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Four candidates seek Old Adobe school board seats

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Four candidates are seeking three open seats on the Old Adobe Union School District. The city’s second largest school district, it represents 1,900 students across five east Petaluma schools.

With a budget of $24 million, the district employs a staff of 150. The district is attempting to pass this November a $38 million school bond, Measure L, to upgrade its facilities.

The candidates seeking office include the three incumbents, Michael Fung, Patsy Knight and Anthony Bendik, and challenger Kimberly Shaver.

The Argus-Courier sent each candidate a questionnaire. The following is an unabridged version of each candidate’s responses, in the order they were received.

Name: Anthony John Bendik

Age: 46

Occupation: Lieutenant in the San Francisco Fire Department

Education: BA History, University of Californian Berkeley

Community Activity: My seat on the OAUSD board keeps me pretty busy. I am a member of the Knights of Columbus, but am not very active. I volunteer for the Casa Grande Boosters at the snack shack. I stay active in the sporting lives of my children. I officiate youth and high school baseball and softball.

Why I am running:

This election would mean a third term for me. I was appointed 8 years ago at the deepest part of our national and state recession. Funding was slashed across the board and we had to make some very difficult budget decisions that included lay-offs and furloughs. Declining enrollment forced us to close the Bernard Eldridge campus. In time, we were able to pivot into differentiated instruction at our various schools. As a result, we essentially created schools of choice in OAUSD, and were able to reopen Bernard Eldridge as Loma Vista. We have a Spanish Immersion Academy, a STEAM school, a Performing Arts school, and an Arts and Ecology school. We have stabilized our enrollment and have significant growth at some of our campuses. We strengtened our budget by forming charters at 4 of our schools and took advantage of the state’s new LCFF funding formula. We completed $26 million of renovations which included complete remodeling of classrooms with the integration of technology for every student. We were able to leverage grant money and developer fees into solar power at 4 sites and new playgrounds for all. Basically, we have turned things around.

We are transforming our district to ensure longevity with the flexibility to evolve. We are very close to the finish line for this initial push and I think we can have a solid foundation in place within the next four years. I want to help finish what we started.

Technology:

We are fully integrated with 1:1 devices for all students. We have the necessary infrastructure in place to handle our current bandwidth needs and grow into the future. We have approached technology thoughtfully, examining our desired outcome before acquiring the device/program. I wouldn’t do anything differently, but we need to formalize a method to continue to fund upkeep and replacement.

Measure L:

We passed bond Measure G in 2012 in the amount of $26 million. At the time, we commissioned an engineering audit of all of our facilities. We were able to generate a “master plan”, that identified all of the brick and mortar improvements required to bring our facilities up to code and industry standard. The estimate for the required work was staggering at almost $60 million. Clearly, difficult decisions were made, but I am very proud of the impact we generated with less than a third of funds and escalating building costs. We leveraged state grants, matching funds, and a small amount of developer fees to remodel every classroom with associated technology improvements. However, we had to skip many projects and stretch the service life of many systems. We still have capital intensive work to do in security, roofs, HVAC, cafeteria equipment, libraries, and facilitate an expanding student population. I ardently support Measure L, to fund all of this critical work before inflation puts it out of reach.

Safety:

The elephant in the room is the unfortunate truth that, “Lock down” and “active shooter” drills are the new paradigm for elementary school students. We will have to continue the practice as described in your paper reporting the recent drill at Petaluma Junior High. Our community realizes that we must be aware and prepare for senseless violence. Current events show that people are vulnerable in all public places, so hopefully we can all be better prepared.

As a district, we already know that any of our facility planning requires consideration for safety. The remodel work at all of our campuses included industry recommended gates, locks, and panic hardware.

We also need to include funding for counseling services at school. I am glad that we were able to restore funding for a school psychologist, but we have more to do. We need to provide early, easy, and sufficient access to our students and families. Modern life is very difficult with many stresses on families that overlap onto the children. We have a particular responsibility as an elementary district to provide services and resources early. We have the best chance of positive outcomes early, and it ends up costing everyone less in the long run. We also need to include social and emotional learning into our curriculum. A little mindfulness goes a long way.

Issues:

Things are trending positively in the OAUSD. Most of our work will be to formalize our core values. I believe we need to clearly articulate the different educational pathways offered at our 5 campuses and form a foundation for the next generation to elaborate upon. We need to collaborate with PCS to ensure that any chosen pathway can be supported through the 12th grade, and empower our students to reach their full potential. Elementary school is the foundation of every students educational “house”. Our job is to provide that foundation.

My eight years on this board have been a rewarding challenge. All of the success in our district is a direct result of hard work by every member of the OAUSD community from teachers, classified staff, and families. It has been my honor to serve and I am proud that I will hand over a district in better shape today, or in four more years, if given the opportunity.

