About this site

I am currently a Governing Board Member of the San Carlos School District, elected November 2007 and again in November 2011. I created this site to keep in touch with folks who want to know more about what is happening in the District and what it's like to be a Trustee.


The blog is intended solely for the purpose of informing and communicating with constituents. It is not intended in any way to participate in discussions with fellow board members.

I encourage everyone to visit the District web site as well as attend School Board meetings.

I will not accept anonymous comments, and all persons who post comments must have a valid e-mail address. Note that I reserve the right to edit, reject, or delete posts based on spelling, grammar, readability, or my judgment of what is appropriate discourse.


October 2015
« Sep    

The New Acronym on the Block

This week California released the 2015 CAASPP results — CAASPP is the newest acronym in CA public education. It stands for California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, and is based on the results of the new, computer-based, Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC) that accompanied the recently implemented Common Core Standards. Our students first took the SBAC assessments in Spring of 2014, but that was considered a “practice year” for the test, and the assessments given in Spring of 2015 were the first ones where the scores were reported. Although the CAASPP should be a bit more useful than the old API scores as it has a better statistical methodology, doesn’t focus on a single metric, and is based on the deeper, more-relevant, Common Core Standards, focusing on standardized test scores is still fraught with issues so we must look at these scores as just one tool in our toolbox to understand how our schools and students are performing. The other big caveat here is that CAASPP only covers Math and English Language Arts — obviously we care about a lot more than that, and judging any school district (or any student) in just these two areas would be wholly incomplete. That’s why one of the District’s key goals this year is to build the framework for a larger “dashboard” of multiple measures of the health and performance of the school district. (The district has already begun collecting much more data — see an overview of the status from a recent board meeting.) In any case, this year’s CAASPP results will be a good baseline by which the district can focus efforts and measure progress in the future. Also, the CAASPP data can be broken down into different “claims” — sub-areas within Math and English Language Arts where one can see how students performed.

The CAASPP results are reported based on the percentage of students who “met the standard” in either Math or English Language Arts for that particular grade. A student is categorized as “standard not met,” “standard nearly met,” “standard met,” or “standard exceeded.” Generally districts will focus on the total percentage of students in those last two categories. The results for San Carlos were not terribly surprising and in line with what the district administration expected. Similar to the earlier STAR results, SCSD performed quite a bit better than the average of either San Mateo County or the State of California. However, SCSD lagged a bit behind the Basic Aid districts (all of which have significantly more funding than SCSD) that feed into the Sequoia Union High School District, but performed better than the other Revenue Limit / LCFF districts.

Perhaps most interesting are the results for 8th grade (as of course this is when we “hand off” the students to high school). Although Portola Valley is the clear (positive) outlier with more than double our per-student funding, SCSD performed fairly close to the other Basic Aid districts that feed into the Sequoia Union High School District and performed better than the other Revenue Limit / LCFF feeder districts as well as most other districts in the County.


Again, all of this data comes with a note of caution — it is very tricky (and to some degree, unfair) to compare our district against others, because as we know so many other factors are different — funding levels, demographics, etc. But perhaps where CAASPP will be useful is over time; 2015 becomes a baseline so that we can compare ourselves to ourselves and understand how are we making progress. Naturally, we’ll want to reduce the approximately 1/4 of students who are not meeting the standards while at the same time fulfilling the promise in our Strategic Plan of focusing on the Whole Child and creating personalized learning paths for all students to reach their potential and become problem solvers, critical thinkers, risk-takers, designers, collaborators, innovators, and contributing, empathic citizens and leaders. The District will have lots of data to help drive instruction, and CAASP results will only be one small part of the mix.

Over the next two weeks the District will be doing a deeper dive into the data and coming out with a summary analysis. Also by the end of next week, all parents should be sent an individual report as to how their student performed on the test. Lastly, the District will be holding at least one event at each school site to review what the CAASPP results mean (and what they don’t) as well as how the district will leverage them. Although I caution not to read too much into the results, if anyone has any concerns or sees trends in the information that they would like to learn more about, please attend one of these sessions or contact the principal at your school.

A High-Class Problem

As I’m sure most of you know, my second term on the San Carlos School Board ends this year, shortly after this November’s election (which is an odd thing to call it as in San Mateo County it will be an all-mail election). This will end my eight-year stint on the board, and I am grateful for the experience and having had the opportunity to be part of some extraordinary times in this District. I will save until the end of the year larger reflections on this time, but I did want to write a post about this year’s election.

