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School board trustee candidates respond to unanswered audience questions from town hall

The CVHS Activism Club and The Olympian partnered to host a town hall meant to educate voters on the candidates for the two open positions of school board trustees views and goals should they take office. This was live streamed and can still be accessed on The Olympian YouTube, as well as being embedded in this post. There are three candidates, Gary Howard, Sara Raymond, and Tina Sachs, all of whom were present at the event to answer questions provided by the Activism Club and audience members. Due to time constraints, however, not all of the audience provided questions were answered. In order to respond to these questions, the candidates provided typed responses of their answers The Olympian for publication.

If elected, what will you start working towards on Day 1 (or in Gary’s case, continue working on)?

Gary Howard: In the new year, we will need to be thinking hard about the budget for the next year, and that will require us to look at our progress toward our current goals and what our goals for the following year should be. We will also need to establish new working relationships with our new assemblyperson and senator. We already know Shawn Kumagi and Liz Ortega fairly well and have had extensive conversations with both about the needs of California public schools. But we will need to continue to support the one who wins in November to help them get ready to represent us in Sacramento. Castro Valley is being transferred to a new Senatorial district, and we will have to get to know Senator Steve Glazer, who will represent us for the next few years.  

Sara Raymond: In talking with voters and stakeholders, two primary issues are raised with me more frequently than any others: safety on campus and mental health resources. I’d like to focus some immediate energy into those areas of concern. On safety, I’d like to do what I can to ignite a transparent, public dialogue between the community, CVUSD, and Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) about our options as a community, community policing and how it applies to our schools, and the relationship between ACSO and CVUSD. On mental health, I’d like to understand what precisely is being offered through our wellness centers, how they are staffed, whether they are able to meet the demand, and what we can do to extend that model of care and service in to our elementary schools (which are currently staffed by social workers who cover multiple sites).

Tina Sachs: Immediately after being elected, I will attend training sessions provided by the CA School Board Association regarding board governance along with any onboarding sessions with the elected board members as required by the District. At this point in the year, the 2023-2024 planning and budgeting process will be underway.  I will need to get up to speed on how we are performing against 2022-2023 goals and budget, what information and data we need to take into consideration for 2023-2024 and then participate in setting goals and the budget. We will need to build a relationship with our new CA assembly person and begin to build relationships with key critical district employees and partners.

“Fully funded classrooms” has been talked about for years, yet it has not happened. What are your plans to direct more funds toward classrooms so teachers are not spending out of pocket or relying on parent donations?

Gary Howard: Funding is an ongoing problem for us. We receive the least funding per student of any district in Alameda County. We need to continue to communicate the needs of public education to our elected representatives in Sacramento. We have a zero-based budget process at every school that allows teachers and administrators to ask for the funds they need. Finally, the teachers should reach out to the parent clubs, Castro Valley Educational Foundation, Rotary Club of Castro Valley and other organizations for additional help so they don’t have to spend their own money. 

Sara Raymond: As someone who spent a lot of time volunteering in my kids’ elementary classrooms, this is an issue that is close to my heart. More often than not I have observed our teachers scrabbling to put together supplies and resources and relying on donated time and supplies. While I don’t have a problem donating my time or money for supplies, this isn’t an equitable solution to supporting our teachers. Further, California state law prohibits public schools from requiring this sort of parent/guardian contribution. While the requests are framed as donations and as optional, they feel necessary and can create stigma for kids whose families cannot afford to participate in donating time or money. I think it is critical that we start with closely scrutinizing our budget so that we can understand where money is flowing. Once we have a good handle on that, we can prioritize.  

Tina Sachs: While I cannot make budget decisions on my own, each year, we should examine our budget to determine if we can afford to make any increases to the instructional supplies budget for teachers and make it as easy as possible to receive reimbursement for these expenses (e.g. reimbursement processes are determined by the district, not by the board). Given limited funding, there are trade offs that need to be made so the budgeting process should include and be informed by key stakeholders like principals.  The district has a bottom up budgeting process (budgeting that starts at the school level) so principals should ensure that the teachers are part of the process. One of the items to consider is that there is a $33 billion surplus related to the education budget in CA.  This could result in one-time funding for the district. In addition, we can continue to educate our state representatives to support increases to funding at the state level. Finally, we can collaborate with local community organizations such as Castro Valley Education Foundation (CVEF), school PTAs, Castro Valley Arts Foundation (CVAF), etc. to request funding for our teachers.

What will you do in order to affirm LGBTQ+ students, aside from the implementation of the rainbow murals? How will/do you ensure safety and comfort of all LGBTQ+ students and staff at all campuses?

Gary Howard: We are concerned about the safety of all students and especially LGBTQ+ students. We have policies and procedures in place and have provide training for students and staff for dealing with specific situations. We have also established programs in restorative justice, PBIS, and Trojan Time to encourage students to be more tolerant and inclusive of all groups. We recently had murals of the pride flag painted at every campus to encourage everyone to value diversity. 

Sara Raymond: This is a great question, and another that is close to my heart for personal reasons. Murals and flags are fantastic visual cues to the community, but we really need to commit to policy that embraces our LGBTQ+ community members and looks to them for advice on what would support them best. Reaching out to organizations like Castro Valley Pride and the LGBTQ+ Club at the high school, truly listening to them, and then incorporating their input into actions is the best way to ensure actual inclusivity. From a policy perspective, our district policies need to be updated to ensure that curriculum and programming will be 100 percent in compliance with state law regarding the gender-affirming/inclusive instruction. I’d also like to see CVUSD look to LGBTQ+ organizations for direction in training teachers and staff in how to incorporate newly enacted state laws that are meant to protect and uplift LGBTQ+ [people] within our school communities.  

