The Opt-Out Policy

Jenny Fitzgerald's Position on the CVUSD Opt-out Policy

Since formally announcing my intention to run for a seat on the School Board, I have received many questions regarding my stance on the literature opt-out policy and review committee formulated and passed by the current Board majority. Simply put, I oppose both the policy and the means by which it came into existence. Understanding the rationale for my position cannot be accomplished in just a few sentences, so bear with me as I detail the reasoning for my stance on this particular issue, and why I support the effort in the document posted.

I believe our children should learn about the world we live in so they grow up to be informed and engaged members of our society. This means that they be given the opportunity to learn from information, ideas, and concepts that are reflected in the broader world in which we live. The pages of a book help bring these lessons to life. The lessons I remember most to this day are those that dealt with the most difficult of topics, challenged me to understand the importance of context, and think beyond the world that existed right in front of me. I still vividly remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank in middle school, and learning both about true evil that exists in this world and the bravery of those that stand up to fight against it.

I believe in our educators and their ability to guide our children through these lessons, and that the literature opt-out policy inhibits and undermines their ability to do so. We are fortunate in the Conejo Valley to have excellent teachers with the training and experience to educate our children and guide them through challenging, but rewarding discussions. Consequently, we need to let our teachers do what they have been trained to do - teach. This is not to suggest that parents should be relegated to the sidelines. Rather, parents need to take an active role in their children’s education, as children benefit greatly when parents and teachers are able to work together on their behalf. However, such collaboration cannot exist where the policies of the Board majority disregard teacher input and strike at the core mission of their profession.

I believe in true transparency from our elected officials and therefore am adamantly against circumventing the community they are duty-bound to represent (including parents, teachers, and students) in an effort to pass any policy. Leaving the community out of the discussion on key issues and decisions is unacceptable.

I believe that Board members should seek to represent all of the community and not just a select few by listening to opposing views and finding solutions when possible. I can personally understand that there may be circumstances where an alternative assignment policy may be viewed as necessary. It turns out that I’m not alone in this belief, as the District already had a process for permitting an alternative assignment as needed. In fact, it was the alleged need to formalize and clarify this process that brought us to where we are now. The Board majority used that opportunity to push through the much more involved and educationally-intrusive literature opt-out policy by significantly broadening the existing process to include a new literature review committee based on board appointees who seemingly need no relevant background or education to make recommendations that will impact all of our children and students. All of this was hastily done without regard for needed discussion, meaningful engagement of key stakeholders (e.g., our teachers, students, and parents), and without transparency of any kind into the ultimate decisions being made.

I believe in leaders who foster respect and collaboration. We cannot as a community expect to agree on every issue/policy, but we can expect those that are supposed to lead our community to promote a culture of respect and engagement - beginning with their own actions. I think it is important to demonstrate to the current Board majority that we will not accept policies created in the dark and without regard for our students and teachers.

Jenny Fitzgerald

January, 2018

Paid for by Jenny Fitzgerald for CVUSD School Board 2018