Better Than Measure V

TL;DR: I am voting NO on Measure V. Of course I support repairs and upgrades for our school facilities and to help our kids, however, not the way Measure V is written. I encourage all stakeholders to pay closer attention and to read the fine print.

Our LVUSD  students need us to pay attention.

If you didn’t grow up in this area, you may have moved here to build a life for your family. So many people did, including us. Drawn by the great reputation of the school district, the beautiful rolling hills and acres upon acres of open space, not to mention the available parking spaces, we moved here to provide our children a safe and community-oriented environment  to thrive and grow. As we planted our roots, we became involved in activities provided by the city, the YMCA, and the schools. It was only right for us to volunteer and help support the programs our children so enjoyed.

Over ten years of working within Las Virgenes Unified School District, most of those as a volunteer, I learned that paying attention to what’s happening at the schools and at the district level is of great importance. This is not only for parents but also for the staff and teachers who are the ones doing the hard work of caring for our children’s education and well-being. It’s important for the community of homeowners both with and without school-aged children who believe in the value of their homes and the safe areas where we live. It’s important for local businesses who have invested in our towns.

Information Is Everywhere

Knowledge is power. It’s actually not that hard to find out what’s going on, if you’re paying attention. The schools’ parent groups, booster groups, and administrations send out a vast amount of information via emails, phone calls, and letters home. Pick up the free copy of The Acorn that’s yellowing in your driveway—there’s likely an article about a carnival or fundraiser that you might enjoy. Just reading the school’s weekly email can help you learn about how money is being spent or what school-wide activity is coming up. Sometimes the fire hose of information is overwhelming, but it’s important that you find the channels that are most useful to you. My favorite is email, but I also read the agendas and minutes of every board meeting.

Paying attention will help you as a parent navigate your child’s academics, extra curricular activities, and community events like the Great Race of Agoura. It will bring you face to face with community decisions like the development of the land at the corner of Agoura and Kanan.

If you don’t pay attention, you might miss out. Your child could miss a fun field trip or a free book or a reduced lunch if you need it. You might miss the opportunity to vote for the leaders you believe in. You might miss the opportunity to even understand who those leaders are and how they conduct themselves with the power and money in their hands to make decisions that will affect your students’ lives and the quality of the businesses and neighbors all around you.

Being Involved Is Better

I understand the overwhelm, the urge to throw your hands up in the air and leave it to others. It’s hard enough to focus on what’s best for your own kids, right? It takes a great effort to do that and also advocate for a whole class of children, or a grade level, or a school, or a whole district. Having been in both positions, I can tell you from experience: being involved is better.

I started small, as a class volunteer, then became a Parent Faculty Association president, and then an employee. I helped a local leader run for school board in 2018, and after the Woolsey Fire, I co-founded LV Fire Relief to assist local families whose homes were damaged or destroyed. I got to witness first-hand and often behind the scenes the hard work of the wonderful people who spend their careers supporting our students. From part-time staff all the way up to principals, their earnest commitment to caring for and educating our students makes me proud to live here and be a parent to students who attend schools here.

woman standing with person in a tiger mascot costume

Me as Uber Parent Volunteer in 2016

I’ll say it out loud: that kind of advocacy is exhausting. Rallying other parents is hard, but so rewarding. Raising money is hard, but it helps build relationships with the community. Getting buy-in from district leaders can be a challenge for parents and employees alike. Still, there are parent volunteers who keep at it year after year, making progress slowly or invisibly, all because of their passion for our community.

YOU are LVUSD

The most important thing I learned from years of involvement is that LVUSD is not defined by its leaders.

Just like any public organization’s leadership, they are here to serve the real people who make up the district itself: the students, teachers, principals, staff, and parents. The school district and all of its moving parts will still be here long after its current leaders have moved on. It’s up to us, the community, to remain the backbone of LVUSD to preserve the spirit and quality that we moved here for, to leave it better for the next generation of parents and students. Every one of us has the power to pitch in and help and make our voices heard.

Measure V

Most importantly, we have the power to vote.

No other item on our ballot this election day is as close to home and influential as Measure V, which aims to raise $198 million for facility upgrades to the schools of LVUSD. It seems like a no-brainer. The ballot measure is endorsed by all local leaders and promoted with signs and social media and flyers mailed to your inboxes. There is no opposition committee. One person’s actions aren’t going to alter the course of this massive vessel.

But still, because I learned by experience to pay attention, I read the full ballot measure, the full resolution of the school board, historical information about previously passed measures, current activity from a citizens’ oversight committee, the Facility Master Plan, and all of the fine print I could access. I have shared bits of what I’ve found on the Facebook page once a week so other readers could see what I’ve been seeing. I hoped to make it easier to find the information necessary for a voter to make an informed decision.

