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Nearly 100 candidates seek school board seats in Contra Costa County

As the election filing deadline neared in Contra Costa County on Friday, nearly 100 candidates had taken out papers for more than 20 school board races.

The filing deadline will be extended to 5 p.m. Wednesday in 11 districts where some incumbents are not seeking re-election. These include: The Acalanes, Brentwood, Byron, John Swett, Lafayette, Moraga, Mt. Diablo, Orinda, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek and West Contra Costa districts.

Just before the filing deadline, it appeared that nearly all of the races would be contested, with most incumbents facing challengers. Here is a list of the races and candidates who had qualified for the ballot by 5 p.m. Friday, followed by potential candidates who had taken out papers, but had not yet completed all the ballot requirements.

County Board of Education, Area 2: Incumbent Christine Deane and Ray Andersen.

County Board of Education, Area 4: Incumbent Richard Asadoorian and Mike Maxwell.

County Board of Education, Area 5: Incumbent Cynthia Ruehling and Jeff Belle.

Community College, Ward 1: Incumbent John Marquez and Cheryl Sudduth.

Community College, Ward 3: Tim Farley and incumbent Matthew Rinn.

Community College, Ward 4: Incumbent John Nejedly (unopposed).

Acalanes: Incumbent Susan (Susie) Epstein, incumbent Nancy Kendzierski, Kristen Correll and Robert Hockett.

Acalanes (short term): Incumbent J. Richard Whitmore (unopposed).

Antioch Unified School District: Incumbent Joy Motts, Incumbent Gary Hack and Debra Vinson and Walter Ruehlig.

Brentwood: Incumbent Emil Geddes, incumbent Heather Partida, John A. Fjeldstad, Scott S. Dudek, Susan Wallace, Johnny Rodriguez, Christina Bell and Marci Lapriore.

Byron Union: Incumbent Jill Marlene Sprenkel, Felicia Schweller and Tania Salinas. Not yet qualified: Karri Jo Murayama.

Byron (short term): Incumbent Betty Sanchez. Not yet qualified: Gina Larmar Parish.

Canyon Elementary: Incumbent David James Smith, incumbent Ian Llewellyn and incumbent Geronimo Bernard.

John Swett: Incumbent Brian Colombo, Michael Kirker and Deborah A. Brandon.

Knightsen: Incumbent Liesel Williams, Patrick Hulleman and Kristen L. Fuller, incumbent Ralph Adam McMeans and Robin Denise Pastor.

Lafayette: Incumbent Teresa Gerringer and incumbent David Gerson and Suzy Pak.

Liberty: Incumbent Roy Ghiggeri, incumbent Daron Spears, incumbent Joanne Louise Byer and Pauline Allred.

Martinez: Incumbent Deidre Siguenza, incumbent Roberta “Bobbi” Horack and Ronald Skrehot.

Moraga: Incumbent Parker Colvin, Heather O’Donnell and Jonathan Nickens.

Moraga (short term): Not yet qualified: Heather o’Donnell.

Mt. Diablo: Incumbent Linda Mayo, incumbent Cheryl Hansen, Michael Langley, Herbert Lee, Debra Mason and James Ryan Egnor-Keil.

Oakley: Incumbent Gloria Jean Lott, incumbent Mark Jordan and incumbent Arthur Fernande.

Orinda: Incumbent Juliane Rossiter, Hillary Shayne Weiner, Carol Brown and Jason Kaune. Not yet qualified: incumbent Christopher Clark Severson.

Pittsburg: Incumbent Joe Arenivar, incumbent Duane Smith and De’Shawn Woolridge. Not yet qualified: Daniel Borsuk.

San Ramon Valley: Incumbent Ken Mintz, incumbent Rachel Hurd, incumbent Denise Jennison and Jerome Pandell.

Walnut Creek: Incumbent Barbara Pennington, Stacey Schweppe, Aimee Moss, Heidi Hernandez Gatty and Sherri McGoff.

West Contra Costa: Incumbent Madeline Kronenberg, incumbent Elaine Merriweather, Elizabeth (Liz) Block, Chester Stevens, Raquel Donoso, Otheree Christian, Mister Phillips and Peter Nicholas Chau. Not yet qualified: Charlene W. Harlan-Ogbeide, Valerie Cuevas and Giorgio Cosentino.

