Nancy Watkins is an extraordinary educator who has dedicated her life to improving public schools for everyone. I have had the privilege of knowing Nancy as a colleague, mentor, administrator, and friend for the last twenty years. No one is more qualified to serve on the Orange County Board of Education (OCBE). No one is more needed to serve on the Board in these challenging times. Nancy has my highest possible endorsement to represent the citizens of Area 3 on the OCBE.
I came to know Nancy as a colleague in the Social Science Department at Valencia High School. As a teacher she embodies the three elements characteristic of all great teachers. First, she authentically enjoys young people. Her classes were always both challenging and fun. Second, she has a deep passion for her subject matter. She understands well the interface between politics, economics, religion, social relations, ideas, and the arts. Third, she has a powerful understanding of the complex processes of cognition and the varieties of ways in which different people learn. She very much appreciates the fact that not all learning and intelligence can be measured on standardized test scores.
In addition to being a great teacher, Nancy is also a powerful leader. As Department Chair and later as Assistant Principal at VHS, Nancy persistently succeeded in doing the one thing characteristic of all great leaders: make those around you better. As an administrator, she understands that the classroom is the place where the magic of learning happens and that different teachers have different ways of making that occur. Great teachers come in many varieties. Great leaders in education understand that.
Nancy was one of the principal architects of the highly successful International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Valencia High School. This demanding program has opened doors of opportunity for a generation of students who would otherwise have had to transfer to another district or forgo the unique skills and opportunities that an IB Diploma represents. Nancy was one of the leaders on campus who helped make sure that the benefits of the IB program extended to all of its students, not just the ones who enjoyed the privileges of wealth and who benefited from having parents with advanced degrees. Nancy worked to ensure that the IB program remain accessible to as many as were willing to attempt its high demands. She helped make that program achieve success for everyone by her adamant support for the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program at VHS.
There is a danger with magnet programs like IB, however, that Nancy worked hard to avoid. The danger is that the magnet program would operate as a parallel campus to the broader student population. There are many bridges that need to be built in order to ensure that a campus does not operate as two separate islands. One of these bridges is the AVID program. The others involve outstanding programs in the arts and athletics. Nancy understands well how important it is that students develop social networks outside of the classroom. Arts and athletics provide that. She also understands that perhaps the most important part of education is the direct exposure you have to people who may not look like you, think like you, or live like you.
We at VHS are very proud of what we accomplished over the last twenty years. It is still a work in progress. VHS provides a model for what a public school can accomplish when it has visionary leadership and a willing staff. It is exciting that Nancy might bring her vision, experience, and knowledge to the OCBE.
The Board member she is seeking to unseat attempted to undermine the ability of VHS to even implement the program. Fortunately, he was a minority at that time. Unfortunately, he is no longer in the minority on the OCBE. His policies would defund public schools and divert those funds into unproven and unaccountable charter school programs.
We at VHS are grateful that a generation of students has benefited from the IB and other programs. Many have gone on to the most prestigious universities in the world. Many have found other ways to continue their education. All have contributed to the wealth derived from a better educated and better integrated community. Nancy played a major role in shaping this community. It is exciting to think of how she can work to improve the educational opportunities for all of our young people. It seems too obvious a question, but should we not entrust a true educator to serve on the Board of Education?
If you would like to help Nancy get on the OCBE, here’s how: Her campaign website is nancywatkins4oc.com. Become part of her network and indicate the ways in which you might help. Download the canvassing app of the Democratic Party of Orange County. You can find this app in your app store by searching “DPOC neighbor to neighbor.” This is a new, powerful, and exciting tool that is free and easy to use. It works ONLY in the OC. It will provide you addresses in your vicinity where registered Democrats live and will include others in the household who might be registered Republicans or have other political affiliations. While Nancy is appropriately and understandably running her campaign on a non-partisan basis, this tool might aid you in connecting to those neighbors who are more inclined to support public schools. Once you have figured out who in your neighborhood might be sympathetic to preserving public schools, plan a meeting at your home and invite Nancy to come talk to them.
The battle for public schools is central to the future of our nation. Never has the school board, the most basic democratic institution in our nation, been more crucial to the survival of our Republic. Please support Nancy in whatever way you are able.
2 thoughts on “Nancy Watkins for OCBE”
This is an inspiring endorsement of Nancy Watkins, a true educator who has made a significant impact on the lives of her students. Her leadership and dedication to improving public schools are much needed in these challenging times.
I too endorse Nancy without reservation. Ive known and worked with Nancy for more than thirty years, and I know her to be an outstanding teacher and leader, and a wonderful human being. Nancy is exactly what we need in educational leadership: a leader whose only agenda is to do what’s best for kids.
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