Live coverage: Melissa Baten Caswell speaks to students
Published October 16, 2012
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Caswell wraps up her discussion by encouraging students to be more engaged in local politics.
Caswell address the heavily focus advanced classes for Science and Math departments and the unbalanced History and English class lanes.
Caswell brings up the idea of making exams optional for seniors due to the increased stress that comes with the recent schedule change, making the first semester shorter. “Changing the calendar will reduce the work load over winter break, yet it will bring unwanted consequences,” says Caswell.
“I think it takes a long time to get up to speed as a board member,” says Caswell. “I think that going through the learning curve and having connection beyond Palo Alto will help us make a better school district.”
Caswell adds that student who focus on something they love, no matter what it is, the stress of school goes down. “If you have those tool, you will be strong inside,” says Caswell.
“If you talk to seniors, between August and October, they don’t have a break.” Caswell says. “I would like to make sure the four year plans are seriously discussed with you, and are consistently updated. We have to invest in interesting electives and interesting engagements in the classroom.”
Caswell’s daughter attends Castilleja High School, and she has received criticism for this. “I’m a huge supporter of our district and our schools, but you really have to do what is right for your child,” Caswell says.
About 12,000 dollars is available per student per year. Most of this is used on the salaries of teachers. “We cut budgets but we didn’t cut professional development,” she says.
“Over the past 12 years we’ve cut 11 million dollars from the budget,” Caswell says.
“My top priority is that you [students] can have meaningful activities that connect your [students] real life back into your school life,” she says. Journalism, she says, is an example of this. She wants to have many different opportunities like this available.
“Seniors vote the most in this area,” says Caswell. “We try to use our advertisement methods in the most effective way possible, to reach the most people we can.”
“I wish that we could take all this money spent on advertisement and put it back into the school board,” Caswell says. “But elections don’t work like that.”
Caswell mentions that yard signs are the most effective way of advertising, yet they are fairly expensive.
She believes teachers should come together and talk about their curriculum to improve consistency. However, she also thinks students should have the ability to give honest feedback to their teachers.
“As the amount of money per student shrinks nation wide, it is important to measure teachers by what they are doing , not for what they get,” says Caswell. “As in if they get a smarter group of students, they shouldn’t be rewarded for that.”
On the topic of academic support; “There are some classes here [Palo Alto High School] that are harder for students to get through,” says Caswell. A beginning level physics class is being added to make the topic more accessible, so students can ease into it. She hopes to do something similar with Algebra 2.
“One of my goals is to have smaller environments in the schools so that students can feel connected to something,” she said. She also wants to invest in interesting classes and clubs, like glass-blowing.
“I believe it is the goal of the school board to make smart decisions on the topics that are most important to the students.” says Caswell.
Caswell begins answering questions from the room.
It is important to Caswell for students to have opportunities for internships, so that students can see how what they are learning can be applied to real life.
She discusses her priorities forward. “I feel like there are kids who go through school only worrying about what grades they get,” Caswell says. “It is my goal as a school board member to make school engaging and enjoyable.”
One of the policies Caswell put into place last year what a specific time limit for homework for each class. “Our goal is to work with the sites to get to a place where 7-10 hours of homework a week is the norm,” Caswell said. The idea is that ten minutes of homework be given per grade.
“If it wasn’t for the bond measure we wouldn’t have the lacrosse and football fields,” says Caswell.
Caswell explains why and how she became involved with the school board. Graduation requirements are an important issue to her.
Caswell begins by explaining the functions of the school board and a bit of personal background.
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