This year, two of the seats — mine and Adam Rak’s — are up for election. Adam has also decided not to run for re-election, so this gives the opportunity for two new community members to join the board. The filing period for declaring candidacy ended earlier this week, and we have four individuals who have filed. Those who have been in the school district for a number of years will note how unusual this is — in the recent past all elections have either only garnered enough candidates to fill the slots (and hence no election) or just one one more candidate than positions with (in my opinion) a generally clear-cut choice among the candidates. I have always taken the stand that school board service is different than any other political position in that, among other reasons, we often encourage people to step up and take our places. It’s the healthy cycle of continual growth fueled by newer faces that enter our school community with a new energy and a strong stake in its success. As I end my tenure, it is very exciting for me to see so much interest in picking up the mantle. Perhaps it’s related to our relatively better financial position or perhaps it’s based on the progress this district has made over the last period. Or perhaps it’s just serendipitous. In any case, it’s a great gift to this community to have this level of interest.

Of the candidates, there are three very strong contenders — (in alphabetical order) Eirene Chen, Neil Layton, and Michelle Nayfack. I have met with each of them, and I find them all to be excellent candidates for school board. They are all young, energetic, intelligent, and strategic in their thinking. They are each big supporters of the District’s direction and Strategic Plan, and they each understand the incredible opportunity we have to fulfill the potential of that plan. Yet none of them are naive — they realize that the hardest work may be yet to come as we really re-think so many elements of a century-old education model.

Naturally, having such a strong pool of these three presents us all with a dilemma. I am often asked by friends and supporters for whom they should vote in these elections, and I have made endorsements to express such advice. But I must say with sincere honesty that based on what I know now, there is no clear-cut choice other than that two of these three should be elected. All three have my endorsement. I hope that the one who doesn’t win maintains his/her strong interest in serving and will consider running in two years when there will be three board seats up for election.

I realize that doesn’t help a whole lot in deciding for whom we should all vote. But given our historical challenge in attracting many high-quality candidates, this is a high-class problem to have. Also, I predict that Eirene, Neil, and Michelle will each run a very thoughtful and thorough campaign. I encourage all San Carlans to pay attention to their campaign materials, attend their community coffees and other get-togethers, attend and/or watch online the candidate forum which should shortly be scheduled, and talk to them directly if you can. It will help them be better board members, and help inform you on how to vote.

In any case, maybe I will look back and be most proud of the fact that our school district is in such a place to continually attract passionate interest from the community to play a key part in its public service. A high-class problem indeed.

Funding (Largely) Restored, Finally…

It took almost my full eight years on the school board to get really good financial news, but at last night’s board meeting we heard the almost unbelievable update that we will have enough money next year to restore most of the programs that were lost or cut since 2008, and even make some new investments. During my tenure, we had so many terrible financial years, and our district managed through the worst of them by cutting costs, reducing financial reserves, passing parcel taxes, and relying on ever-growing community support, such as that from the San Carlos Education Foundation.

Our financial good news stems from two major steps taken this Spring. The first was an increase in state funding — the acceleration of the full implementation of the new funding formula, as well as some increases in one-time funding related to Common Core implementation (all of this of course due to the more robust economy and surging State tax revenue). The second was the passage of Measure P by San Carlos voters. All of this means that we now have the ability for the first time in many years to pass a budget that is balanced, restores a healthy reserve level, and makes new investments in our students.

Essentially, the District is able to restore most of the programs cut since 2008, including reductions that were made to counseling programs, librarians, custodians, literacy, and electives. In addition, we can make a few new investments from items that were high on the priority list. Although some of the restorations will happen over time, we saw a budget proposal last night that included the following:

  • A multi-year agreement with employees for salary increases
  • Additional technology associatiates
  • Greater investments in musical instruments
  • Increased professional development
  • Increased discretionary funds at each school site
  • An additional position to support custodial, safety, and energy management
  • Greater investment in district communications
  • Increased number of counselors
  • Increased facility maintenance
  • Additional investment in literacy programs
  • Additional custodial support
  • Additional school secretarial support
  • Adding middle school electives to allow students to have a second elective option
  • Increased librarian time

The implementation details and timing of all of the above still need to be worked out. Although we have a few more meetings before we pass a budget, I suspect that the final one will be similar to what we saw yesterday. On a cautious note, it’s important to remember that our budget is currently based on the Governor’s state budget proposal, yet our revenue allocation will be based on the final budget passed by the legislature. So, there is still a risk that our revenue numbers could come in a little lower — we should have more clarity over the summer. But in general, our new financial picture allows us to see a much clearer path to executing upon most important initiatives in our Strategic Plan.

