Nevada County Superintendent of Schools race heating up
May 9, 2014
Current City: Nevada City
Hometown: Cedarville, Calif.
Occupation: Nevada County Superintendent of Schools
Education: California State University Hayward master’s degree in special education, bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration, and special education teaching credential. Saint Mary’s College teaching credentials, California State University Sacramento administrative services credential.
Family: Husband Jon, daughter Sally, 25, aerospace engineer, son Greg 23, completing degree in mechanical engineering at Cal Poly. Stepson Ian, 31, Technology Coordinator at Bowman Elementary School.
Facebook: Holly Hermansen For Nevada County Superintendent of Schools
Current City: Grass Valley
Hometown: San Francisco, Calif.
Occupation: KNCO Newscaster
Education: California State University Chico bachelor’s degrees in liberal studies, and public communications. Teaching and administrative services credentials.
Family: Wife Tamara, a teacher in the Nevada Joint Union High School District, son Carter a student at University Nevada Reno, and Ryne a performer with the Concord, Calif. Blue Devils Drum Corp.
Q&A with Hermansen and Haas
1. The state and county will be going through some new changes in education like Common Core Standards, local control funding formula, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment. As Superintendent of Schools, What will your role be in this process?
Hermansen: We have an extremely large role in all of this. For the local control funding formula, we’ve been holding meetings to train all our school districts and providing opportunities for them to really get an in depth understanding of what that formula means for their district. It’s complex and it’s hard for districts to budget based on a new and complex formula, and understand the impact that it’s going to have on their school districts in the next few years. So we’ve been doing a lot of one to one work with our districts in meetings and trainings helping them understand that new funding formula, and providing guidance to them on their budgets based on that formula.
Another piece to that formula is the local control accountability plan, and that brings county offices into a whole new level of responsibility with our schools districts. In the past we only had fiscal oversight, but with the new local control accountability plan it requires that the county office also has oversight over academic areas. So when school districts are writing their plans we have the responsibility, under new state law, to evaluate those plans and make sure that they are accomplishing the goals that they set, that it’s tied in with the budget, and the money that they are allocating provides for those students. So the county office has a huge role, and we have been assisting all our school districts in writing their plans for this spring, which will be approved in June.
In the new Smarter Balanced Assessment, we’ve also been providing a leadership role with school districts in looking at their responsibility in the new testing that they are field testing, and also with Common Core, we have highly turned people in our office that are providing leadership roles to our school districts.
We have a new curriculum director who’s going out and providing direct intervention and helping schools implement Common Core. We’ve hired classroom teachers to be coaches, providing them stipends to get extra training and then go out and training their peers, because we’ve done some research and what we’ve learned is that one of the best models out there is teachers teaching teachers. Because there’s a level of trust and understanding between them. In addition we’ve held many larger professional development opportunities for teachers across the county to learn Common Core. So our office has a huge leadership role in each of the new measures that are coming across this year.
Haas: Common Core’s here, and there’s some good things about that, it provides creativity and instruction, and allows teachers to have more critical thinking skills with the students. But I have major concerns about it, one being it’s a top down solution, meaning it’s being driven by the federal government and brought down on us. The test itself is untested, this year only half the students are going to take the test, so there’s going to be no valid test scores that come out of that.
Next year they’re going to roll out the entire test and I don’t think the county’s going to be ready technologically to implement that. I know right now not every site is capable of handling that sort of technology load in being able to implement the test.
What I also think is important that parents need to know that they can opt out of testing and I don’t think that’s being shared with the parents at this point. So I have some grave concerns about Common Core in its current state. Moving forward if it’s not working, I am not afraid to stand up and make a change.
2. Do you feel political parties should be incorporated in this race for Superintendent of Schools?
Hermansen: No. This is a nonpartisan office, and in fact I think it can be detrimental to have political party influence because as the county Superintendent of Schools we need to make the best decision in your work, and the programs and services you provide, not to be responsible to answering to a party who has offered you support or endorsements.
So I would not solicit or accept any endorsements from a political party in this position. I don’t feel it’s appropriate.
Haas: I’m very proud that a political party has chosen to endorse me as a candidate, that the Republican party has chosen me, however, the position is nonpartisan and so as Superintendent of Schools I would not let party lines make decisions for me. But I am proud that a political party has stepped up and said that I am their candidate.
3. If elected, What are some new educational programs that you will promote in the coming year?
Hermansen: We’ve been working really close with the school districts. I know my opponent has been talking a lot about after school programs, but it’s not really the responsibility of the county office to operate after school programs unless school districts want the county office to, and most of our school districts already have high quality programs.
I have met with the school districts over the last couple of years and after school programs were not a need that they had. However, we began talking about summer school programs and there’s a lot of research that shows how much knowledge students lose over the course of a summer.
Our office is putting together a proposal to operate summer school programs in three locations across the county, and it would be starting a year from this spring because we want to make sure that we put together a high quality evidence based program that allows our students to gain academically, as well as have a positive experience over the summer. So I think that’s going to be my one big push is going to be summer school programs that districts are interested in having for their students over the summer.
In addition, this is our last year of the Safe Schools Healthy Students federal grant, and so we’re working really hard on sustaining some of the programs that were funded in that grant.
Haas: What I’d like to do is focus on student needs. When I’m looking at programs that need to be reinstated or put in place, and that includes after school programs so that students have a choice of activities to do after school, as well as to provide academic support. I’m very interested in making sure vocational education continues in the county, as well as the FFA programs and ROP programs. There’s a potential that our ROP funding could go away because of local control funding.
Placer County now controls those funds and it flows to Nevada County, but Placer County can discontinue that funding if they decide to so. So I think the county office needs to step up and provide leadership, support and make sure those programs stay in place, so we can offer greater county support.
