My priorities are:
Increase funding for education
Support of our teachers
establish additional Partnerships with Santa Clara County, the City of San José, and private organizations
Empower our graduates to make the right choices after graduation
Closing the achievement gap by promoting an equity-based funding policy
In the first 2 months since being appointed, I attended over 50 meetings or events as a representative of the school board, and I haven't slowed down. As I said in my appointment interview, “My drive is to serve” and that is exactly what I am doing. I also said “If six months from now, it wasn’t a good fit or I wasn’t doing a good job, I would see no reason to run.” This is the level of honesty and self-assessment you can expect from me as your Board Trustee. I’m happy to say the fit isn’t just good, it’s great. I love spending time at schools and engaging with PTA groups, teachers, principals and staff. It takes all of these groups working together to make our district successful.
Increase funding for education
There is a reality that must be discussed. The state of California funds K-12 education at an unacceptably low level. California is among the bottom ten states in the country in funding per pupil*, despite being the fifth largest economy in the world. Our children deserve better than this. I will continue to advocate for increased spending on education, and also work to make the most of the money that we do have. One of my first actions on the board was to call attention to the $8 Billion Santa Clara County Treasury Investment Portfolio and its underperformance. When our education system is already under funded, we can't afford to squander what money we have.
Through the district's partnership with the Santa Clara County Office of Education, we were able to increase the income threshold for access to preschool programs by almost $13,000. This means more of our students will attend preschool, and have a better chance of reading and writing at grade level by the time they arrive in Kindergarten. Student development in the ages of 0-5 is absolutely critical to future success in not just in the classroom but also in society. When low income children attend a quality preschool, they are 40% less likely to become teen parents, and 70% less likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
I fully support California AB 1754 "Pre-K for All Act of 2018" that will require the state to provide all eligible four-year-old children with preschool.
Partner with our Libraries
Another partnership to highlight is with the San Jose Public Library. The SJPL offers multiple programs for all students in the K-12 range of grades. One in particular that supplements the school district well is the Summer Learning Program. The program is designed to prevent the learning loss that takes place while students are out of school, a phenomenon that is well documented by educational research studies. Summer Learning starts on June 1st, right as our school year is wrapping up, and continues all the way through to the end of July. This covers all but two weeks of the summer vacation.
The library also launched its Coding5K challenge this year, a program designed to teach 5,000 students how to code every year. As a data scientist that works in the tech industry, I think this is an incredibly valuable piece of the curriculum, especially when offered at no cost to students. Students interested in taking AP Computer Science in high school would greatly benefit from getting an early start in coding through the library’s Summer Learning Program.
Empower our graduates
Our high school students should follow the path of their choosing. We should provide them with the best options to set them up for success after graduation. Whether that means community college, a four year university or entering the workplace as a skilled laborer, every graduate of San José Unified should be following following the dream that best fits their lives. Our partnership with Silicon Valley Career Technical Education should be promoted to increase the amount of graduates ready to join the workforce and earn a strong wage.
San José Unified has an incredible team of teachers, but the housing crisis makes it close to impossible for many of them to live in or near the district. We must take every opportunity to try and solve this problem. There is not one singular solution, but rather a need for many creative and innovative ideas that will come together to address this comprehensive problem. Teacher-specific housing legislation (such as AB 2788) would be a good step in the right direction for San José Unified toward providing financial assistance to our teachers.
San José Unified should partner with both Santa Clara County and the city of San José to investigate "Urban Villages" with a focus on housing for teachers, similar to what has been done in Newark, NJ and Hartford, CT.
Finally, Measure Y (Passed in 2016) funds should go to teachers and staff as directly as possible.
Closing the achievement gap
Last, but most importantly, we must continue our work to close the achievement gap. The list of my above priorities all work toward doing just that. All of our students should be performing at grade level and graduating from high school, regardless of the color of their skin or how much money their parents have. In order to achieve this, we must continue down the path of equity in our district and fund our staffing decisions based purely on school-level needs.