So, I don’t want to get too giddy, as we must recognize that California’s economy is cyclical and unfortunately school funding is dependent upon the State’s cyclical funding sources. That is why we will ensure that our near-term budgets have a very healthy reserve level (also, effectively back to the level it was before the 2008 recession). And we must recognize that although our financial picture has greatly improved relative to past years, SCSD is still one of the most underfunded school districts in a state that chronically underfunds education. Lastly, note that this is about our yearly operating budget — we will still face significant financial pressure in the short- to medium-term around our facilities projects, which are (ironically) negatively impacted by the good economy as the cost of construction rises rapidly in this region.

But for now, I will gladly take the good news, and it certainly gives me comfort that as I leave my school board service this year, I leave it with a renewed sense of excitement and possibilities!

2014-2015 Year End Wrap-Up

With only about three weeks of school left, it’s time for my annual year end wrap-up. This is definitely a bittersweet note for me to write. By all measures it has been a great year for the San Carlos School District, and of one I am very proud. We have made progress in so many areas, more of which I’ll discuss below. However, this will be my last year-end update as my second and final term on the school board concludes in December. It also happens to coincide with my younger child graduating from the District, ending 11 years as a parent in SCSD. Of course I will see a few months of the next school year as a Board member, but clearly things will be winding down for me. It has been one of the greatest experiences and greatest privileges of my life to be such a part of this special community, so I thank you all for the unwavering support through the years.

As most of you know, public education – and the San Carlos School District specifically – is in the middle of many changes, most of which I would argue are very positive and further our mission of serving all children in our community and preparing them for high school, college, and life. We have a new funding distribution formula in LCFF, new accountability standards in LCAP, and a new curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards. All of these I believe to be solid policy advancements, but they do present new challenges for us locally. It’s particularly heartening that the State is moving away from a reductive singular measure of success (API) and instead promoting the idea of a dashboard of indicators to both measure school and district performance and to create actionable insights. SCSD has made much progress in aligning its LCAP plans with its overall Strategic Plan and developing an information dashboard (to be unveiled soon) to better track how we are performing on multiple levels. This spring the students for the first time took the official Smarter Balanced tests aligned with the Common Core standards (and replacing the old STAR tests) – we don’t have data back on this yet, but we have anecdotal evidence that the students found these new tests much more challenging!

Our staff continues to embrace and extend the ideas in our groundbreaking Strategic Plan, delivering new and innovative ways to engage students and promote learning. I was privileged to visit the District “Day of Innovation” where so many teachers demonstrated the great project-based lessons they have introduced in the classroom. I continue to be pleasantly surprised how quickly our schools are embracing this paradigm and experimenting with different approaches to teaching and learning.

Another big focus this year has been around construction and facilities management. After the failed land swap idea (which I still contend was absolutely brilliant), the School Board decided to keep CLC on the TL campus and move it to the upper part of campus (I, personally, preferred the idea of moving CLC to the Heather campus where there was more room and future flexibility, but alas I was outvoted). In any case, this was a complex decision with many moving parts including locations of preschools, traffic issues, etc. On the subject of traffic, we made a fair bit of progress with the “Four Corners” committee, which was a task force of SCSD, the cities of San Carlos and Belmont, and the Sequoia Union High School District to improve traffic flow in the corridor around TL and Carlmont. We now have preliminary plans to re-work the roads and create a new entrance to TL from Alameda de las Pulgas. These plans still need to be finalized, and the two cities need to get a grant to fund the changes, but it’s my hope that within a year or two, we’ll see concrete (pun intended) changes here.

