Name: Sean Monemi
1. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background and why you should be elected or reelected to the Walnut Valley Unified School District Board of Education.
Hello, my name is Sean Monemi and I’m a Tenured Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cal Poly Pomona. I received my Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. My family and I have been a proud, caring, and responsible resident of Walnut for more than 12 years and our two children currently attend elementary school in the WVUSD.
I am running for WVUSD school board because I believe in high academic standards and school accountability. I will work hard to ensure that our school district continues to improve test scores and that every dollar benefits our children’s education. I will continue to work very hard to expand our public and private partnerships to promote technology based education.
My knowledge and experience in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as a longtime university professor (Ph.D. in Electrical & Computer Engineering) and my involvement as a Senator member of the Academic Senate in California State University overseeing 23 different universities, has prepared me to establish solid shared governance in decision-making process by all. I am very familiar with course and curriculum design. I am very eager and qualified to provide responsive leadership on the School Board. I will insure that our student achievement remains our highest priority by working collaboratively with parents, teachers, staff and board members. Please refer to my website at: www.seanmonemi.com
2. What do you see as the primary role of the school board?
To have a vision, and set goals and direction for the school district, nurture quality instruction, highest student achievement, and continually monitor goals toward that vision.
To implement policies that improves educational offerings and programs for children and maintain fiscal control. The school board is accountable for ensuring responsible spending practices.
The school board members are elected to represent and be responsive to the needs of our students, parents, teachers, staff, families, and community.
3. One key thing school board members are tasked with is voting on budgets and making sure the district is spending wisely. What kind of experience do you have working with budgets?
I hold a combined leadership and management position for over 25 years in Industry and academia.
In Industry, I worked for one the largest power company (TVA/NES) as the supervisor. I was responsible for a complex budget creation and allocation for a large section.In Academia, as the former department chair I was managing the budget for a very large department with over 40 faculty and 1500 students. In result, I understand the necessity to allocate and spend all available fund wisely.
4. If elected or re-elected to the board, what will be your top 3 priorities for the upcoming term?
- To promote fiscal transparency and responsible budgets based on laws and facts. A well balanced allocation of funds among all entities of the district.
- To provide our students with quality education, critical thinking, offering a rich and innovative curriculum to include STEM and arts.
- To provide safe, modernized campuses, improved counseling, and increase transfer rate to universities, career opportunities, and better communication with parents
5. What are your thoughts on WVUSD’s District of Choice Program? Do you support it? If so, why? If no, why not?
The Walnut School District is nationally recognized as one the best in education and among the Distinguished and National Blue Ribbon Schools. This recognition must be preserved. In my opinion, WVUSD as the District of Choice could offer benefits to a community that seeks high quality education. The children who live in the district should always have the first choice. As enrollment declines, the district may seek alternative solutions until enrollment grows back to normal.
6. Do you have any specific changes you want to make in school district policies, programs, or the various school curricula being offered? If so, what changes do you want to make and why?
I have already began to look into our school polices since I am a parent of two kids currently enrolled in WVUSD. I continually communicate with other parents and I am well aware of some issues and needs. Our kid’s safety in school is number one on my list. Proper student counseling can eliminate some future problems. Various school curricula must be reviewed and updated periodically. A balanced food, proper gymnasium, modern classroom equipped with adequate technology is a must. Teachers must be rewarded for their endless work. Staff must be recognized for their hard work. Hopefully, after I become a Board member, I will have a chance to review all related school policies.
7. School districts, including WVUSD, are rolling out new standards known as common core. What are your thoughts on common core? What are some key issues, if any, you see with implementing it?
In my opinion, adoption of the Common Core Standards could be a plus for California students and families. Having a pilot program in place could be a clear signal of what it takes to be ready for college and other career as well as what it will take to make it happen. This new standards for Mathematics and English, will better prepare students for college level academics, and ultimately, will speed their progress to a college degree.
Transition to common core are as follows: awareness and dissemination (building readiness), Transition (moving to the new standards), Implementation (making meaning), Transformation (changing teaching and learning). This transition will include teacher’s training and readiness, new materials, and parental involvements.
This new implementation will also present some exciting challenges and opportunities to our district. The state has allocated funding for common core standards in some specific areas such as: Technology in classrooms, professional development, curriculum and instructional materials. The full implementation of K-12 Common Core Standards is expected by 2014-15.
8. What are your thoughts on how the district’s test scores are trending year to year? How important of a measure do you feel test scores are in determining student achievement? How important do you think they are in evaluating teacher performance?
Historically, the students of WVUSD scores well in testing such as API of 908 for this year, and similar scores in prior years, which we are very proud of. This credit goes to students, teachers and parents. However, assessment of a program or evaluation of a teacher is a complex process and entirely two separate issues. The performance indicators must be known in each area so that we know what to measure and what to assess. Having the proper rubrics designed will aid to an accurate assessment. The assessment is an ongoing process and the results must be perfected from year to year with lessons learned to close the loop. Test scores may not always be the best indicator of performance for both students and teachers. It should be noted that standardized tests cannot evaluate all skills such as critical thinking or teacher’s performance.
9. The WVUSD recently hired a new superintendent. What do you think the board’s role is in working with a superintendent?
The superintendent oversees and directs the district's educational objectives. The superintendent must ensure that the board is informed of all district operations and activities.
The superintendent and board must communicate effectively about all the needs of the district. The main focus must be on student learning and achievement.
There should be a structured process in place to check and balance the successful operation of district lead by the superintendent, and closely monitored by the board, working collectively towards the common goals and vision.
10. What are your thoughts on the importance of parental involvement in helping students achieve. How will you engage the community to improve public schools in the district?
As a parent of two kids currently enrolled in WVUSD, I understand and encourage the involvement of parent in helping students’ achievement. The day starts with student and teacher and it will end with student and parent. Parental involvement is one of the most important factors in educating our children.
We must encourage and provide a dialogue with parents, teachers, board, and others to discuss student’s progress, issues, and initiate creative activities, programs and other services with parent participation. Parents should be able to voice their opinions, be heard by authorities and be provided with solutions.As a teacher at Cal Poly Pomona, I am in classroom every day, working with students and monitoring their progress. Students are conducting great research and projects with me in the areas of power, energy, smart grid, and renewables. We work very closely with industry and government agencies such as Southern California Edison, Microsoft, Department of Energy, National Security Agency, Air Force, etc.
I encourage the early involvement of high school students with colleges. This will help our children to make a calculated decision for selecting the proper college career path when they are ready to transfer to college. I advise and present new student orientation for our new freshman students.