Amy On The Issues

Candidate Q & A Amy Hanacek, Candidate Capistrano Unified School District Trustee Area 1

1. Given the financial constraints the Capistrano Unified School District is operating under, difficult decisions will have to be made that will likely find some level of criticism, even if the board feels they serve an overall benefit. When it comes to the decision-making process, should board members base their decisions off what a majority of their constituent’s want or what they feel is best, even if it’s contrary to public opinion? What sort of ideas or changes would you bring to the table?

Amy: School Board Trustees are elected to ensure that a quality education is provided to every student.  A Trustee cannot depend on any single decision-making process. The first priority will consistently be what is best for the students and their academic success, and what will keep this district focused on learning and achievement for all students.  A core objective is creating the best learning environment while maintaining the highest quality instruction to help students reach their full potential. Decisions should be “forward focused” with emphasis on college and career readiness for all students, while offering the broadest range of academic opportunities possible. Community leadership on educational issues should remain a high priority, and advocacy on behalf of students and public education should be provided at the local, state and federal levels.


2. The relationship between the board, teachers, school administrators, parents and students has often been strained. The relationship within the board itself has shown to be fractious at times. Do you feel that the opinions and needs of all parties involved are considered equally in the decision-making process? What steps should be taken to improve these relationships? There has also been criticism that there isn’t enough transparency with the district. If this is an issue, what can be done to improve transparency and increase constructive dialogue?

Amy: An effective board member recognizes and respects the differences in perspective, opinions, and style among parents, community, staff, students and fellow board members.  Informed and productive decisions are reached by considering all view points and interests.  Opportunities exist, and will continue to be promoted, for parents and community members to provide input and feedback through superintendent’s community forums, various school site committees, and parent organizations.  Developing and conducting parent education forums assist parents in better understanding the academic, social, and developmental issues of their students’ pre-school through 12th grade education.  Promoting and maintaining a positive and cohesive environment from the District level to the school site will foster open and ongoing communication where concerns are addressed as professionally and expediently as possible.  Closed session discussions should be limited to issues where the security and privacy of students or staff need to be protected.  


3. Why should voters cast their ballots for you?

Amy: I have enjoyed almost 20 years working in my children’s schools. CUSD teachers and administrators have done an excellent job educating my sons despite receiving inadequate funding from the state.  I am motivated to not only promote this road to success for all students, but also to enhance and improve this valuable path. My goal is to make CUSD a model district with outstanding and innovative curriculum and instruction presented by highly qualified teachers at each and every school. As a believer and strong supporter of public education, I will advocate for important educational reforms in California that will result in greater local control and flexibility in how we utilize state-allocated funds.  I am committed to reforms that will equalize school funding in California and bring desperately needed resources to CUSD.  In short, I will do my best to foster an environment of excellence in all areas of public education and remain committed to our children so that they may become the innovators and good neighbors of the 21st century.


Arts Education Q & A 2012

What meaningful experiences with the arts (visual arts, dance, drama and/or music) did you have growing up?

Amy: Although my school days tend to be a hazy memory of past, my artistic endeavors stand out like they were yesterday. In Elementary School, the daily curriculum always included a period for art. We staged plays (I got to play Linus in “You’re a Good Man Charley Brown”), created music from the box of  “instruments” kept in the back of the room, and square danced every Friday. In Middle School, every core academic class also became an opportunity for expression: Julius Caesar was acted out in detail (we had a running countdown to the “ides of March”!), biographical book reports were given in character (my Billie Holliday from “Lady Sings the Blues” was met with rave reviews!), and Spanish class took place in an actual “home environment” where we conversed pretending to do everyday tasks.  In High School, the frequency of individual artistic opportunities lessened, but drama, dance and music were still available and operated on a very large scale.  I took inordinate pride in my feeble artistic attempts and most decidedly remember those over the myriad of math problems or term papers.


What role do you think the arts can play in supporting key education priorities such as closing the achievement gap, reducing the dropout rate and preparing more students for college eligibility and the 21 century workforce?