I’d like to put teacher incentive grants in place, you can call them enrichment grants or project grants, so that there’s a standing fund available for teachers to apply every year. Those grants would be reviewed by a committee and the appropriate ones would be allocated and funded. I’d like to have a nice amount of money used, we have a large reserve right now and I’d like to put that money back in play to give back to students.
I also think that we need to provide better support for students to prepare them for the workforce, and I think one of those strategies could have work experience run through the county office of education. Currently it runs through the continuation high schools but I think that we should be able to provide that opportunity to every high school student in the county, as well as develop externships and internships that will give students an opportunity to experience real world activities.
At some point during the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools race, incumbent Holly Hermansen thought her opponent, Paul Haas, was a nice guy.
Now she doesn't.
In April, Hermansen told The Union that she has worked with Haas, a KNCO reporter, as a member of the media, and referred to him as "a nice guy." Recently, though, Hermansen retracted the statement amidst claims that Haas has acted inappropriately toward Hermansen's supporters.
"I've changed my mind. People in the community have been telling me that he has gotten aggressive when they say they are supporting me," Hermansen said Wednesday. "That is just not OK."
Haas, though, says the claims are bogus, and absolutely not true.
"I have not gotten aggressive with anyone about anything. This is the first I have heard anything of the sort," Haas said. "I would never do anything like that to anyone in the community. It's just not in my nature, it's not my style of doing things."
The war of words in this year's Superintendent of Schools race has been a saga of "he said, she said."
In March, through the use of public documents, The Union reported that Haas had been previously fired from a principal position at a Sacramento charter school due to accusations of fraud.
Since then, Haas has provided documentation from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing stating that they reviewed the case and did not find a reason to take away his teaching credentials.
During a video interview with The Union, though, Haas claimed that Hermansen's office gave information to the newspaper, which led to the story. Hermansen said she has heard of the story but denies having any involvement in it, and said she has no knowledge of anyone in her office passing on information to The Union.
"Not my office, nor I, sent over that information," Hermansen said. "I've been very careful to keep this campaign positive, so I, nor did anyone at my office send over that information, at least that I'm aware of. I don't know what people do on their own time, but our office had nothing to do with it."
While both camps have said they have made it a point to run a positive campaign, their supporters, and those who oppose them, have spoken out publicly to decry one candidate, and their supporters, in favor of another.
Last week, former county educator Stanton Miller, in an op-ed in The Union, criticized Nevada County Board of Education member Marianne Slade-Troutman for allegations, Miller says, she has made against Hermansen in The Union and on the radio.
"She seems to be preoccupied with attacking (Hermansen), however her allegations against Ms. Hermansen are based on faulty information," Miller stated in the op-ed. "Marianne Slade-Troutman is entitled to her opinion, but not to her own facts."
Miller most recently worked under Hermansen as the associate superintendent of student services for the Superintendent of Schools office.
Slade-Troutman has made further accusations against Hermansen saying that she uses county funds to pay her Rotary Club dues, and that Hermansen will not disclose her county office credit card bill to the board and public.
"The Rotary dues are paid through my office; it's very common for organizations to pay for the Rotary dues of their employees to get them out there in the community and it's a very appropriate use of funds," Hermansen responded. "I make a lot of contacts and connections through my Rotary club that directly benefit schools."
In reference to her credit card bill disclosure Hermansen added, "The county board has addressed that issue several times, and they do not believe that they want to micromanage my budget. They approve the budget each year and as long as I operate within the parameters of the budget that the board approves, they don't want to see the details."
Recently, Slade-Troutman has thrown her support to the Haas camp, and this past weekend bought an advertisement in The Union, with fellow board member John Meeks, endorsing Haas. The ad focuses on the claim that Hermansen will use county reserves to build a new administration building for her office that the county does not need.
Haas has also been on the offensive in reference to talks of a new administration building, claiming that Hermansen wants to use money for a building, when the funds are needed more for students and educational programs.
"The current building that we have has been adequate. In the past we've had several thousand students in the county, and with declining enrollment, I don't understand why it's no longer adequate," Haas said. "To me it's always going to be students before buildings, and programs before administrative overhead. That's where I want our resources spent, where it makes a difference most, is with the students."
Hermansen, though, has gone on the record saying that she does not necessarily plan to build a new building, but that the office wants to merge their facilities into one, to improve efficiency.
"I have no intention of building a new building," she said. "My plan, and what I believe is, I can consolidate some of my existing facilities into one larger building, and I plan to do that at either a cost savings, or a cost neutral, as to what costs currently are. I'm not intending to use any new funding for this."
Hermansen, who has been Superintendent of Schools since 2007, is banking on her on the job experience as the reason why voters should choose her over Haas.
"It's very clear that it is experience and qualifications that set us apart," Hermansen said. "I've been doing this job for seven years very successfully. I have great trust with the community and all of the school districts. My qualifications and experience have led me into this position, and the time I have been in this position I have done a good job. Hermansen added, "(Haas), while he has had educational experience, it has not prepared him for this level of position. A school principal at a charter school of an independent study program does not prepare you for this job."
Haas says he will use finances in the office differently than Hermansen, and is betting that voters in June will see his candidacy as a new direction for county schools.
"Active leadership and being a part of the solution," Haas said. "Not necessarily sitting in an office or a desk and telling people what to do, but actually getting out and being active with the districts and being in touch with the students and their families."
Haas added, "Being the true voice of the community in what's best for education is what I want as a superintendent. I believe that (Hermansen) is following top-down direction from the California Department of Education, and I want to make sure I am supporting from the bottom up."
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.