Ashley Drain has absolutely no problem with the Manteca Unified “Going Digital” initiative.
But the magnitude of the all-at-once-rollout? That might been a little much.
The outspoken Manteca Unified School Board Trustee spoke swimmingly of the prospects of the district’s new state-of-the-art technological marvel. The long-term potential, she said, will put Manteca Unified students far-and-away above any other district in the area.
But in speaking to the Manteca TEA Party Patriots at Angelano’s Restaurant Thursday night Drain said she didn’t agree with the massive rollout that it happened, which could to be to blame for some of the hiccups that have been experienced since students brought the shiny new devices home to play with.
And even then she has her concerns.
“Children having access to the Internet is dangerous,” said Drain – who runs a pair of web development businesses. “There are things on the open Internet that you don’t want your children going to, and not every parent is going to be able to stand behind their child and make sure that they don’t go to those sites.”
Drain was asked whether the tablets were outfitted with parental controls or website blocking tools, and she told some of the grandparents in attendance that they only block social networking sites when they’re connected to the district’s Wi-Fi network.
That over-the-top, life-squared energy that has been the cornerstone of Drain’s persona started long before she got elected.
And in a sense, it ended up getting her fired from Give Every Child a Chance after she said she “bucked the system” – she was led to believe that her high-energy style and approach would be centerpiece to how she interacts with students only to have it taken away from her.
So she took it a step further by opening up her own home to offer real life lessons to the students that she felt could use mentoring the most – students that don’t have the in-home support networks that they need to succeed in school or guidance to help them through the modern problems of adolescence.
Her methods might not be standard, and they might fly in the face of how things have always been done on the Manteca Unified school board.
But all she really wants to see are for kids to be treated fairly across the board so that they all have the same opportunities.
“There needs to be a change in approach and a change in how we deal with these students,” Drain said. “There are disparities within the district. Last year there were 265 suspensions at Weston Ranch High School. Sierra High School only had 61 suspensions. That’s a disparity.”
Drain has been somewhat of a lightning rod for controversy since getting elected. Now she finds herself embattled in fracas over whether she and another board member tried to have the Weston Ranch Principal removed from his job because of the way he handled a situation in which Drain intervened on behalf of the student.
When one person in attendance asked her about the incident in question – where a student made a derogatory statement to a janitor on campus and was subsequently suspended – the mood became tense and Patriots President David Cushman had to step in to get the meeting back on track.
The two traded barbs back-and-forth once more, but it was the only time that the meeting, which lasted roughly an hour, got chippy.
Drain talked about Common Core and how she’s still trying to get a better grasp on how it’s affecting students and how she wished the Going Digital project would have rolled out instead of being pushed out.
She also talked of getting federal funding to start programs to boost student confidence and provide mentorship for those who need it the most.
“I want to see those kids rise to occasion – to the level of their own greatness,” she said. “I don’t care what the Manteca Bulletin may write. I’ll never tell a kid that there’s something that they can’t achieve.”