Amy: Because art is a universal language – as my recent UCSD graduate likes to say “everybody speaks art” – students from all economic and cultural backgrounds can find a home in an art classroom. That sense of belonging translates into a student’s increased pride in self and enthusiasm for learning creating a desire to stay part of the process (i.e. stay in school!).  Engaging in the arts not only trains the student in each specific medium, but stimulates the right brain encouraging a myriad of mental skills not emphasized elsewhere in school – skills such as self criticism, reflection, visual-spatial abilities and the willingness to experiment and learn from mistakes. MacArthur Prize Fellow, Robert Root-Bernstein, states, “Studies show that neither mathematical nor verbal reasoning tests are useful indicators for future careers in science and technology, but high visual imaging ability is.” Today’s students are growing up in an entirely different world. Most Freshman College orientations discuss the fact that your student will not only change majors several times, but they will change careers frequently throughout their lives.  Training in the arts nurtures a balanced left-brain/right-brain thinking that encourages students to think outside the box and possess the nimbleness to handle this changing, and increasingly global, workforce. To quote Daniel Pink: “The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: artists, inventors, storytellers – creative and holistic 'right-brain' thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.”


A standards-based arts curriculum is one of the five core subjects in NCLB and critical for developing job skills vital in the creative economy and the 21st century workforce. Yet, most often only “what is tested is taught” in our schools. How do you envision bringing balance back for a comprehensive education and ensuring that all students have access to a quality, standards-based arts education curriculum?

Amy: An ideal scenario involves fixing how education is funded, especially here in Sacramento. As an elected School Board Trustee, one of your jobs is to provide community leadership on educational issues and advocate on behalf of students and public education at the local, state and federal levels. On a school site level, continue to emphasize the importance of an art element in student’s daily lives while encouraging and fostering instruction for teachers. Effectively convey to parents and community members the importance of art as the “universal language” of the 21st century and the necessity for our students to be competitive global citizens through a holistic education.


If elected, how will you engage classroom teachers, art teachers, parents and community arts organizations to shape your agenda for arts education or implement your district’s strategic arts plan?

Amy: I would begin by highlighting and valuing the work that is currently being done by our teachers and in our classrooms. Emphasize and educate the community on the newly adopted Common Core Standards ("Common education standards are essential for producing the educated workforce America needs to remain globally competitive”, Craig Barrett, Former CEO and Chairman, Intel Corporation) ensuring that art is a viable component in these new standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations; 
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent; Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills; 
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards; 
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based.

Continue to advocate for the direction that CUSD has taken over the past two years – that despite budget cuts, no school has eliminated any art program.  I will also work to implement STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) at as many school sites as possible.


OC Register Q & A 2012

How can California reform funding for public education to provide more dollars for local schools?

Amy:  At the local level, the political responsibility to support schools is strong and reliable. Ideally, if this support could be promoted as a state commitment, through legislative action, that would bring funding for education on par with California’s ranking as one our nation’s wealthiest states. As a top tier funded state, California could achieve an adequate educational revenue stream with each district establishing evaluation systems to successfully direct money into programs and teaching practices. In turn, the individual schools would engage in ongoing evaluations to ensure that dollars follow the student and not outside education vendors.  


In Orange County, poor Latino students continue to lag behind academically compared with other student groups.  What can local schools do to close that achievement gap?

Amy:  Our local schools do an excellent job creating an “in class” learning environment that assists Latino students with their specific academic issues. Elementary grade teachers are particularly cognitive of the challenges faced by the ELL students and at the Middle and High School level, programs such as AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) continue to nurture success. As a school volunteer, I have been involved in several outreach programs to the Latino community which I think are important elements in closing the achievement gap and create a better “bridge” between the Latino communities and the ongoing school site efforts. When local schools take a proactive approach to outreach, they create an environment where everyone is invested in the student’s education and success.


Many educators, business people and others experts say the United States is not producing enough student prepared in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).  How can local schools encourage STEM education?  

Amy:  My district, CUSD, has implemented STEM education concept district wide by including partnerships with businesses and Universities.  Promotion of these investments combined with awareness of student success in each of these areas would increase the exposure and importance of a STEM education.  Encouraging a "learn by doing" philosophy would excite the individual student to participate and support their school’s program.  If you add an “arts” element (STEAM), a CUSD graduate would have both the technical abilities to keep pace in the 21st century as well as the ability to creatively problem solve.