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.

 

May 2015
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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.

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