Issues to consider
The COVID-19 Crisis
When will it be safer?
It is not safe for teachers, classified staff, and students to return to school yet. I support the August agreement between PAEA, CSEA, and administration to begin the school year with distance learning. While it works for some students, it is nowhere near effective for many, especially many of our Latino and Black students. The school board has fumbled a bit back since March, especially in communicating to parents in a timely, transparent fashion. Let's fix that. This is a tough school year, but it is important that the school board actively seek input and feedback from parents throughout the year. It is likely that being at school sites will not be totally safe in 2021--it never has been totally safe--but what can we do to make it safer to the point of where at least small groups of students can return?
Latino & Black Educational Outcomes
Reduce the opportunity gap
Despite all our resources, too many Latino, Black, and low income students are not enjoying the academic success that the majority are. Too often, BIPOC students are not perceived as the capable scholars that they are. My own daughter was recommended for summer school remedial math in elementary school, but when she came with me to West Marin School, I had to put her in a high school geometry class via distance learning, only because our small school could not offer algebra that year. After two years at my school, she continued her success at Drake High, and earned entrance to Yale. She was told in high school more than once that she wasn't Mexican because Mexicans can't do math. I'm here to tell you that Mexican Americans, BIPOC, and all students can do math.
It should be better
Board leadership is not as dysfunctional as it was 10 years ago. They have come a long way from disrespecting parents, fighting the Office for Civil Rights, and failing to oversee the budget responsibly. These are changes for the better, certainly, but the board has just begun changing its culture. I want to help them be more inclusive. The board's role is as simple as voting yes or no, and directing and evaluating the superintendent to lead the district. I don't meddle, I don't micromanage, and I evaluate only one employee, the superintendent. However, a board member must also lead, and that means engaging with all the stakeholders, not just the most powerful. I've engaged with all stakeholders, but I have always led by specifically connecting with Latino, Black, and low-income families because I remember how unresponsive the school system was for my single Mexican American mother.
Engaging our parents respectfully
I was a principal in Palo Alto 10 years ago, and I could sense a transition from a relationship-based partnership between the district and parents with students in special education, to one that was more adversarial. My interest is working towards the former. The school experience is more effective and rewarding for students in special education programs, and for their families, when administrators are not bogged down in legal maneuvers. Let's make sure we nurture relationships of mutual respect and interest. After all, when I was a principal, I would tell parents and teachers that when we focused on the well-being of the students, IEPs and other meetings would always go well. Most recently, many parents of students in special education have made it clear that distance learning is not working for them. Are we listening to them?
What issue is important to you?
I've chosen to be brief with four issues, there are dozens more, but what do you think? Send me your input today, names are optional.