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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Election 2018: Emery School Board Candidate Sarah Nguyen

School Board Election 2018
Candidate Questionnaire

The Tattler presents the 2018 Candidates Questionnaire; School Board edition.  Five candidates are running for three seats, making this a very consequential election that will constitute a majority on the five member Board.  The order of presentation for this series was chosen randomly.  Only one candidate's answers will be posted on a given day but regular Tattler stories might be interspersed in the sequence of candidates and there might be more than a day between candidate postings.
Readers may use the search bar to see the candidate's answers as they are posted by typing in 'School Board 2018 Candidates Questionnaire' or the candidate's name; Katy Brown, Ken Bukowski, Brynnda Collins, Susan Donaldson or Sarah Nguyen.
We thank all the candidates offering their services to the benefit of our school district, the parents and children.
The election is on November 6th.

Sarah Nguyen
Name the top three problems with EUSD right now and what are your suggestions for how to deal with them?
I’m concerned about teacher recruitment and retention, about low and stagnant test scores, and about student and family perceptions around physical, mental, and emotional safety at both Anna Yates and Emery HS.

How do we know if a school superintendent is doing a good job?  Is there any way to measure it?  Are there objective components?
There are a range of ways, too many to list here, to measure a school superintendent’s success. In my experiences as a teacher and an instructional reform facilitator, I can describe objective and subjective components I’ve seen in the work of successful superintendents. In my observations, people who excel in this role are informed about not only about the conditions within their own district but about best practices and challenges found in education as a whole. They identify and strive to build on their own strengths through ongoing professional collaboration and development. They are aware of, and actively working to make progress on, their areas for growth. They hold an equity lens and ask their community to do the same. They have respect for all educators in their district as well as students and families, and have the capacity to make choices that are best for the district as a whole even when these choices may be unpopular to some. They make informed, public commitments to policies, facilities, programs, and resources that are in the best interest of the entire community and they seek to be held accountable to their commitments.

Would you be willing to consider examining the idea of melding EUSD with Berkeley Unified if they would be amenable to that?  Why or why not.
I am aware that there is significant history and opinion on this topic. In the past it may have been an option that was mutually beneficial for both districts and communities. From the data I’ve seen and the conversations I’ve had, it does not appear as if this is a potential solution for the challenges currently facing the district. Emery Unified has access, and the opportunity to gain access, to resources and support for improvement. Maintaining an independent identity is a benefit for EUSD and for the city of Emeryville, and I am ready to do the long-term work it will take for all community members to feel pride in, and ownership of, their schools.

EUSD has had the worst teacher retention record of any district in the Bay Area for at least four straight years.  Former superintendent Rubio said that was a feature of his tenure, not a bug….a sign he was doing his job.  Do you agree that was needed and if so, was Superintendent Rubio the right person for the job?
Whether or not it was necessary to take action that led to such a high rate of teacher turnover in such a short time is a Human Relations issue and not one on which I will speculate as a candidate. As both a classroom teacher and a teacher on special assignment serving in the role of instructional reform facilitator, I have participated in the teacher evaluation process in a variety of school settings and can speak to my own experiences with retention. In my observation, two things tend to be present in schools or districts with low rates of turnover or retention. One is a clearly-articulated, mutually-agreed upon teacher evaluation process. The other is coaching, support, and professional development for teachers with identified areas for improvement. If I am elected, it is a priority of mine to bring systems such as these to Emery Unified if they are not already in place.

Are you aware of EUSD’s academic ranking among Bay Area districts?  Has it been trending up or down? 
Student performance on standardized assessments such as the now-defunct STAR and the current CAASP tests are incomprehensibly low and seemingly stagnant in the big picture. That being said, we can see statistically notable progress over time among some subgroups. As a former instructional reform facilitator with a strong background in educational data analysis, I have six years of experience with reading, understanding, interpreting, and analyzing data such as this. I have a proven track record of using data not only from large-scale standardized tests such as STAR, CELDT, and CAASP but also local and anecdotal assessments at the school, grade, or even classroom level to develop and implement instructional and behavioral action plans that lead to greater success for students across the grade levels. I do not yet understand all the factors contributing to Emery’s data profile, and I look forward to learning more from teachers, administrators, students, and families. The fact that there is progress evident for some students is an indication that progress for all students is possible.

Between parents, teachers or the administration (Superintendent, managers); who should play the leading role in general at EUSD and specifically in the formation of policy?  
In my twenty-three years of school-based experience, I’ve generally seen school Boards guide big-picture decisions around facilities, programs, and policy with the input of stakeholders and the buy-in of the community. From that point forward the Superintendent, in collaboration with site administrators and input from teachers, is best responsible for the implementation and monitoring of these decisions. Student and family voice must be solicited and heard as part of this process. In the end, however, the professional educators, as guided by the Superintendent, must be given the opportunity to act in their areas of expertise and subsequently be held accountable for their actions.

When was the last time you voted?  How would you describe your political views?
The last time I voted was in the June, 2018 primary election and I have voted consistently since registering to vote at the age of 18. I would describe myself as ideologically liberal, fiscally moderate, and a proponent of communication and compromise among those with differing views whenever possible.

How do you feel about School Resource Officers at ECCL? 
I am strongly opposed to this initiative.

Have you ever attended a school board meeting in Emeryville? PTO meeting?  Met with district administration?  What involvement have you had with the school?  How familiar are you with its management?
I began attending school board meetings in Emeryville last spring while in the process of deciding whether or not to become a candidate, and have attended consistently since that time whenever meetings were held. At these meetings I’ve had the opportunity to meet Dr. Scott and to become familiar with Ms. Carter, Ms. Scruggs Smith, and Ms. Goode. I am in the process of seeking meetings with the site administrators, and I look forward to hearing what they are looking for in a Board member so I can best serve their needs if I am elected. I am attending my first PTO meeting on October 9, and I look forward to connecting with more families in this new way. As a teacher myself, it is unfortunately not possible for me to be involved with the school while it is in session. So, I’ve worked to maximize the information I can get outside of school hours by consulting with teachers at the K-8 and high school levels as well as some families and community members.

How much money do you plan to spend on your campaign?  Do you plan to fundraise?
My campaign budget is quite small, and my fundraising efforts have been minimal. Despite this, I’ve been lucky to receive the generous support of a number of community members here in Emeryville, among other donors.

What is your first goal (or goals) when you take office?
My first goal upon taking office, if I am elected, will be to learn all I can about the work that has come before. I need to develop a deep understanding of the historical issues, decisions, and outcomes affecting the district at all levels, from the Board and the Superintendent to the site administrators and down to work being done in the classrooms and with community organizations. I believe that all previous efforts are worthy to be studied, regardless of the outcome, as they’ve each been a factor in the current conditions we’re experiencing and can yield valuable insight into next steps for change and growth.

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