Newark: Nancy Thomas seeking re-election to school board

Newark Unified school board member Nancy Thomas has decided to seek re-election this November. Below is Thomas’ guest blog entry and announcement of her seeking a fourth term …

By Nancy Thomas

I’m reaching out to the Newark community in the wake of Superintendent Dave Marken’s resignation. I am deeply saddened by Dr. Marken’s departure. Under his leadership our district’s API scores have soared, eclipsing all other districts in Alameda County in the last round of state testing. He was voted the region’s Superintendent of the Year. For the first time in 12 years, we have not just one, but two schools reaching Distinguished School status. Many of our schools have reached the 800 API test score threshold signifying academic excellence.

We are being told that board members’ negative behavior is behind the superintendent’s resignation. To be clear, board members know how they should behave. We have agreed to our norms and protocols in multiple meetings, and have documented them in our Governance Team Handbook. Among other things, the message to the board by NEWMA was to “stay within your function and stop trying to personally fix problems.” They asked that we visit schools to “observe and learn,” not to openly criticize or question operations and activities, and that we honor confidentiality.

Not every board member has crossed the line. For NEWMA to paint us all with the same broad brush vote of no confidence is disheartening. I have filed my papers for re-election because I feel my experience and knowledge are more important than ever to the success and stability of the district in this period of transition.

If elected, I will continue to support the programs advanced by Dr. Marken. He has not shied away from courageous moves. He championed an A-G default curriculum to ensure students’ eligibility to enter the CSU/UC system. He has instituted a full-day kindergarten starting this year, and he wants to institute a middle school model for grades 6, 7, and 8 next year. His pursuit of a least restrictive environment for our special education preschool students is the right move.

While supporting the educational vision of district leadership, I have not shied away from challenging district leadership in other areas. We board members need to ensure the district’s fiscal solvency, and we must address issues such as the mishandling of funds that are brought to our attention.

For example, I supported massive cost-cutting when Newark was in real danger of being taken over by the State. It was painful. Jobs were lost. But it was the right thing to do. The board supported my request that sexual harassment training be required for all employees, not just management. I brought forward a whistleblower protection policy. Thanks to whistleblowers, several incidents of gifts of public funds have been corrected.

In closing, a big thank you to the many community members who have voiced their support and are encouraging me to run for re-election.

Chris DeBenedetti