Tina Sachs:

The district has done the following in support of the LGBTQ+ community:

  • Set a promise, vision and mission that is inclusive of all students including the LGBTQ+ students
  • Set consistent and comprehensive non-discrimination, anti-bullying and harassment policies with specific protections for LGBTQ+ students
  • Set in place restorative disciplinary practices
  • Created policies to support transgender and gender nonconforming students
  • Created the Wellness Centers at the High School and Middle Schools along with staffing with social workers and counselors for all sites.  Partnered with and provides resources from community organizations that specifically support the LGBTQ+ community.

What can we do in addition to the items above:

  • Student and staff culture assessments / surveys – let’s hear from the students and staff directly where we can then get a baseline understanding of where we are in our journey, track our progress and effectiveness against our intended outcomes.
  • In regards to transgender and gender nonconforming students, there may be additional or improved policies such that we even clearer on our support (e.g. transgender students playing in sports and what we can do to support them)
  • Provide ongoing support and training on restorative justice practices and DEI training. 
  • As we build a relationship and any form of new agreement with the ACSO, ensure that there is a MOU setting out clear expectations of behavior, interactions and support of our students.  
  • Continue to advocate for and support both academic and social and emotional health and wellness specifically for the LGBTQ+ community
  • Continue to keep the lines of communication open between students and the board

What organizations or groups do you hope to (or have you) partner with during your time on the board?

Gary Howard: We partner with many organizations. For example, we have nearly completed a second agreement with HARD concerning renovation of the soccer fields at Canyon. We have excellent relationships with CV San, which provides training on waste disposal, awards for schools, and assistance with clean-up efforts around the community. Other organizations include the Rotary Club of Castro Valley, Castro Valley/Eden Area Chamber of Commerce, Castro Valley Educational Foundation, Castro Valley Arts Foundation, Castro Valley Sports Foundation, Music Parents, parent clubs,, CV Pride, Castro Valley Alliance, Alameda County Public Health Commission, Castro Valley Science, East Bay Realtors Association, Moms Against Poverty, Chabot College, Association of California School Administrators, California School Board Association, California State PTA, Castro Valley Teachers Association, California School Employees Association (local 52), and many more. These organizations provide funding, training, advice, scholarships, activities, and other benefits to our staff and students. 

Sara Raymond: The following organizations are already signed on to work with me and CVUSD on issues that impact our community: Castro Valley Teachers Association (CVTA), California School Employees Association (CSEA), Castro Valley Pride, Alameda County Building Trades Association (and several individual trade unions). I also plan to maintain my connections to the different groups of parents I’ve gotten to know throughout the campaign who were not part of my personal bubble prior to embarking on this effort. These parents come from different racial and ethnic backgrounds than myself, and it is important for me to remain in contact with them (especially with respect to issues that will touch them in particular). 

Tina Sachs: The district and schools need partnerships in order to successfully serve students.  Here are a few and there are definitely more as it is not an all inclusive list: Castro Valley Sanitary District (CVSan), Castro Valley Pride, Castro Valley Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, Castro Valley Community Alliance (CVCA), Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (HARD), CSEA, CVTA, CVAF, CVEF, Castro Valley Sports Foundation (CVSF), PTAs, California School Boards Association (CSBA), Eden Area ROP and ACSO.

Can you explain your campaign partnerships?

Gary Howard: Tina Sachs and I decided to partner in the campaign. We have worked together extensively and productively in the past, and we have very similar beliefs about how best to benefit the students of CVUSD. The Castro Valley Teachers Association endorsed Sara Raymond and me, and they paid for and placed signs and flyers advertising that endorsement. 

Sara Raymond: When embarking on my campaign, it was critical to me to build a list of endorsements that did not simply reflect my personal relationships, but that also sent a message to Castro Valley about who I am and what I believe. In order to do that I reached out to several parents, community members, and teachers who know me through my community volunteering and work in the schools and asked them to support my efforts. I also reached out to trade unions, several elected officials (local, regional, and statewide office holders), and Democratic organizations. Having all kinds of partnerships, especially with highly recognizable leaders and organizations, is a large part of communicating what my values are and how I might look at certain issues. Post-campaign, these partnerships remain important because I’m going to want to turn to the teachers and school staff to ask them how they are feeling about things. I am going to want to talk with the parents and other community leaders about what is impacting them the most.  The mental health professionals will be able to advise me on how our schools can best serve our community. Trade union partnerships will be critical to strengthening our career and vocational offerings to students. Other electeds, particularly those on other school boards, will be a resource about what schools are doing in the surrounding areas. State-level partners help put Castro Valley on the map when funding issues arise. Having a relationship with our Assembly member is particularly important, given our status as an unincorporated community. I’m happy to say I have even opened a dialogue with the incoming Alameda County Sheriff that I believe will grow into a larger dialogue with our entire community about safety.  

Tina Sachs: I decided to partner with Gary Howard as we have volunteered together through the years and have similar beliefs in how we can best support students and we bring different strengths to our campaign.  It made sense for us to work together in support of each other. The teachers union endorsed Gary Howard, Sara Raymond and Liz Ortega.  The union provided non-monetary support by creating lawn signs, mailers and flyers to be distributed to the community.

One thought on “School board trustee candidates respond to unanswered audience questions from town hall

  • Thank you to the Olympian and the Activism Club for organizing this event. Thank you, too, for sharing the un-asked audience questions!

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