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San Ramon Valley Unified School District Candidate Q&A: Rachel Hurd

Patch has compiled background information on all candidates running for office in November, when four people will compete for three seats on the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education.

Patch has asked each candidate to fill out a questionnaire to give residents information about his or her background. See other elections coverage here.

What is the primary reason you are running for this office?

Education is the most important thing a community provides for its youth to ensure that they grow up to be productive members of society. I am running for re-election because I want to continue to help shape and influence the quality of the educational experience of students in our schools. I want all children in our schools to graduate prepared to be productive, engaged and fulfilled citizens with viable options for their futures.

What will be your single most important priority if you get elected?

My most important priority is to ensure that we provide a quality educational experience for each of our students by continuing to improve student learning and engagement, within the constraint of maintaining our fiscal solvency. There may be different opinions about how to improve student learning and engagement, especially with limited resources. It's important that the values and concerns of all stakeholders–students, parents, staff (at all levels and in all functions), and community members–be considered as the district sets direction and aligns initiatives. We also need to acknowledge and work positively with the natural tension between district direction and site-based initiative.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

My combination of perspectives and experiences is what sets me apart and has helped me earn the credibility and trust of educators. I have proven experience as a school board member who has had to work through very difficult financial times to preserve the quality of education in our schools. As a member of the district's negotiating team, I am well aware of the concerns of the employee associations and the management team as we strive to do more with less money per student. I have significant, current, hands-on experience as a parent leader and volunteer in our schools, and therefore have a good sense of what's happening at our schools. Personal experience with my own children's learning issues, coupled with my involvement in both the district's improvement efforts in special education and intervention programs at school sites, gives me a unique perspective on the challenges of how we make education work for all students. My community involvement in scouting, youth sports, Leadership San Ramon Valley, the Facilities Oversight and Advisory Committee, and more recently Rotary International gives me a well-rounded view of the community's values and varied interests. And finally, because the district has had significant leadership changes during the past two years, it's important to have board members with a historical perspective and familiarity with district's challenges, successes, priorities, and new initiatives.

Where do you work and what is your job title?

My volunteer service, although unpaid, and serving on the Board of Education is my work.

Age and birthplace?

I am 46 years old, was born in Santa Monica, CA, and was raised in Palos Verdes, CA.

What are the names and ages of your children, if any?

I have three children, two boys and one girl, who have all attended district schools. My older son is 19 and a graduate of California High School, now attending Sierra College in Rocklin, CA. My younger son is a sophomore at California High School, and my daughter is in eighth grade at Pine Valley Middle School.

Please list the schools and colleges you attended, the degrees you attained and when.

I attended Silver Spur Elementary, Malaga Cove Intermediate, and Rolling Hills High School (all in the Palos Verdes Unified School District), and graduated in 1982.

University of California, Davis – B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1987

Have you ever held an elected or appointed public office?

SRVUSD Governing Board Member, 2006 to present. Currently serving as Board President.

Have you run before for an elected public office?

SRVUSD Governing Board Member, 2006.

Approximately how much money do you expect to spend on your campaign, both total spending and personal?

It cost each candidate in this race $1,950 to include a ballot statement in the voter guide. I hope to raise enough money to cover this expense as well as another $1000-2000 to cover my share of the cost of a modest shared campaign to make voters aware of my candidacy.

Have you ever served in the military?

No.

Have you ever been convicted or charged with a crime other than a minor traffic violation?

No.

Have you or a business you owned or had principal interest in ever filed bankruptcy?

No.

How long have you lived in the San Ramon Valley?

Thirteen-and-half years in San Ramon.

What's your favorite thing about the San Ramon Valley Unified School District?

My favorite thing about the San Ramon Valley Unified School District is the parent involvement we have in all of our schools. Parents' commitment to their children and to their children's education and development is demonstrated daily in volunteer hours, financial contributions, fundraising, and attendance at Back-to-School Nights, PTA and Ed Fund events, performances, athletic events, and school open houses. The time and money our families contribute to our school communities makes a significant difference in the quality of the educational experience for our students. And because administrators and teachers value and encourage this involvement, the partnership between home and school is stronger here than in most districts, spilling into the community as well. I believe this is one of our district's greatest strengths.

What is the biggest problem in the district?

The biggest problem facing the district is financial. The state's budget crisis is causing more financial stress on school districts than ever before. This year we are looking at a 22 percent deficit factor, which means that for every dollar in funding we are owed by the state, it pays 78 cents and writes an IOU for the other 22 cents. This situation has forced us to make difficult choices, including increasing class sizes, which resulted in significant teacher lay-offs last year. These layoffs have further impact of breaking up cohesive teaching staffs, as teachers with less seniority are moved to different schools to fill the positions of teachers with even less seniority who were laid off. Our district has a history of prudent fiscal management. The reserves that have been set aside over the years, as well as continued enrollment increases, have allowed us to weather the budget crisis better than many districts.

But the reserves won't last forever. The federal stimulus package approved two years ago, provided one-time money that helped a great deal, and the new stimulus package will as well. The flexibility in the spending of categorical funds that the state approved has also helped districts make ends meet, but this has been at the expense of programs benefiting students. Most significantly, by relaxing the penalties for increasing class-size in Kindergarten–third grades and ninth grade English and math classes, most districts, including ours, raised class size in those grades, which means less individual attention for students and the loss of high quality teachers. Because the state only granted the flexibility through the 2011-12 school year and because we have to look at three year budgets, our budget shows us "going off a cliff" financially in 2012-13.

These factors combined with the timelines imposed by California's school finance system, such as having to approve our budget by June 30, before the state approves theirs, and having to issue preliminary layoff notices to teachers who might not have a job the following year by March 15, make the budget a constant source of stress tugging our time and attention away from improving education.

Contact information:

Email: rmshurd@sbcglobal.net

Phone: 925-833-9455

Website: www.RachelHurd.info

Facebook: Friends of Jennison, Mintz, and Hurd/SRV School Board

Harald A. Bailey September 11, 2010 at 03:36 PM
Dear Elizabeth, Ms. Hurd's comments are impressive in the operational and financial knowledge of SRVUSD. It is very positive to see four candidates that care about the educational result of district operations. I would suggest that an exceptional issue exists for all candidates and especially the incumbents. Like many governments today, failures in community communication are alienating boards and administrations from the communities they are obligated to serve. SRVUSD has instituted communications policies that restricts communication by neighborhoods and parent groups to formal proceedings or a blind submission form on the SRVUSD website. At a time in our national history when voters demand interactive communication and immediate service to their will and interests, I would suggest each candidate define their positions on community communications with SRVUSD board and administration. halbailey@yahoo.com

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