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      Know Your PUSD Candidates (Photo – Graphics Dept.)

      ColoradoBoulevard.net presented five fundamental questions to the eight candidates for the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Education.

      By Editorial Board

      We received the following responses; answers that exceeded our 75 word limit were edited to comply.

      (Rita Miller withdrew from the race. Incumbent Kimberly Kenne did not reply to questions).

      Question #1:

      What experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a Board member?

      As a five-term member of the Altadena Town Council, I have experience in representing constituents. I listen and follow up residents’ concerns.

      Additionally, I have participated in town halls to inform our community about our PUSD schools, written a grant support letter for the John Muir dual enrollment, overseen the budget as chairperson on the ATC executive committee, and worked with PUSD district staff in getting word out about the magnet programs.

      I have worked in public education for over 20 years. Currently the vice president of the Pasadena Unified School District, I have been on the Board for five years and worked in the district for 14 years prior to being elected to the Board. Prior to serving on the Board, I was a commissioner in my community for 12 years.

      Five years ago, my wife and I founded Friends of Madison Elementary, a nonprofit dedicated to equity, access, and opportunity in public education. By building bridges with numerous public and private entities, FME raises funds in support of our youngest neighbors. I am a former City of Pasadena Northwest Pasadena Commissioner and an active board member on several Pasadena-based organizations: Rose Bowl Aquatic Center,  Partners Building Community Group,  and Pasadena Center Operating Company.

      My experiences as a public school teacher and an administrator in PUSD uniquely qualifies me to serve as a School Board member. My understanding of teaching in the classroom is vital to helping our students and teachers thrive. As an administrator who has experience working in the Pasadena School District, I am very familiar with the budgets, people, principals, and needs of every school in the District. This is vital and unmatched experience.

      My volunteer roles have given me a strong sense of community needs. Presently, I serve as Deputy Chief of Staff for an LAUSD Board Member. I craft policy impacting student achievement, making contracting more accessible for small businesses and increasing equity and access for our most marginalized student populations.  I supervise 5 staff members, direct community engagement strategy and coordinate collaboration with agencies and organizations.  I read, review, and make recommendations on budget expenditures.

      In 21 years practicing law, I’ve served as member and secretary on multiple boards of multimillion dollar enterprises. I know what makes boards functional or dysfunctional. As a former finance executive, I dissected budgets and became a Chartered Financial Analyst® (described by the Financial Times as the gold standard for the finance industry). I serve on Blair’s School Site Council, working with staff and students to develop and monitor the School Plan for Student Achievement.

      I am uniquely qualified for the job. As a Profesor at California State University Northridge, I am the only candidate with experience in the classroom. I have been teaching first-year and first-generation students since 2008.  I have served on committees at CSUN that work with academic budgets, student success, and equity in education–all areas that align with the duties of the Board. I am a PUSD parent, the only candidate with young children.

      Question #2:

      What do you see as the primary work of a School Board member?

      • Billy Malone (Dist. 1)

      Trustees set direction for the district and work together to provide support for the superintendent. A board member annually evaluates the superintendent based on the following areas that are part of Board policy:  relations with the Board, Personnel, Instructional Program, Noninstructional Operations and Community Relations. In addition, the Board and the superintendent set annual priorities with metrics and the Board annually evaluates the superintendent.

      • Michelle Richardson Bailey (Dist. 3)

      The work of a School Board member is to oversee the fiduciary matters of the district, ensuring that all resources necessary for our students to be successful learners are provided to the classroom, establish the mission and vision of the District, and set yearly goals for the Board and the superintendent that will promote academic rigor and student achievement.

      • Patrick Amsbry (Dist. 3)

      I agree with the California School Board Association’s statement that the role of school boards is the citizen oversight body of the school district. The role of the school board is to ensure that districts are responsive to the values, beliefs, and priorities of their communities. Its responsibilities include setting direction, establishing an effective and efficient structure, providing support, ensuring accountability, and providing community leadership as advocates for children, the school district, and public schools.

      • Xilian Stammer (Dist. 5)

      A School Board member’s primary work is to set legitimate, common sense policies for the District, approve budgets that allow us to efficiently and effectively spend the money we receive from the state and federal governments for every student and public school in PUSD, and develop goals for the superintendent and hold him/her accountable. All this should be done with the focus on increasing students’ academic achievement and social/emotional growth.

