Each Fullerton Joint Union High School District Board candidate was invited to participate in this traditional feature to help residents get to know the candidates. Below are the candidates running for Trustee Area 4, and their answers to our questions.
What motivated you to run for school board? What strengths/experience will you bring to the school board if elected?
Lauren Klatzker: To continue leading the county as a destination district by ensuring academic excellence and support development of innovative classes/programs. My over 18 years experience as a public school teacher, counselor, administrator, and Special Education Coordinator drives my ability and commitment to quality public schools serving the FJUHSD community.
Matthew Van Hook: I was asked to run to enhance citizen representation and parent responsiveness on the board. After over twenty years of military service as an officer and Air Force Academy professor, I accepted this call to civic duty. Leading people, managing resources, and building curricula are among my many strengths.
What are the district’s strengths? Where do you believe the district can do better?
Lauren Klatzker: FJUHSD is a destination district due to unique programs at all schools. We meet the interests and needs of diverse students and ensure college and career readiness as evidenced by high graduation rates. Providing strategic and data driven interventions to close learning gaps in specific groups of students is ongoing.
Matthew Van Hook: Most teachers and administrators demonstrate firm commitment to student success despite a challenging student-teacher ratio. Likewise, we have clear leadership from our superintendent. Yet in preparing the full student body for their chosen paths, whether a four-year university, community college, or career training, we still have serious work ahead.
What is your view of charter schools?
Lauren Klatzker: Public schools are community cornerstones and serve all students regardless of need. Charters pick and choose their students. Charters are not required to hire credentialed/qualified teachers or teach standards-based curriculum. Charters do not add to our community and profit off of students for those who run them.
Matthew Van Hook: If parents and local citizens were better represented by school boards, we would not have a nationwide push for charter schools. Instead of spending time figuring out how to crush charter school proposals, school boards should be examining why the current public schools are not meeting public needs and standards.
What do you see as the role of a board member?
Lauren Klatzker: Board members work as a team to set the vision and direction of the district. They provide priorities/directives for the district administrative team and directions for fiscal management. The board represents and serves the community and is always available to hear from community members with questions or concerns.
Matthew Van Hook: Board members represent the citizens of the local community. They have a duty to conduct oversight on the public’s behalf and ensure local schools meet the needs for which they were built. The rise of professionalized, bureaucratized boards, once an aberration, have become the norm. This must change.
How will you communicate with the community and get their ongoing input?
Lauren Klatzker: People are welcome to come to board meetings to speak during public comments and language support is available. Board members are available via phone or email. Community input is encouraged through committees, surveys, family liaisons, PTSAs, meetings with principals, review of proposed instructional materials and numerous booster clubs.
Matthew Van Hook: I will work to restore transparency and public citizen integration into the FJUHSD board. I will use every legally available means to communicate with the community. Where inappropriate rules of engagement have crept into the board’s procedures over time, I will propose serious and stable reform measures.
What is the Board’s role in supporting the diverse (religious, ethnically, sexually orientated) student population of the district?
Lauren Klatzker: Students should feel safe and supported. We encourage special interest clubs and provide safe spaces and counseling for students in crisis. Interpretation/translation services are available for district meetings, communication and parent/community committees. FJUHSD provides an inclusive instructional environment for all students including those with disabilities and English Learners.
Matthew Van Hook: Divisive efforts to draw lines between students, treating them as mere members of a group instead of as individual humans with dignity and natural rights, threatens nearly every positive aspect of education. Without an immediate reversal of this trend, the board cannot truly support our diverse population.
What say does the Board/Administration have in what is taught in the classroom? How much freedom should a teacher have in determining what is taught in the classroom?
Lauren Klatzker: FJUHSD adheres to state standards for instruction and best practices. All curriculum is vetted by teams of teachers and community prior to adoption. New courses are developed by teachers and begin as pilots so that adaptations can be made prior to implementation. The board then acts on these recommendations.
Matthew Van Hook: Schools and teachers have no independent authority to teach whatever they choose. They are responsible to citizens whose taxes fund these schools and who rightly expect representation and a fair electoral process. Boards have a duty to oversee curriculum and determine its fitness for the citizens of the local community.