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Learning Curve: Back to School special panel discussion

Watch the panel of school officials, government officials and medical experts expert panel discussion from October 8.
Credit: KFMB

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, California — Students across San Diego County have started to return to school with information coming from many sources regarding public safety, public health and public policy.

School officials get weekly updates from experts in these fields, but families, teachers, and students don’t always have all the same access to this critical information.

This panel of school officials, government officials and medical experts presented families the opportunity to hear from the experts directly, as well as get some of their questions answered.

Questions discussed included:

  • How likely are children to catch and transmit COVID-19 at school?
  • Is it safe for school employees to be in close proximity to students?
  • Should children play together at recess and should they wear masks all the time?
  • Do schools spread the virus to the wider community?
  • Why don’t all school districts open and use the same safety policies?

This one-hour long program was moderated by News 8's Shannon Handy and is available to watch below:

Panel Participants:

  • Summer Stephan, San Diego County District Attorney
  • Dr. Paul Gothold, San Diego Superintendent of Schools
  • Dr. John S. Bradley, Rady Children’s Hospital / UCSD
  • Dr. Alice Pong, Rady Children’s Hospital
  • Chris Abe R.N., CIC, HEM, Vice President, Operations, Rady Children’s Hospital

The panel is hosted by Cajon Valley Union School District and CBS 8.


Panel Background and bios:

Dr. Paul Gothold, San Diego Superintendent of Schools

Dr. Paul Gothold was named San Diego County Superintendent of Schools in 2017, after four years leading Lynwood Unified School District where he championed systemic changes to improve student outcomes.

Gothold has more than 25 years in K-12 education with a focus on building school systems with equity at the core. He has a proven track record of supporting quality professional learning for teachers, backing innovative ideas, and putting students first. 

While at Lynwood, the population was 96% students of color and more than 94% qualified for free- or reduced-lunch. Through his efforts, Lynwood went from failing and on the brink of receivership to one of only three in the nation – and one in California – to be selected as a 2017 College Board AP District of the Year. The award is for simultaneously raising the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes and improving passing rates on AP exams. The district graduation rate rose 23 percentage points since 2010-11 with a current rate of 93%.

Since beginning his career as a teacher for adjudicated youth in Los Angeles County, Gothold’s heart and passion have been in working to ensure every student regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or language has the opportunity to succeed in school and in life. He believes that starts with graduating high school with the option to attend a four-year college. 

Gothold received his doctor of education from the University of Southern California and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Whittier College, where he has also served as an adjunct professor. 

About the Position:
The county superintendent of schools, appointed by the county board of education, is the chief administrative officer, employer and developer of programs and services as authorized by state statute or determined by needs or requests. He also provides educational leadership and administers mandated services. 

The county superintendent of schools has direct oversight responsibilities for approving and assuring school district budgets, calling school district elections, and assisting with school district emergencies by providing necessary services. He is also tasked with developing a three-year Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) for the schools operated by the County Office, and reviewing and approving the LCAPs for all school districts in San Diego County.

Summer Stephan, San Diego County District Attorney

District Attorney Summer Stephan has devoted her life to protecting children and families, providing justice to the most vulnerable, and is a national leader in the fight against human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Summer is focused on advancing public safety through fair and equal justice, bringing solutions to complex issues with a unique data-driven, commonsense approach that works to address the root causes of certain crimes driven by mental illness and addiction. As District Attorney, she leads the second-largest DA’s Office in California, managing a professional staff of 1,000 employees, serving as the People’s Prosecutor for San Diego County and its more than three million residents. Summer leverages her extensive courtroom, management and leadership experience to set clear public safety priorities in collaboration with law enforcement and the community, keeping San Diego County one of the safest urban regions in the United States.

Summer rose through the ranks to become the elected District Attorney. As a trial prosecutor, she tried more than 100 jury trials, including cases of complex homicides, sexually-violent predators, child molestation, sexual assaults, school shooting, and human trafficking-related cases. She served as Chief of the DA’s North County Branch and Chief of the Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division, a special victims unit she pioneered. In June of 2018, San Diego County voters overwhelmingly elected Summer as District Attorney.

DA Stephan holds leadership positions in public safety on the national, state and local levels, which includes serving as a vice-president of the National District Attorneys Association, co-chair of the California District Attorneys Association Human Trafficking committee, and the National Association of Women Judges Human Trafficking Committee. Summer served on the Governor’s Task Force for High-Risk Sex Offenders and Sexually-Violent Predators. She spearheaded the innovative “Know the Price” campaign, which focused on reducing sexual assaults on college campuses. She also led the award-winning “The Ugly Truth” human trafficking awareness campaign as well as the “San Diego Opioid Project,” aimed at reducing opioid overdoses. Summer led a coordinated effort to protect the community from targeted mass violence with a School Threats Task Force that implemented a unified protocol with all 42 school districts in San Diego County. In addition, she began an effective Veterans Treatment model in North County inspired by a heroic Marine Corps veteran.

Summer is the recipient of numerous local, state and federal awards, including an FBI commendation for organized crime prosecution, outstanding achievement award from the Deputy District Attorneys Association for the complex prosecution for the rape and murder of an elderly woman. She was named an “Angel of Anti-Human Trafficking” and a “Modern Day Abolitionist.” She was selected as the 2017 Southern California District Attorney of the Year by Crime Victims United, was awarded the Pathbreaker Award by Shared Hope International, and received the 2019 Humane Award for her work in fighting animal cruelty.

Summer received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Davis and her Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.

Dr. John S. Bradley, Rady Children’s Hospital / UCSD

Dr. Bradley is a Distinguished Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Pediatrics at the UCSD School of Medicine, and the Medical Director of Division of Infectious Diseases at Rady Children's Hospital San Diego (RCHSD).  He has helped diagnose and treat infections in children at RCHSD during the past 32 years.  He currently spends his time divided between the clinical practice at RCHSD, and clinical research into new and better treatment of infectious diseases (including a current clinical trial for remdesivir to treat COVID infections in newborns, infants and children).  He has had the opportunity to participate in national committees to create guidance for diagnosis and treatment of infections through the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, and the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA).  He was appointed to the FDA’s Anti-Infective Drug Advisory Committee 20 years ago and continues to serve on their Advisors and Consultants Staff.  He has been involved for the past three decades in the creation and implementation of infection control policy at RCHSD to keep children and hospital staff safe.

Dr. Alice Pong, Rady Children’s Hospital

Dr. Pong received her undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Hawaii and completed a pediatric residency at the University of California San Diego.  Her pediatric infectious disease training was completed at Creighton University and the University of Nebraska. She is currently the Clinical Director of the division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Rady Children’s Hospital and a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics with the University of California San Diego.  She is the Medical Director for Infection Prevention and Antimicrobial Stewardship at Rady Children’s Hospital. Dr. Pong’s research interests include pediatric microbiome, tuberculosis, and hospital infection prevention

Chris Abe R.N., CIC, HEM, Vice President, Operations, Rady Children’s Hospital

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