Sherman Takes Unconventional Approach to School Board Candidacy

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chalkboardClaire Sherman is not your typical candidate for school board.  She openly acknowledges that her stances on issues facing the district may make it difficult for her to be elected and that gaining election may not be her top priority, as she is not planning on raising or spending money beyond the costs of putting her ballot statement on the sample ballot.

Nevertheless, she believes that there are issues that are not be voiced in this community, that the current school board is too homogeneous and caters to the high-achieving student population.

As a parent volunteer she said that she has been appalled with the conduct of some parents who, she believes and has heard from teachers, bully the teacher population.

She also sees an alarming culture shift, where high school has become a high stakes game and the curriculum is geared to the best and the brightest.  Instead, she would like to see a shift to catering to all students.  She would like to see a more balanced high school approach that acknowledges that not all students will be going to college, and provides them with skills that they can take into the workforce.

It is now a crowded field – there are five candidates for two spots.  Incumbent Susan Lovenburg is running for reelection but Richard Harris decided not to.  That has opened the door for four challengers – Nancy Peterson, Jose Granda and Alan Fernandes, along with Ms. Sherman.

Like three of her four fellow candidates, Claire Sherman supports the parcel tax.

At the same time, she told the Vanguard that she understands why some people would be opposed to it.  In fact, she has some concerns herself.  For example is the fact that the programs offered are the status quo that were implemented prior to the economic crisis.

She noted that, while the parcel tax goes to specific programs, some of those programs might not be a priority in hard economic times.

In addition, she wants to see a shift in emphasis to provide a better balance to the school district.  Music programs require that, in order to join the high school symphony, students need to undertake years of private lessons and therefore these programs service elite students rather than providing balance to the school district.

Claire Sherman also expressed concern that the school district is not planning for a worst-case scenario.  She said, “I am shocked that the school board is doing nothing to prepare for the worst-case scenario.”

That would be the scenario in which not only does the governor’s tax plan fail statewide, but the parcel tax fails at the district level.  Such a scenario could force the school district to cut $7.5 million worth of programs and funding, leading to fewer teachers, larger classrooms, and shorter schools years by as much as 15 days.

Ms. Sherman told the Vanguard that if she were on the board at this time, she would do everything possible to streamline spending.  She would like to figure out if there is anything left to cut or whether everything has already been cut to the bone.

Instead, she said the district has basically decided to wait until November 7 to figure out where they are with the two tax plans before planning to act.  She criticizes this as a lack of planning.

Claire Sherman told the Vanguard that the Achievement Gap is an issue that many do not want to mention in this school district.  She cites this as another way in which balance needs to be brought back to the schools to address the needs of students other than just high-achieving students.

She also discussed the ongoing problems at Montgomery.  Ms. Sherman noted that the situation there reminds her of Valley Oak.

She felt like North Davis Elementary was the more appropriate school to close rather than Valley Oak.  That would have allowed DaVinci to be housed right next to the high school.  However, when the idea of closing North Davis Elementary was floated, the outcry was too strong and the affluent attending that school won out over the lower socio-economic parents at Valley Oak.

The situation at Montgomery is concerning because what has happened is that those students whose parents can move them to other schools are doing so.  That has left behind lower socio-economic students and Spanish-speaking students.

Part of the problem, she feels, is that the decisions made by the school board are made in front of the more vocal parents who have the means to organize.

She would like to see school board meetings become more streamlined (ending earlier in the evening) and utilize more of a town hall structure, allowing for more input from parents and the community.

She would like to see a rotating town hall meeting at each of the schools, and perhaps committees at the schools where a board member is involved.  She also believes that school board members need to regularly get into the classroom so they can see firsthand what the classroom environment is like.

Claire Sherman told the Vanguard that she is not collecting money.  Rather she wants to raise important issues she thinks are not being discussed.  She will instead rely on word of mouth and hopes that people will talk to each other about her ideas and candidacy, and she also plans to have a Facebook page to facilitate this.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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25 thoughts on “Sherman Takes Unconventional Approach to School Board Candidacy”

  1. Mr.Toad

    The idea that you are running to make a point is a tiresome waste of everyones energy. Write an op-ed if that is your purpose. If you are going to stand for election, run to win, otherwise don’t waste the voters time evaluating your candidacy.

