Campbell Patch: What sets you apart from the other candidates?
Kalen Gallagher: I believe my experiences as an alumnus of the district, as a former teacher in East San Jose, and in my current job as an entrepreneur at an innovative education technology startup give me a unique set of skills and the fresh ideas needed to combat the numerous issues facing our district.
Most importantly, I am incredibly concerned about our district’s 16% dropout rate and the test scores that rank among the lowest in the state when compared to similar schools. I strongly believe that all children, regardless of their background, deserve a high quality education. Our students deserve strong advocate who will work tirelessly to implement programs to combat these issues and lead us toward a brighter future.
Patch: What are your top three priorities you will address if elected?
- Implement programs to solve CUHSD’s 16% dropout rate and raise achievement scores that rank us among the lowest in California when compared to similar schools.
- Aggressively modernize classrooms with technology.
- Mobilize alumni, local businesses, and the community toward a shared vision of success.
Patch: How will you help close the achievement gap in your district's schools?
Gallagher: We must be vigilant about implementing programs similar to those run by our neighboring school districts that enjoy so much success. Successful school districts excel in strong parental education programs, student onboarding, and mobilizing the community toward a shared vision of success. Unfortunately CUHSD has fallen behind in these areas. We also must understanding that all six schools have different needs and that our programs and plans should reflect that instead of being cookie cutter one-size-fits-all.
Patch: How can you provide fiscal responsibility as well as transparency to the board's actions?
Gallagher: Making sure we increase the transparency of the board is crucial. Our meetings are currently not streamed online, and our district and school websites leave much to be desired. There are many organizations out there such as Code for America that are devoted to helping local governments become more open and transparent. We should be partnering with these organizations and working tirelessly until we meet at least minimal standards of open government.
Fiscal responsibility is important as well, especially in these troubling economic times. I have extensive experience balancing budgets and know that the experience will serve me well on the board.
Patch: How will you better involve the parent community?
Gallagher: If you look at successful school districts throughout the state they do an amazing job at engaging not only their parent community, but also their community at large. We all have a vested interest in the success of our schools and the further we can break down the barrier between the board and the community, the better.
If I’m elected to the board I want to spend much of my first year organizing the community around each school and ensuring that they not only know what is going on, but that they understand our deep challenges and how they can help.
Patch: What do you think is your district's biggest challenge?
Gallagher: I’ll be honest, we have a lot of challenges, many of which I described above. Another that I’d like to elaborate on is the lack of modern technology available to our teachers, students, and administrators.
When we started this campaign the district technology plan presented on the website was over 10 years old and the board’s technology committee had not met in years. The result? We are dangerously behind other high schools across the state in terms of technology.
As many are moving to a 1:1 environment, in which every student has an internet connected device, many of our teachers only have one computer, and even that one is grossly outdated. Coming from the startup world, I am very passionate about modernizing our schools through technology and taking advantage of the grants and business partnerships that will help us get there.
When someone walks into our schools they should feel like a high school in the heart of Silicon Valley – anything less is a shame.
For more of Patch's November 2012 Election Coverage, click here.