Which candidates do you support?

Posted on Friday, August 8th, 2014
Under: Contra Costa Community College District, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa County Board of Education, Education, Election, John Swett district, Lafayette school district, Liberty district, Martinez school district, Moraga, Mt. Diablo school district, Oakley district, Orinda, Pittsburg school district, San Ramon Valley school district, Walnut Creek School District, West Contra Costa school district | 14 Comments »

John Swett superintendent shares his educational philosophy, which includes discipline and accountability

When I spoke to John Swett district Superintendent Mike McLaughlin earlier this week about the dramatic increase in his district’s graduation rate (from 75.3 percent in 2010 to 88.2 percent last year), he shared his educational philosophy with me. It is focused on putting policies in place that hold students accountable for their education, then implementing those policies consistently.

McLaughlin oversees a tiny West Contra Costa County district that includes one elementary, one middle, one high and one continuation high school. Yet, it is the fifth-most diverse unified district in the nation, he said.

In the four years since he came to the district, McLaughlin said he and the board have put stronger discipline and intervention policies into place to keep students focused on learning and give them the help they need. He has also stepped up anti-truancy efforts, giving students more incentive to go to school.

“Basically, we had kids that would just sit in a class and do nothing and there was no accountability,” he said. “Well, I’m not a day care.”

Freshmen who fail classes are pulled out for intervention so they won’t get to their junior year and realize there’s no way they’ll be able to graduate, which used to happen, McLaughlin said.

“We can’t let it get that far,” he said. “It’s difficult when you come into places and see these things happening. I think we can keep doing better.”

Eighth-graders who aren’t making the grade are required to attend mandatory summer school, according to a new board policy. The district is also not shy about suspending and expelling some students to ensure the safety of everyone on campus, McLaughlin said.

“We want the kids here, but safety has got to be number one,” he said. “We don’t expel people just for frivolous stuff. I think we’ve set a tone with our truancy policy by being consistent with our suspensions and expulsions. It’s very rare that we have to expel them twice. It gets parents involved. It’s to get this kid refocused. Our discipline issues have gone down because we’re following best practices and we’re a district on the move. I’m excited.”

Yet, similar to many districts throughout the state, John Swett’s budget is a bit precarious, with the scary outlook that it might not be able to pay its bills in three years.

“But that doesn’t change whether or not you follow best practices,” McLaughlin said. “The budget issues will always be there until society figures out whether they’re going to fund education. We’re going to keep adjusting. If things don’t go well in November (with the proposed tax increases), we’re going to be — like a lot of schools — trying to figure it out.”

In the past, he has started making cuts at the top, he said.

“I’m the superintendent and also the CBO (Chief Business Officer) halftime,” he said. “I’m also facilities director. When I got here, there were people in all those jobs. You try to stay as far away from the classroom as possible. All my administrators have two or three jobs. But that’s what you have to do. That’s what most small schools have done for years is maximize your administrators and make sure you get the people in the right positions that can do multiple things. You have to create a new culture where people can do more with less, by changing policy and being more consistent. We’re more effective with how we do things. We’re holding teachers more accountable. We’ve got a great support staff that makes it possible to do these things.”

However, the district is feeling the strain, he said, noting that the state has proposed up to 15 furlough days over the next two years if the November taxes fail. The district recently saw two parcel taxes fail, but will consider on July 25 floating a bond measure to rebuild its middle school, which is about a century old.

“I can tell you we’re bending,” McLaughlin said. “Throughout these times, we’ve tried to be as creative as possible to keep the doors open. We still want to do the best job for the kids. We can’t just give up. Our job is to smile and figure it out, because we can whine all we want, but no one’s listening. We have to be confident that we’re going to make it through the storm. I can’t sit here and have the doom and gloom everyday. I’ve got to keep people pumped up and we keep making progress.”

Do you agree with McLaughlin’s ideas?

Posted on Friday, July 6th, 2012
Under: John Swett district, West Contra Costa County | 2 Comments »