My family and I enjoy the relative proximity to superb parks, recreational centers, libraries, and Stanford. I am very grateful that my mom, who speaks Spanish exclusively and lives near me, can form friendships with neighbors and be understood at shops around her.
Based on conversations with teachers, parents, and administrators at the district's schools, I feel very fortunate that everyone involved in our children's education genuinely cares for their wellbeing and is eager to improve continuously.
I would like to be on the board to ensure that academic excellence, the key to social mobility and financial empowerment of children, remains at the core of the School District's mission. Standardized test results do not currently reflect our educators’ dedicated work, but we do need to measure how we, as parents, teachers, and voters, are preparing our children to become future leaders and effective contributors. As a board member, I can direct efforts towards finding ways to track our children’s academic success in a more meaningful way, so we can hold ourselves accountable for consistent and continual improvement for all children.
Academic excellence is a lifestyle of love for knowledge and internalized persistence, perseverance, and focus. These attributes can be instilled in school, regardless of whatever non-medical barriers children may face outside of school. This is how I have lived my life, what keeps me anchored in the face of adversity or rejection, and what has allowed me to be highly competitive in demanding educational environments.
Academic excellence needs to be at the core of what the school district does and our guiding principle. The next three goals derive from this tenet.
The board has shown it is very compassionate, culturally aware, and knows how to run schools. They have executed an impressive financial turnaround and are making the right calls to keep a balanced budget in the face of slowly declining student enrollment. They convinced voters to pitch in to improve facilities and increase educators’ salaries, and the funds are being handled transparently and responsibly.
Where I see most scope for improvement is in implementing measurable metrics to track progress on strategic priorities. For example, in the August 28, 2021, board meeting minutes, our superintendent and board put together a list of 6 Stretegic Priorities:
I) Engage students with relevant, rigorous and standards-aligned instruction, supports and materials
II) Provide safe, joyful and productive learning environments with the proper social-emotional supports
III) Recruit and retain highly effective and diverse team members
IV) Partner with families and the community to support the whole child
V) Manage people, time and budget responsibly, equitably and strategically in service of students
VI) Work collaboratively and share responsibility for our core values
These priorities are all worth pursuing and something I support wholeheartedly. A key area for improvement is in measuring progress, defining success, and scoping the timeline for these priorities. Parents, prospective educators, and voters should be able to see how close we are to, for example, reaching goal I: engaging students with relevant, rigorous and standards-aligned instruction, supports and materials.
In addition, and perhaps this is a more pointed feedback on the board’s decisions, we need to include “equity and excellence” in our priorities. Children in our district deserve to be challenged to reach high standards just like children in our neighboring districts are. We need to discuss educational attainment metrics in every single board meeting, and that is not happening currently.
Definitely yes. Faculty/staff need higher pay to afford living near East Palo Alto. While they obtain that, the more we can do to provide options for them to live close to where they support our children, the better.
I would focus on the process they used to reach that decision. From the meeting notes, the Board was very careful about consulting the latest research, officials, the Ravenswood Teachers Association, parents, what other schools in the nation were doing, and test positivity levels in the surrounding area. Based on the inputs they did consider, their decision seems reasonable.
What was missing in this decision? Short-term academic attainment metrics. For example, referring back to the strategic goals, we do not know how or for how long the mask mandate impacted the safety, joyfulness and productivity of our children’s environments. Granted, these priorities were written after the lifting of the mandate, but the concept applies: we need to measure what is important to us.
If we were tracking information like how many educational milestones students achieved while the mask mandate was active, we would have been able to tell if we needed to lift mask mandates earlier.
Based on the census, the number of children younger than 17 has remained stable over the past 10 years in the district. Enrollment in the School District has gone from 3,411 in 2015 to 1,507 in 2021. A decrease in enrollment without a decrease in enrollable population tells me that an increasing number of parents do not think their children’s needs will be met in the district.
There currently is no plan to attract new parents into the schools and I do not see efforts to engage parents who choose to not enroll their children in the School District to understand their decision. This tells me that, at the very least, there is little interest in figuring out why enrollment has decreased.
Furthermore, financial projections assume that enrollment will continue decreasing. From the 22-23 Proposed Budget hearing, slide 6: “We are projecting that SY22-23 will be the last meaningful enrollment decrease before it stabilizes”. Note the “stabilizes” keyword, there is no expectation for an increase in enrollment nor a justification for the expected stabilization. I would argue that enrollment will continue decreasing until the outward-facing school metrics improve, but we do not actually know if this would help the enrollment numbers, given we have not tried to reach out to all parents in the district.
I see changes in enrollment as a vote of confidence from parents. While the district shouldn’t target increasing enrollment as a priority (high academic achievement for currently-enrolled children must be the priority), it should take it into account as a lagging metric on whether the schools’ efforts are being appreciated.
It does concern me that parents at large are sending a clear message of no confidence, yet the board is not addressing this directly in public or in their planning. The board is not vocal about their knowledge, if any, about why parents are choosing to not send their children to the district’s school.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, equitable academic achievement must come first in any educational institution that hopes to exist for generations to come. Once that first priority is established and pursued rigorously, and its results are shown in public, other concerns like funds, parent involvement, quality of facilities become operational and not existential.
With the funds the district has received in the past years, we have the chance to fund initiatives to measure and boost academic achievement, show prospective parents that the schools will prepare their children to be the leaders of the future, and increase salaries for faculty and staff.
I do not see areas where cuts can be made. I see areas where we can invest to generate measurable results (even if we continue lagging in standardized tests), win federal and state grants, and attract philanthropic grants on top of those from The Ravenswood Education Foundation.
I support the district’s leasing out spaces, it is a pragmatic way to increase the funds available to our children. I wish we instead faced the problem of needing to open more schools and not the problem of figuring out what to do with the schools we have had to close.
The Tinsley Program gives families in the Ravenswood City School District (RCSD) the opportunity to receive education at some of the high-achieving neighboring public schools. I support programs that expand our children's opportunities, including this one. Children's futures and access to opportunities must drive our decisions.
Unfortunately, when parents leave the School District, the children who remain are impacted indirectly: lower enrollment means lower funding for our schools and lower overall community involvement. To deal with the impact of the Tinsley program on the RCSD, we need to offer a competitive, attractive educational option, so parents enrolling their children in neighboring public schools or in private schools start viewing the RCSD as a place where their children can excel and fulfill their potential. Who wouldn't want to attend a great school within biking distance? We attract and retain families by placing Academic Excellence at the core of our decision-making and showing, not just saying, that any child who puts in the work at our schools can outcompete a hard-working child from any other school. We need to be gathering, publishing, and discussing these data --just like neighboring schools are.