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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

Smart Voter
Alameda County, CA November 4, 2014 Election
Candidates Answer Questions on the Issues
Board Member; Alameda Unified School District

The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of Alameda and asked of all candidates for this office.     See below for questions on Define Position, Priorities for Position, New Superintendent, Use of Bond Funds

Click on a name for candidate information.   See also more information about this contest.

? 1. How do you define the responsibilities of this position?

Answer from Michael McMahon:

As an elected School Board member I am part of a six person governance team (including the Superintendent) that makes policy decisions for Alameda public schools that are consistent with the principles of public education against the backdrop of a very political environment that will change in coming 20 years . One of the primary roles I can fulfill as an individual Board member is to serve as a link between the schools and the public and between the public and the schools.

The primary work of a school board is conducted during school board meetings (the only place where a school board member has any authority). The minutes of school board meetings are records of action taken by the school board.

During the school board meetings, the school board oversees a number of areas including: Accountability, measuring achievement against state and federal mandates, Finances, insuring the ongoing operations of the District, Facilities, providing for safe and effective learning environments and charter school oversight.

Answer from Gary Lym:

I believe at this particular junction, an active school board is necessary to insure the effective management of the district. With past parcel taxes and now an upcoming bond, our residents need to be confident that our board is performing their due diligence in asking thorough questions as it relates to all expenditures. My accounting background provides me with a comprehensive understanding of budgets and how to manage them in a fiscally responsible manner. That includes understanding the justification of the expenditure and their relevance to meeting the needs of our students.

In my opinion, the superintendent serves at the pleasure of the board members that are elected officials and not vice versa. The board needs to establish a clear directive to the superintendent that a collaborative partnership with all stakeholders will provide an optimal learning environment for students.

Having been active in the public schools as a volunteer (Bay Farm School, Lincoln Middle School, Alameda High School, Encinal High School), I believe our school board members need to be accessible to the stakeholders (parents, teachers, staff, and the community). If elected as a school board member, it is my goal to attend either PTA or SSC meetings at our 18 site locations throughout the school year. I believe our community expects from our school members an individual that is engaged and will listen and learn what is happening in our district at all the schools.

? 2. Elaborate on your top three priorities for the Alameda Schools; what problems do you foresee in implementing these?

Answer from Michael McMahon:

1.) Securing sufficient and stable funding. Relying on State funding will not be sufficient or stable. We need to work with community to establish sufficient and stable funding.

2.) Rebuilding trust with the community. By appointing a new superintendent we can establish a new governance team that begins to rebuild trust.

3.) Implement Common Core curriculum. The big challenge will back end testing to measure the effectiveness of Common Core curriculum.

Answer from Gary Lym:

  • Implementation of Common Core. The district must communicate with the teachers in order to achieve success. The teachers need to provide direct input into their professional development as to what is needed for implementation. Provide teachers with the needed instructional materials for Common Core.
  • The lack of Career Technical Courses. Without these courses, many high school students who seek a vocational path are not having their needs served. Funds need to be invested in this area so our students have options outside of the traditional college path.
  • Future budget deficits will create huge problems for our public schools. Without a plan, many vital programs will be at risk. With my accounting background, I would like to ensure we are allocating and prioritizing our limited resources to achieve maximum student success.

? 3. What qualities and skills will you seek in a new superintendent?

Answer from Michael McMahon:

A collaborative educational leader who knows Alameda.

Answer from Gary Lym:

The superintendent serves as a role model to his/her administrator who is responsible for implementing the board's directive at their site locations (i.e., schools). The superintendent should provide guidance to achieve this objective. This individual should be a demonstrated instruction leader, effective communicator, good listener, understands budgets and a good manager.

? 4. How would you propose that the use of any new bond funds be transparent to the community?

Answer from Gary Lym:

The school board must work to have a collaborative relationship with the teachers, staff, parents, and the community in determining the allocation of the bond funds. All the stakeholders must be kept informed as to the status and progress of each project approved by the board. Transparency with full disclosure is essential to regaining the trust of our stakeholders.

Answer from Michael McMahon:

Ensure active participation of school site stakeholders in the prioritization of school site projects before the school board approves the expenditures of funds.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League.  Candidates' statements are presented as submitted. References to opponents are not permitted.

The order of the candidates is random and changes daily. Candidates who did not respond are not listed on this page.

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Created: July 23, 2015 14:55 PDT
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