Four are vying for three spots in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education. While it appears that boundary changes for Dougherty Valley elementary schools are off the table, budget cuts, teacher's union negotiations and overcrowding are among the top issues facing the board. This week, we will post a candidate profile each day, in alphabetic order by last name.
Occupation/training: Incumbent; community volunteer; reading tutor; 2006 graduate of Leadership San Ramon Valley; retired aerospace engineer, Total Quality Management Systems trainer, and staff manager of strategic technology management and business development. B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from UC Davis.
Residence: San Ramon
Previous elected positions and years of service in those positions: SRVUSD Governing Board Member, 2006 to present.
Children in the district: Of her three children, one has graduated from and the others are enrolled in SRVUSD schools.
1. Why are you running and why would you be particularly effective?
Education is the most important service a community provides for its youth to ensure that they grow up to be productive members of society. I am running for re-election because I want to continue to help shape and influence the quality of the educational experience of students in our schools. I want all children in our schools to graduate prepared to be productive, engaged and fulfilled citizens with viable options for their futures.
My combination of perspectives and experiences is what makes me particularly effective and has helped me earn the credibility and trust of educators. I have proven experience as a school board member who has had to work through difficult financial times to preserve the quality of education in our schools. As a member of the district's negotiating team, I am well aware of the concerns of the employee associations and the management team as we strive to do more with less money per student. I have significant, current, hands-on experience as a parent leader and volunteer in our schools, and therefore have a good sense of what's happening at our schools. Personal experience with my own children's learning issues, coupled with my involvement in both the district's improvement efforts in special education and intervention programs at school sites, gives me a unique perspective on the challenges of how we make education work for all students. My community involvement in scouting, youth sports, Leadership San Ramon Valley, the Facilities Oversight and Advisory Committee, and more recently Rotary International gives me a well-rounded view of the community's values and varied interests. And finally, because the district has had significant leadership changes during the past two years, it's important to have board members with a historical perspective and familiarity with the district's challenges, successes, priorities, and new initiatives.
2. What do you believe are the two most important issues facing the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and how would you deal with them?
The most important issue facing the district is how we continue to provide a quality educational experience for each of our students by continually improving learning and engagement. The second most important issue is how we do that with limited resources, especially now when we are facing unprecedented financial challenges as a result of California's fiscal crisis coupled with the recession.
There may be different opinions about how to improve student learning and engagement, especially with limited resources. It's important that the values and concerns of all stakeholders - students, parents, staff (at all levels and in all functions), and community members - be considered as the district sets direction and aligns initiatives. I think we are on the right track by understanding and emphasizing the balance of rigor, relationships, and relevance in our classrooms, schools, and the district as a whole. We also need to acknowledge and work positively with the natural tension between district direction and site-based initiative. And finally, we need to continue to encourage the incredible parent involvement and commitment to our schools.
3. What is your view regarding the performance of the current School Board and how, if at all, would you act differently?
The role of the school board is to provide governing oversight of the school district, on behalf of the public. The current School Board does its job well. Much of the Board's work is to approve or reject the recommendations of staff, and 5-0 votes are typical. This is not to say that we merely rubberstamp everything that comes before us. We also influence by asking questions and providing insight. We have a more active, hands-on board than most school districts. I do my homework, consider all perspectives, and weigh all options to make the decision that is best for all involved.
4. It is believed that cost reductions will be needed in the years ahead. How would you face these challenges?
I don't want to cut programs for students any further. I greatly appreciate that our employee groups answered the call to help reduce costs by accepting four furlough days for this school year, thus allowing us to back-off on some program reductions. As a result of the federal jobs bill and the greater-than-anticipated enrollment growth, our financial picture has improved. As promised, the district has asked our employee groups to come back to the negotiating table to discuss reinstating some furlough days. We currently have a tentative agreement to reinstate one instructional day and one staff development day. In addition, we have reinstated a third prep/specialist period for grades 1-3.
But with a state budget not approved yet, we must be prudent and not reinstate more than that in case the State implements mid-year cuts. If we are faced with further cost reductions in the years ahead, I would encourage open dialog with staff, parents, and students, concerning the choices and solutions.