Name: Patsy Knight

Age: 72 years old

Occupation: Retired educator

Education: Petaluma city schools

Sonoma State College BA

Sonoma State College. Teaching credential

University of San Diego continuing education units

Community activities

American Association of University Women

Tech Trek Sonoma State

Santa Rosa Junior College Friends of Community Trust Petaluma

Expanding Your Horizons.

Why are you running for a seat on the school board?

1. I have served and advocated for educational needs for our community children for 26 years as a teacher in the Old Adobe Union School District (OAUSD)

2. My passion for education will allow me to continue working and advocating education of children in our district as a trustee.

3. As a trustee I want to make sure to have adequate and appropriate resources available to meet all standards regarding student success thus making a difference in overall achievement of the school district as a whole.

4. As a Trustee I want to make use of analytical judgement regarding accepting and approving an educational budget that impacts school staffing, improving facilities, professional development, providing supplies and resources, and drives a focus on academic achievement.

How do you think the current school board has handled technology in the classroom and what ,if anything would you do different?

I think the Board has done a great job handling technology in the classroom for the following reasons

1. The district has provided individual Chromebooks for grades 2-6 grades and iPad centers for K-3

2. The district has hired technology support staff for the district.

Technology in the classroom has contributed the following

1. The teacher has the ability to demonstrate lessons and model instruction.

2. The classroom can learn about anything they desire in a matter of seconds through technology

3. Students can use technology for research, creative thinking, edit writing by getting immediate assess to writing weakness, practice facts, and a variety of mini lessons.

4. A teacher has available data that can be used to spot areas a student maybe struggling with thereby a teacher can adjust assignments accordingly.

5. A teacher can see if a student is on track to mastery of concepts and if necessary target lessons for that knowledge.

6. Websites of classrooms informs parents about special activities, individual student progress, messages from the teacher regarding classwork or projects.

7. Technology allows students to present multi media reports either as collaborative group activity for a single presentation.

How would I do it differently

Using technology simply for the sake of using it is wasteful because

1. Solving math problems in the traditional way can actually help students to gain depth knowledge of the subject .

2. Spellcheck prevents students from learning the correct spelling of words therefore the subject of spelling curriculum should be taught in the classroom

3. Computers have problems due to server error which can be a matter of frustration both for the learners and the educator.

4. An important part of education should be collaboration with peers in which exchanging ideas verbally is important. Groups thinking outside the box to solve problems is important

5. Paper and pencil can be used in a number of subjects.

There has to be a balance between the two worlds of verbal creative thinking and technology.

Do you support the Measure L school bond, and if so, what would you like to see done with the bond money if it passes?

Yes I support the passage of Measure L by the voters.

What I would like to see done with the bond money if it passes?

What I would like to see done with the bond money is expressed in a letter from Craig Conte, District Superintendent and Michael Fung, Board President to the teachers and staff.

1. Some of our schools remain outdated and major upgrades and renovations still need to be made. Aging classrooms must be upgraded since many do not meet 21st century safety, education, and technology standards.

2. The School Facilities Needs Analysis identified major repairs such as modernize out dated classrooms, restrooms, and school facilities.

3. Repairing or replacing leaky roofs.

4. Replacing outdated heating, ventilations, and cooling systems to increase energy efficiency.

5. Making health, safety, and handicapped accessibility improvements.

6. Improving student access to modern technology.

What should the district do to keep children safe on campus?

The district schools are focusing on helping all students feel safe not just in the classroom, but on the playground , in the lunch room, and coming to school. Emotional and physical safety are related to academic performance.

The district should continue the followiing

1. At Back to School Night parents are reminded to slow down and look out for children arriving and being picked up from school.

2. Hiring of crossing guards are important at heavy traveled intersections to ensure safety of people crossing sidewalks. The crossing guards interaction with students and parents make for a welcome to school. A guard can encourage safe behavior by all pedestrians at school crossing. They also remind drivers of the presence of pedestrians

3. Bike safety: Bike Rodeos should be presented at schools for bikers by including Bike riding rules, bike safety inspections, bike skills, and helmet adjustments.

The following procedures should be an ongoing at school.

1. Managing food allergies by the classroom, cafeteria,and substitute teachers.

2. Emergency care plan that explains how to treat an allergic reaction

3. Allergen free classroom

Making drills mandatory to have children automatically know what to do in an emergency. The children will have confidence that he or she needs to act quickly in an emergency situation.

1. Emergency preparedness is by having classroom kits with phone numbers for each child that is updated each year, first aid supplies and materials for children to feel safe.

2. The district and individual schools train and prepare the school staff on any type of emergency.

School

1. individuals need to sign in when visiting schools and wear a visitor pass

2. Parents need to inform the school about their child who has food allergies, a physical disabilities or has been subject to bullying and making sure teacher and principal is informed.

