EditorialIf at least three of the five candidates currently holding filing papers for this year's Pleasanton school board elections actually follow thorough and declare their candidacy by next Wednesday's deadline, the board can finally move forward into a post-Juanita Haugen era with all of its trustees duly elected. Since Mrs. Haugen's death in March 2007, up to three of its members at a time have served in appointed positions. Jim Ott, the current board president, was appointed to replace Gloria Fredette, who resigned mid-term. Ott was elected to the board in 2006 when he ran unopposed, along with incumbent Pat Kernan. At year's end, both will be half-way through those four-year terms. Later, Chris Grant was appointed to succeed Steve Pulido, who left the board when he was appointed an Alameda County Superior Court judge. Grant has now filed for this year's board election. Most recently, Steve Brozosky was appointed to the board to succeed Mrs. Haugen. He said at the time that we would not seek election to the board in 2008. Long-time trustee Kris Weaver plans to step down from the board when her term expires this year.
Impressive choice in Pleasanton school board race
That means three seats are available in the Nov. 4 election, including Grant's, enough to give the board a new majority in setting district academic and budget policies going forward. Among these challenges will be an examination of problems with continued excellence in student achievement, funding and wrapping up the master plan for completing expansions at Amador Valley, Foothill and Village high schools, and strengthening security safeguards on all school campuses.
In terms of academic achievement, Pleasanton schools are at the top or near the top in most categories of California testing requirements, which is good because the state's standard achievement tests set the benchmark with the highest standards in the country. But all is not well across the student population ranks with Caucasian and Asian students consistently scoring at the top, and African-American and Latino students coming in with lower scores. It's a trend troubling many California school districts and an issue Superintendent John Casey plans to review and discuss remedies with the school board in the coming months. It's the board that is ultimately responsible for the accountability of the district's test scores and will need to provide the motivation and resources to make sure all students have the skills needed to achieve the performance levels that keep our district among the best.
A second challenge will be for the new board to carefully look at what Casey, district administrators and the principals say they need to complete the high school master plan. This includes the expansion of the library at Foothill, increased counseling space at both Amador and Foothill, more room for special education and larger facilities for wrestling programs, weight rooms and other gymnasium needs. At Village High, more space is needed for a science classroom, a multipurpose room and the school's renowned culinary arts program. So the trick for the board will be to help the district put all these pieces together with a timeline and budget that puts these projects on a pathway to completion, and to make sure there's plenty of financial cushion to ward off teacher and academic program cuts if the state's education budget is slimmed down again.
Campus security is another growing concern in Pleasanton. Although we take pride in statistics that show our city and school campuses are safe, Casey believes that you can never be "too safe." In recent months, there have been intruders on school property, a shooting threat that caused a joint dance planned by Amador and Foothill students to be cancelled and an incident off campus involving Amador students and a gang element from Stockton. In the coming year, teachers, administrators and office personnel can be expected to have some "front line" training to quickly detect and report any incidents of bullying or more serious activity on campus. The new school board will be part of this ongoing campus alert effort.
Voters now have less than three months to study the school board candidates before making up their minds, and the Weekly will be doing the same. But on the face of it, this may be the most impressive choice Pleasanton voters have had for a very long time.