*Originally posted 12/18/12 on San Jose Inside
I had several emotions and feelings running through my body and mind when I heard the horrific news about Sandy Hook Elementary School. During my time as an elementary and middle school principal, I feared the insanity of the world—at any given moment—might enter the portals of my school. Even though the chances are remote, the terror of violence being played out in real time on a school campus cannot be totally absent from the thoughts of today’s school leaders.
For me, the Newtown tragedy is more about the resources we need as a nation to care for our fellow citizens who are mentally ill than gun control. And yet, we will not advance the cause of decreasing violent incidents until we discuss both issues openly and honestly with a subsequent call to action.
*Originally posted 12/11/12 on San Jose Inside
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”
Virginia O’Hanlon, 8, directed this question to the The Sun, a New York newspaper, in 1897. Here is part of the published answer she received: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. … He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”
Good enough for me. If I had one request for Santa this holiday season, I would want him to work with each of our 31 school districts—too many, for sure—and make certain they have plans to expand STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curricular planning to include the Arts. The new term we should use to organize the work of schools today is STEAM, and the tools to promote an integrative brain for all children are paint brushes, acrylics, ballet shoes, flutes, keyboards, drama, choir and music teachers, artists in resident programs, Mariachi dancing lessons, etc.
*Originally posted 12/4/2012 on San Jose Inside
We can argue over whether it is a fiscal cliff or slope, but the real challenge for America in the coming decades is improving the mediocre results of public education. The facts show that we are in a precarious position as a nation and as the largest state—11 percent of America’s children are enrolled in California schools.
According to a new report by the U.S. Department of Education, California ranks 32nd in high school graduation rates, with only 76 percent of our high school students graduating. More disturbing is that Latinos and African-Americans make up 58 percent of the state’s K-12 students—51 percent Latino and 7 percent African-American—yet these students have a 66.5 percent graduation rate from California high schools. The subgroup that fairs the worst in the report is students who are English Language Learners, with just 51 percent graduating.
*Originally posted 11/27/12 on San Jose Inside
I fear we are entering a new cycle of benign neglect of school reform, where the status quo continues and student achievement results do not match the urgency of the time. Yet there are some true education reformers that should be mentioned.
One such educational reformer is former state Senator Gloria Romero, now with Democrats for Educational Reform in Southern California. Dr. Romero was the first woman to hold the position of Democratic majority leader of the California Senate from 2001-08. In 2008, Sen. Romero stepped down to hold the chair of the Senate Education committee; she then unsuccessfully ran for the position of State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
*Originally posted 11/20/12 on San Jose Inside
Thanksgiving holidays have always been a time for self-reflection. This year is no different. My look in the mirror this week will reflect on my role as a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board.
When I was elected in 2008, I was not a proponent of an expanding the charter school system in. I saw it as a threat to the viability of the public school system, a system I worked in for 34 years. My first charter school votes were against a renewal of Discovery in Moreland and a “no” vote for Magnolia’s petition for three countywide charters. My votes were in the minority, and in both cases the charters were approved.
*Originally posted 11/13/12 on San Jose Inside
Election Day 2012 was good for public education in California and the nation. President Obama’s reelection means continued reform of public education through choice, quality early childhood education, meaningful teacher evaluation systems, pay for performance, career technical education and rethinking tenure. Proposition 30’s passage leads to a more stable publicly funded system of California schools.
It might be a little confusing for the public going forward, as some districts will hire teachers and others will remain in survival mode and await dollars that will flow back to schools in late June. Cash flow problems will continue for many districts until the state’s large single payment arrives. Nevertheless, the passage of Prop. 30 is a very good omen for education.
*Originally posted 11/6/12 on San Jose Inside
I am writing this column as a pragmatic alarmist. This phrase is oxymoronic, but an accurate portrayal of how I feel at the end of my first term on the Santa Clara County Office of Education school board.
It is Election Day 2012. Four years ago, 60 friends and supporters watched the returns with me at my election night party. We celebrated the national results along with my election to the county Board of Education. Little did I know that the Board would be at the eye of the political storm brewing over charter school expansions.
One prominent national education leader recently told me that the traditional public school system has a life expectancy of no more than five years. To co-exist alongside publicly funded charter schools, expanding at breakneck speed, the tradition system must reform itself with world-class achievement results.
*Originally posted 10/30/12 on San Jose Inside
Election Day is one week away and the results will tell us the kind of schools and school leaders we will have. I have two very quick pleas for the public good:
First, if Proposition 30 does not pass our public schools and safety will be adversely affected. In this county alone, up to 11 school districts would be so strapped financially they would be on the verge of insolvency. Our children deserve better. I strongly support Proposition 30. It is far too close in latest polling for the educational and safety communities to breath easy.
Prop. 30’s official ballot argument in support of a “yes” vote accurately portrays the importance of its passage. “To protect schools and safety, Prop. 30 temporarily increases personal income taxes on the highest earners—couples with incomes of over $500,000 a year—and establishes the sales tax at a rate lower than it was last year. Prop. 30’s taxes are temporary, balanced and necessary to protect schools and safety.”
*Originally posted 10/23/12 on San Jose Inside
As chair of the county Board of Education the last two years, I have concluded that the delivery, organization and governance of public education has changed markedly in San Jose/Silicon Valley. Much of the disequilibrium has been generated by the federal initiative called “Race to the Top,” and the Obama administration’s embrace of school choice through the advocacy of quality charter schools.
The Board has played a meaningful role in the local controversy through its votes to authorize many countywide charters consistent with state law. Too often this sets up adversarial relationships between our local school districts. The Board spent several meetings listening to district trustees and superintendents in crafting the Countywide Charter School Guidelines.
*Originally posted 10/16/12 on San Jose Inside
Quality public education should be the number one issue of our time, and the president the next four years should be leading the effort to create a public school system in America second to none. Nation building at home must be the mantra, and it needs to begin with our children.
At 6pm tonight at Hofstra University, the second Presidential Debate of 2012 will take place. Debate moderator Candy Crowley, CNN’s chief political correspondent, will introduce the candidates for a Town Hall meeting format. The stakes for the two candidates are huge, especially for the incumbent.