New Common Core standards and a state funding formula, along with addressing growing enrollment and new technological integration into classrooms are top priorities for those seeking seats on the Sequoia Union High School District Board of Trustees.
There are two seats open on the board. Incumbents Alan Sarver and Chris Thomsen are running along with Georgia Jack.
Interviews were held last week to help the Daily Journal determine endorsements. To allow each candidate a forum to express their opinions on the issues discussed, candidates were given the same questions and asked to answer each in 50 words or fewer. Answers are arranged alphabetically by the candidate’s last name.
What will the impact of the Local Control Funding Formula be in the district?
Georgia Jack: My understanding is that less than 10 percent of the budget is provided by the state and impacted by the LCFF, and the budgetary implications are not yet fully known. Affected areas include funding for charter schools, and changes in funding for adult education, career technology and regional occupational programs.
Alan Sarver: The LCFF will remove the final $3 million of categorical funding from our district ($5 million was removed during the recession). Payments to the four charter schools operating within SUHSD will increase our costs by $7 million. Net impact is $10 million (nearly 10 percent) removed from the SUHSD annual budget by 2020.
Chris Thomsen: Because Sequoia is a “basic aid” district, supported by local tax dollars, LCFF won’t have the same impact as it will have for state-funded districts. For us, it boosts funding for charter schools that serve disadvantaged students, and may reduce “categorical” funding. The board’s financial projections incorporate these changes.
Enrollment and capacity is a concern for the district, what is the best approach to this issue?
Georgia Jack: I suggest a committee that first evaluates the educational impact of increasing enrollment. And then examines the budget and facilities’ impacts to recommend the best options that support teaching and learning while providing unique experiences on each campus. And we have to do this in tandem with implementing Common Core.
Alan Sarver: A combination of increased enrollment at existing sites and additional new, small schools, driven by community engagement and program excellence. This is an opportunity to increase the sense of community, and build facilities for the future, with small learning communities supporting Common Core, advanced technology, career and technical education.
Chris Thomsen: Community engagement is essential for an effective outcome. That process began in the spring with six community forums; a second round is planned. At the board’s direction, the superintendent established a special task force, including multiple stakeholders, to explore the exciting new possibilities in meeting this challenge.
How can the district better meet the needs of the entire community it serves?
Georgia Jack: Involving neighbors in all communities is critical as we consider educational challenges. Currently 40 percent of the district’s students live in Redwood City. Three SUHSD schools and district services are located here also. But not one trustee lives here. Representation from Redwood City, where I live, is key.
Alan Sarver: Pro-actively manage enrollment growth as an opportunity for improvement, implement Common Core and Linked Learning, work more closely with feeder districts, enhance technology, encourage greater sharing of classroom, arts, athletic resources with the community, strengthen two-way public communication, continue to hire, retain and develop the best teachers in California.
Chris Thomsen: Sequoia’s most important contribution to the community is producing thoughtful, productive citizens. Our assiduous focus on increasing graduation rates (already among the highest in the state) and continuously improving the level of college and career-readiness of our students is the best measure of serving the community.
What is the best way to incorporate technology in the classroom?
Georgia Jack: Technology should be part of a 21st century curriculum that readies students for whatever post-high school path they may take, and will be more prominent as the Common Core state standards are implemented. Specifics will require discussion with faculty about program design, student’s needs and infrastructure required for deployment.
Alan Sarver: Dedicate adequate, capable resources at all levels to research and modernize. Engage the excellent resources of Silicon Valley. Implement combinations of one-to-one and bring-your-own-device strategies. Help address the digital divide in our communities. Increase our portfolio of technology-oriented courses and classrooms during enrollment growth.
Chris Thomsen: Having worked on this question for four years at Stanford, I am well aware of the opportunity and challenge of the effective use of educational technology. An essential is that we let instructional needs drive our decisions. We must always ask how technology will improve the learning opportunities for our students.
How do you see charter schools being incorporated in the district now and in the future?
Georgia Jack: The district has four independent charter schools that serve about 1,200 students and meet specific needs for some families. As discussion continues around increasing student enrollment, small “dependent” charters could address the interests of some parents and students who would do better in a small school setting.
Alan Sarver: The four charters operating within SUHSD boundaries offer a variety of environments, approaches and choices. They are a valuable part of school choices available in this area. SUHSD will develop more small schools, small learning communities and alternative programs during enrollment growth. We continue partnering more effectively with our charters.
Chris Thomsen: The relationships with the charter schools in the Sequoia district have moved from adversarial to collegial during my tenure on the board. All four charters provide a smaller, different kind of learning environment than we currently offer at our comprehensive high schools. The results have been positive for all.
Education: Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Photo Illustration, Rochester Institute of Technology, ’85
Experience: Associate director of Stewardship, Office of Development at Stanford University, Current Woodside High School parent and site councilmember
Family: Married, two children
Residence: Redwood City since 1996
Education: B.A. computer science, Coleman College, B.A., sociology and teaching credential, University of California, San Diego, master’s of goverance, California School Boards Association
Experience: SUHSD board member, Beyond Newtown Information Sharing Committee member, San Mateo County Green Collar Careers Task Force member
Family: Married, two daughters
Education: Undergraduate degree, Stanford University
Experience: Executive director of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences at Stanford University
Family: Married, two sons
Residence: Menlo Park for 18 years