3. Parents should tell staff of problems the child is going through such as divorce, death in family, and family problems, and problems with pets.

4. Having schools set up for mass communication systems that would announce by codes or alarms for different emergencies

Emotional security

1. The school climate promoting emotional safety by establishing relationships of trust among school staff. The children know that all adults are there for support .

2. Reinforce school community goals around respect, civility, regard , and care for others.

3. School wide events celebrating diversity.

4. Clear procedures for investigation and responses to bully incidents

5. School staff are approachable by taking issues seriously, investing time and space to listen before moving into problem solving mode. The adults need to respond with kindness and empathy.

6. Having school counselors who have the skills and knowledge to support children, who are emotionally struggling with issues at school. This year counselors have been dealing with emotions form the fires.

Children are using tools they have been taught when conflict arise in many different situations. This will empower children to solve their own problems rather than the adult always stepping into the situation.

Are there other key issues facing the district that you would like to address if elected?.

1. Challenges of Budget shortfalls which means less funding which means smaller staff, fewer resources and a lower number of services for the children

2. If the Bond does not pass, our classrooms and school facilities will continue to deteriorate. Funds that would otherwise go to the classroom instruction will be needed to make critical safety repairs and improvements to each school.

3. Attracting new teachers to our district due to high cost of living in Petaluma and salaries we offer teachers

4. The high cost of keeping up with technology.

Name: Michael Fung

Age: 28

Occupation: School Board / Logistics Manager for Wine Brokerage

Education: B.A. Political Science – Public Service from UC Davis. Attended Casa Grande High

School, Kenilworth Jr. High, and Miwok Valley Elementary School.

Community activities, boards, volunteer work: My involvement in this school district (other

than as a student) began when I was a high school student volunteering for the outdoor

education program called 6th Grade Camp Navarro. I have spent the last 12 years working as a

counselor and staff member for this program.

Why are you running for a seat on the school board? I am running to continue the strong

progress that I believe the district has made over the past few years. We’ve had to weather

change at the administrative level including new principals and a new superintendent but I

believe the district will emerge stronger than before. We’ve instituted curriculum changes and

improved facilities. We’ve been able to increase salaries and benefits despite increasing

expenses. On a personal level I’ve always been interested in public policy and the intersection

of education and policy. Prior to serving on the board I worked for the California School Boards

Association in their policy department covering topics like special education transportation and

the Affordable Care Act rollout among schools in California. I believe that as a school board

member the first responsibility is not just to the voters but to the students and families that make

up the community.

How do you think the current school board has handled technology in the classroom,

and what, if anything, would you do different? Technology in the classroom can be an

outstanding tool or resource for educators, students, and parents. It cannot replace the

importance of an excellent teacher and learning environment but I believe that used correctly it

can provide for improved communication, progress monitoring, and set students up to be ethical

digital citizens. Moving forward I think it is important that the board work with the Director of

Technology to establish timelines and funds for replacement and repairs as the current devices

age and become obsolete.

Do you support the Measure L school bond, and if so, what would you like to see done

with the bond money if it passes? I strongly support the Measure L school bond. We have

made progress on renovating and maintaining our campuses but there is much more work to be

done. Many of our classrooms will need repairs or already do. Aging classrooms and buildings

will require upgrades to meet the needs of a 21st century learning environment. Current funding

from the state and federal governments is woefully inadequate to upgrade or modernize the

district’s facilities. Specifically there are projects needed such as roof repair, HVAC system

upgrades and replacements, handicap and safety improvements, and modernizing classrooms

so that they can fully support modern technology.

What should the district do to keep children safe on campus? Student safety is obviously

one of the most important responsibilities that a board is tasked with. Though the board is not

physically present on campuses it must enact policies that provide a safe learning environment

for those that are on campus. Part of this is accomplished through strong and reasoned policies

that address everything from classroom accessibility to school yard safety to visitors on campus.

Providing a secure and safe school campus is challenging but a clear necessity to enable

vibrant learning. I believe that the district should revisit its safety policies on a more frequent

basis to ensure that it is following all of the most recent and up to date guidelines from the state

and federal government. The district should monitor the policies that other schools and localities

throughout the country are using to improve school safety and adopt those policies that may

work with our needs here in Petaluma. The district should also be proactive in teaching students

how to keep themselves safe outside of the school campus. Maintaining up to date facilities that

meet all safety standards is an ongoing project and Measure L will assist with that if it passes

this November.

Are there other key issues facing the district that you would like to address if elected?

