Challenging for a seat on the San Ramon Valley school board, Danville resident Jerome C. Pandell aims to bring a fresh outlook that would help enhance the school district in the areas of openness, output, outlets and outside engagement.
The 31-year-old Pandell said he has "the background and experience to bring a good forward-thinking perspective to our schools that will allow us to maintain those traditions of excellence that our district is already known for to some degree. And you can't just rest on your laurels and hope everything will work out to be the same because you'll discover reality doesn't always work that way."
A Danville native who attended San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD) schools, Pandell works as a lawyer focusing on construction-related litigation, representing engineering and architecture companies for a law firm based in Walnut Creek.
He is the only challenger facing off against a trio of incumbents in the race for three Board of Education positions this fall.
Billing himself as "an advocate for our schools, from our schools," Pandell said one of his top priorities is to increase the openness and accessibility of the school board, in part by "lobbying heavily" to implement a policy of providing video or audio recordings of board meetings online.
By making the recordings available, the district would be "helping (parents and students) understand what's going on in their school district more by just being able to watch or listen to it online," according to Pandell.
Another focus would be working to make sure the district maintains its strong educational output "in the face of curricular and financial changes," he said, referring to California's new Common Core State Standards and Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).
He called Common Core "a great program," adding that successful implementation of the new standards is key for the SRVUSD.
Pandell said the district needs to ensure "the students actually are able to apply what they're learning -- which is great stuff that reminds me of some of the best teaching I had growing up in these schools -- to the assessments that they are being given. I'm confident that our teachers will be able to do that, but we have to make sure they have the resources at a district level to do that."
He also offered praise for the LCFF, contending it "should, over time, bring the district back to where it was before the recession in terms of state-received funding." But he said the school board should remain forward-thinking in using the LCFF funds and seeking other funding outlets.
"I believe we need to be stronger partners with our state and federal elected officials in terms of finding resources, not just for our school district, but that will help all school districts in California maximize their full potential," Pandell added.
Pandell said he is optimistic about the SRVUSD's financial situation going forward but would take steps "to ensure that we're prepared for even the slight changes so that we can continue on a trajectory that allows us to maintain, and even strengthen, the traditions of excellence that we already have."
As a Danville homeowner, Pandell said he "happily pays" the San Ramon Valley's $144 school parcel tax, which is set to sunset in June 2016.
"I fully support asking the voters to re-up the parcel tax," Pandell added. "If there is support at some level in the community to increase that parcel tax to meet our needs, I would favor that to the extent that support is there."
Another important issue for the district is how to address overcrowding due to ongoing growth in the Valley, according to Pandell, who said his experience with the construction industry could help with solutions such as space-planning and boundary adjustments.
He said he would also work to make sure the district not only "has a seat at the table in some of these (development) discussions, but makes its voice more loudly heard when these issues come up."
"There are other things that we hopefully can and should be able to do in terms of working with our cities to make sure that development and growth in this Valley does not become something impossible for the district to manage," he added.
The school board could also do more to engage the local business community and provide more support to special education, according to Pandell.
Additionally, increased investments in extracurricular activities such as the arts, speech and debate clubs, and athletics would "help make sure our students have the opportunity to be as well-rounded as we want them to be going into college," he said.
"I'm someone that believes investments pay off," he added. "When we invest in our schools, our students and our teachers, those pay dividends down the line that are an immeasurably amount greater than what the investment originally was."
Pandell said enhanced engagement within the school community, especially with younger parents, would also be among his top priorities as a board member.
"I'd listen, and I want to hear from our voters, our parents, students, teachers, administrators ... what issues matter to them," he explained. "And that is policy and ethos I will bring to the job when I'm elected."
Born in Walnut Creek and raised in Danville, Pandell attended Rancho Romero Elementary School and Stone Valley Middle School in Alamo before graduating from San Ramon Valley High School in Danville.
He earned a bachelor's degree with honors in political science from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in 2005. He completed his law degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco in 2008.
Pandell sits on the UC Hastings College of the Law Board of Governors and the Northwestern University Leadership Circle Board of Directors. He also serves as treasurer for the Contra Costa Young Democrats and the Landmark Oak Homeowners Association governing board.
He is not currently married and has no children.
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