School board elections get competitive

November 9, 2010 — by Deborah Soung

After the Nov. 2 elections, the Saratoga Union School District and the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District will each welcome three new members to their school board. In each district, four candidates will vie for three open seats.

The SUSD serves Redwood Middle School as well as three elementary schools, Argonaut, Foothill and Saratoga. The LGSUHSD includes Los Gatos High School and Saratoga High School.

School board members aim to create positive educational environments for students while taking into account the ideas of the community. They do so by setting the overall direction of the superintendent, who creates goals and operations overseen by the school board, according to Jack Chang, a previous member of the SUSD school board. Budget decisions must also be reviewed and approved by school boards before they go into effect, said Chang.

The election promises to be competitive, since all candidates candidates carry impressive resumes. For example, LGSUHSD candidate Doug Ramezane was the principal of Los Gatos High School for four years and spent 11 years as an administrator there before retiring in recent years. The other candidates running for the LGSUHSD school board are Neil Green, a parent and member of the LGHS New Millennium Foundation, Michele Van Zuiden, an incumbent, a member LGHS New Millennium Foundation board and a previous member of the Los Gatos Educational Foundation, and Cynthia Chang, who is currently serving her 12th year on the board.

The candidates running for the SUSD school board are Paige Berardo, Patty Buchanan, Michael Gipe and Ashley Chao. Berardo holds the 2010 Volunteer of the Year award by the SUSD Association of School District Administrators, and Buchanan was appointed in April 2010 as a trustee of the school board.

Recent budget woes have been the major topic of discussion for most candidates, as the economy has challenged school boards to maintain the quality of school programs while spending prudently.

“More than 80 percent of the general budget is used for employee compensation, and the last thing we want to do is lose teaching staff,” said Ramezane.

Though budget problems in LGHSUD are severe, SUSD candidates are not as concerned with this issue.

“Our elementary school district still maintains a low student to teacher ratio (20-1) in the classrooms that serve kindergartners through third graders,” said Buchanan, who has taught elementary and middle school in Saratoga. “We are one of only a few school districts in our state that have been able to maintain this ratio in spite of the economic challenges of the past couple of years.”

Berardo echoed Buchanan’s confidence in their district’s handling of the budget.

“Our school board has always managed the budget conservatively, maintaining a 10 percent reserve when the state requires 3 percent,” said Berardo, who previously served on the district’s budget advisory committee. “That will help over the next couple of years, but it won’t solve the problem alone.”

If elected, candidates say they will implement new and innovative ideas. One of Berardo’s goals is to expand the horizons of students early on.

“A change I’d like to implement is better preparing our children for the global community,” said Berardo. She has three children who have attended the English school system, which has “the benefit of a curriculum that encompasses a more global world-view.”

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