Surf City native vies for school post
Diane Lenning says H.B. school district should be role model for other cities.By Amanda Pennington,
Huntington Beach Independent
25 May 2006
Diane Lenning's ties to Huntington Beach are three generations deep, and growing up on the edge of the Pacific Ocean is something she believes had a hand in shaping what she has become today.
The Surf City native will be on the June 6 primary ballot for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, and she hopes the Huntington Beach educational system she went through can be a model for cities statewide.
The candidate grew up surfing the waters around the pier, roller-skating along the city's streets and swinging through the trees in a small forest near Utica Avenue.
"Somebody had hung a rope on the tree and laid a mattress on the ground, and we used to swing through the trees onto the mattress," she said. "I can even remember king snakes around the grass near Beach Boulevard."
After moving from downtown when she was 8 years old, her family moved to the outskirts of town near Beach Boulevard.
"Growing up in Huntington Beach was really special," she said. "We only had about 11,000 people here and we knew, it seems, every family in some way."
The Surf City native was one of five siblings, and she attended what used to be called Huntington Beach Elementary School -- now known as Agnes L. Smith Elementary School. She remembers when the school's current namesake was her principal.
"I can remember in fifth-grade," she said, "I could sit and look across 15th Street, across the water and see Catalina, which was always kind of neat."
As a student at Huntington Beach High School, she spent four years on the honor roll and was a star athlete. During her senior year, the Huntington High campus was closed for remodeling and she became a member of the first graduating class of Marina High School.
"We were still technically Huntington students because that campus was closed," she said. "They called us the hybrids."
Inspired by her grandmother who worked as a teacher, Lenning had lofty goals of following in her footsteps. Customers at the food counter she worked at in a Main Street drugstore knew of her dreams and had a hand in her later success.
"Some of the people liked me so well -- and they knew I was going to b a teacher -- that a couple organizations gave me scholarships," she said.
The scholarships came from a local women's club and from the Assistance League so she could attend Orange Coast College. When she was 20, she married Jerry Lenning, who was in the Air Force and was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base. She moved with him to the base and finished her studies at Cal State San Luis Obispo in 1966. There she received her bachelor's degree in history, social sciences and music before the couple moved to Long Beach where in 1976 she earned her master's degree in secondary education from Cal State Long Beach.
Lenning did not return to live in Huntington Beach until 1996, after her children were finished with school, but she did still love and miss the city.
She became a substitute teacher in the 1970s, and worked for the Huntington Beach Union High School District, and had an extended stay at Ocean View High School from 1979 to 1980.
Outside Surf City, she worked with the California Youth Authority for eight years. Most recently, she has been teaching at Santiago High School in the Garden Grove Unified School District and is currently in her second year of an online law school. This semester she has taken a leave of absence from teaching to focus on her campaign.
Lenning plays violin and piano and is a writer. Her book, "Call of the American Dream" documents her family's arrival in the United States in the 17th century.
She's been back now for 10 years and she's glad to call Huntington Beach home again.
Living on the wetlands spurred her to join the Amigos de Bolsa Chica and the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, which she still supports but is no longer officially affiliated with.
It took some time for Lenning to get used to the modernization Huntington Beach experienced in her absence. In her eyes, Huntington was still a small rural area covered in farmland, and she still imagined the mom-and-pop businesses lining Main Street.
"In the last 10 years, I have finally come to love and enjoy Huntington Beach for the new city it is ... I still thought of it more like it was when I was a kid," she said about moving back. "Now, when I've come back to live here, I've come to enjoy the rebuilding and the resort atmosphere."
For the top spot in California education, Lenning will face incumbent Supt. Jack O'Connell; Dan Bunting, a Cloverdale School District trustee and retired school superintendent; Sarah Knopp, a political activist, teacher and journalist; and Grant McMicken, an army veteran and teacher.
Diane Lenning on Educationby Diane A. Lenning, Ed.M.
May 11, 2006
There are many issues facing the next superintendent. A very important one is the goal of all our students to receive a good education, to stay in school, and to graduate from high school. We need to reduce the drop-out rate, improve education, and increase the high school graduation rate, preparing our students for higher education and the work force. All students deserve the opportunity to obtain the skills necessary to pursue their own American Dream.
One of the many ways we can work on these goals is to revisit the class-size reduction program initiated several years ago in the primary grades, bringing class-size reduction to the upper primary grades (4,5,6). The difficulty with class-size reduction is the cost effect. Class-size reduction plans often require building new schools and hiring thousands of new teachers if enacted statewide. However, if a district is in declining enrollment, increased costs would be directed at hiring many more new teachers, and not accrue much financial burden for building construction. Districts in declining enrollment are “ripe” for Class-size reduction plans, keeping teachers in their jobs.
Individual districts can choose to bargain for class-size reduction independently of a state directive. I would encourage districts to work toward that goal within their own budget analysis, even if it is a half or single reduction in the student-teacher ratio each year until reaching the class-size reduction goal. A suggested goal may be approximately 24 students in each class in grades 4, 5, 6. (Currently it is around 20 in primary grades.) Later, class-size reduction could progress through the grades according to assessments and input of stakeholders.
I plan to visit or have communication with as many of the local school districts to help enact adjustments in regards to collaboration with the schools, parents, and community. We need to encourage support from parents and community members to assist in areas that may not be met due to possible budget and staffing shortfalls.
My plan would include statewide mandatory tutoring instituted for all 10th grade students earning a 'D' or 'F' in Math or English. I would choose Math and English first because these are the core academics tested on the CAHSEE (exit exam). Each high school needs a tutoring plan available for students who want assistance and for those who fail the CAHSEE the first time as well.
In districts that experience large numbers of failing students, schools can provide intervention programs that, for example, may choose to hold a class back a year in order to meet grade level standards, i.e. 3rd and 8th grade, rather than holding various students back every grade level. This can be facilitated through summer-school or during the school year at a designated site in the district.
Diane Lenning currently teaches high school English and world history in Orange County, California. Through her teaching experiences, including working with at-risk students, she has gained much insight into the cultural underpinnings of our contemporary American culture.
Campaign Contact Information
Diane Lenning for CA Superintendent of Public Instruction
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