Cassel appointed new LUSD Board President

"We have student representatives at the board meetings, but sometimes I feel they're not as informed on the board topics as we are so they just nod in agreement with us." — LUSD Board President Bonnie Cassel

Zachary Denney, Online & Opinion Editor

Retired Bear Creek social studies teacher Bonnie Cassel was unanimously appointed by the board in December to be the first woman board president in two decades.  Cassel has held a seat on the board since 2006.

“The 11 years I spent teaching at Bear Creek were the best of my career,” Cassel said.  From the opening of Bear Creek in 1991 until 2002, Cassel taught all of the social studies courses at one point or another.  With eight years of experience on the board backing her up, Cassel has hopes, as well as some concerns.

Like many other California school districts, Lodi Unified is in the process of implementing the new Common Core State Standards that were introduced by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in 2009.  The implementation of the standards at LUSD has gone rather smoothly; however, there are concerns with the implementations of the mathematics standards of Common Core.

“The way mathematics will be taught for Common Core will be different than how it was taught to you and I,” Cassel said. “Anything that is new will have its issues, but they can be solved.”

Other issues that Cassel sees facing the district include new staff contract negotiations and finding ways to reach out to the 67 percent of the district’s students who live in poverty.

Cassel welcomes the new state school funding formula, which she believes will be able to restore some of the cuts the district has had to make in the last several fiscal years.

“One component of the formula that I really like is that there will be a group of parents who will sit with us [the board] when we make budget decisions,” Cassel said. “I feel it will give parents more involvement in how the money for the education of their children will be spent.“

With 67 percent of the district’s students living in poverty, LUSD will receive more funding from the formula.  According to “The Los Angeles Times,” “The new funding formula, to be phased in over several years, works this way: It provides a base grant for each student in each district, plus an additional 20 percent for each student who is impoverished — defined as coming from a family with an income low enough to qualify for a federally subsidized school lunch — or in the foster-care system or not yet fluent in English.”  “The Times” also reported that school districts with 55 percent or more of students in any of those categories would also receive an additional “concentration” grant.

At Bear Creek, Cassel is glad to see a “breath of fresh air” which has come with the new administration. Cassel says it is the board’s role to maintain stability in a school’s administration, especially for a campus which has seen multiple principals in the past few years. Cassel said the board wishes nothing more but to support successful administrations.

Cassel said she’d like to see more students attend board meeting and to get involved in the topics the board is discussing.

“Our decisions affect you and I know our upcoming discussions on the future of the Health and Drivers Education requirement would be a great opportunity for students to come and let us know how they feel,” Cassel said.  “We have student representatives at the board meetings, but sometimes I feel they’re not as informed on the board topics as we are and so they just nod in agreement with us.”