Shara Watkins,  Noelia Corzo and Julie MacArthur

Now, more than ever, the inequities in our society are glaring and undeniable. Now, more than ever, we owe it to our students to think about how our systems are working — or not working — for them. While we analyze how the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District uses its resources to address the needs of all students, we must not ignore how ALL systems affect our students and families. While our district rises to the task of educating and empowering our students, it is incumbent upon us to also ask other powerful systems to do the same. 

As a board, we have a history of asking hard questions. We ask hard questions about student data and why certain student subgroups still lag significantly behind their peers. We ask hard questions about our budget, our magnet school policies, busing, special education services, curriculum and much more. While these have been difficult conversations, and have stretched our district staff and teachers, we have done this together. These conversations have strengthened our relationships, have led to greater collaboration, and will undoubtedly change outcomes for our students. 

On Aug. 6, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution to address the school-to-prison pipeline and terminate the school resource officer contract with the San Mateo Police Department. A week prior, we heard a presentation from the SMPD about the program, the perceived benefits and the reasons why we should continue to fund armed police presence in our schools. We were not presented with statistics on the effectiveness of the GREAT program or on the racial breakdown of our students involved in the juvenile justice system. When we asked those questions, we did not receive answers. 

In 2018 and 2019, we asked similar questions and, despite not having all of the information we wanted, voted to continue the SRO program. We did so knowing the SRO program had maintained a status quo approach to delivering services in a time when the needs of students and schools have constantly increased and evolved. We owe it to all our students to be willing to ask hard questions, and to challenge the status quo. We have an obligation to our students of color to make sure their experiences are heard, validated and respected. Our teachers and staff need to understand the experiences of their students even when they don’t match their own. They need training and support for this work, and that support needs to be more nimble than a program that hasn’t been forced — and seems unwilling — to re-examine its role in our schools. 

The resolution the Board passed Aug. 6 does a few things: 1). It terminates the current contract with SMPD, which was set to expire this upcoming school year; 2). It calls for deep listening sessions with all of our community stakeholders — students, families, teachers, staff, administrators and police; 3) It asks our district to deeply dive into our discipline data, to identify trends and to re-examine our practices; and 4). It calls for us to all come back to the table to determine how to move forward with the acknowledgment that having a relationship with our law enforcement agencies is necessary to best support our students and families. 

Our board has heard from students who had negative experiences with SROs in our schools and believe the program is what led them to enter the justice system. We heard from teachers about wanting to hire more counselors and social workers, and to provide more funding for unconscious bias training. We have also heard from community members who believed the resolution was an indictment on all police officers, who do not believe the school-to-prison pipeline exists, and who believed that our resolution was motivated by personal agendas instead of what was best for kids. 

Those opposing views, the lived experiences of those who hold them, and their access — or lack of access — to power and privilege in our school district and community is at the root of this issue. Too often when those targeted or left behind by a powerful system speak out, they are met with indifference, a denial of their experiences or accusations that they have a hidden agenda. This is what happens when you question a powerful system. 

No one here created a racist system. But we all now have a responsibility to change it. That means acknowledging that none of our systems are perfect and there is work to do. That means asking hard questions, having difficult conversations and doing things differently. Asking questions, looking deeply at data and changing how we move forward is not an accusation of our SROs, our police department, our district, our teachers, our staff, our students or our families. This is the work we were elected to do.

Shara Watkins is a trustee on the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District board; Noelia Corzo is president of the board; and Julie MacArthur is the president of the San Mateo Elementary Teachers’ Association, or SMETA.

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(23) comments


The two school board members chastised the police department along with Goethals for sending in the troops geared for riot marches I totally see that as unprofessional in many ways you do not chastise your employess as the mayor and school board. ever. elimiinating crucial to the kids relationships with cops like a ridealong knowing the cops personally that can have all kinds of positive experiences for kids was also wrong. Being in this district since 1975 until now I have encountered umpteen school boards especially involving building schools in FC no need to tell me about salaries the Brown act still leaves me wary of collaborations as I felt the two trustees went into that meeting minds made up . I wouldn't doubt some pre discussions were held with other board members. I felt political /BLM matters were considered in defundiung the police in my eyes these police kept us from freeway disruptions mall thievery with one on the roof with a gun possibility. they kept the March safe with rioters trying to jump the fence of the PD. No you don't chastise them because your baby was scared You leave the baby home.. I won't support this board I will support my faculties of 5 or more schools.. school closure etc. in the past battle to not be bussed but walk to school. I figure I paid for the seats i sat in in those days of meetings. school support signs from closures etc. been there done that and bought the t shirt. I see self agrandizing mentioning power from these two members I've never come in contact with this complete selfishment to get what they want in any of the past school boards I came in contact with. Nothing from this board will surprise me. .


Mr. Conway, in his 8/14 6:34am comment makes the following two statements:

"These three women are the prime example of what is wrong with public education today and yet they hold a monopoly on the education of our youth."

"These women do not speak for many taxpayers who pay their salaries and they definitely are not in touch with either Foster City or San Mateo."

