Berkeley School Board Candidate Statements, John Selawsky

Tuesday October 19, 2004

I am running for a second term for the Berkeley School Board. It has been a privilege to serve you these last four difficult years; I look forward to serving you another four. I was the only new boardmember when I assumed office in December 2000. I immediately started asking the hard questions. Superintendent McLaughlin would leave by Feb. 1, 2001, and left the district with several administrators in the wrong position or in over their heads, and fiscal, payroll, budget, and personnel systems in complete disarray. We hired an interim superintendent, Steve Goldstone. For several months we conducted a search for a permanent superintendent, eventually hiring Michele Lawrence in July 2001. During the first months of my term we discovered a budget deficit estimated at five to six million; estimated because there was no confidence in the ability of our business office at that time to generate accurate numbers. I am not exaggerating when I say the entire business operations had been neglected, abandoned, and mismanaged for years. 

Facing the imminent prospect of state takeover, we adopted a three-year recovery plan, realizing that making drastic cuts in only one or two years would create unacceptable loss of program. The Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) came in as an advisory auditor to independently monitor our progress. We recently received a positive certification for our 2004-05 budget, and the next two years, by the Alameda County Office of Education because we have successfully completed our three-year recovery plan. 

While all this was occurring, while Superintendent Lawrence and the board ensured that business and budget systems were rebuilt, while the district successfully converted to a better suited data-processing system, while we improved the payroll department, instituted position control, and implemented district-wide evaluations for all staff for the first time in years, I did not lose sight of our educational and instructional needs. In fact I have spent countless hours in meetings and discussions with parents and staff about our classroom needs, about ways in which we can improve our early literacy program, our library services, our music and arts programs, our dual-immersion program, and the high school program. I have monitored not only our budgets but our test scores, our self-assessments, and evaluations. I have frequently and regularly visited our early childhood centers, elementary, middle, high schools, and adult school. I attend meetings with Mayor Bates, city councilmembers, and district and city staff. The people I have worked with the past four years (and more) have overwhelmingly endorsed my re-election; from the arts and music community(Bonnie Hughes, Susan Medak, Barbara Oliver, Michael Kelley, Jesse Anthony, Karen McKie, and Michele Rabkin) to city library staff and boardmembers (Jackie Griffin, Alan Bern, Terry Powell) to Alice Waters at the Chez Panisse Foundation, Zenobia Barlow at the Center for Ecoliteracy, to elected officials such as State Senator Don Perata, County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan, Mayor Tom Bates, School Board Vice-President Nancy Riddle, and School Board Director Shirley Issel, and councilmembers Maio, Shirek, Spring, and Worthington. 

Since my election to the board, test scores, as indicated by the state API, have increased significantly in every one of our elementary schools. In the past month BUSD has been named along with the City of Berkeley as the top ranked city/district in the state in teen services, and has been rated the number one district in the nation on improvements and innovations in school 

lunch program (the Golden Carrot award). I have worked to implement standards-based solar curriculum in our elementary schools, have worked with community members and city staff to implement school traffic safety practices at our schools, have prioritized emergency preparedness, anti-bullying, and am working to ensure the Alternative High School has a top-quality lunch and breakfast program as well as a physical education program. We have stabilized leadership and the environment at Berkeley High, and we successfully defended an attack on our student assignment policy by the Pacific Legal Foundation in California Superior Court. My goal as a boardmember is to improve our district, in all areas, and to make it the best school district in the state. The district has vastly improved in many, many areas since I took office four years ago. Help me build and add to that improvement in the next four years. As the parent of a son, now a senior at Berkeley High, who has seen every level of our schools and has worked since the early 1990s to support and improve our schools, I can offer you my experience the past four years, and my dedication to the health, safety, and educational needs of all of our children. I am a very hard working boardmember on a hard working board. Please also support Measure B, which will add essential classroom and library services to all our schools. 

—John Selawsky