Q&A with CUSD School Board Candidate Renee Cavanaugh

The Coronado Times conducts short interviews with all candidates for the Coronado Unified School District Board of Trustees. All candidates were given the same six questions and the answers are in their own words; each candidate is invited to share photos; the interviews are published in the order received. November 8, 2022 is election day.

Renee Cavanaugh is a candidate for the CUSD School Board.

Q: What experience will you bring to the school board?

A: I recently retired after 15 years of classroom teaching experience in the Coronado Unified School District at Village Elementary and Silver Strand Elementary. I am familiar with the vertical alignment of the program, support our district’s long- and short-term goals and planning, have a working knowledge of budgeting, and have had positive working relationships with teachers and staff of all school sites. As former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the CSF (Coronado Schools Foundation), I have established strong ties with our business community. I have attended school board meetings regularly for the past five years and am very aware of the issues in our district.

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing CUSD today?

A: I believe that some of the biggest challenges facing our district are (1) having adequate school funding to maintain programs and class sizes, (2) ensuring that we are effectively filling gaps in education due to a highly mobile student population, and (3) be able to provide a wide range of services and supports with the limited resources of a small district.

Q: What does CUSD do well?

A: CUSD does an amazing job preparing our children for life beyond our small town. Every year, graduating seniors are accepted and attend colleges and universities – large and small – across the country and beyond. Some students make the decision to serve their country through the military or to serve the world through the Peace Corps. They are confident in their choices and abilities. Our school district also excels in the recruitment, development and retention of committed, highly qualified professional staff who are passionate about their role as teachers, mentors and agents of change.

Q: What do you think of local control?

A: Our schools, with their good academic results and community involvement, are a positive reflection of our city and a source of local pride. CUSD was recently named the county’s top school district based on graduation rates, student-teacher ratio, spending per student, and attendance and suspension rates.

Our school district is part of a state and federal system designed to educate and support all students. I think local control is important, and CUSD has taken the time to set up multiple opportunities for stakeholders to offer feedback, ideas, and suggestions. School site councils, made up of teachers, parents, and administration, meet during the school year to review site goals and suggest changes and improvements for students at that site. Parent-teacher organizations are a dynamic part of every school site and are essential to student connectivity and belonging. The LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) strongly encourages community input. It is a tool for our local district to set goals, plan actions, and mobilize resources to achieve those goals to improve student outcomes. Our board should continue to support and encourage these efforts.

Q: What is your position on social-emotional learning? Do you think teaching children about empathy, responsible decision-making and emotional awareness is important in schools?

A: I strongly believe that helping students understand their own feelings and emotions and helping them learn strategies to monitor and regulate those emotions is key to their future success on many levels, including academic success. Happy, functioning groups like families, sports teams, classrooms, and communities function best when we are able to connect meaningfully with others, have empathy for one another, and work with each other in a respectful and kind way. These traits are just as important as professional skills, essential for high-level businesses and government organizations. This does not happen by chance. These skills are modeled, practiced and repeated. Teachers and parents, working together, help develop responsible and caring children and young adults. I see this as a life skills issue rather than a moral issue.

Q: As you may know, school board meetings can be contentious, but it is important for board members to work together. Do you think you are good at building consensus? Please provide an example if possible.

A: I think asking questions of parents and other stakeholders as well as our the administrative team and taking into account other perspectives and experiences is one of the main objectives and responsibilities of a member of the school board. I believe substantive discussions are part of the decision-making process. I also believe that these interactions can and should be done in an optimistic and positive way. I always strive to act in good faith and try to reach a shared consensus. Our council is not a group of individuals acting separately from each other, but rather a group acting together with a single goal – what is best for the students. Working with a group of teachers who are piloting the adoption of new curricula or textbooks is an example of how I have been actively involved in building consensus.

Renee Cavanaugh is a candidate for the CUSD School Board.

Norma A. Roth