Saturday, August 8, 2020

The privilege and obligation of elections...

This November promises to be an interesting election!  Occurring during the Pandemic, it is expected that most people will be voting from home and traditional campaigning will be modified to slow the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).  In this environment, I've placed my name on the ballot to stand for a third term on the CUSD school board.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve on the school board for almost eight years.  During this time, we have settled the issues of the past, built a new school at Esencia and built many, many new classrooms and teaching labs, expanded educational options for all students, held the line on school-related taxes, and improved workplace conditions across the school district equitably for our employees.

"Why do you run for school board?"

The opportunity to serve and support individual families, students, and employees seeking advice or access to this immense organization has brought me personal gratification.  It is a role I would gladly play without all of the policy and political struggles that come with being on the school board.  But if we are to have outstanding and competitive schools, it is also necessary to embrace the policy role as well.

"What have you accomplished?"

For families in our school district, educational choice is a reality.  Each year, families are able to choose among our schools, and thousands have availed themselves of this option for convenience or seeking special programs such as Spanish or Mandarin language immersion, International Baccalaureate curriculum, or the alternative programs offered by the six charter schools that operate in this area.  This year, as a matter of necessity in the Pandemic, we have expanded choices by allowing students to claim high school credit for elective classes taken outside CUSD, including UC Scout and Saddleback College.

I am also proud that our school board and the district itself has a refreshing focus on the importance of Special Education.  This was my first motivation for seeking a school board seat in 2012.  Today, the 6000+ students with Individual Instructional Plans (IEPs), and a thousand more with Section 504 accommodation plans have an experience that is much improved compared to ten years ago.  My modest contribution to this was to be fortunate enough to be in the room as decisions are made and have the opportunity to ask the right questions.
"What of the future?"

At the end of 2019, we could not have foreseen the profound impact that 2020 would bring upon our community schools, students, and teachers.  Today, we are still reeling from the sudden need to close schools in March, a pain compounded by the financial impact brought on the California economy as a whole.  School revenue has unexpectedly declined year-over-year, and yet the cost associated with operating the schools is increased dramatically due to necessary protective hygiene measures.  The challenge is unprecedented.  And yet the next school year is upon us.

Nobody can foresee when we will re-open schools to students in 2020, if at all, or when we overcome the virus itself. But it is a good bet that the text below will appear in your Voter Guide below my name:

2020 Ballot Statement of Jim Reardon
Capistrano Unified School District Governing Board – Area 2

As your school board President, I see past the rhetoric of educational insiders and seek to protect our students and schools. I favor safely reopening schools, classroom reform, school choice, local control, program innovation, and fair taxation. I put student-oriented solutions ahead of platitudes and “feel good” education blather.

I am a parent, engineer, active business executive, and the co-founder of an independent charitable school serving students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I will continue to:
  • Limit future Mello-Roos tax by minimizing CUSD debt
  • Raise the quality of education for all students including those with disabilities
  • Increase enrichment, vocational, and sports opportunities for students, and
  • Put our students ahead of the interests of Sacramento education insiders.

A school board member has two roles, 1.) making local policy, and 2.) ministerial support of families, students, and school employees. For eight years, I’ve been privileged to be accessible 24x7 to discuss policy or provide confidential support for a personal problem. My email and mobile phone number are available online. I welcome calls, text, or email and seek to help everyone navigate the CUSD bureaucracy to benefit a student or the schools.

During 2020, I serve as the President of the school board, elected to this position by a majority of fellow Trustees. I am grateful for their support and trust.

In this challenging year, the honor of the President’s position includes a special obligation to serve our wider community, of which the schools are an integral part. Public schools support access to employment for parents, provide protection and meals for children, transportation, education, social, and emotional support for students, including those with particular challenges.

Finally, CUSD is the largest employer in our area, with an annual budget of $500 million. I am committed to maximizing the community benefit resulting from this massive expenditure.

Reelect me, Jim Reardon, to your school board.

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