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  • Writer's pictureEvie Sijl

Salcido Hasn’t Helped Our Schools

Vote for Christy Lozano

In case you didn’t know, Christy Lozano, a longtime teacher, is running against the current Santa Barbara County superintendent of schools, Susan Salcido. Because there hasn’t been a competitive race for this elective office in 40 years, very few people have ever heard of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, and even fewer know much about Susan Salcido and her record as county superintendent.

Admittedly, this agency is not well understood in California. They do not run the local school districts or directly interact with students and parents in the community. Instead, they perform administrative functions for the local school districts, as well as specific oversight functions with respect to their budgets and local funding for minority students and English language learners. They also provide grants to a number of nonprofits that work with children in some capacity.

Dr. Salcido was handpicked by her predecessor, William Cirone, who had occupied the position for over 30 years. I would say it’s probably no accident that during his tenure as superintendent, California went from having one of the top school systems in the United States to one of the worst.

During Mr. Cirone and Dr. Salcido’s time in office, the performance of our Santa Barbara schools have suffered grievously, to the point where the majority of our students lack basic reading, writing and math skills.

You would be hard-pressed to cite any accomplishments of Dr. Salcido during her time in office as school superintendent. Interestingly, since she learned she had an opponent, she has begun to talk about low test scores and the poor academic outcomes of our students. The only problem is I have scoured all her speeches and the 30 or so articles she has written as superintendent, and not once have I found a single reference to the poor performance of our schools or what she would do to reverse this sorrowful showing.

In recent interviews with the media, she has had a divine revelation that student achievement must improve. Mind you, she is discovering this in an election year. Too bad her musings on this all-important topic are confusing to say the least.

She complains that as county school superintendent, she doesn’t have the power to help our schools improve their academic performance. However, in the same sentence, she also claims she is working on it. She contends that she has applied for literacy grants, but there is no record of the county education office ever having done this, even though seven other counties have applied for and received $5 million grants.

Other counties are running college prep high schools for educationally disadvantaged students or vocational high schools for students not on a college track. There are even counties operating schools for the arts or with specific literacy programs for students who can’t read. What you won’t find in our county is anything even remotely similar to this.

Also troubling is that none of the $100 million the county education office has at its disposal is specifically used to fund programs that will raise student test scores. Even though the county spends little or no money for literacy, literally millions of dollars are being spent on travel to attend conferences, dues and memberships to various associations, communications and consulting services.

Unfortunately, transparency doesn’t seem to be a priority at this agency, since the budget does not provide any detail beyond these broad categories. Tens of millions of dollars are going to nonprofits, but good luck trying to identify who they are.

What is Dr. Salcido’s solution for the 25% chronic absentee rate in our schools or the doubling of mental health referrals and the exponential increase in student drug use after the state closed our schools for 18 months? So far Dr. Salcido isn’t telling us. Did she urge the local districts to apply for waivers to open their schools during the year and a half they were closed, the longest of any school districts in the entire country? No, she didn’t.

It is very revealing that in the many letters to the editor in several newspapers, including in this one, various people speak in laudatory terms about her personality. Dr. Salcido is well-liked and has demonstrated she gets along well with her colleagues. And while this is not insignificant, it is equally compelling that no one is able to point to anything she has done in her years in office that has made a difference in the performance of our schools.

The bottom line is that Dr. Salcido has not demonstrated the aptitude, vision or creativity to produce the results we are sorely lacking in our schools. If she hasn’t been able to improve our schools in the nearly four years she has been superintendent, why would anyone think this will change in the next four years? It’s not.

Please vote for a better future for our children. Their lives depend on it.

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