullying rules.
“We need a mental health professional to help families that are really struggling,” she said.
Academics vs. careers
Asked what proportion of the district's resources should be spent on career technical education compared to traditional academic and arts classes, candidates couldn’t pin down a ratio.
But Johnson noted that nationally, a third of students will not go to college, pointing out the cost is $100,000 for a degree from a state university and $150,000 for a private institution.
He said the question is whether college is right for everyone or whether courses can be offered that provide graduates with a niche for success in the community.
Preston said students must meet graduation requirements, so both rigorous academic and career training are essential. She said the school can provide career and technical training options that will allow students to succeed.
Yacoub said she couldn’t say what the exact proportions should be, but she said technical careers are replacing many traditional jobs, and the school must find the best place for each student.
Andrade also didn’t have percentages, but he said looking back at his years in school they had home economics, wood shop and art classes, and some classmates have gone into construction companies and others into the arts.
“I think (career technical education) classes are tremendously important to have,” he said.
“Children are not created equal,” Baeke said, adding that to help students achieve their dreams, the curriculum must be flexible.
He also recommended surveying alumni from the past 10 to 15 years to see if their education at the high school prepared them for their careers.
Sprague said the school should produce well-rounded graduates.
“I feel like the arts are being lost in all this,” he said, and while the school can’t create classes for every passion, it can reach out to fill holes in the curriculum.
Clevenger said she is the parent of two men who would attribute their success to the background they got in career technical education.
“Children learn differently; they have different needs,” she said. “Some kids come to school solely for their (career technical education) classes.”
Mike Hodgson is news editor at the Santa Ynez Valley News, where he writes about local government, special events and the people who live in the Valley. He has been a photographer, writer, news editor and managing editor at weekly newspapers since 1972
The content of this website represents the opinions of Dr. John Baeke, and often the opinions and statements of others. Statements of fact shall frequently be included. Care is taken to never post any confidential information. This is not the official website of the SYVUHSD or its Board of Trustees.
Copyright © 2018 John L. Baeke, M.D.