Improving communication between the school district and the community seems to be the top priority according to those running for the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District Board of Trustees.
The seven hoping to serve on the board — Suvarna Bhopale, Rakesh Hegde, Amy Koo, Herbert Neuman, Naomi Nishimoto, Kelly Redmon and incumbent Charles Velschow — visited the Daily Journal office last week for an endorsement interview last week. Equity between Belmont and Redwood Shores, the parcel tax, enrollment growth and contending with new funding and curriculum are core issues right now in the district.
Putting out fires in the short term, rather than making calculated long-term decisions, is one of the problems Nishimoto said she has seen with the current board. A mistrust of the current board stems from a lack of communication with the public, Koo noted. She also said that she’d like to see the board more proactive, versus reactive, citing the school assignments, which she felt were dealt with way too last minute.
In terms of balancing the needs of the two areas the district serves, Velschow said “there can’t be this inseparable thing called the 101, a great education has to be the unifying factor.”
Changes on the horizon
The state’s new Common Core standards shift to more project-based and team collaborative learning, with less time spent on lectures and more of an emphasis on students using technology in classrooms. New Smarter Balance testing, which aligns with these new standards, will go into effect during the 2014-15 school year.
Bhopale said she doesn’t believe the district will have enough money from the state for the infrastructure and professional development of the new standards and this will be one of the major challenges for the district.
California’s Local Control Funding Formula change was also a big issue. The goal of the new state funding formula for K-12 schools is to help boost the academic achievement of disadvantaged students. The state budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year provides about $55.3 billion in local and state revenue for K-12 education and two-year community colleges. That’s an increase of more than $8 billion over the 2011-12 level under the state’s school funding formula known as Proposition 98.
“I’m running because of my frustration with how the district is being governed,” Neuman said. “There’s a lack of transparency and a perfect storm of events are coming on the horizon, some of which are out of our control [Common Core and LCFF].”
The renewal of two school district parcel taxes into one measure totaling $174 per parcel a year is on the Nov. 5 ballot. All candidates, except for Neuman, said they were in favor of the extension of the tax. Neuman said he would like to know how the new funding formula will affect the district’s budget before deciding on the parcel tax amount, while others said determining the implications of the new formula is just one factor in the need to retain key local funding the parcel taxes provide the district.
“The last thing we need to do is screw over our kids by taking away funds we already have,” Hegde said, who is one of the campaign co-chairs of the tax measure. “My concern is deficit spending; we need to do a better job of forecasting what’s happening.”
Velschow supports the tax renewal and said the district needs to see the full effects of the LCFF before asking the community for a higher tax.
The candidates also had ideas for how to improve the district.
Velschow pitched the Ram scholarship awards to celebrate students who went through the district, along with allowing the award winner to honor a teacher.
Coming up with an operational plan to improve test scores at Nesbit Elementary School mattered to Neuman.
Bhopale said she would establish focus groups with interested parties to get feedback on the board’s work, while Redmon said she would help represent teachers on the board.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105