My own choice after reading everything I could find is to vote NO on Measure V. The fine print leaves too much room for the leaders to interpret priorities that may not align with my own. The spirit is there, but I’m skeptical about the execution.

However, I do expect it to pass. Once that happens, our jobs as voters, taxpayers, residents, and parents is to pay attention. Read the updates, go to the meetings, apply to be on the citizens’ oversight committee that is meant to provide accountability and ensure that the $198 million of taxpayer money is truly spent on the improvements needed to keep our schools safe and functional. With hard work and accountability, we may be able to celebrate those improvements in the not so-distant future.

Read More

Whatever you do, if you care about our community, look up. Pay attention. Be aware. Vote.

If you’d like to read the full text of Measure V, it is posted here.

Kowalski for School Board in LVUSD

I have worked hard to support Las Virgenes Unified School District as a parent, a volunteer, and an employee. That’s why I support Kiyomi Kowalski for School Board.

kowalski for school board and kidsKiyomi Kowalski and her two sons

Our family moved to Agoura Hills in 2010, intent on enrolling our older son, who was about to enter Kindergarten, at Mariposa School of Global Education. Because of the wait list and the way the timing worked out, he ended up at Yerba Buena Elementary School, as did his little brother. We were all happy there. Eventually I got involved in the school’s Parent Faculty Association, serving as its president for two years.

I love this school district and the community that has grown up around it. It’s hard to go anywhere in Calabasas, Agoura, or Westlake without running into a parent or a child we know from school or sports. We feel at home here. Las Virgenes Unified School District is our home. Because I feel so strongly about this great district, I have supported it with my time, my skills, and my money.

That’s why I am supporting and endorsing Kiyomi Kowalski for School Board in the election on November 6.

kowalski for school board insta frame

While I recognize that the current board members have been part of the evolution of LVUSD’s ability to offer robust, safe, and engaging educational opportunities for our children, I believe it’s time for adding “a bit of the new school to the old school.” She will bring a much-needed fresh perspective to the great responsibility of making high-level decisions for the entire district. These decisions affect the curriculum, the staffing, the well-being of teachers, the way the district spends vast amounts of money, and so much more. Kowalski is one of us: a parent, a professional, a passionate advocate for education. She also has rich experience as a lawyer who advocates for the underserved, and as a Marine who served our country.

kowalski for school board marine

I began my life of service 21 years ago today by stepping on the yellow foot prints at Parris Island for Marine Corps boot camp. I continue to serve our community and I’m excited to serve our children on the Las Virgenes School Board. Vote Kiyomi Kowalski for school board in 2018 and let’s bring a bit of new school to the old school!

I urge you to meet Kiyomi. You will find her to be warm, empathetic, interested, and caring. You will witness her infectious passion and her ability to speak with wisdom and information about the issues that affect our students and community. Read about her goals for the school district. She’s well-informed and equipped to make tough decisions.

You know how hard I’ve worked to support Las Virgenes Unified School District. Join me by voting for Kiyomi Kowalski for School Board on November 6.

For more information, to meet with Kiyomi, and to support her campaign, visit KowalskiForSchoolBoard.com.
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P.S. I take it for granted that people know how the LVUSD school board is elected, appoints a superintendent, and votes on big issues for the district. But I realize that most parents and voters don’t really pay attention to these things. If you have any questions about how it works, and want to know so you can make your own informed decision about how to vote, send me an email at kim@agourahillsmom.com, and we’ll chat. 

Happy New Year! First Week of 2018 in Review

I waited a week to wish you all a happy new year because I was gone for much of December and I returned with a terrible cold that turned into bronchitis. My usual happy energy was muted during the first week of the year.

The good news about that is that on New Year’s Eve I visited the urgent care in Westlake Village and discover that it was a pretty great resource for a holiday Sunday. So, add that place to my list of recommendations.

On that same day, my husband and I finally got a car that belongs in this century, and we bought it at Honda of Thousand Oaks, which is another place I would recommend.

I had to work during the week, and that took all of my energy, so every day I came home and passed out. Except for Wednesday, when I attended a read-through of LVUSD’s benefit play that will happen on February 24 at Agoura High School. It’s all original works written, directed, and performed by school district staff and families and students. Again, I recommend.

Yesterday I finally headed outside to watch the kids play flag football in the new league started by the head coach of the Agoura Chargers. They had fun and it was such a gorgeous day!

And to round out the week, the whole family went to Yamato last night for the first time since we moved here 7.5 years ago. The hibachi dinner was part meal, part show. We had so much fun. Definitely worth an indulgence every now and then.

So for a week when I thought I didn’t have anything to contribute, it turns out I had some things to share with you after all. Imagine what it will be like when I truly kick this cold! Here’s to 2018. Cheers!