Of course, no discussion about facilities would be complete without recognizing the amazing construction work that has been done this year on the new Central Middle School – the building looks amazing, and it will be on time to open this Fall (as you may recall, the “old” Central will be remodeled for the new 4-5 school). The design of the new building – 2 stories with learning commons and flexible spaces – is a great example of a 21st Century Learning environment. One of the ongoing risks with our facilities plans is the ever-increasing construction costs during this real estate boom. We have to be very careful to ensure future projects can be funded – one way to ensure this will be to sell some excess property owned by the District, such as the Heather Dog Park. A committee is being created now to explore the sale or lease of surplus property.

The last big development during the year was the passage of Measure P this past month. Measure P did a few things – it renewed expiring Measure B, combined it with Measure A, and added an additional $58 per parcel per year (for a total of approximately $250/parcel/year), with this singular parcel tax now extended until 2021. With SCSD not benefiting much from the new Local Control Funding Formula, this measure was crucial to both retain our existing local funding base and to add approximately another $500,000 per year to help fuel our strategic initiatives. The residents of San Carlos continue to be both strongly supportive of our public schools and incredibly farsighted in understanding the connection between the health of our schools and the health and well being of our entire community.

Even though I won’t be directly involved in the school district over the coming years, I think there are many exciting things to anticipate. Certainly from a facilities point of view, we can look forward to the opening of the new Central Middle School, the building of the new CLC, and the renovation of existing facilities to create both 4th-5th grade schools. There has already been much community outreach in coming up with names for the 4-5 schools – I look forward to hearing that input over the next few months. Clearly there will be lots of excitement for the district as we transition to the PK-3 / 4-5 / 6-8 model of school configurations, and I particularly look forward to the new 4-5 schools being a great laboratory of innovation. Also expect to see more advancement toward the goals in the Strategic Plan, particular in the areas of classroom and grade configuration as well as staff responsibilities. As we discuss in the plan, there is much opportunity to leverage “educators, broadly defined” to promote teaching and learning, and there has also been some progress between the District and the teaching staff on new and innovative approaches to teacher mentoring and evaluations. On a State and Federal level, education policy will continue to be in the news, particularly as matters like the Vergara decision go through the legal appeal process.

One of my ongoing concerns for our school district will be to ensure it continual attracts good people to run for School Board. From the outside, the role often seems thankless, but I assure you that it isn’t. Certainly every once in a while you have to grow a thicker skin and endure ill-informed slights, but all in all, I can tell you that I have received so much support and encouragement from parents and others in this community that it dwarfs any negativity and unproductivity promoted by a small minority. And best of all, with the amazing staff we have in place in this district, combined with the incredible force of parent and community involvement, we can absolutely see real progress in how we serve the next generation, and it’s hard to get more rewarding than that. I truly encourage all of you to consider running for school board this year.

On a personal note, I wanted to thank everyone who came to watch me (as well as fellow Board Member Adam Rak and a host of other talented adults and students alike) in SCCT’s community theater production of Bye Bye Birdie. It was an awesome experience, and I appreciated all of your support!

Although it’s not an official goodbye just yet, I still wanted to say thanks again for eight great years. I don’t know how or where you’ll see me involved in this community after 2015, but you know I’ll continue to be incredibly supportive and supremely interested in our schools. And you can rest assured that the strong leadership and dedicated staff in this school district will continue to make amazing progress for years to come and keep San Carlos as a model for public education.

P is for Pass

Based on the County Elections Office updated return, the Measure P parcel tax for San Carlos schools increased its lead slightly to 68.3%, a material margin over the required two-thirds to pass. The election is not officially certified for a couple of weeks, but I think it’s a fair bet to assume the measure will pass.

This was absolutely critical for our the health of our schools and our community, so our deepest thanks to the campaign volunteers and the San Carlos voters. A very nice end to a great school year. I’ll give a fuller report on the year-end in a couple of weeks!

Yes on P

By now, San Carlos School District residents should have received their mail-in ballot for the May 5th election. This election has only one thing on the ballot, which is Measure P, the parcel tax measure for the school district.

This would affect our current two measures in force, Measure A (a parcel tax of $110.60 expiring in 2019) and Measure B (a parcel tax of $78 expiring this year). The absence of any new measure would mean the loss of approximately $750,000 from Measure B’s expiration. Measure P would combine Measures A and B into a single one, extend their term for 6 years (expiring 2021), and add $58 per parcel. If passed by 2/3 of the voters, the measure would both retain the existing local funding and also add approximately another $500,000 per year.

