Guest Opinion: Ravenswood's going in the right direction | September 27, 2019 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - September 27, 2019

Guest Opinion: Ravenswood's going in the right direction

by Emily Egbert

Recently, the Palo Alto Weekly published an article regarding tensions within the Ravenswood City School District's Board of Trustees. While there may be tensions at the board level, it is important for the entire community to know that the tensions end there. The environment, climate and overall energy at the district and school levels — including our unwavering commitment to our students — have never been stronger.

It is unfortunate that the article focused only on the concerns of two school board members from the previous regime associated with Dr. Gloria Hernandez-Goff. Their opinions do not reflect the views of the majority of the school board, teachers and staff, and it is a disservice to our community to suggest otherwise. Although I am one teacher, I have been an educator for 22 years — 16 in Ravenswood — and I believe I speak for all of the teachers and staff in saying that the district has never had such positive energy.

With the removal of Hernandez-Goff, the school district has utterly been transformed. The district office used to be a place that was avoided at all costs; in fact, one would say it was working in a completely different world from our schools. Fast-forward to today: The district office is full of life, full of happy employees excited to be at work and full of energy for our students. Each day I walk into school and see my colleagues smiling, talking and ready to work together. I now regularly see people from the district office, including interim Superintendent Gina Sudaria, at our site, and teachers, including myself, are often at the district office. Just the other day at 6 p.m. I was leaving the district office and while I walked down the hall I heard laughs, lots of talking and people in almost every room working together. Everyone greeted me (even the ones I didn't know) — and just like that the district office and schools joined the same world.

We are now a place that encourages trust, transparency and inclusion. And leading this dramatic transformation in culture and increase in staff morale is Gina Sudaria. With over 20 years of experience, she knows this district on every level. She has brought transformational and distributed leadership to every position she has held. She has introduced brand new STEM, art and multimedia programs, created literacy initiatives, launched facilities upgrades and brought about transformational professional development. Every student in our district now gets to go to the Makerspace weekly, which provides them with opportunities to explore and learn STEAM subjects through hands-on experiences. They are coding, designing, creating and learning essential skills for the 21st century. We have art and music specialists who are providing these every day, in addition to connecting us with local art institutions that provide field trips to help students synthesize what they are learning in class. Each site was also given two reading specialists/coaches to provide reading intervention and teacher support/coaching. In addition, there are also several classes now being offered after school for any teacher to take. These classes will improve our craft and also provide units to help our new teachers fulfill their license requirements. But most importantly, Gina Sudaria has shown that she values every child, staff member and parent.

Sudaria is an experienced, ethical, and inspiring leader. She values what we teachers do; she trusts us to be the experienced professionals that we are and absolutely supports us in our work. She regularly spends time at each school seeing kids, staff members and parents.

This is my 22nd year teaching, and I have worked under five different superintendents. Out of those five, Gina Sudaria is the only one who has ever taken the time to talk to teachers and truly listen. She has done more in six months than any other superintendent did in their entire term. Our experience is precisely the opposite of what Trustee Ana Pulido alleged in the article, that we are somehow coming to dismantle progress and set the district further back. Quite to the contrary, with Gina Sudaria at the helm, we are dedicated to accelerating progress and building a thriving education community. Indeed, we have already signed an agreement (ending two-plus years of negotiations) with both our unions that includes much-needed raises for both teachers and classified staff. And in order to make this happen, Sudaria and the rest of the district administration did not receive salary increases.

It is important to clarify another reference made in the article regarding the district's upcoming search for a new superintendent. Although this is standard, we are lucky to already have the best candidate in the position, one who has the expertise and vision to lead this district. Gina Sudaria has the trust and respect of every teacher and employee at the Ravenswood City School District and has built relationships with generations of our families face-to-face and day after day. Several teachers, including myself, only decided to stay and continue in Ravenswood because she became our superintendent and finally gave us hope that we could move the district in the direction we all want it to go.

