Valerie Arkin is an incumbent, read more about her on her website
1 – What have been the biggest challenges facing your School District and how did you tackle them?
The biggest challenge is (and has been for a long time) the funding issue that our district faces. Most of our funding comes from the state and as such, we do not get the funding we need to provide the resources necessary for all of our students. In spite of that, I think our district has done a good job preserving and expanding programs for all children. We have experienced some reductions for this school year, but we were able to look at our budget and make some adjustments that allowed us to preserve most of our programs from last year.
We do not get enough funding to address our Special Ed population and that requires our district to use our general fund dollars in order to address those needs. The thing I have advocated most for is reading interventions. If a student is not proficient in reading by 8 or 9 years old, their future academic success is at stake. There is data to support this and I have been fighting for more targeted interventions in this area.
2 – Do you believe there are systemic problems with racial/sexual/gender-based or other discrimination in your district’s schools? What have you done to address them and how will you address them in the future?
Yes, I believe that there are systemic problems in all school districts, mine included. We need to take steps to ensure that our kids are not discriminated against in any way. Our Board adopted an equity resolution last year and our strategic plan addresses our desire to see that we address the needs of all of our students. ALL MEANS ALL! We have programs in place to address our ESL students. We also adopted a policy that allows transgender students to choose the bathroom on our school campuses that they identify with. We did this a few years ago, right after Governor Brown signed this bill. When the recent controversy came up in North Carolina, many schools in California were just starting to address the issue. We addressed it a few years ago. I feel that all of our kids need to feel safe in their school environments. I am proud to say that we supported that policy. We have anti-bullying policies in place and we have programs that talk about this issue in all of our schools.
3 – Do you believe the school-to-prison pipeline is operational in your School District? What have you done and/or propose to do to close it down?
We have many programs that address different types of learning in our schools and we have done a lot to address this area. All kids can learn if they are given the appropriate resources. Some kids need interventions in reading and that is instrumental in addressing their future academic success. We have literacy coaches who help the teachers in the classroom address those students with those needs. We have tutoring services for our subgroups that need extra help. I strongly believe in having enough counselors to identify and address those students who are having difficulties. Our school district does a lot to see that kids get the services they need. There is more work to be done, but we are doing well in addressing this subject. I do not believe we have a school-to-prison pipeline in our district.
4 – Have you supported having police officers on campus? Why or why not?
Yes. We have resource officers on our two comprehensive high schools campuses. Unlike many other districts, the City of Pleasanton pays for these officers – the district does not fund them. Their approach has not been to look for problems, but rather, they have the attitude of helping our kids. Our district has come a long way since I was elected to the Board in 2008. At that time, we had many expulsions. I was a big advocate for more of a restorative justice approach. Instead of an attitude of punishing kids, I want to see that kids can learn from their experiences and grow into responsible adults. It doesn’t have to solely be punitive and I believe in second chances. Since then, our expulsions have greatly decreased. I know I have succeeded in how we handle these situations and our students are better for it.
5 – What limits to students’ freedom of expression and privacy do you think are appropriate for public schools?
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6 – What do you think the School District should do to offer support to homeless, foster and impoverished children and children coming from violent homes?
Our new funding model has funds going specifically to our foster youth, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and our ESL students. We don’t have a huge population of foster or homeless youth in our district, but we have support systems in place to help. Our parent liaisons help with parents who need extra help in addressing the needs of students. We have an anonymous tip line that students or parents can call if they or someone they know needs help. We have interventions as well as tutoring and other supports that help those kids who need it. We have a school breakfast program now in place for those kids who are lower income. Schools should do what they can to assist these children so that they can be safe and come to school prepared to learn.
7 – What should the District do to tackle problems of truancy?
We have district personnel that has the responsibility of addressing truancy issues. When students are truant, letters get sent home that inform parents of the need to send their children to school as well as stating any laws pertaining to truancy. We also explain how our funding is reduced when students do not attend school.
8 – Given the explosion of autism diagnoses, what is your plan to make sure children and their parents are getting the proper support?
We have a community panel for Special Ed students and many forums and parent education classes are offered through our Special Education Local Plan Area (consortium consisting of 5 districts). Our Special Ed department identifies those students and evaluates the best education environment for them. We have aides in classrooms, we have resource departments, there are other services offered or outside services that are paid for in order to ensure that they get the help they need. We believe in the least restrictive environment for our students.
9 – Are you running as a Berniecrat?
I am a Bernie supporter. In the absence of him being on the ballot, I will vote for Hillary Clinton.