This is absolutely critical for both San Carlos Schools as well as the whole community. Please see my post that explains the background for this measure and why it’s so important. The measure requires a 2/3 super-majority to pass, so every vote counts.

This is a mail-only election — no going to the polls. So, please open that envelope, vote YES, and return your ballot today!

For additional information, see Measure P’s website (including additional information on how to support the measure) and Facebook page (please like it). Thanks again for all of your support!

Crucial New Measure on the Ballot

Last night, the school board unanimously voted to place a new parcel tax measure on the ballot, to be voted on May 5th in a scheduled all-mail election. This would affect our current two measures in force, Measure A (a parcel tax of $110.60 expiring in 2019) and Measure B (a parcel tax of $78 expiring this year). The absence of any new measure would mean the loss of approximately $750,000 from Measure B’s expiration. This new measure (to be named by the elections office) would combine Measures A and B into a single one, extend their term for 6 years (expiring 2021), and add $58 per parcel. If passed by 2/3 of the voters, the measure would both retain the existing local funding and also add approximately another $500,000 per year.

As most readers know, California public schools have been underfunded for decades, and San Carlos remains one of the lowest funded districts in the state (in one of the highest cost regions). I believe that our staff has done an incredible job in creating a wonderful educational experience for our children despite this context. And naturally, this community has stepped up over and over again to create local sources of revenue for the District — primarily from these parcel taxes as well as from contributions to the San Carlos Educational Foundation. Together these two sources represent approximately 15% of our overall budget, and it would be impossible to have the caliber of teachers and programs without this local revenue. The District has also been quite enterprising in building out its pay-for-service programs, such as pre-school, after school, and camps.

Naturally, the pending expiration of Measure B started the discussion on the need for such continued funding. And unfortunately, due to the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) adopted by the State, San Carlos receives less state funding that it would have under the old model (which was one of the lowest in the nation to begin with). So despite news from the state that funding for education is improving, the finances in San Carlos remain precarious, and we are in danger of running down reserves over the next couple of years without spending cuts or a revenue increase. And as parents in the District know quite well, cuts would be quite painful and detrimental for our students — we still have less funding per student than we had in 2007, and costs have gone up!

School finance is a very complicated and counter-intutive subject — if you’d like to learn more, I encourage to watch my video on California education finance — this was updated a little over a year ago to include the effect of LCFF. The parcel tax and education foundation are two of the few tools we have as a local community to control our own destiny. The parcel tax is a true “win-win” in that it helps students but also benefits taxpayers — real estate value increases from supporting the school system dwarf the small amount added to property tax bills.

However, like any measure, we need to get the word out! A group of community members is in the process of forming an independent campaign committee to lead the effort to support this ballot measure. Just as in prior campaigns, it will take a lot of work from a lot of folks to get this message out. If you’re interested in getting involved, please e-mail me and I will connect you with the right people. San Carlos has had a long history of supporting these measures and its schools, but it still required a strong campaign!

We are doing some exciting things in San Carlos – from the new schools being built to some of the incredible additions to the curriculum based our project-based learning, technology, and other “21st Century Learning” concepts – that we can’t afford to slow down and short change our students. This retained and additional funding will help us fill the gap created by the State and give us an ability to further invest in our students and our community. Please get involved, and certainly vote when you get your ballot!

To Increase or Not to Increase, That is the Question

At last Thursday’s School Board Meeting, the board heard a presentation by Godbe Research and TBWB Strategies, two firms that the District hired to help understand the options regarding (and the community’s view on) a potential parcel tax renewal and increase next Spring.

As background, the District currently has two parcel taxes in place, Measure A and Measure B, which collectively bring in about $2 million per year for the school district. Parcel taxes are flat amounts levied per real estate parcel (irrespective of appraised value), and the funds generated for such taxes go to the school district general fund. Parcel taxes must pass with a 2/3 supermajority of voters in favor and are generally in force for a specific term. This funding — along with the money raised by the San Carlos Education Foundation — has become absolutely critical for San Carlos, which is one of the lowest funding school districts in the state. Measure A was passed in 2011 for an eight-year term, and Measure B was passed in 2009 for a six-year term. Accordingly, Measure B — if not renewed — would expire next year. Therefore, the District hired Godbe and TBWB to look at various scenarios to place a measure on the ballot for May 5, 2015, which could either renew the existing Measure B parcel tax or potentially renew and increase the tax. They also looked at the possibility of renewing the tax while combining it with Measure A.

