My advocacy as a school board member and on behalf of community initiatives — as well as my strategic management consulting — are informed by the following philosophies, research, and experience:

– Fiscal Responsibility
– Public Health and Safety
– Environmental Sustainability
– Supporting Children and Youth

Fiscal Responsibility

An agency’s budget is its strongest statement of priorities. As a management consultant to nonprofit organizations, foundations, and businesses, Susan is adept at making sure that financial and technology systems are efficient and appropriately managed to carry out those priorities. For nonprofits and public agencies, this means that dollars are well spent meeting critical program goals that assist those most in need.

As a school board member, Susan takes her responsibility for fiscal oversight of the Goleta School District very seriously, ensuring that the district provides the best education possible for all students. During her three terms on the Board, the district has not looked to taxpayers for increased funding for programs or facilities. During surplus years, she proposed the practice of allocating funding for two years out rather than the current year. This allowed the district to plan ahead, so that when the economy shifted they were prepared and avoided sudden program changes for the students.

In addition to this time cushion, she advocated for increased revenue sources. Specifically, the expanded mission of the Goleta Education Foundation resulted in increased revenue for student programs, and the popular after school program is both meeting needs and generating significant revenue. During the recent recession, no permanent teaching positions were lost. By refinancing previously issued bonds, the District was able to return $1.5 million to taxpayers.

Susan is committed to helping our community remain resilient in the face of new and ongoing challenges. By working together we can ensure our entire region creates good jobs, and builds on our strengths in agriculture, tourism, healthcare, technology and education, and continues our legacy of protecting our environment.

Susan brings her software engineering and management background and budgeting experience to her work in order to help ensure that services are both cost-effective and high quality. She advocates for employing updated fiscal and software systems to ensure that personnel have the resources and information available to efficiently deliver services and programs.

Public Health & Public Safety

The main purpose of local government is to ensure the public health and public safety of all residents. This means more than maintaining high quality law enforcement and fire protection; it means ensuring that our most vulnerable children have alternatives to gangs, that seniors are safe in their own homes, that our workforce has access to quality housing and transportation, and that we all enjoy a healthy economy and a healthy environment.

As a member of the Eastern Goleta Valley Community Wildfire Protection Plan development team, Susan works with neighbors, County Fire, and scientists on ways to reduce wildfires through proven strategies like structure hardening and strategic fuel breaks that save lives, preserve our watersheds and restore native vegetation.

Environmental Sustainability

Susan Epstein has a long standing commitment to protecting our environment. In 2013, Susan was voted the Cox Communications Environmental Hero for her work eliminating pesticides on 120 acres of playing fields, and transforming school meals to locally-sourced and cooked from scratch.

Susan is committed to maintaining our area’s leadership in environmental sustainability. Our region contains some of the richest biodiversity on the planet. Our coasts, mountains, and open spaces not only attract tourists but also give our residents a high quality of life and exceptional recreational opportunities.

Susan knows that together we can find innovative solutions to our most pressing problems: the effects of climate change (including wildfire and drought), recent growth that has outpaced our infrastructure, the high cost of housing, and an aging power grid that needs serious redesign focused on the increasing use of locally generated renewable energy.

Susan believes every project must be carefully evaluated to ensure that there is the existing infrastructure to support the project, that it enhances our community character, and does not damage our precious air quality and natural resources.

Supporting Children and Youth

Each child in each school or program in each community needs to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Research, practice, and common sense confirm that a whole child approach to education will develop and prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow by addressing students’ comprehensive needs through the shared responsibility of students, families, schools, and communities.

To succeed academically, socially, and professionally, each student needs access to personalized learning and to be supported by qualified, caring adults. All adults at schools need appropriate resources and ongoing, quality professional development.

Each student must be challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment. This includes students identified for gifted education programs, high achievers, English learners, and special-needs students.

Engaging youth in their own learning includes challenging them at the appropriate level and also exposing them to arts, music, hands-on science and other project-based learning, physical education, and technology. Many adults can remember the class, teacher, or subject that motivated them to work hard. For each person, it may be a different topic or experience. The curriculum must be varied to allow people with different learning styles and interests.

Research shows that investing in the early years (especially ages 0-5) has the biggest impact on a person’s life. Similarly, schools and districts interested in eliminating achievement gaps among demographic subgroups have the greatest results with investments in the early grades. Quality early childhood programs focus on developmental needs of young children including social and cognitive growth as well as physical skills and health. Students and the adults who care for them must learn about and practice healthy lifestyles to be successful.

GUSD Board members and staff sample food prepared in the Goleta School District kitchen as part of a new healthy lunches and breakfasts program.

School environments and extracurricular environments must be physically and emotionally safe for students and adults. School safety includes consistent implementation of safety procedures at the school sites by all adults. Equally important is a focus on students’ mental wellness by teaching conflict resolution and other social skills and by investing in psychologists on staff. Each child should have at least one adult they trust and can confide in.

In addition to quality schools, each child must have access to a public library. Frequent access to books is essential to developing basic reading skills, leads to longer and more frequent shared reading between parents and children, and produces increased enjoyment of books and improved attitude towards reading and academics. Research shows that early reading experiences, opportunities to build vocabulary, and literacy-rich environments are the most effective ways to support the development of pre-reading and cognitive skills that ensure that children are prepared for success in school and throughout life.

Each child must also have access to public parks and open spaces. Research shows that when children spend time in nature, they are more likely to be physically healthy, better students, and more emotionally upbeat. When children develop a deep connection to nature it often results in a commitment to and sense of stewardship for the future health of our planet.

Thoughtful use of technology can enhance instruction and learning. Technology can increase options for personalized learning. Technology can assist students in communicating with other students around the world in ways previously unimagined. With thoughtful planning and research, technology can allow quicker and more comprehensive feedback to teachers on all their students and to students on their individual learning goals.

However, simply distributing tech devices is not a solution and can be an expensive mistake. Young children must learn science, reading, writing, math, and art with their own hands in real materials prior to working with more abstract digital replicas of those materials. In addition, not all devices and apps are appropriate at all ages. Research has shown that too much screen time in a child’s day is detrimental. Blended learning can be beneficial; over-reliance on technology by educators is not.

Evaluating programs with both formative and summative assessments allows for data-based student learning, continuous improvement, and effectiveness. Again, it’s important to not test students too often so that it interferes with instructional time.

Collaboration, coordination, and integration help to ensure any initiative’s long-term success. Students are more likely to succeed when schools have parent education and involvement programs. Partnerships with both local nonprofit organizations and local businesses are also correlated with student and school success. Extracurricular programs are more likely to be adopted at a school or by a district when they align with existing curricular goals or strategic goals.