      • Patrice Marshall McKenzie (Dist. 5)

      The primary work of a School Board member falls into four main categories: governance, developing and setting policy, approving budget expenditures, and managing the Superintendent, the one employee who reports directly to the Board.  The School Board should also be the face of the District in our community. Moreover, the Board should be on the forefront of local, state and federal advocacy in order to bring resources to PUSD.

      • Juan Pablo Alban (Dist. 7)

      A Board must stick to its mandate to function. This means rigorous and independent supervision of the Superintendent, establishing visions and measurable goals for the District, holding itself and the Superintendent accountable for them, and approving and monitoring the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), which should reflect and track those goals and measurements. As a community representative, a Board member must constantly liaise and engage the community in these efforts, bringing the LCAP to life.

      • Yarma Velazquez (Dist. 7)

      The School Board is an oversight governing body of the District, ensuring the District is accountable and responsive to the entire community. The Board sets the direction for the administration while deferring to the expertise of school site staff and teachers for recommendations. It is the responsibility of a Board member to read staff proposals critically, consider their  impact  and make informed decisions based on measurable data and the well-being of all of the community.

      Question #3:

      How does a Board member supervise a superintendent and the administration without micromanaging staff members?

      • Billy Malone (Dist. 1)

      Board members must remember they only evaluate one staff member, the superintendent. When a Board member receives a complaint or a concern, the member gives it to the superintendent and asks the superintendent to follow up. The Board member should ask for a resolution of the concern within a week or two. Board members do not manage staff.

      • Michelle Richardson Bailey (Dist. 3)

      The superintendent is the only district employee the School Board supervises. The role of the Board is to equip the superintendent with the tools and supports necessary for them to successfully manage the administrative teams at every level of the District. The Board is also responsible for holding the superintendent responsible for accomplishing the established goals set forth in their work year plan.

      • Patrick Amsbry (Dist. 3)

      Each year the Board defines performance goals for the superintendent. These goals should follow the S.M.A.R.T. criteria: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. By the Board setting clear and measurable expectations, the superintendent knows the priorities and measurable targets set by the Board. It’s up to the superintendent on how to reach those goals. The superintendent and staff should provide updates to the Board throughout the year so the Board can evaluate progress and make adjustments.

      • Xilian Stammer (Dist. 5)

      A Board member needs to form strong relationships with the superintendent and administrators – provide them support and hold them accountable so they can effectively and constructively implement Board approved policies and regulations. Working with them is a collaborative process of listening and then setting policy from the superintendent down, and empowering them to do everything required to educate every child in the District. It is advantageous that I have that District level experience already.

      • Patrice Marshall McKenzie (Dist. 5)

      Board members and administration should have open lines of communication for purposes of providing situational awareness as needed.  However, Board members should not supersede site level authority or the Superintendent’s ability to manage staff. A Board member only has direct supervisorial responsibility of the Superintendent. The role of the School Board is to make smart policy and budget decisions that empower faculty and staff to have the tools and resources to deliver high quality instruction.

      • Juan Pablo Alban (Dist. 7)

      Board members should avoid interfering with daily operations. Their direct line of supervision is the Superintendent. There also will be appropriate (and even frequent) times when Board members should meet with, listen to, and act upon the concerns of any stakeholder of our public schools. I’d welcome recurring meetings with all key stakeholders. Still, we should make all efforts to then work with and not around the administration to solve problems and make compromises.

      • Yarma Velazquez (Dist. 7)

      The Board sets the direction for the superintendent. PUSD staff works hard to provide the community with the best possible outcomes. However, we need to have clear goals AND clarity of what success looks like. As Board members, we need to agree on setting goals and how to measure them. The Board can use community input to agree on measurable goals for the superintendent and provide assessment mechanisms to determine progress toward meeting those goals.

      Question #4:

      How do you effectively engage in Board actions with which you don’t agree?

      • Billy Malone (Dist. 1)

      The Board member must graciously accept the will of the majority and work to support the decision. As a town councilmember, I understand this and I have worked in an environment where this happens all the time. I will bring this skill to the School Board.

      • Michelle Richardson Bailey (Dist. 3)

      The beauty of diversity on the Board is that each of us brings a different experience to the table. It is wise to consider varying perspectives. The key is to respect and value the opinions of my colleagues. After presenting my views and casting my vote; and when I don’t agree with the action that is taken, I accept it and move on.

