Viewpoint - October 12, 2011

Editorial: Our endorsements in local races

In Sequoia district, elect Du Bois, Moody and Weiner

We believe it is time for a fresh approach to governance of the Sequoia Union High School District, which operates Menlo-Atherton, Woodside, Sequoia and Carlmont high schools, as well as other smaller schools. In our opinion, the candidates best prepared to make a significant change are challengers Carrie Du Bois, Larry James Moody and Allen S. Weiner.

We do not make this decision lightly, but come to our choices due to the intractable problem known as the achievement gap that year after year has continued to shortchange many students who are not getting what they need from these comprehensive high schools. Incumbents Olivia Martinez and Lorraine Rumley each are seeking a fourth term on the board. We value their service, but after 12 years, it is time to bring new ideas to this board, now that former Superintendent Pat Gemma has been replaced by James Lianides, who has made some welcome changes since he took over last year.

With enrollment of more than 8,000, the Sequoia district faces the challenge of bringing together students with wide-ranging levels of achievement from the most affluent and least affluent neighborhoods in Silicon Valley. And their middle schools are just as diverse, with average Academic Performance Index scores in the 900-plus range at Las Lomitas and Menlo Park City school districts, while the average score at Ravenswood, though rising, was 715 this year, more than 200 points behind Menlo Park schools. In the past Sequoia board members and high school principals have blamed underperforming middle school districts for delivering students who are not prepared for serious high school work. Many of these students are students of color and are the most likely to fail to graduate from these high schools.

But finger-pointing can no longer suffice to correct this short-coming. The Sequoia board must act much more decisively to bring down the achievement gap between white and Hispanic students, which, over the last five years, averages out at 285 points at M-A; 152 at Woodside; and 147 at Summit Prep, a public charter school in Redwood City. We believe the three challengers in this race are much better prepared than the incumbents to accomplish this task.

Carrie Du Bois is an activist and leader who has brought new ideas to the San Carlos School District board during her two terms. She found that many Sequoia district parents who live in East Palo Alto had never visited the high school campus attended by their son or daughter. Ms. Du Bois then persuaded Superintendent Lianides to provide a school bus to transport parents from outside East Palo Alto to a community-building dinner with Ravenswood district parents, which was an eye-opener for those who attended. Ms. Du Bois has numerous other stories of how she has managed to break through red tape and bring new thinking to the problems of the district, and we support her election on Nov. 8.

Larry James Moody, a resident of East Palo Alto, said he simply wants to have a representative of the (Ravenswood) district on the board, to be "... a part of the conversation, to make sure that all kids are graduating." A high priority for Mr. Moody is to find "what it is going to take to turn those (achievement gap) results around." One of his proposals, which we wholeheartedly endorse, is to televise board meetings and start them at 7:30, rather than the present 5:30 p.m., which makes it nearly impossible for working parents to attend.

Allen S. Weiner would bring a new and badly needed knowledge of the law to the board, as well as expertise in negotiations. As a senior lecturer at Stanford Law School, Mr. Weiner is highly interested in whether the board and the district staff can operate more efficiently. After attending several board meetings, Mr. Weiner said, "There was just no kind of collective deliberation. ... The board is getting its information from this very wooden and formal discussion."

With three of five Sequoia board seats open, voters have a rare opportunity to significantly change how the district operates over the next four years, and can do so by electing Carrie Du Bois, Larry James Moody and Allen S. Weiner.


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