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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Year-End Wrap Up Items

Last night was the last board meeting of the school/fiscal year, and there are a number of updates:

2012-2013 Budget: The Board approved next year’s budget. There are not a lot of changes compared to this year, but we did budget assuming the Governor’s tax measure would fail. In this case, we start eating into reserves again, and would have to seriously re-examine the following year’s budget in the winter and spring. In addition to the tax measure passing, there are some other potential upsides to the budget, including a settlement from the RDA judgment.

Bond Measure: The Board finalized any remaining tweaks on the bond measure and agreed upon an amount (which would be $60 million, pending some final analysis from our financial adviser). Our review of potential projects and preliminary cost ranges demonstrated that our needs actually far exceed that amount, however we are limited in how much we can ask for in a Proposition 39 bond. So, the project list will require some serious pencil sharpening and prioritization, but we we will be able to accomplish the core of our facility needs, which is the increase in capacity by building new schools and creating the technology infrastructure for a 21st Century Education. The School Board will officially vote to place the measure on the ballot on July 16th.

Bus Pilot: We got a report on this spring’s busing pilot, which unfortunately was not as positive as I had expected. Although there remains a fair bit of interest among parents (many of whom would be willing to pay for such a service), we now better understand that in order for a program like this to work on any scale, we would likely need multiple smaller buses (similar to San Carlos’ old SCOOT service) that could provide more convenient pick up locations for students. Unfortunately this model is more expensive, and would only be fractionally covered by any fees we could charge. We agreed to continue to look at other potential solutions, which could be a single bus route in the afternoon from Tierra Linda to the San Carlos Youth Center, using our existing Special Ed buses to run additional routes, working with the city to see if there are potential busins partnerships in the future, and maybe even looking at alternate sources of funding for such a service.

Schools in China: Principals John Triska of Brittan Acres and Steven Kaufman of Central gave an overview of their trip to China as part of an exchange program which was funded by the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission and co-sponsored by the California School Boards Association. It was a fascinating report on what they experienced and the schools they visited. You can see some photos and some narrative of their trip here. Interestingly, they learned how significant the level of resources was placed into education (at least at these visited schools, which are admittedly in the wealthiest part of China), as there were so many more administrators and teachers relative to the size of the student body than we have here in the U.S. (and particularly California) as well as a greater breadth and depth of programs for students. On the other hand, the system had a much stricter cultural interpretation of the purpose of school — for example, the main exams taken to get into high school (which isn’t free) largely determine a student’s career path and status much more so than it does here. In any case, it was all very fascinating and we appreciated the report!

Analysis of Paid Time off for teachers: One year ago, the District make a change to the way it treats time off for teachers. Historically, teachers had a number of “sick” days and then a number of “personal necessity” days. The latter were often referred to as “no tell” days because the employee didn’t have to give a specific reason for their absence (although there were enumerated valid reasons that were allowed — they just didn’t need to disclose which reason it was). This year’s change was a move to collapse these categories and make all of the days “no tell” days. Some board members in the past have argued that it would open the door for abuse of the system. I have always taken the opposite position — that a system like this actually more treats our employees like professionals. In any case, the meeting last night looked at the data on days taken off, and it turns out that the total days taken off this year were less than the total of sick and personal necessity days taken off last year. Of course, this is only one year’s worth of data, but it certainly shows there was no systematic abuse. The board agreed that we should continue this policy and extend it to all employees, tracking the data again next year. Last night I reiterated my position that the new methodology is consistent with the notion of treating our staff as professionals, but that it should open the door to discussing many of the other approaches we take (both benefits for, as well as responsibilities of, employees) and whether they are indeed consistent with a professional workforce. For example, we should look to pay our employees like professionals, which could affect both the amount we pay them as well as how we pay them, but it also means looking at some fairly antiquated notions like work rules (e.g. time constraints on when meetings can be, et al). True professionals don’t have “work rules,” and most of our staff don’t adhere to the ones we have anyway. So, it’s time to have that discussion and modernize some of these approaches.

Strategic Planning: The School Board will be having it’s summer “retreat” on July 16th, when in addition to voting on the bond measure, we will discuss our strategic plan. Fortunately, we have already done a lot of the legwork that will make up the content of the strategic plan, including the facilities discussions as well as the community meetings on 21st Century Learning, but we need to pull it all together and decide on the form of the plan itself. Everyone agreed that we don’t want a giant document that will just sit on a shelf — maybe it will take the form of a web site or some other dynamic and sharable asset. I look forward to that discussion.

Have a happy summer everyone!

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