School Boards in Action: 5 Questions with Jacqueline A. Gaebe, Visalia USD

Jacqueline A. Gaebe, board member, Visalia Unified School District

What does your district have planned for the 2022–23 school year to foster learning recovery and educational advancements?

One of the key strategies Visalia Unified is utilizing to foster learning recovery is in the area of tutoring. Because one-on-one tutoring has shown it is one of the most cost-efficient ways to improve academic performance and learning recovery, VUSD has implemented new tutoring opportunities and enhanced existing programs. One specific program to support student learning is after-school and evening tutoring and homework assistance offered to all students via after-hours district teaching staff. Students can get support from teachers after the school day to help scaffold learning or fill in learning loss gaps.

In addition, VUSD has recently adopted the use of Paper, an online tutoring service available 24 hours a day and focused on developing understanding of concept and skills in students. The method of tutoring was particularly appealing to our district due to its focus on not just giving answers, but rather guiding students through the learning process. In addition, this program has the ability to give direct feedback and coaching throughout the writing process, an area where students are showing significant need, yet becomes very time consuming to classroom teachers as they try to provide individual support for students throughout the editing and revision process.

Please describe the current morale in your district. What is the board doing to improve or maintain it?

Currently, the morale in our district is becoming increasingly positive. A new superintendent and leadership team have brought a welcome focus on student learning, as well as a focus on athletics, the arts and student activities that provide meaningful connections to school. In Visalia Unified, we have a very dedicated, hard-working and knowledgeable staff and the building of new systems is the first priority so that supports such as curriculum and professional development are responsive and equitable. This will in turn continue to increase morale because as we know, much of staff frustration comes when they want to do what is best for their students but do not feel adequately equipped to do so. The development of learning and leadership will afford all staff the resources needed to increase achievement for all students.

What are some ways the district is sharing positive news and/or support with families and the community?

The development of a district media team has had a tremendously positive impact. All districts have amazing students and stories to tell in terms of academic achievement and academic growth as well as extracurricular accomplishments. Visalia Unified is no exception. Not only are our students growing academically, we have an outstanding Visual and Performing Arts program, athletic successes and the list goes on. The challenge has been to focus on the many bright spots as opposed to the small issues that will always arise in a district of almost 30,000 students. Through the new district media team, the district is being proactive in sharing our story. We are being proactive in sharing our students’ and staff’s successes and ensuring that students and families are all informed about the opportunities to belong and connect to their school and our district.

What is one thing you’d most like to accomplish during your time as a trustee and why?

One thing I would like to accomplish is to continue to develop our governing board as a team. The governing team has had a multitude of changes over the last couple of years and through each one, I am proud that we have come out stronger. I want to continue to come together as a team that welcomes and encourages diversity of thought, experience and backgrounds and stands strong on making decisions based on what is best for students. A board that does not maintain status quo but innovates and chooses to be courageous over comfortable. In the past two years, our board has made significant strides towards this ideal and during the remaining two years of my term, I hope to continue to grow and learn together so that we improve learning for all students as a governing team.

Please share a little about the pets you have at home.

Call it COVID crazy, but I went from one cat (that had actually just moved in with us) to four pets. When school was via Zoom and soccer and extracurricular activities that filled every evening and weekend vanished, my kids won the argument that we were never home enough to raise pets. So now we have a very neurotic pandemic bulldog that has zero social skills, only loves my daughters, and sits at the window waiting for them to come home each day, a cat and two pygmy goats.