    As for bringing up Valley Oak, that school closed five years ago. While I agree it was a mistake to close that school the people who closed it are not running in this election. On the other issues she raises, class and privilege, they are worthy of debate, too bad she undermines her own message by running an unconventional campaign and admitting defeat before the votes have been counted.

  2. SouthofDavis

    I agree with Mr. Toad that it is a waste of everyone’s time to stand for election without trying to win.

    She writes:

    > The situation at Montgomery is concerning because what
    > has happened is that those students whose parents can
    > move them to other schools are doing so. That has left
    > behind lower socio-economic students and Spanish-
    > speaking students.

    Someday I hope we have someone running for school board who can come out and say “all kids do not learn at the same pace” (even more so when they don’t all speak the same language) and “it will better for all the kids if we have separate schools that cater to bright kids who want to go to college and other schools that cater to the not so bright kids who want to learn English”.

  3. David M. Greenwald

    I think people can win in Davis without spending money. I thought she had interesting things to say and was well spoken. So I wouldn’t write her off necessarily.

  4. Greg Brucker

    [quote][i]Music programs require that, in order to join the high school symphony, students need to undertake years of private lessons and therefore these programs service elite students rather than providing balance to the school district.[/i][/quote]

    Regarding the above statement:

    I teach Orchestra at Emerson and Harper.

    The comment I quoted compelled me to finally register so I can respond.

    This statement isn’t true, and it is not a stated requirement for [u]any[/u] DHS Auditioned Music Group. I have been teaching orchestra in Davis for 9 years (some of which at DHS) and have taught students who don’t take lessons and have made it into the auditioned orchestras at DHS. Do more students who take lessons audition in? Yes. But do you really expect something different? There are lots of very talented young musicians in Davis. How can that be in any way referred to in the negative? And having the programs to support and challenge them at that level is a bad thing? Why use it as an attack on music and music classes, when we have a Grammy Signature Award winning program at DHS (2007-8 and 10-11). Does that make DHS elitist? Not a chance. It’s an absurd accusation and insinuation about the students who are and are not involved. As well, it is an attack on us teachers who work very hard to be as inclusive as possible, and have had much success teaching students who don’t take lessons along with the ones who do. (This holds true for band and choir as well, not just orchestra.)

    Further, the labeling of a student as elitist in incredibly offensive to those students (and their families) who have worked their tails off to excel at an instrument and have made it to the highest levels of performance offered. Why, as an adult (especially one running for School Board), would anyone call students names, when we as teachers (and I assume all parents in support) are working hard to stop student on student bullying? It sets a horrible example and is incredibly inappropriate.

    Finally, it is also a shame that music is used as an example to attack the district based on the idea that “she wants to see a shift in emphasis to provide a better balance to the school district.” Why attack music when it is a small portion of the overall offerings in the district? Shouldn’t a potential candidate’s focus be on general education classes in promoting “better balance,” if that indeed is her message regarding the overall educational system?

    I’d like to add that through DSOMA, the secondary orchestra boosters, a greatly used program exists to give free lessons by dhs students to elementary and younger jr. high students who want lessons but cannot afford them. It is a very successful program and has given great support to many young students since it was started 5 years ago.

    No, on to the real issue at hand: it is true that we do not have entry level instrumental music classes at DHS or the JHS level (jr. high and dhs choir and the DHS music essentials class are entry level), and when there is money to pay for those classes, we will work to have them added. There hasn’t been the money for years to expand offerings and with the programs’ current structure, class replacements would do much damage to those students currently involved-the educational benefit wouldn’t be worth the educational cost. In fact, this year’s overall music dept is smaller than last years, and we are all working hard to keep things going as well as we have in light of that! To call names and attack the dept and its students only does a disservice to the person who makes those comments.

    The truth is that at this point, we are lucky and grateful to have the programs we still have, with great great thanks to the Davis Community, who have voted numerous times to enact taxes which help to pay for the arts (and many other things) because they (we, as I vote and live here) believe in the worth of those programs. Do those people voting think that the programs are elitist? Probably not or they wouldn’t vote to support those and other programs by over 2/3 on every election. As seen with Measure C, almost 75% of voters want these programs.

