The second in my hope-to-have-them-all-up-by-early-next-week series profiling candidates for the Orinda Union School District governing board.
Orinda is a familiar place to Christopher Severson. The ER physician has lived in the city since he was six, except for a few years for college and medical school. If the last name sounds familiar, that’s because his mother, Sue Severson, is on the Orinda City Council and previously served on the OUSD board.
Christopher Severson, 36, and his wife, Pam, five children between the ages of 11 and nine months. He said he’s served in the schools as a volunteer, primarily as chairman of the triennial Orinda Family Science Night in 2008.
Severson said he wasn’t planning on running for school board, but others approached him about it and he decided it was a good way to get involved in his childrens’ education. Like the other four candidates, he said the budget is the most important issue facing the district right now.
The fact that the district is at the mercy of the state when it comes to funding, he said, puts it in a tough position. If cuts have to be made, he said, they should be kept away from the classroom. And regardless, when it comes to increasing class size, Severson said he’s not sure if there’s a whole lot of bang for the district’s buck there.
“I don’t think you can increase class size and all of a sudden have all the money you need,” he said.
Although the administrative staff has already been cut, he said the district may have to take a look at scaling back even more, as well as re-evaluating its facilities and maintenance budget, perhaps delaying noncritical repairs until the economy improves.
The district’s parcel tax has helped shield it from more drastic cuts, Severson said.
“We’ve had a little bit of buffer so the cuts we’ve had to make have not been as grave as the could be,” he said. And, at least for now, he’s not supportive of an additional parcel tax. But he did qualify that by saying if the recession continues, and with few other ways to raise revenue, the district may have to look at that option.
Asked about serving on a board with so many new members, Severson said he thinks the impact will be low, especially because the two remaining board members and Superintendent Joe Jaconette have a lot of experience.
And he’s not planning– at least right now — on following his mother’s path to the city council chambers. He said he prefers to avoid politics, and while he’s passionate about schools, he doesn’t have much of a passion for city issues.
Profile of Tyson Krumholz here. Upcoming profiles: Julie Rossiter, Bekki Van Voorhis-Gilbert and Sarah Butler.