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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Election 2018: Emery School Board Candidate Ken Bukowski

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.

Ken Bukowski
Retired Businessman

Name the top three problems with EUSD right now and what are your suggestions for how to deal with them?
1. Lack of Transparency. The district does not share its problems with the community.  They’re supposed to have live stream capability as part of ECCL.  They could use the city council chambers to facilitate transparency.  I would create a bi-monthly live program to openly discuss the issues and problems with the schools.  I've seen this in other communities and I think it could work here.  Parents could use the live stream and call in their questions.  The school needs to gave a name which people would associate with a learning institution. I would ask students to participate in a name contest, with a prize for the winning selection.
2. Lack of Advisory Committees to provide input for the board.  I would establish a parent/teacher advisory committee to review board agendas and make recommendations to the board.  As it exists now, the community generally interacts in a reactive way because the district doesn’t accommodate pro-active participation enough.
3. Teacher Retention.  I would immediately identify one school site,  the former middle school Ralph Hawley on 61st Street, for affordable teacher housing and take advantage of state grant funds for this purpose.

How do we know if a school superintendent is doing a good job?  Is there any way to measure it?  Are there objective components? 
How well a superintendent is doing is most importantly determined by parents and citizens.  My before mentioned open discussions in the first question about the schools would reveal the answer.  We could consider creating an anonymous survey of the teachers every six months with responses only to the board. The results of test scores are what’s objective.

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.
Yes, but something like that deserves careful consideration, and acceptance of the concept by the community.  I would ask a consultant to prepare an analysis of the number of programs and services  available in neighboring school districts.  The analysis would evaluate the benefit of having a separate district, as well as a process and procedure of how it could be accomplished.  I am not an advocate for merging with another school district but it needs to examined. 

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?
I don't understand the question.  Teacher retention is one of the biggest problems at Emery (see my first answer above).

Are you aware of EUSD’s academic ranking among Bay Area districts?  Has it been trending up or down? 
I don't have the latest information.

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? 
The board is supposed to be responsible for setting policy but it usually doesn't end up being that way.  However, changes in policy usually requires research.  The staff does the research and provides the information for the board to decide.  Most staffs provide information which supports their desired direction which doesn't leave a board member with many other choices, especially if other board members will jump to support the superintendent’s desired direction.  That is where the role of an advisory board is so important.  If a board member has a different direction it could be considered political.  The ability to be a leader often depends on how well the staff provides on-going info to the board, and whether there is full disclosure.  Many times the state is determining policies.  It also depends on the issue and the cost of the matter, and whether personnel are involved in the decision, and potential liability.  Then there is the question of law; having an objective legal counsel often plays a major role.

When was the last time you voted?  How would you describe your political views?
I vote in every election. I am a registered Democrat.

How do you feel about School Resource Officers at ECCL?
When I was on the Emeryville city council, we provided a school resource officer and it was very successful.  The EPD is not like other police departments.  They have a high level of community support.  I don't know how many immigrant families have kids in our school.  The lack of being familiar often leads to unwarranted suspicion which can create other serious problems.  SRO’s can be helpful in this regard.  Because of past success we had with our SRO at Emery, I would not just dismiss the idea, the way council member John Bauters has. 

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 have attended many school board meetings.  I was responsible for the meetings being recorded and getting the city to pay for and broadcast the meetings.  I have met with many school administrators and past board members.  I helped start the Emeryville Child Development Center and while on the city council, made sure it was properly funded and remained a city priority.
In the past I was not allowed to attend PTO meetings, the past president wouldn't allow it.  The schools don’t have committee meetings.  I was directly responsible for the creation of the City/School Committee along with my colleague on the council, Nora Davis.  I have known every school superintendent since Dr Carona, many years ago.  I was the only candidate who attended the recent school board retreat.  I recently met the new superintendent informally but have not met with her privately.  I am very familiar and concerned about the future of EUSD.  They are not carrying out the vision for ECCL.  The project eliminated many components for the schools to make money.  The student capacity was reduced and that could jeopardize its economic future.  The city council bailed out EUSD to keep the district alive but the respect for that action seems to have disappeared.

How much money do you plan to spend on your campaign?  Do you plan to fundraise?
Almost nothing, I can't afford the $900 the county charges for a ballot statement.  That’s a cost I think the district should cover (the way the city does for council candidates).  I filed this year to make sure we had an election and to forward yet another attempt to make the city/school partnership work.  I have not looked for monetary contributions.

What is your first goal (or goals) when you take office?
To get the district to pay for campaign statements before another election happens.  To ascertain the financial status of the district and learn what is necessary for the school to be solvent.  I will immediately explore new teacher housing at the Ralph Hawley site.  To have another board retreat with the new board.  It almost seemed foolish to have the retreat right before an election when you know you will have new board members coming on.  To listen to parent/teacher concerns and set up an advisory board if feasible.

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