November 23, 2020

A Chat With Erick Stonebarger, Trustee at Liberty Union High School District

On this episode, I chat with Liberty Union High School District trustee Erick Stonebarger who released data last week on the failure rate of nearly 30% after the District moved to Distance Learning, this is more than a 100% increase compared to last year.

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  • 00:36 – Introduction of Erick Stonebarger

  • 01:20 – We get into data released by the Liberty Union High School District regarding 28% of the District under a 2.0 GPA and 14% with a 1.0 GPA or below. This is for Heritage High School, Freedom High School and Liberty High School in the cities of Brentwood and Oakley. Stonebarger highlights it’s the same teachers, same students and it’s a system problem, not a teacher and student problem.
  • 06:00 – Given the data being new, has the District been able to dig deeper into the reason behind the low grades such as homelife, technology, mental health, overwhelmed, etc.  Stonebarger highlights how 1/3 of the students have no chance in this structure of Distance Learning.
  • 09:55 – Stonebarger argues when you go from 1100 kids to 2100 kids to a failure rate, they need to do something different because right now is not working and its impacting kids. He blames those making decisions will not discuss the balance of the whole child—including Contra Costa Health Department who is only talking about one aspect.
  • 11:19 – We get into social emotional issues, teachers are seeing the grades, will teachers question the job they are doing, it has to be devastating considering the amount of time they are putting into it.
  • 12:55 – We talk about human connection for kids with their teachers versus screen time.
  • 15:00 – I ask Stonebarger how Liberty Union High School District addressed the digital divide.
  • 16:45 – Frustration with Contra Costa County Board of Education and Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors. I argue for shutdowns by zip code, not the whole county.
  • 17:55 – Stonebarger says they need to look at the data and sit down with the county and see if they can reopen or not. I suggest why not put the 28% kids who are struggling and place those kids back in a classroom.  They can be the ones who go back first. Stonebarger argues they need to have that conversation and option.
  • 19:01 – Stonebarger gets into the three options for Distance Learning which is 20% of the kids, now the school population is reduced by 20%. Now focus on the 80% who could return to school. Says the county is not having that conversation—especially County Board of Education and Superintendents meetings.
  • 22:15 – Stonebarger says he released data to begin having a conversation. He says its not the teachers doing a bad job, they are doing the best they can in the learning environment—the learning environment changed.
  • 25:46 – Has the District broke down the data of those 28% who are failing. What is their homelife and have parents been surveyed? Family dynamics at play?
  • 28:43 – Will the reopening in January happen? What is Stonebarger hearing from parents?
  • 30:50 – We talk about the California Teachers Union stance of not wanting to go back until there is a vaccine.  But a conversation around a vaccine will have to happen. Still no discussion on cost of reopening.
  • 34:50 – Concerns with kids now given the data with kids. I urge the District to dig deeper into the 30% not passing and figure out why.
  • 38:16 – Is the plan to have kids rotate in and out of classrooms on return or will the teachers rotate classrooms?  Maybe 1/3 of the kids go back, asks to local level to be able to make the decision to reopen because they are seeing the effects.
  • 40:29 – With the County/State being in Purple Tier, what is the next step? Stonebarger is asking for a change in policy on a waiver for K-12 schooling.  Says the rules are not logical. We also get into the County Health Numbers.
  • 47:00 – This idea of students being in school for a few hours, if they are already there, why cant students be at school all day?
  • 49:00 – I argue many superintendents are not leading, including Contra Costa County Board of Education. I urge other Districts release their “failure rate” and showcase what is happening to students. We get into how schools are the safest place for them.
  • 54:58 – Stonebarger gives brief update on Special Education and what could happen.
  • 56:19 – Will Liberty Union High School District release the full report and more data? Stonebarger says the District needs to communicate data to the County and post the data on the website. Says this should begin to force the conversation.
  • 58:00 – data is for Brentwood, but what is going on in other areas with greater socioeconomic challenges, what would their numbers show?


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