Everything South City would like to extend our thanks to Pat Murray as she shares more information on why she is running for School Board and what she would bring to the table if elected. There are 3 open seats on the School Board. Please remember to vote in this November election.
Everything South City Questions for SSFUSD Board Candidates
1. Do you have, or have you had, children that attend(ed) our SSF public schools? If yes, what was the best experience your child(ren) carried with them after that course/teacher/experience?
All three of my children attended district schools K-12. They all graduated (as I did) from El Camino – 2009, 2011 and 2014. They had some wonderful teachers who not only provided them with a solid education but who shared their passions with the children.
In middle school, my eldest had a history teacher who taught an archery class after school. It taught him to step outside his comfort zone and try new things. In my middle child’s 4th/5th grade classes, he had a teacher who had an ”American Idol” contest every Friday. The children were encouraged to explore their abilities and share them with the class. It was scary, but by the end of the year, every child felt safe enough to share. My son is now studying business and music and would like to be a music producer. My youngest participated in Mock Trial in her senior year of high school and found abilities and a talent that she didn’t know she had. She may study law because of it.
I’ve picked out a few examples to show how varied and impactful the sharing of a teacher’s passion can be and I have to say that, if given the opportunity, we have many teachers who would share their interests and inspire our children. We have to make sure that when implementing fed/state mandated programs, like Common Core, we don’t take away the teacher’s ability to inspire our children.
2. Why should the community at large vote in this election for SSFUSD Board members?
It’s my opinion that we should all vote in every election because a lot of people fought for us to have that right and I believe that government works best when everyone is involved.
But, with regards to this election: there are three open seats, which is a majority and which can determine the future of our schools. There are a lot of important issues facing our district right now. First and foremost is the implementation of Common Core and LCFF —new standards and new financing. We need to make sure that they are properly implemented without weakening the education that our children are receiving.
Whether you have kids or not, good schools translate to a stronger community and higher home values. When buying homes, one of the first things people ask about is the schools!
3. What is your number 1 concern about our schools and what is your plan of action to address this?
Among my concerns about our schools, is that we are not meeting the needs of ALL of our students. There is an “achievement gap”wherein some of our students aren’t performing as well as others. We need to make sure that ALL students are able to reach their individual potential.
I believe this is something that, as a Board and community, we need to research and find new and better strategies for addressing the problem. We can look to our community for resources and involvement. We cannot be a great district if we’re not meeting the needs of ALL of our students.
4. Our community has been upset over the lack of retention of good teachers and principals. What do you see as the problem and how would you rectify that?
I think the community should be upset. I’m upset. How can we have a great district when there’s no continuity? In the last four years, my daughter has had two superintendents, three principals, numerous vice principals and two counselors. All but one counselor left El Camino during her years. It’s no wonder teachers are leaving in droves. There’s no direction or continuity.
I don’t know why our administrators are leaving, but I would find out. I hope that exit interviews are being conducted. I believe that a good survey of the teachers, administrators and staff should be conducted. I’ve been told that administrators and staff are leaving because they can make more money “down the peninsula”. But, years ago, it wasn’t unusual for teachers to spend their whole career with our district despite better salaries being offered elsewhere. Principal Beth Orofino, retired from Westborough Middle School after nearly 40 years. She was a teacher, vice principal and principal at Westborough. It wasn’t about money, it was about her love of the school and district. We need to find out why they’re leaving and fix the problem!
5. What is the #1 thing that makes you best qualified for this position on our School Board?
The #1 thing that makes me qualified for this position is my experience with the district.
For the last 18 years, I have been in PTA leadership at both the school and council levels. I have been PTA President at three schools (sometimes at two schools at the same time), VP, Secretary and every chair position that can be held (oftentimes, many in the same year.)
I have also been an active Parent Leader, serving on many committees at the school and district levels. I’ve written newsletters, started email lists, started Facebook and Twitter accounts and have worked hard to build a sense of inclusiveness and community at each campus through better communication. I’ve often said that the more people at the table, the more ideas and the more likely we are to have great things happen. One person cannot do it alone!
I have been to many School Board Meetings over my 18 years as a parent in the district… often informing parents and encouraging them to attend. Years ago, our district was suffering from economic hardships and the public was told that cuts were going to be made and nothing was safe. I attended every Board Meeting and fought hard to keep the cuts as far away from the kids as possible. I am no stranger to the Board.
For more information about my involvement and volunteer work, please visit the involvement section of my webpage CLICK HERE
6. There has been much controversy over the electives being offered a tour High Schools. What courses do you believe to be the most beneficial to our students?
I believe that giving every student a great education is important whether the student plans to attend college or enter the workforce. Part of a great education includes “reading, writing and arithmetic”. But the other part includes life skills and electives. Electives add to and enrich an education. Our high schools have many elective subjects: Drama, art, photography, choir, band, dance, leadership, advanced PE, yearbook and more. I believe that some parents were unhappy about the cancellation of Auto Shop. I believe Family Life and Home Ec have also been cancelled. I think it’s a shame and should be revisited, because the more opportunities we have to inspire and prepare our kids for the real world, the better
7. Due to limited space, Candidate Statements may not express all that you would like our community to know about you and your goals.What else would you offer? What makes your platform different from the other candidates?
I love this community and district. I’ve volunteered in the district for almost 20 years and with my youngest off to college, I feel that I have more to offer! I can and will give this my full attention. There are many things that need to be addressed and implemented over in the next couple of years: the completion of the Measure J projects and the implementation Common Core and LCFF. There will be a learning curve for all of the Board Members but I would work my hardest to make sure that the implementation does not weaken the education of our kids. And I believe that my experience volunteering within the district will help me do just that.
A few of the issues I feel passionate about are mentioned above. But, additionally, I believe that safety is a priority because students cannot learn if they don’t feel safe. I’m not only talking about the facilities. When on the ad-hoc Safety Committee, I made several suggestions for keeping our campus’ safe. One was as simple as having everyone on campus wear a name tag so that we know who should be there and who shouldn’t. Bullying, both in person and in the cyberspace is another major concern of mine. We need to research and implement programs to teach our students how to deal with bullying but, also, how to feel enough self-worth that they don’t feel the need to be bullies themselves.
I’ve also been very passionate over the years about building community. I have often said that the schools can and should be the center of our neighborhoods. I think one of the best ways to build that spirit of community is bettering our communications processes and remembering that communication is a two-way street. Yes, let’s tell people what’s happening. But let’s also ask them what’s happening. Let’s be open to new ideas —this is a philosophy that can be implemented in the classroom, at the school level, at the district level, and certainly at the board level.
How does my candidacy differ from the others? Simply put, I’ve been volunteering in the district for the last 18 years. This would be a continuation of my work. While my three children were students in the district, I was a very active parent and PTA leader. I have been there collaborating with the many district stakeholders and have been an advocate for many children and parents in our district. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do and thankful to have had the opportunity. This has been a labor of love and I believe that the school board is the logical next step. Unlike many of the people running, I’ve been around for 18 years, working in the schools, being on school committees and showing up to and participating in school board meetings. I’ve been there and will continue to be there for our kids.
For more information visit on Pat’s campaign CLICK HERE