      • Patrick Amsbry (Dist. 3)

      All decisions made by the Board should be thoroughly discussed. I hope to get fellow Board members to see my position through healthy discussion and fact-based evidence. Each Board member brings to the Board their unique experiences, skills, and knowledge. The goal of Board discussion is for the Board to hear everyone’s views and be fully informed before making decisions so that we are more confident that we are making the right decisions.

      • Xilian Stammer (Dist. 5)

      Listening is key even when we think we might disagree with a Board’s action. Understanding the context and history of an action and why it was taken is also important for engagement. Every Board member has a vote, and a Board member’s job is to use their vote to represent the needs of the community they serve – importantly making sure that every decision gives students the education to which they are entitled.

      • Patrice Marshall McKenzie (Dist. 5)

      School Board governance requires its members to make decisions that are best for the District, its students and employees. When the Board arrives at a decision, the expectation is that the members will uphold the action even if there are dissenting opinions. Expressing disagreement can be done without personal attacks or disparaging remarks.

      • Juan Pablo Alban (Dist. 7)

      Never avoid crucial conversations when there are disagreements on upcoming votes. As the people’s representative, engage the entire community, early and often. Respectful, reasonable debate is better than avoiding conflict. It’s more disrespectful to avoid a discussion for the sake of avoiding discomfort. Make your argument. Keep it honest. Negotiate. If you still lose, accept it and work to optimize the results of the vote you lost; don’t then slash and burn.

      • Yarma Velazquez (Dist. 7)

      Each Board member wants to serve the community and deliver Pasadena children an excellent public education. If we focus on process and strategy, we can identify our common goals. Data will persuade some Board members, and others are moved by community input; the key to successful communication is understanding the leadership style of each member and presenting information in a way that bests suits the decision-making process of each member. Collegiality is a key to democracy.

      Question #5:

      Do you have or did you have your kids in PUSD or private school? Explain why.

      • Billy Malone (Dist. 1)

      My child is a student in the Pasadena Unified School District and will be graduating this year. My daughter has had a positive, well-rounded education. The decision to send my daughter to public school is one of the best decisions of my life. I chose to put my child in PUSD because PUSD is part of our community and being in our community is a part of her education.

      • Michelle Richardson Bailey (Dist. 3)

      All 3 of my children attended PUSD schools. Although they never attended a school of choice, they successfully matriculated through the educational programs at the schools they attended including high school, and went on to attend the colleges and universities of their choosing. As disappointed as I felt about not getting into the schools of choice, I never considered private schools because I went through the public school system. I believe in PUSD.

      • Patrick Amsbry (Dist. 3)

      Both of our sons have now graduated college. I am a product of public schools from kindergarten through college. We researched all of the PUSD schools and made three attempts to lottery into a PUSD school for our son who was in first grade and needed a special individual education plan (IEP). We were rejected all three times. Private school became the only option to accommodate our son’s special needs.

      • Xilian Stammer (Dist. 5)

      My daughter is in her middle 30s now. She was not able to immigrate to the United States until she graduated from high school. However, she attended Pasadena City College for 3 years studying architecture before transferring to Southern California Institute of Architecture.

      • Patrice Marshall McKenzie (Dist. 5)

      My husband and I do not have children.  I attended Pasadena Unified schools and he attended Chicago public schools. Both of us are and continue to be strong advocates for public education.

      • Juan Pablo Alban (Dist. 7)

      Our son is in 10th grade at Blair High School. The school’s International Baccalaureate Program attracted us for his 6th grade. We have a daughter in seventh grade at Westridge School for Girls. It was a decision between an all-girls versus a coed middle school education. It was NOT a private versus public decision. Our daughter had long wanted an all-girls’ education. She ONLY applied to Westridge, managing the application all on her own.

      • Yarma Velazquez (Dist. 7)

      My two children have attended PUSD since pre-school: Jonathan is in 5th grade, and Anaya is in 3rd grade at the dual immersion program at San Rafael Elementary. I am bilingual, and I wanted my children to be bilingual as well. PUSD offers families the opportunity to learn and grow as multilingual and multicultural citizens. Additionally, my kids have benefited from the excellent summer programs at PUSD, where they have opportunities for enrichment and growth.

       

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