As many of you know, the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) cements San Carlos’ position as a low-funded district for many years. Understanding this fact as well as the very grand goals outlined in the District’s Strategic Plan, one of the agreed-upon goals for the 2014-2015 school year is to significantly increase our financial resources to have the ability to meet all of our lofty objectives. Recently, community members may have seen a notice from the District to participate in an Ad Hoc Revenue Enhancement Committee so that we can explore multiple ways to accomplish this.

Naturally at a minimum, we need to preserve the funds by renewing the Measure B tax, but increasing it can of course be a significant way to increase our ongoing revenue. Therefore, Godbe Research conducted a survey of San Carlos voters in September and October to understand their view of the school district and their thoughts about these possibilities around the parcel tax. Overall, the sentiment was very positive both in an absolute sense as well as compared to results seen by other school districts. Here are some highlights:

  • 72% of voters (and 85% of parents) had a favorable opinion on whether SCSD is providing a quality education to students, with only 8% having an unfavorable opinion (remainder were unsure, which for non-parents was higher — 27% of non-parents were not sure)
  • 52% of voters (and 67% of parents) had a favorable opinion on whether SCSD is effectively managing public funds. 20% had an unfavorable opinion, with the remainder unsure (which was also highest in the non-parent population — 35% of non-parents were not sure).
  • When initially asked about a potential measure which would renew the existing parcel tax, combine it with the other measure, and increase it by an additional $98 per year, the “yes” votes came to 66%, just below the margin to pass. (Note also that the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus almost 5%)
  • After hearing the more specific features of the renew/increase measure as well as arguments for and against it, support increased to approximately 71%
  • When asked about different potential increase rates (e.g. $98 vs. $78 vs. $58), there was little difference in the percentage of voters that would support
  • When asked about a straight renewal without an increase, the support went to almost 77%

The conclusion of the polling firm and our consultant was that there is indeed continued strong support of the school district within our community, and most folks clearly see the importance of sustained and increased funding for schools. A straight renewal of Measure B would be considered an extremely likely measure to pass. With respect to a renewal and increase, their opinion was that there was a very good chance for such a measure to pass if it was accompanied by a very strong campaign that primarily reached non-parents who clearly had much less information than parents on the successes of the school district. (As you may recall, campaigns are not paid for or run by the district — they have to be run by an independent committee which raises private funds on its own).

Therefore, it was the consensus of the board that we have further conversations with the community to see if there is this energy and appetite to lead such a strong campaign. If there is, then going with the increase option may be the shortest route to accomplish some of our goals. If we feel there won’t be strong leadership and drive within the community (most of these efforts are led by parents and include volunteers across the community, including teachers and other staff members working on their own time), then we may go the conservative route with the straight renewal. The Board will likely have to make a final decision and place a measure on the ballot by the end of January, and in the meantime can communicate with both parents and non-parents about our current predicament and best understand the community’s perspective. I encourage folks to volunteer for the Revenue Committee as well as to share your thoughts with me, fellow board members, and Dr. Baker.

Teacher Contract Approved, Barely

At Thursday’s board meeting, the Board voted 3-2 to approve the new contract with the San Carlos Teachers Association (SCTA). This agreement included a 2% raise in the salary schedule as well as increased contributions to health benefits. Although the agreement was approved, every single board member expressed serious frustration at how the negotiating process went this year and the lack of constructive engagement by the bargaining unit. Rather than try to summarize everyone’s comments, I invite folks to watch the video of this agenda item (the discussion is about 20 minutes long — from approximately 13:44 – 34:20 on the recording), as I think there were very thoughtful comments by all board members. There was also an article today in the San Mateo Daily Journal giving a brief summary of the item.

Below I have included a transcript of my own remarks:

This is my seventh year going through the negotiating process, and I must admit it always felt like one of the strangest parts of the job, and certainly the most anachronistic. There are plenty of folks out there who are just stunned when we learn that in the 21st century, we still have this incredibly old framework for managing how our employees work and how much they get paid. Particularly in a context where otherwise we think of our staff members as professionals, it’s odd that we revert to this old factory-worker mentality for this large subset of important issues.