In fact, these three women do not hold a monopoly on the education of our youth. MacArthur is the only district teacher among the three, and has the extra responsibility of leading the teacher union. Corzo and Watkins are elected members of the Board of Trustees of the San Mateo-Foster City School District, elected at-large by citizens of San Mateo and Foster City. The collaboration to write this letter does not violate the Brown Act, as suggested by aball, because only two members of the same board worked together. Because Corzo and Watkins were elected to their positions, they do, in fact, speak for the taxpayers. You might be interested to know, Mr. Conway, that Corzo and Watkins do not receive salaries in their positions of service, but rather small stipends (~$400/month) to cover expenses associated with their service. I also know, from attending school board meetings, that one of these trustees lives in San Mateo and one lives in Foster City.

So how about instead of maligning these leaders with faulty information and assumptions, you actually give a small amount of grace to listen to the message? There might be something there, that while not important to the majority of the population, is important to a vulnerable part of the population and needs to be addressed.

-- In peace, in these crazy times.

Christopher Conway

We have heard their message and we don't want it in San Mateo, city or county. You seem like a decent person so I will explain it like this. The best way to stop the racial unrest in our country right now is to not let it in to begin with. How about educating are children instead of filling their heads with this racial rhetoric that divides them at a young age. San Mateo does not have a racial problem and we don't need these three women saying there is. All three should be ashamed of themselves.

Tommy Tee

No racism in San Mateo.



You constantly refer to we in San Mateo, do you have a mouse in your pocket? Why don't you try I don't want it. As for "The best way to stop the racial unrest in our country is to not let it in to begin with." is easily translated in the words of your idol on Jan. 11, 2018. "Why do we want these people from all these sh##hole countries here? We should have more people from places like Norway." Ban everyone but whites, that will solve the problem.

Christopher Conway

Nobody said anything about not wanting people from different countries, what I am talking about is don't come to this country and say its racist, has problems and want to change it. We would prefer in that case that you do not come at all. Get it now? Funny how you never heard of race issues in San Mateo until the lefties came to town. Started with district elections in the county and has been downhill since then.



It is unfortunate that your fine explanation will fall on deaf ears.

Christopher Conway

Whoever you are, this is the opinion section of the SMDJ where people who purchase a subscription can comment on the stories of the day. How about you mind your own business and if you do not like people opinions, stay away from the Opinion section. This is America, not Russia, even though the RedforED teachers unions are a bunch of Marxist.


comment to my comment this program is responsible to kids being in the justice system. Yes you did something and the cops arrested you so there you go.

unfortunately this is not always the case. it is often assumed that the person with the darker skin or immigrant is the person that did something wrong. happens way too often. racism has always existed, even here in the bay area. thank you to those that are finally brining it to the spot light!


"This is what happens when you question a powerful system.'' Yes, as they said in the '60s, "Question Authority." Today mass media is the authority. You seem to have full access, to the point you are the gatekeeper. BTW: Does SRO mean Standing room only? I had to read this twice to realize it stood for School Resource Officer, which was not capped on first reference.


Opinions of comments we are just self agrandizing these women who like their names in controversy? /Best to ignore?


Collaborations always mentioned Brown Act violations? I have been there done that and bought the t shirt with 2 boys in the 70's and 2 girls in the 2000's. What I have seen of gangs and the camaraderie of this middle school orogram to provide an outlet to make kids familiar with the law is priceless. The hours put into school building and support are also priceless I don't see any experience offered from this group except promoting self agrandizement at the kids expense.


This program is responsible for the kids entering the justice system? Are you crazy?


Thank you Chris. BLM speaking POA right about jumping on a band wagon to the detriment of this district. Thanks Chris Conway I carry nuch respect for you now.

Tommy Tee

Raise your hand if you knew Conway (racism denier) would be the first to post.

No racism in San Mateo. It's just made up.

Christopher Conway

I'm raising my hand Tommy


Tommy, no need to raise a hand. I saw nine comments, looked at the first line of the letter and saw the words "inequities in our society". That is all you need to know to guess who would be the first to comment.

Christopher Conway

and that would be me. Do you think I am the #1 San Mateo citizen who refuses to listen to this racist garbage. I think I am.

Tommy Tee

You are the biggest denier, for sure.

No racism San Mateo...

Christopher Conway

Here we are in a situation where we are uncertain about how we are going to educate our children do to this pandemic. Then you have these three race hucksters who have prominent positions in our education system concentrating on a problem that does not exist. Public educators have long forgotten their job to educate our kids and instead concentrate on things that have nothing to do with a child's education and everything to do with their liberal progressive views. These three women are the prime example of what is wrong with public education today and yet they hold a monopoly on the education of our youth. The pandemic and the recent moves by public education officials is everything we need to know to push for school choice and vouchers. These women do not speak for many taxpayers who pay their salaries and they definitely are not in touch with either Foster City or San Mateo. We don't want these women anywhere close to our kids filling their minds with this kind of garbage, it is a very dangerous game they are playing. .

Dirk van Ulden

But Chris, you don't understand. They feel so much better about themselves coming up with these asinine comments. Their responsibility is to teach and get the kids to become part of a flourishing society, not to dig into the backgrounds of these kids that has only led to coddling. How to rid ourselves of these characters?

Christopher Conway

School choice and vouchers Dirk, that is the answer. Let the money follow the child, not this monolithic, archaic behemoth that is public education today that promotes left wing ideologies and is answerable to no one.

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