FCUSD Candidates Discuss Pathways to Student Success

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG)  |  Story by Shaunna Boyd; Photo by Publisher Paul Scholl
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Candidates (L-R) Jaya Badiga, David Reid, Joshua Hoover and incumbent Ed Short are vying for three open seats on the Folsom Cordova Unified School District (FCUSD) Board of Education.

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) - Four candidates are vying for three open seats on the Folsom Cordova Unified School District (FCUSD) Board of Education. On Monday, September 24, an informational candidate forum gave candidates an opportunity to share their opinions and priorities with district voters.

Jaya Badiga outlined her goals for the board as action, accountability, and transparency. Badiga believes the board should ensure a welcoming culture for students in district schools. She suggests introducing social emotional learning, which teaches students how to cope and function in a group so they develop increased empathy, which reduces bullying and isolation. “My experience at WEAVE and working with community organizations has shown me that our students need someone to help, not only with their academic success, but also with their social and emotional success,” said Badiga.

There is a lot of diversity in the district, both in terms of culture and academic ability, and Badiga recognizes that “education is not one size fits all.” In particular, she is concerned about the disparity in achievement rates and that special education programs in the district are falling behind.

With a limited budget for the district, Badiga’s priority would be to retain the experienced and dedicated staff members. If elected, Badiga says her decisions on the board would always be fact based, and she believes the impact on the student population is the most important factor to consider.

Joshua Hoover is a PTA member and serves on the Folsom Cordova Special Education Community Advisory Committee. He is the policy director for State Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who represents the City of Folsom. Hoover advises Kiley on education issues and has worked on many policies to expand technology in the classroom.

Hoover’s goals for the district include preparing students for success by increasing STEM programs, strengthening the board’s transparency and accountability, and creating a culture of inclusion within the schools. Hoover stated that “closing the achievement gap is the greatest need and challenge facing our district.”  Hoover is particularly concerned with the lack of parental involvement in some areas of Rancho Cordova, so he wants to focus on engaging those parents because increased parental involvement leads to increased student achievement.

As a board member, Hoover says he plans to be actively engaged in the process; he will do the research and come prepared. He will have the difficult conversations in order to find the best possible policies to meet the needs of the community. “All decisions will be based on what is best for students and parents…It’s very important to listen to the needs of the community,” said Hoover.

Dave Reid has more than 20 years of education policy experience. Since moving to California in 2006, he has served as general counsel at EdFund in Rancho Cordova, is the current president of Folsom Cordova PTA Council, and is a founding board member of Folsom Cordova Education Foundation.  

Reid believes that not everyone needs or wants to go to college, so he supports bringing trades back into the high schools to give students other pathways to successful careers. He would also like to see the district partner with the business communities to provide students with internship and apprenticeship opportunities.

As the district continues to grow and more school sites are needed, Reid believes the district must be smarter about their building designs. He said single-story construction is outdated and school sites quickly run out of space so they can’t expand when necessary, while multi-level buildings would reduce the environmental impact and would allow for more growth.

Some of Reid’s top priorities are to close the achievement gap, reduce class sizes, and better address students’ mental health. If elected, Reid said, “I can’t guarantee you that we’ll always see eye to eye, but what I can guarantee you is that you will always have my ear, no matter what.”

Incumbent Ed Short has served on the FCUSD board for 16 years. He is proud of how the board handled tough decisions during the economic downturn, doing the best they could with what they had available. When making decisions on the board, Short strives to always follow the board’s mission statement and to ensure decisions align with existing goals and policies. He said it’s important for the board to involve all stakeholders in difficult decisions so that policies are fact based and fiscally responsible.

Some of Short’s top priorities are to increase programs for English learners and improve special education programs. He acknowledged that growth in the area is a major challenge, and overcrowding is a serious issue, so the district needs to focus on expanding and maintaining facilities.

Short said, “I believe my qualifications, experience, and impeccable record of service qualifies me to continue serving our kids and you as an effective board member…I do not have a personal educational or political bone to pick. I bring no baggage to the table of public service, only my sincere desire to serve the best educational interest of our children.”

All the candidates are passionate about improving the district and would bring a unique set of experiences, ideals, and priorities to the FCUSD board.  To watch the forum online, visit Folsom.tv/videos.