Tojo Thomas is a probation officer and the father of three children in the District. Find out more about him at http://tojo2016.com/
1 – What are the biggest challenges facing your School District and how will you tackle them?
Growing class sizes is one of the most pressing issues that the district is facing at this time, due to the increased population of so many families moving into our community to take advantage of our excellent school system. Learning the new Common Core standards and teaching these standards to our students, is another challenge that we are facing as a district. Measure G was recently approved by the voters, and how the funding will be allocated throughout the district will create a new challenge. Funding for the district to remain competitive in the hiring of quality teachers remains a pressing issue. Moreover, we must be certain that we are able to secure the best substitute teachers for our children, as not to interrupt the cycle of learning, in the absence of the regular teachers.
It is necessary for substitute teachers to receive comparable pay to attract them to our school district. Resources must be allocated to provide our teachers with the appropriate, ongoing training, necessary to teach our children how to adjust and to excel with Common Core teachings and testing. Our focus must be on hiring a sufficient number of teachers to maintain the current teacher to student ratio. The passage of Measure G was a tremendous victory for our school district. There must be strict oversight and accountability to ensure that the funds are spent efficiently and appropriately.
2 – Do you believe there are systemic problems with racial/sexual/gender-based or other discrimination in your district’s schools? How would you tackle them?
It is the right of all children, regardless of their background or ethnicity, to receive a top quality education. The diversity of our community is one of our greatest strengths. As a district, it is our responsibility to ensure that each child who attends our schools, is receiving the highest standard of education. At the same time, we must realize that all children learn at different levels and it is our job to make sure that they all receive the same learning opportunities, while showing equal respect to all cultures and backgrounds.
There does not appear to be systematic problems with racial/sexual/gender-based, or other discrimination in the school district. Nevertheless, discrimination does exist, and it must be dealt with swiftly and appropriately as soon as it is encountered. Ongoing training of staff is necessary to make them aware that these problems do occur, and to give them the appropriate skills and tools to sufficiently handle these situations.
3 – Do you believe the school-to-prison pipeline is operational in your School District and what will you do to close it down?
It is potentially operational in all school districts. Educators must be able to identify at-risk youth in order to intervene before the cycle of incarceration continues. Intervention such as after school programs and care should be made readily available to all children, and specifically be targeted at those children who are at risk.
4 – Do you support having police officers on campus? If so, in what capacity?
I believe that it is necessary and appropriate to have some sort of police presence on campus in order to maintain the safety of our children. With the growing incidents of school shootings, we must be ever vigilant to watch out that it does not happen in our community.
5 – What limits to students’ freedom of expression and privacy do you think are appropriate for public schools?
Individual expressions of freedom and privacy are very important for school aged children, to the extent that there are not causing any safety issues. Privacy must be respected in regards to diversity and multiculturalism.
6 – What do you think the School District should do to offer support to homeless, foster and impoverished children and children coming from violent homes?
These populations must be recognized and identified in order to evaluate what services they need in order to be successful. Children who are exposed to violence, must be immediately identified and referred to the appropriate authorities.
7 – Given the explosion of autism diagnoses, what is your plan to make sure children and their parents are getting the proper support?
Early intervention and individualized educational programs. The rate of autism diagnoses has been increasing in recent years, and it must be recognized.
8 – What should the District do to tackle problems of truancy?
Truancy is a problem which must be addressed with the truant student as well as the families of truant children. School officials must be able to effectively communicate the concerns of the district to these families in regards to truancy, and to provide them with the appropriate resources to address the issue.
9 – Are you running as a Berniecrat?
I am a registered Democrat. I am following the presidential race but I do not think that politics should have any role in educating our children.