Three vie for Ravenswood board

Publication Date: Wednesday Oct 30, 1996

EDUCATION: Three vie for Ravenswood board

Parent involvement, boosting student achievement among priorities

From trying to fit its growing student population into crowded classrooms, to meeting the needs of these diverse students, the three candidates running for two seats on the Ravenswood City School District board face many challenges, regardless of who is elected.

Ravenswood enrollment surpassed 5,000 this year, doubling in just a decade. As if that weren't enough of a demand on school space, at the same time, Ravenswood has to find enough space to be able to take advantage of state money for class size reduction in primary grades, finding enough rooms and hire enough teachers for a 20-student ratio.

The district, under the leadership of Dr. Charlie Mae Knight, continues to receive corporate and private support for technology, and innovative programs. Among its eight schools it has two science magnet schools, a "microsociety" school, the 49er Academy, aimed at at-risk children, and a "Cities in Schools" program.

Yet with all the good, the district still struggles with a high turnover rate for teachers, attendance problems among students and the demands of providing students with the basics, from books to safe campuses.

Ravenswood educators are also continuing to try to boost test scores, raise its standards, and coordinate with neighboring Sequoia Union High School District to prepare its eighth graders for high school. The district is also asking property owners to approve a $6 million bond measure, Measure U, in next week's election. (See related story on page XXX)

Chester Palesoo

Age: 36

Occupation: Employment counselor

Residence: Newell Road

Experience: Palessoo was appointed to the school board in November 1993 to fill Myrtle Walker's seat after she got elected to the East Palo Alto City Council. Palesoo served until November 1994 when he ran unsuccessfully for the seat. He has received several awards for outstanding community service, including a U.S. Congressional award from Rep. Anna Eshoo. His two children attend private school. He says he has no grudges about an incident that occurred a week before the 1994 election when he was accused of improperly using a district credit card. Shortly afterward, he received a letter from the district exonerating him. But he said the issue cost him votes.

Where he stands: "There can be a better assessment program. I think every student should be thoroughly assessed. I believe there should be an extensive counseling program. I think every school should have a counseling program. There are problems happening at home . . . some of these problems are brought on the school grounds. The teacher is there to teach, not to assess."

His assessment of school board and superintendent: "I think Charlie Mae Knight has done a lot. I don't think any school district is perfect. I think she's done a tremendous job. There are a lot of things that could be better. The board and the superintendent are accountable for the performance of the school district."

How he would improve teacher turnover: "(There need to be) ongoing programs promoting staff morale. I believe part of (the turnover) is because of the low staff morale. Right now, we're developing certain schools. . . we need to develop as a district. I believe in the whole picture. If you have good morale-building, some will stay on board. You have to like what you're doing."

Donna Rutherford

Age: 45

Occupation: Incumbent Residence: Myrtle Street

Experience: Rutherford has been on the Ravenswood board for eight years and had three children go through the district. She is on the executive board of the San Mateo County School Boards Association, is a member of the National School Board Association, National Black Caucus, Black American Political Association of California, Center for a New Generation Advisory Committee and the Policy Development Commission of the National Alliance of Black School Educators.

Where she stands: "I feel some of the most important decisions and projects initiated by the school board will be reaching crucial points within the next few years . . . The past four years have been productive and much progress has been made--schools have been painted, classrooms are clean and organized, books ahve been purchased and distributed. There is much more work to be done. After I'm re-elected, my focus will be in the areas of parent involvement, accountability and teacher retention."

What her priorities are: "Parent involvement is key. I want them to feel welcome on campus, to be hands on. We had a parent involvement coordinator for a year, then the funds dried up. I would have supported paying for it another year until (we found) new funds." As for district finances, she said, "I'd like to have more accountability."

Edward Moss

Age: 60

Occupation: Electrician, plumber, general contractor

Residence: Abelia Way

Experience: 29-year resident of East Palo Alto, son attended Belle Haven School. Retired after 35 years as a United Airlines building maintenance lead mechanic supervisor. School volunteer, voting delegate of the San Mateo County Governors State House Conference on Children and Youth. Ran for school board in November 1994 but was not elected.

Where he stands: "I want to see the curriculum (have) high standards and high expectations. (I want to) determine how money is used and dispersed (and have) accountability."

What's motivating him to run: "Everything about education is important to me."

"I see some kids progressing but I'd like to see more. I'd like to see more kids that are making the honor roll, more parent involvement. I would like to see parents make sure kids are coming to school prepared. Homework should be a reinforcement." But, children should also have time, he said, to participate in sports, drama and other classes.

What he thinks of the relationship between the city and the school district: "I know the city and the school district were supposedly working together to coordinate services. I don't think our relationship is that strained that it can't be patched up."

--Elizabeth Darling

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