Meet the Candidates: Mike Scott

SSUSD Board of Education

Meet the Candidates: Mike ScottBy LAURA LEIGH MONTEREY

News Review Correspondent

Mike Scott, a current Sierra Sands Unified School District board member, studied Administration of Justice at Riverside City College, moved here in1982 when he landed a job with the Ridgecrest Police Department where he was the DARE officer, which took him into classrooms throughout the SSUSD as well as the local private schools. After 19 years with RPD, he moved to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, starting over at the bottom and working his way up. By the time he left law enforcement, he had achieved the rank of lieutenant and had obtained a certificate in management through online instruction. After 13 years with the KCSO, he moved into security work for the Navy, and is currently assisting the earthquake recovery effort.

He has continued his online training through the California School Board Association, from which he obtained a certificate in governance. His initial interest in serving on the school board was piqued by seeing the effect of smaller classroom size on instruction. He recounted one day when he remarked to the teacher that the DARE session had gone pretty well, to which she replied that much of the class was out with the flu. Scott attributes much of his effectiveness to his unique combination of having been in law enforcement while also teaching in the classroom.

“My dedication as well as my experience in problem solving, management, and teamwork are some of my strongest skills,” Scott said. He also pointed out that he had been active in the police officer’s union, “which gives me first-hand insight into what unions are looking for.”

Citing the relevance of his experience as an officer, Scott pointed out that “What we have in the community, we’ll have in the schools, so law enforcement experience will continue to assist me. It is unfortunate that we need resource officers and active-shooter skills, but my background assists when we need to have those conversations.” He also pointed out that at this point, he has an extensive network of contacts at all levels of government. “For example, when we built the new Murray Middle School, we had to deal with 23 different agencies. It was very helpful to be able to network and get the answers we needed.”

At this time, Scott said his vision is fixed on “the importance of providing the very best educational opportunities to students during the pandemic.” That will mean that the district will need to be creative, and “I would like to assist with providing oversight during innovation.” He said going forward, normal is going to be difficult to define.

“There will be some families who will want to return to campus learning immediately, but some may never go back,” and the reasons for those decisions will be unique to each family. While there is no roadmap, Scott noted that there are many studies that show “students do best in the classroom.” Nonetheless, “we will undoubtedly employ a combination of methods, and I’m very supportive, especially for acute-needs students.”

Commenting on finances, Scott said, “We haven’t left any money on the table. We’ve been aggressive in pursuing grants, bonds to assist the district, and all other means available to us.” The district is now administering more than $5 million from the CARES Act, which will be used for distance learning. Scott also pointed out that the fiscally conservative habits such as increasing the rate of rainy-day fund savings from three percent to five is paying off. “If we do have to make cuts, we need to keep them away from the classroom,” he said.

Distance learning guidelines were followed, Scott said, but emphasized how challenging that has been to districts, students, parents, and staff. “We entered a territory with no roadmap,” he said, yet students in need have Chromebooks and Wi-Fi, and teachers have a couple additional days of training, a significant benefit considering that “some are more at ease with teaching online, while others are more comfortable in the classroom. There’s room for both,” Scott said, some of these options may become permanent for those who prefer the online platform.

“We have moved the needle on distance learning, and there is tremendous opportunity in the future.”

Story First Published: 2020-09-25