Almanac

Viewpoint - October 12, 2011

Driscoll, Johnson in Woodside School board race

Transparency and communication with parents are big issues in the race for two Woodside School District board seats, and we believe the two challengers, Rudy Driscoll and Kevin Johnson, are committed to a more open approach on the board than incumbent Virginia "Ginger" Bamford.

With its one K-8 campus on Woodside Road, this district serves 500 students who can live nearby or miles away in the hills above town or in Portola Valley. On a 2010 survey, some respondents said that communications between parents and the board was not satisfactory, mentioning that emails to board members are often ignored and that the afternoon board meetings are inconvenient for working parents to attend. Others said the board is not open to parent feedback.

Survey results like this should have raised a red flag at the board, but so far, we have seen few changes for the better.

Although not running as a slate, Messrs. Driscoll and Johnson sound similar themes in their low-key campaigns. Both promise to respond quickly to emails and calls from parents, and both are eager to get to work on a new strategic plan for the school. And both have young children who will be attending school for many more years. Mr. Driscoll sees himself as someone who has the skills to bring together the key school groups, including the foundation, PTA, school board and the teachers' group. Mr. Johnson has a strong interest in the character development program known as Social Emotional Learning, which is being introduced to a limited degree on the campus, and wants to expedite its adoption in classrooms and on the playground.

Ms. Bamford, the one-term incumbent who has two children who graduated from Woodside and whose youngest child is in seventh grade, said she is open to moving the board's public meetings to any time of the day. Addressing the communications issue, she said some types of communication from board members are restricted by the state Brown Act, and that the board has a long-standing policy for its president to respond in writing to communications received.

We believe the school board could do better by making a commitment to open and transparent communications. Rudy Driscoll and Kevin Johnson want to move in that direction and should be elected to the board.

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