Campbell Patch: What sets you apart from the other candidates?
Julie Reyolds-Grabbe: I am a working mother of two children currently in Moreland district schools. I have spent the past five years in continuous service to my community as a board member for several non-profit organizations as well as being an active parent in many educational organizations within Moreland. I am also from an area that does NOT have any current representation within the school board and I could help bring some new ideas along with some fresh perspectives.
We need fair and impartial decisions for the benefit of ALL schools and the surrounding communities for this district to prosper. I am also 100% committed to this four year term and not planning to "job hop" to another position during this time.
I also have a Bachelors of Science degree in Business Administration with a Management Information Systems emphasis and have worked for a myriad of successful organizations - Stanford University, Apple, NASA Ames Research Center, Ziff-Davis Publishing, and Sonoma State University, to name a few. I have a diverse background and have spent twenty one years working in the areas of effective people management, IT, HR, Finance, Marketing and Facilities.
I am a well-rounded individual who is passionate about improving education not only for my children, but for ALL within Moreland. Going forward, it will be essential to have a representative school board with involvement from parents as well as the surrounding communities.
Patch: What are your top three priorities you will address if elected?
- Fair and balanced decisions with a focus on achievement for ALL area schools with participation from the surrounding communities.
- Nearby neighborhood involvement in the decision-making process relating to the opening of new school(s) to accommodate a forecasted increase in enrollment.
- Help MSD become the top choice for local and out-of-district parents who send their children to private schools, charters and home-school because they feel MSD programs are not compelling.
Patch: How will you help close the achievement gap in your district's schools?
Reyolds-Grabbe: I think the number one way to close the achievement gap is to find creative ways to engage more parents. The achievement gap is based on many factors including whether children have a single parent at home, the amount of parental support they receive, whether English is the primary language at home, the academic history and literacy of the student's parents, and whether the student is living in poverty.
Living in poverty can adversely affect students by exposing them to less than adequate nutrition, housing and access to healthcare. They are at increased risk of living in areas with high crime and substance abuse which can also affect their school achievement. Although we can't directly combat many of the above issues, we can encourage parents to invest time and energy in their children's future.
I also believe that teachers and administrators must have high expectations for students coupled with access to resources if achievement falls short. Identifying and providing intervention for those students who need assistance is critical.
Another initiative that will potentially help with closing the gap is the Common Core State Standards which California is adopting in the near future. The CCSS will ensure that every student has access to teachers who are prepared to teach at levels that facilitate a high quality learning environment. The instructional resources have also been designed to meet the needs of a diverse mix of students.
Patch: How can you provide fiscal responsibility as well as transparency to the board's actions?
Reyolds-Grabbe: I believe the MSD is doing a very good job of communicating financial information to the community but not too many people attend board meetings or read the minutes.
In order to further improve transparency the board needs to find additional ways to tell the story. You really can't communicate too much when it comes to proving responsible fiscal oversight!
The use of e-newsletters, web page updates, parent surveys, facebook postings, tweets, blog postings, podcasts, videos of proceedings, live town hall meetings, representation at local PTO/Home and School Club and neighborhood meetings, as well as occasional postal mailings need to be utilized to clearly demonstrate to our district stakeholders that MSD is indeed transparent and operating in an open manner.
Other school districts use these methods and put a premium on communications and I think MSD needs to follow suit to stay competitive. We are lucky to have such a diverse population, yet everyone will not want to receive the information in the same way (e.g., a retired couple with no internet access vs. a young family with children in a non-district charter school).
The key to success is to provide accurate information and district updates in multiple forms to reach more people in the community. This in turn, will build more trust in what projects and initiatives the Moreland School District and the governing board are spending their time on. Now is the time for MSD to renew and strengthen its ties to our local community!
Patch: How will you better involve the parent community?
Reyolds-Grabbe: Outreach is critical. As stated in the previous question, the use of multiple ways of communicating is key. Having parents and residents understand that the governing board is accessible is also vital. The use of parent surveys, board involvement in school-specific meetings, updated content on the website, the use of facebook and twitter, e-newsletters, and most importantly, periodic face-to-face town-hall meetings are critical.
Soliciting input from the community in a sincere way is also important. The parents of children at non-Moreland schools are not included in many of the outreach efforts the district does now. This is a shame! These parents have reasons that they do not send their kids to Moreland schools and it would be eye-opening for the district to better understand and possibly combat these reasons. Their reasons may be due to misinformation or firm belief in a different curriculum philosophy. But if the district is not communicating to them at all, how could this ever change?
Patch: What do you think is your district's biggest challenge?
Reyolds-Grabbe: Losing vital funding from the state because parents are voting with their feet. We are losing too many students to other schools! We need to retain more students within the district as well as increase inter-district transfers.
At a time when education funding is at all time low, it is essential to give parents a compelling reason to keep their kids in this district. Many parents feel that their children will get a better education at a charter, private school or by being home-schooled. This is a large concern that hasn't changed in the 5 years I've had a child in the district.
I recently polled many parents within a several block radius from my home and 1 out of every 3 households believe Moreland schools are falling short and have decided to go to other schools to give their children access to a better education. It should be of paramount importance to make top-notch programs available for all Moreland students because Moreland parents and residents are demanding more from this district and will continue to.
For more of Patch's November 2012 Election Coverage, click here.