About this site

I was a Governing Board Member of the San Carlos School District, elected November 2007 and again in November 2011. This site was originally used for the purpose of communicating with school district constituents, however now it is used for surfacing ideas and expressing opinions on various subjects in education, politics, business, or otherwise.

Please note that any opinion express here is purely personal and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of anyone else or any organization with which I am, or have been, associated.

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.

 

June 2012
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End of Year Wrap Up

Dear Friends and Supporters,

I continue my custom of writing a year-end summary of all of the happenings in the San Carlos School District this past year.  In my four and a half years on the board, this has probably been the busiest and most exciting time!  Of course, not the least of the events of the past year was my re-election to another term.  Thanks to everyone who was supportive of my campaign, and I'm excited to devote the next four years to the role.  Also, as you may be aware, we have three new board members this year (Adam Rak, Carol Elliott, and Kathleen Farley).  Adam was elected with me in November (Tom Quiggle decided not to run again) and Carol and Kathleen were appointed for the remainder of Carrie Du Bois' and Mark Olbert's term as they both successfully ran for the Sequoia Union High School District Board and the San Carlos City Council, respectively.  Our three new board members are doing great, and I'm excited to be working with all of them.  One of the many things I like about school board service is that, unlike almost all other political bodies, we actually encourage new folks to be on the board!  To that end, keep in mind that three seats will be up for election in November 2013, so if you have any interest or want to learn more, please contact me.

Since December, I have been honored to be Board President (by custom, we rotate that position each year), which officially just means that I chair the board meeting.  However, the Board Presidency tends to be a bit of a ceremonial position, which has allowed me to be at more school functions this year and speak at events like Central's 8th grade Career Day as well both middle school's graduation ceremonies.  It has been a lot of fun, and I've been touched by the warm response I get everywhere.  Also, this was the first year that the School Board members have been honored by cars in the San Carlos Hometown Days Parade, which was great fun.  I also continue my role as President of the San Mateo County School Boards Association, and I have been reelected as President of SMCSBA through the end of the 2012-2013 school year.  SMCSBA organizes a number of professional development and advocacy events for school board members in the county, as well as produces the Kent Awards, where SCSD's ROPES program was an honoree this spring.

This year focused around two major strategic projects — our facilities planning initiative and our 21st Century Learning initiative.  I won't go into all of the details here as you can read them on my blog, but I'm very excited about both of these forward-looking projects.  The first is about creating the right space to hold the ever increasing number of students in the school district.  San Carlos has earned a reputation for outstanding schools, and young families have been continually moving into the city.  Although this a fabulous "problem" to have, it does require our building new schools.  The current plan would be to build two new 4th-5th grade schools, one on each of the sites of the Central and Tierra Linda campuses.  This would accomplish a number of objectives, including (a) removing one grade from each school to reduce overcrowding while not changing school boundaries, (b) building new, modern, sustainable schools that all students would be able to attend, (c) leveraging the resources of the nearby middle school by the use of their facilities and allowing students as young as fourth grade to have electives, and (d) saving money by not needing to purchase land.  The District conducted a survey this Spring to get community reaction to a potential bond measure to fund this new construction as well as renovation and updates at our existing schools.  The results were very positive, and it's likely the Board will place a bond measure on the ballot for vote this November.  It must pass by at least 55% — you will definitely be hearing more about this in the summer and fall.

The 21st Century Learning initiative is a very exciting, but also complex, project that forces us to reexamine almost every way we run public schools, including the design and implementation of the curriculum (and having the right tools and technologies), the design of the facilities themselves, and the organization of the school day.  It touches so many aspects of schooling it would be impossible to fully review here, but please check out the District web site section on 21st Century Learning to read an overview of what we're talking about.  We had three community meetings this spring to review some of the concepts and issues, and this summer and fall the school district will be rolling out more pilot programs using different technologies and project-based learning designs.  Of course, the timing with our facilities planning is perfect, as we can design our physical spaces to align with these new paradigms.  Be on the lookout for more updates and community meetings in the fall.

Like every year, finances and budget remain a concern.  We continue to be dependent upon the state's poor finances and dysfunctional system (with only the mitigating factors of our own parcel taxes and educational foundation to soften the blow), and there remains great uncertainty with regard to the budget itself as well as the Governor's tax initiative in November – note that today is the deadline for the state to pass it's budget.  (Fortunately, it appears that the legislature won't be adopting the Governor's proposed weighted formula for funding school districts as a tie to the tax measure passing.  Although it made sense in theory, because it is was proposed without new funding, it's zero-sum redistribution of money actually makes San Carlos a loser in the formula — there was a scenario where San Carlos schools would have been better off if the Governor's tax measure fails, i.e. the "trigger cuts" to education would be less than the loss from the new weighted formula).  So, although we're prepared for the worst, we're hopeful for a slightly brighter financial picture and are prepared to make a few more investments if such cuts don't happen.  Such investments may include new elective/curriculum options and professional development (both of course related to the 21st Century Learning initiative) as well as improving the operations of the school district.  Another potential area for additional funds is the money owed to the school district by the now disbanded San Carlos Redevelopment Agency.

One other specific area that I'm very excited about is our partnership with the San Carlos Children's TheaterThis partnership is a perfect example of an outside-of-the-box relationship which both expands opportunities for our students while bringing in additional resources to the district.  And it perfectly aligns with our 21st Century Learning initiative by making much more accessible the benefits of the performing arts to a larger subset of our students.  SCCT will move all of their main performances and classes to Mustang Hall and will offer electives to both Central and Tierra Linda middle school students.  In addition, the school district will get a percentage of revenue SCCT collects from both registration fees and ticket sales.  A true win-win!

Of course we are not without our challenges.  In addition to the need to move forward on areas of facilities and 21st Century Learning — and our continual budget challenges — traffic and safety remain an issue at many of our schools.  The facilities project will, in part, address these issues, but our schools are locked in tight residential areas, and there is no amount of road striping, signage, and access redesign which will completely solve the problem.  I continue to be hopeful that we will also be able to start seriously thinking about transportation solutions for our students, but it would likely take a significant investment and/or some more out-of-the-box solutions.  We should continue to do this type of thinking.

I have spoken at more education events this year, and I continue to write a lot as there are still great misunderstandings about public education in the larger political arena.  Organizations like Children Now and Educate our State are making strong efforts and strides at looking at fundamental reforms to our state finance and related systems (and we had a great event with them in San Carlos at the beginning of this year), but I find that most of the political chatter around public education is sadly composed of more sound bites and less real analysis as to how the system currently works and therefore how one can change it.  Some of my more notable written pieces this year include:

I will continue to write both news updates and opinion pieces on my blog, and as always, I'm happy to chat with anyone who wants to discuss happenings in the school district or about education in general.  Thanks again for your support of our schools, and have a great summer!

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