One of the largest issues facing districts across the entire state is skyrocketing costs of the

CalPERS and CalSTRS retirement funds. Even though Governor Brown and the legislature

have increased education funding over the past few years, it has been far outpaced by the

increased rate of employer contributions to the pension funds. This effectively means that

school districts are still below the funding levels they saw before the recession. Even without the

pension increases the governor’s definition of “fully funded” actually only brings us back up to

the levels of 2008 and 2009. Our district will need to be proactive in budgeting for these

increased costs while still maintaining a healthy reserve and providing salary increases to our

staff to remain competitive. There’s no easy answer to this balancing act, but it is the

responsibility of the board to ensure that students, staff, and the community at large do not face

negative consequences for the state government’s mismanagement

Name: Kimberly Shaver

Age: 36

Occupation: Secondary Science Teacher

Education: Skidmore College; BA, Chemistry with a Biochemistry concentration

Community activities, boards, volunteer work: member of the Petaluma Mothers’

Club; past member of several committees/boards at San Francisco University High

School (admissions, strategic planning, and independent study); member of Old

Adobe PTO (Spring Auction committee); Old Adobe parent (volunteer work

includes heading Science Club, classroom and garden help).

Why are you running for a seat on the school board?

I am passionate about helping students have a positive (hopefully even

inspirational) experience learning new things. I would look forward to serving our

schools in a role where I could help guide and promote progress for any initiative

that motivates and inspires our children to learn and become lifelong learners. I

have worked in education for twelve years and have seen firsthand the impact a

great educational experience can make; I will do the most I can to ensure our

children have the best educational experience possible. I also have three children

in the district who motivate me to run for this position.

How do you think the current school board has handled technology in the

classroom, and what, if anything, would you do different?

Technology in the classroom is best utilized when it is well thought out and has an

intentional purpose. Making technological resources available for teachers and

students is great, and I believe the board has done a good job with this, but it

should be well-supported and thoroughly considered so that the technology is

working for us (and not the other way around).

To the extent this is a problem, finding additional support and/or training for

teachers should be prioritized over the purchase of additional technology. If the

Old Adobe Union district schools do not also have sufficient IT support personnel

to maintain, upgrade, and train students and staff, we are not maximizing the full

potential of the technology we have invested in. I would like to explore the

feasibility of allocating more resources to IT support and training for each

school. This would allow new software, apps, and learning platforms to be

accessible to our students and teachers. As an educator in a school that was at the

cutting-edge of student technology in the classroom, I would bring real experience

to the table.

It’s also important to mention that I value teacher autonomy and sometimes it’s best

to not have devices out and available. It’s great when technology can enhance and

deepen a lesson but it’s also not necessary or appropriate for all lessons or subjects

and time away from screens and devices is also critical in the developmental and

learning process.

Do you support the Measure L school bond, and if so, what would you like to see

done with the bond money if it passes?

Measure L funds would support additional capital improvements and projects that

have yet to be completed. A good consideration for passing this measure is that

enrollment continues to increase for schools in this district and some are even close

to reaching capacity, so space is certainly an issue. For example, several of our

schools would benefit from additional rooms for classes, science lab, art studio, or

other specific spaces given the charter of that school.

I’m also aware and appreciative of the fact that we already have two school bonds

on our tax bill. However, it is my understanding the 1995 bond is close to maturity

and this new measure would provide for development, safety, and security updates

including making sure we are ADA compliant on all our campuses. If elected, I

would work to make sure these upgrades and possible expansions will directly

benefit our students and our community. I would do this by soliciting input from

members of each school community to get a sense of what their greatest needs are

to best serve the students.

What should the district do to keep children safe on campus?

Each of the five campuses has its own unique safety concerns and should be

looked at individually when addressing student safety on campus. Some of the

school layouts include multiple entrances or their general location makes it more

challenging to track foot and vehicle traffic in and around the school. We have

some safety policies in place that are not being implemented and we should review

those policies generally with the goal of determining what is working and what

needs changed to account for the safety nuances of each school. Whatever we

implement, it’s important our schools keep both safety and a fun and playful

environment for the students in mind.

Other safety concerns include reviewing technology plans to ensure we are

protecting the privacy of students by limiting access to sites for educational

purposes only. Tying back to Measure L, we should also make sure our structures

and classrooms are prepared and built to withstand natural disasters.

Are there other key issues facing the district that you would like to address if

elected?

The field of education right now is an exciting place because of its evolving

nature. School is not just a place for obtaining information (transactional only) as

that now can be easily done anywhere. Educational establishments should be a

place that can be transformative in creating skilled problem solvers and thinkers,

whose students can process information and make meaningful connections. The

amount and ways in which students obtain, digest, and then utilize their

knowledge has expanded. It is important we don’t overwhelm or overburden our

students with information but seek to simplify and stretch what each student is

capable of, as well as encourage them to be excellent members of the community