Voters spoke clearly last fall, recognizing that their previous choice to lead this district, despite some policy victories, could simply not overcome the toxic environment the leadership itself created. We deeply appreciate the work done by the board members to create a vibrant district for students, but it is not about any board member's or superintendent's legacy. The work we have before us is what we owe our children. There are inequities in our community. The schools are the front line in combating those disparities. In Gina Sudaria, we have the leader we have hoped for, and we unequivocally support her.

We are #oneravenswood.

Emily Egbert is a teacher at Costano Elementary School and can be emailed at eegbert@ravenswoodschools.org

Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Jesusita Rivera
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 27, 2019 at 6:27 pm

Here, here! Well said Ms. Egbert! I second, echo, concur...I AGREE! Excellent article. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m a former student of RCSD and now going into my 19th year teaching alongside fabulous educators like Ms. Egbert at Costaño and throughout the district and it is truly a NEW DAY IN RAVENSWOOD ever since Ms. Gina Sudaria took up her role as interim superintendent and let me repeat that the only ones unhappy are the board members, including Ana María Pulido, who were under the old regime. EVERYONE ELSE IS HAPPY AND GRATEFUL that we finally have someone with a vision and heart for the children of East Palo Alto. Thank you Ms. Sudaria! THANK YOU MS. EGBERT for writing this and submitting for publication so all can see what is going on in #oneravenswood.


3 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 27, 2019 at 10:43 pm

I am with Pulido I believe we need to look for another superintendent because Gina it’s another Gloria teacher open your eyes I know you guys are with Gina because she bought you guys with that race but you guys should look at her second face she’s not fair with other coworkers in the she’s covering up for other employees at the district not saying the truth District and two of the board members out with her you can see that


10 people like this
Posted by Keep it Going!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2019 at 9:17 am

I couldn’t agree more with this article! Morale is at an all time high. Both unions (RTA and CTA) support Ms. Sudaria. Since she’s been in the district for 20 years we know exactly who she is. She is not just taking the talk, she’s walking it. I’ve seen her at my school at least 6 times this year and we’ve only been in school for six weeks. She goes in to classrooms, she talks to kids, parents and staff. She knows and sees what is really happening. We trust her. We trust her because she listens to EVERYONE. We also trust her to hold people accountable and raise the bar for our kids who truly deserve the very best!


Like this comment
Posted by Dual immersion advocate
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 1, 2019 at 12:59 pm

The new leadership is definitely a huge improvement. Just a quick fact check: Los Robles Ronald McNair has no reading specialist/coach- 0/2 positions filled. They have not filled those positions this year, and they did not fill the position last year. This year Los Robles Ronald McNair also is lacking a PE teacher. Hopefully the dual immersion program can be celebrated instead of ignored in the seemingly brighter future of ravenswood. Los Robles has a lot to offer the district with a rise in kinder applications this year- keep going and keep growing despite the inequities!


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Posted by Concerned Community Member
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2019 at 6:36 am

Ms. Egbert's attempt to ingratiate herself does not go unnoticed. Reviewing recent test scores posted by the CA State Department of Education, there seems very good reason to look for a strong, experienced capable superintendent. Ms Sudaria has been in the district for more than 20 years and coopted by a system that is not focused on children and learning but rather on the needs of adults in the room.


Clearly, with all of the resources that have poured in to Ravenswood, it is being squandered based upon the test results recently posted.

Ms. Egbert's comments about the superintendent search require comment:


"Although this is standard, we are lucky to already have the best candidate in the position, one who has the expertise and vision to lead this district."

Yes, it is standard practice especially in highly successful districts. How do you know you have the best candidate unless you have something to compare her to. She may emerge as the strongest candidate among a pool - but to avoid opening up the search for a highly qualified superintendent, there is no basis to judge objectively.

Ms/ Egbert's attempt to influence the board to circumvent an important process serves no one except Gina Sudaria. The children and community served by Ravenswood deserve a fair process in order to determine the Board selects the most qualified, experienced leader to move the district forward.

If Ms. Sudaria competes and emerges as that leader, then the District is served. To do less, cheats staff, students and parents.


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