There’s no doubt that teachers need to get paid more. Our teachers do amazing work in this district, and I’m certain my colleagues on the board all agree that teachers are fundamentally underpaid. I’m sure most parents would agree with that too. I wish we could do something more dramatic about that, but we all know that we have so little control over our funding, and that the state had systematically underfunded education for decades. We strive to do the best we can, and supporting SCEF and putting multiple parcel taxes on the ballot gives us a little more breathing room. Is it enough? Of course, not.

But then it would be flawed logic to conclude that this District or this Board does not care deeply about its teachers or does not understand the criticality of a great teaching staff on students. Does anyone think that these five people sitting up here volunteer thousands of hours of their time because they don’t value teachers? Does the fact that our teachers get paid toward the top end of the scale of Revenue Limit districts in this county mean we don’t care about teachers? Or is more likely that making these decisions is quite difficult and complex, and that there are a lot of competing needs that need to be weighed, all under the cloud of continued financial uncertainty? Is it possible that we understand that with limited resources we cannot fully fund everything we would like?

There are many flaws in this collective bargaining process that we are required to undertake. The first is the obvious one — the assumption that the same compensation scheme and work rules would be right for everyone. I recognize this would be a challenge to change, but perhaps one day we will be able to treat our employees as individual professionals with individual needs and customized responsibilities. The second, less obvious, flaw is the application of a private sector “zero-sum” framework. In the case where the UAW is negotiating with General Motors, for example, the union may make a reasonable assumption that any money not captured by the bargaining unit goes back to the company, and hence would eventually flow to “management” or to shareholders. We don’t have this dynamic, yet the underlying assumptions and rhetoric are often similar. If the District “saves” money by not spending it on teacher salaries, for example, it’s not as if another group gets richer because of it. Rather, by definition, that same money goes right back into services for students — maybe not in the same year, but eventually it must. There is no “profit” taken out by anyone and there is no management windfall achieved by cost savings. And since 80% of our spending goes toward personnel, when that money is eventually spent it will go back to supporting our staff — maybe in not the exact same way that everyone wants, but supporting our teachers and our students nonetheless. The last flaw is the century-old assumption that the way to advance your cause is to “put pressure” on the board, rally the troops, and rally parents to your cause. I would think that we all would have learned that in 2014 in San Carlos, this technique is actually counterproductive. I suspect this administration — and I’m sure this Board — responds more positively to constructive engagement than to pressure.

In these seven years, we’ve had some more difficult and some easier ones with respect to negotiating. As you recall, we had years when we had to cut salaries because our own funding was cut so dramatically. We are fortunately not in that situation today, but as we all know, San Carlos was not a beneficiary of the new Local Control Funding Formula. Funding will continue to be very tight for many years — that is our sad reality. This is why it is crucial we renew and/or increase our parcel tax and we do everything we can to support SCEF growing.

I understand that Dr. Baker and the SCTA leads are discussing making changes in our process as well as the potential representatives on both sides of the table. I look forward to seeing such changes, but until such time, I can’t support such agreements and will vote no on this contract.

Movin’ On Up

Last night the board made a final decision on the location of CLC. As I reported a few weeks ago, the School Board voted on August 28th to keep CLC on the Tierra Linda campus (even though I was the dissenting vote). However, at that time, we wanted to get more information before deciding the specific location on that campus. At last night’s meeting, the Board agreed to locate CLC on the upper section of the TL campus, roughly in the area currently occupied by Edison Montessori and some district Special Education preschool classes. This was determined to be both the most prudent fiscal option as well as the one which best gave CLC its own campus within the campus. After the new CLC is built, the buildings currently occupied by CLC would be remodeled to be the new 4-5 school.

Certainly having a new, separate, parcel of land for CLC would have been ideal for all, but the failure of the land swap proposal with the City caused us to choose one of our existing pieces of property. Even before we passed the District’s Facilities Master Plan 18 months ago, we knew this was a likely scenario.

There are a few open issues left, including determining a new location for the Montessori school and the other preschool classrooms, and there is still a fair bit of work to do in designing new traffic circulation paths around the campus. The District has been working with the City of San Carlos, the City of Belmont, and the Sequoia Union High School District to together devise solutions to help ease traffic flow on Alameda and Dartmouth as well as inside the TL campus. You will likely be hearing about some of these proposed solutions in the coming months.

In any case, it’s nice to have this closure for the CLC community and for the rest of the District.