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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

SB School Board Race: Brian Campbell Talks Low Test Scores, Just Communities and Cost Overruns

Eight candidates are seeking three seats on the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education in the Nov. 3 election, amid an extraordinary political atmosphere shaped by the pandemic, anti-racism protests and the arrival of a new Superintendent.

To provide a platform for the contenders to share their views, and a venue for voters to learn more about them, Newsmakers has invited each of the hopefuls for a socially distanced, one-on-one interview about some of the major issues facing the district.

Today, we present a conversation with Brian Campbell, a Santa Barbara realtor who has two children in SBUSD schools, who pointed to the district's chronically lamentable test scores as evidence that the board's current approach "is not working" and of a "need to switch out team members and come up with some fresh ideas."

Some key quotes:

Biggest issue. “Literacy is absolutely key. In all my years of volunteering in the classroom and being involved with our kids, taking them on play dates…I’ve personally witnessed kids all the way up to the fifth and sixth grade that can’t read and write with proficiency.

"It’s sad when you take a group of kids out to lunch and they’re all hanging out and there’s a couple of them that can’t read the children’s menu at Hamburger Habit. They can’t read ‘macaroni and cheese,’ they can’t read ‘hot dog’…

"And you see the look of embarrassment that comes over their face, a look of… confusion and they look around, and they roll it off as not a big deal but…you start wondering why it is that a child can make it all the way through elementary school and not be able to read a children’s menu at a local restaurant. That makes no sense whatever."

Test scores and the achievement gap. “All the schools have the same state accredited teachers, the same union employees, the same union teachers, they all receive the same textbooks, the same iPad, the same curriculum, so why is there a learning disparity between different groups at different schools when they are given the same rudimental tools that they need?

So we’ve got to take a look at, is just a cultural thing? Is it a teacher thing? When I talk to people they say, ‘well that’s because they’re Hispanic and they’re low income.’ I say ,what does Hispanic have to do with learning?

So why do we have kids that are second or third generation Santa Barbarans that are getting through elementary school that can’t read and write with proficiency? So there’s some sort of a disconnect there. And we need community outreach, which is the other side…and there’s been a lack of communicating with these families to say, 'what tools do you need?'"

Just Communities. "Just Communities is going in and talking about ethnic background and how it’s held children back or they’ve been oppressed by their skin color. It’s been very tough because I’ve tried to, I’ve asked JC directly -- I would love to sit in on one of your classes in a school and listen to what’s going on…Just Communities said ‘no you can’t do that because of intellectual property rights.’. So it’s a lack of transparency... which I think has created a lot of the tension that there is…

And yes this country has learning to do and we’ve come a long way from slavery days and women couldn’t vote, and we still have learning to do, but we need to do it together, so we’re one culture together and not segregated…

The other thing about Just Communities - I’ve sat in on a number of the school board meetings and I’ve heard several students talk about how they were attacked, abused verbally, physically or otherwise as a result of the Just Communities training that was given to other students. I don’t know exactly the validity or lack of validity, but any program that’s in a public school that creates any animosity between any children…it’s not a good program for public education. It needs to be revamped and figured out."

Covid and classrooms. Going back or not going back is a much larger discussion than, ‘hey, should the kids be in school?’ Teen suicide rates are up…You have teen violence and gang violence that are up. These kids are running around, they’re bored, there’s no summer school, there’s no real school, they’re running amok.

The lower socio-economic group that had issues with learning, and now they’re forced to learn remotely when they couldn’t learn inside of a school, within a building with a teacher present, I’m really terrified for our children’s learning and advancement during these times, in addition to their emotional well-being, the traumas, the trouble that they may or may not be getting into. So it’s a much larger than just 'should they go back to school or not go back to school'"...

I don’t know anybody with Covid, I don’t know anybody who has died of Covid. But I know of five people now who have committed suicide because of Covid.

District finances. As a parent I take a look at the amount of money that’s been spent on the high school stadium, and the amount of money that’s been spent on the Armory that apparently has no stated purpose at this point and I look at my local elementary school -- with peeling paint, dry rot, deferred maintenance, fences with jagged edges on them, termite droppings, dropping into the kids’ backpacks and lunch bags…black mold in the classrooms…

We have millions of dollars being spent on stadiums and land downtown with no stated purpose but they can’t clean up our school grounds. It doesn’t make any sense to me at all."

Click below to watch the complete interview with Brian Campbell. The podcast version is here.


(Editor's note. This is one in a series of one-on-one conversations with the candidates for the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education. We will post our discussions with other candidates as we connect with them.

Our previous conversation with current board president, and 2020 candidate, Laura Capps is here).

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