Concerned Parent of a Future Public School Kid

The upcoming election is going to have a permanent impact on the Sausalito Marin City School District, but everyone seems to be treating it like business as usual.

I believe we will either lose a school or lose the district all together.

 

We may lose the district if the same two sides continue to have the same resource allocation argument between the same two K-8’s, which forces the county or court’s hand to merge us with Mill Valley. The county already explored that option, suggesting intent, and recently merged two small districts together, proving capability.

 

We may lose Bayside MLK if the Willow Creek board majority rolls on and, without stating so on their campaign website, effects a long-standing plan to merge all students into a single K-8 school. A Willow Creek board member presented that idea to the Sausalito City Council last year, suggesting intent, and a two or four year majority board position provides capability.

 

Both of those structural changes seem plausible, yet neither are being given the broad attention they deserve. With under 600 students in the district and under 1,200 parents likely voting along school lines, both sides of the campaign seem to be sticking to similar talking points supporting all students to attract non-parents from both cities. Willow Creek has a much larger parent base than Bayside MLK, so it’s an uphill battle for the “Two Choice Candidates” against the WCA-aligned “Team Up for All Kids” group of three. If all three win, Willow Creek will have a four year majority control of the board, guaranteed.

 

A structural change creating two K-8’s several years ago shifted the headlines from our once award winning schools to a district entangled in cultural, legal, and financial troubles. I believe a structural change is required at this point to set us on a better path. Either the county or court enforces it, or the WCA majority board does it, or… and this is where my idealism kicks in… we shine a light on the conversation and vote for a different plan instead of choosing the same old sides.

 

I can’t get excited about our “Two Choice Candidates for Two Choice Schools” when their stated goal is to continue making progress as we’ve seen in the past 2 years. Bonnie Hough and Ida Green both bring myriad experience and an incredible willingness to keep negotiating a community-inclusive solution to the table. And yes, programs have been recently restored at BMLK that had been lost over the course of a decade under a WCA-majority board, although these gains came during a contentious time with WCA-aligned board members recusing themselves from service. While this plan definitely supports community inclusion, relying on the double K-8 structure just doesn’t seem financially viable in the long run, nor does perpetuating the resource debate with a strong-and-growing-stronger WCA parent base.

 

Nor can I get excited about our “Team Up for All Kids” trio when their goal doesn’t appear to be stated on their site at all. Kurt Weinsheimer, Jen Conway, and Josh Barrow speak of “teaming up,” “coming together,” and a “unifying vision” as seeming codewords for the 2017 single K-8 school proposal from a WCA board member to the Sausalito City Council. Both Kurt, as the WCA board president, and Josh, as the district board president, were aware of this plan at the time. Assuming that is still the goal, then Bayside MLK will be eliminated and all students will presumably go to Willow Creek as our single, independent charter school K-8. While this instantly addresses financial concerns, it leaves open the questions of transparency and equitable outcomes for all students given that most Marin City kids are not performing on par with their Sausalito classmates.

And, further complicating things, a Sausalito neighbor reached out recently to share that they were told there wasn’t space for their child at Willow Creek; they now send that child to private school and said other parents have had the same experience. They are now planning to move to Mill Valley.

What I am excited to support is revamping the old model that worked when we had award winning schools: two elementary programs and a dedicated middle school. The elementary programs could once again share a campus in order to maximize shared resources and student interaction, especially before and after school programs, lunch service, social activities, and subjects like art, PE, and foreign languages (all of which had been lost or minimized at BMLK, only some regained recently in the back and forth resources battle). Extra capacity at the middle school could attract other students from the county if we included hands-on experiential learning programs (proven to increase engagement and retention) that leveraged our unique physical proximity and access to programs like NatureBridge, Marine Mammal Center, Bay Area Discovery Museum, Bay Model, YMCA Point Bonita, and more. It’s a big idea, a new option, and an admittedly difficult conversation to figure out the finances and program details.

 

This covers both the financial concern of maximizing shared resources while also inviting community-inclusive practices and learner-specific core-subject area options during critical early years. At the middle school years, it boosts headcount, fills seats from across the county in the short term, expands our community to include amazing programs here in southern Marin, and keeps our capacity high as our elementary student counts swell in the coming years… all of which is a great prep for entering Tam.

 

At the very least, that structural shift (and others?) should be vetted next to WCA’s single school approach and the benchmark of our existing two-school structure. We can only have that conversation if we keep the district and vote for board members open to pursuing structural solutions that are both financially sustainable and community-inclusive. I think both sides get it half right, which means either side gets it half wrong.

 

Ultimately, what kept me up nights or woke me up early in the morning, besides my newborn son, was knowing that neither side provided a long-term solution that I was excited to support. I joined the race on the last day possible because I just had a kid (our first), my job at the nation’s leading non-profit for school aged kids was ramping up with back to school and the onslaught of social media and new technology in the classroom, and jumping into my first ever campaign as an unbacked, unfunded independent was daunting to say the least. I know that I can do good work for the district, and, if elected, promise to run for re-election until that work is done and our schools are award-winners once again.

 

My goal is to raise the structural conversation at the district level without upsetting everyone I respect on both sides of the situation. My son will be going to school here in a few years regardless of the results, and how he is received and what options he will have at whatever school he attends is always in the back of my mind. I believe we need to have this structural conversation as a district, during this election, in order to keep all doors open while providing long term sustainability.

 

Absent that conversation, we either lose a school or lose the district. I’m not a fan of lose-lose scenarios, so I’m running as a third option supporting a new version of our old, award-winning three school structure.

 

We are one district that can serve all students if we stop taking sides.

 

Two Choice Candidates:
Community Inclusive? YES
Financially Viable? NO

 

Team Up for All Kids:
Community Inclusive? NO
Financially Viable? YES

 

One district, All students, No sides:
Community Inclusive? YES
Financially Viable? YES

One thought on “Concerned Parent of a Future Public School Kid”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *