School district faces numerous challenges including enrollment growth and teacher turnover
Ronald McNair school in East Palo Alto has a staff of 25 teachers. This fall, 18 of those 25 teachers are new.
The high teacher turnover at McNair is happening throughout the eight-school Ravenswood City School District.
Some attribute it to low morale and low salaries. Others contend the teachers are being lured away by higher paying districts that are adding staff to take advantage of state funds made available to those schools that are able to reduce their teacher-student ratios to 20-to-1 or less.
Unfortunately, Ravenswood has yet to be able to take advantage of that state money itself.
Whatever the cause for the turnover, it is one of the greatest challenges facing the Ravenswood City School District board in the coming years. The others are enrollment growth--the district surpassed 5,000 students this fall, more than double where it was 10 years ago--and oversight of a proposed $6 million school bond measure that is on Tuesday's ballot. (See editorial below.)
This makes Tuesday's Ravenswood school board election all the more critical. It also makes it all the more confusing as to why this election has not attracted more challengers.
Fortunately, the community has three strong candidates, including one incumbent, from which to choose to fill two seats on Tuesday.
We support incumbent Donna Rutherford and former school board member Chester Palesoo.
Rutherford, who has had three children graduate from Ravenswood schools, has served on the school board since 1988 and is the sole incumbent in the race. Board member Keisha Williams decided not to seek re-election.
Rutherford is an advocate for ideas that reduce teacher turnover and increase parent involvement. She supports having a parent liaison at each of the district's nine schools.
She has supported bilingual education, worked to create Drug Free Zones around each school and supported measures to reduce expulsion rates and increase salaries for teachers and classified staff.
Palesoo, an employment counselor for the OICW for the past 14 years, was appointed to serve on the Ravenswood school board in 1993 to replace Myrtle Walker when she was elected to the City Council. Palesoo, however, lost in his bid for re-election in 1994.
Palesoo has also emerged as an advocate of parent involvement programs, more team-building on the district staff and extensive assessment programs.
The third candidate is Edward Moss, a retired United Airlines building maintenance supervisor and a volunteer at Ravenswood for 25 years.
Moss, a 29-year resident of East Palo Alto, has a son who attended Belle Haven School. Moss did not respond to invitations to meet with the Weekly's editorial board.
In the rapidly growing Ravenswood District, which serves more than 5,000 children in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park, school trustees are seeking to raise $6 million to cover basic repairs and renovation in the district's eight schools, which are 30 to 40 years old. Nothing fancy--just basic plumbing, wiring, roofing, sod and pavement. Measure U would assess the average property owner $16 per year for 1997 and 1998 and $32 per year thereafter.
In the five-school Sequoia Union High School District, $45 million is being sought to repair, modernize and expand the campuses. The schools are between 38 and 72 years old. Property owners will start paying at $5.59 per $100,000 of assessed valuation and peak at $12.10 over the 30-year life of the bond.
These measures both need two-thirds voter approval, but their returns in the form of better facilities for our children make them worth the investment. In the Ravenswood district, enrollment as doubled in the past decade and no significant campus improvements have been made in years. Use of the bond funds is restricted to facilities, and may not be used for salaries or programs. We strongly support the passage of Measures U and V.
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