School Board Candidate Statement: John Selawsky

Thursday October 09, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM

I am running for re-election to the Berkeley School Board because I have the energy, enthusiasm, experience, and knowledge to continue the impressive improvements that the Berkeley Unified School District has achieved since I was first elected to the Board in 2000. I have strong educational, fiscal, and operational experience, and I bring the additional perspective as an environmentalist and community liaison to the School Board. 

In the first few months of my first term on the Board, the District uncovered a $6 million deficit. With my leadership, with a Superintendent who recognized and immediately responded, and with a Board who laid out a three-year recovery plan, and most importantly stuck to its goals, Berkeley Unified worked its way out of fiscal crises. We are now financially solvent, with a fully restored reserve. Further, we have installed payroll and position controls, systems that had been lacking or lax when I first joined the Board. These fiscal systems allow the District to constantly monitor revenues and expenditures, and link them to specific positions within our organization. 

Over the past several years I have helped steer the District to improved state (API) test scores, have served as Board liaison to the Planning and Oversight Committee, our music and arts committees, the District Audit Committee, the Board Policy Sub-committee, the recently formed LGBTQ Task Force, and Safe Routes to Schools Committees (which I co-founded in 2003). I have been a consistent advocate for our music and art programs, and the Board liaison for these District committees. Additionally, I have served as the Board liaison to the successful Adult School move to its San Pablo site, participated on the successful International Baccalaureate High School team, worked with our District team and interviewed to secure our Noyce Math grant for our middle schools, supported our WritersCoach Connection program in our secondary schools, and advocated for a consistent, sequential writing program in our elementary and middle schools. I have always put campus and community safety at the top of my priority list: earthquake and disaster preparedness has no stronger advocate on the Board.  

As Board President in 2008, I worked with Vice-President Nancy Riddle in the 2 X 2 Committee (President and Vice-President of the School Board and the Mayor and one City Councilmember) to create and finally establish a comprehensive response to the achievement gap, which we have termed the 2020 Initiative. This is for the first time in my memory a systematic, comprehensive approach and response to the achievement gap, with health, mental health, nutrition, early intervention, and assessment systems in place to finally address this issue. The School Board and the District is committed to implementing programs and policies that will begin to close the achievement gap in Berkeley Unified School District.  

I have worked with KyoytoUSA/Helios Project to entirely solarize Washington Elementary School, the largest single solar project in the city of Berkeley. My goal is to solarize half of our Berkeley public schools in the next five years. I need your help and support to do this, there are Boardmembers still reluctant to commit to this alternative-energy plan.  

We are fortunate to have good schools in Berkeley, but that has not happened by accident. We have a community who has consistently supported our schools, both financially and in volunteer time. We have teachers, staff, and administrators who are dedicated and committed to serving our students. We also have a hard-working and dedicated Board that has shown consistent and strong financial oversight, budget and fiscal accountability and transparency, and schools creating a comprehensive, whole-child approach to student success and achievement. We have implemented the Universal Learning Support Services initiative (ULSS), which is a “whole cloth” approach to early identification of student needs as well as early intervention strategies. This model incorporates health, mental-health, food and nutrition, positive behavioral programs, conflict resolution, and other programs to help our kids succeed. It is the most comprehensive model that I have seen since I've been involved in the District; all the research indicates this is the type of approach that is necessary for success.  

We have also made impressive gains on our API (Annual Performance Index), with seven of our eleven elementary schools scoring above the coveted 800 mark, and two just barely below it. All of our schools have made gains when tracked over a period of six years.  

We successfully defended our student assignment policy (integration plan) in California Superior Court. I was part of the Board that chose our current and previous Superintendents, both extraordinary executives. We are the first District in the state to completely seismically retrofit our K-12 facilities, and we are working on retrofitting all of our facilities. By any index, by any standard, we are a better, stronger district today than in 2000, and in 2004. That is how I want to be judged as a Boardmember. 

None of this work is complete. Our work in public education is always a work-in-progress. As we move forward with our educational goals and mission, it is imperative to advocate for not the maintenance public education funding from the state, but additional state commitments to our public schools.  

I have been endorsed by the Sierra Club, the only Berkeley school board candidate EVER endorsed by this organization, in recognition of my environmental leadership on the Board. The Berkeley Fire Fighters (Local 1227) has endorsed me, recognizing my commitment to safe campuses and to disaster and emergency preparedness. I have also been endorsed by County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan, School Board Vice-President Nancy Riddle, School Boardmembers Joaquin Rivera and Shirley Issel, Peralta Board Vice-President Nicky Gonzalez Yuen, Alameda County Board of Education President Jackie Fox Ruby, Berkeley City Councilmembers Max Anderson, Laurie Capitelli, and Kriss Worthington, BSEP Planning and Oversight Co-Chair Julie Holcomb, Judy Appel, Nancy Carleton, Tom and Jane Kelly, Juliet Lamont, Michael Parenti, Anne Wagley, and many others.