    Respectfully,

    Greg Brucker
    Orchestra Director
    Emerson and Harper Jr. High

  5. Greg Brucker

    [quote][i]Music programs require that, in order to join the high school symphony, students need to undertake years of private lessons and therefore these programs service elite students rather than providing balance to the school district.[/i][/quote]

    Regarding the above statement:

    I teach Orchestra at Emerson and Harper.

    The comment I quoted compelled me to finally register so I can respond.

    This statement isn’t true, and it is not a stated requirement for [u]any[/u] DHS Auditioned Music Group. I have been teaching orchestra in Davis for 9 years (some of which at DHS) and have taught students who don’t take lessons and have made it into the auditioned orchestras at DHS. Do more students who take lessons audition in? Yes. But do you really expect something different? There are lots of very talented young musicians in Davis. How can that be in any way referred to in the negative? And having the programs to support and challenge them at that level is a bad thing? Why use it as an attack on music and music classes, when we have a Grammy Signature Award winning program at DHS (2007-8 and 10-11). Does that make DHS elitist? Not a chance. It’s an absurd accusation and insinuation about the students who are and are not involved. As well, it is an attack on us teachers who work very hard to be as inclusive as possible, and have had much success teaching students who don’t take lessons along with the ones who do. (This holds true for band and choir as well, not just orchestra.)

    Further, the labeling of a student as elitist in incredibly offensive to those students (and their families) who have worked their tails off to excel at an instrument and have made it to the highest levels of performance offered. Why, as an adult (especially one running for School Board), would anyone call students names, when we as teachers (and I assume all parents in support) are working hard to stop student on student bullying? It sets a horrible example and is incredibly inappropriate.

    Finally, it is also a shame that music is used as an example to attack the district based on the idea that “she wants to see a shift in emphasis to provide a better balance to the school district.” Why attack music when it is a small portion of the overall offerings in the district? Shouldn’t a potential candidate’s focus be on general education classes in promoting “better balance,” if that indeed is her message regarding the overall educational system?

    I’d like to add that through DSOMA, the secondary orchestra boosters, a greatly used program exists to give free lessons by dhs students to elementary and younger jr. high students who want lessons but cannot afford them. It is a very successful program and has given great support to many young students since it was started 5 years ago.

    No, on to the real issue at hand: it is true that we do not have entry level instrumental music classes at DHS or the JHS level (jr. high and dhs choir and the DHS music essentials class are entry level), and when there is money to pay for those classes, we will work to have them added. There hasn’t been the money for years to expand offerings and with the programs’ current structure, class replacements would do much damage to those students currently involved-the educational benefit wouldn’t be worth the educational cost. In fact, this year’s overall music dept is smaller than last years, and we are all working hard to keep things going as well as we have in light of that! To call names and attack the dept and its students only does a disservice to the person who makes those comments.

    The truth is that at this point, we are lucky and grateful to have the programs we still have, with great great thanks to the Davis Community, who have voted numerous times to enact taxes which help to pay for the arts (and many other things) because they (we, as I vote and live here) believe in the worth of those programs. Do those people voting think that the programs are elitist? Probably not or they wouldn’t vote to support those and other programs by over 2/3 on every election. As seen with Measure C, almost 75% of voters want these programs.

    Respectfully,

    Greg Brucker
    Orchestra Director
    Emerson and Harper Jr. High

  6. wdf1

    [i]Music programs require that, in order to join the high school symphony, students need to undertake years of private lessons and therefore these programs service elite students rather than providing balance to the school district.[/i]

    My experience has been that the determining factor for whether a student makes it into an audition group is more whether he/she practices enough or not. Private lessons help, but are not exactly the determining factor as much as independent practicing. A student can have a private music teacher, but if she doesn’t practice much, she is likelier not to make it.

  7. Matt Williams

    Greg, welcom to the Vanguard. I for one hope this is the first of many posts by you. You may even want to write an article (or two) for publication. I’m sure David would welcome your submission with open arms.

  8. wdf1

    I would also add to the above comments that secondary music classes have never had a cap on their sizes, except what the fire marshal decides. DHS Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Band have 70-80 students enrolled in each. To me that looks like efficient staffing to be able to have classes like that. It allows for a few other courses to run at smaller enrollment levels.

  9. Sherman

    I want to dispel the misconception that I’m not in this to win. To the contrary – I have every intention of campaigning hard enough to take first place. My point is that history and current events are not on my side – that Davis elections, even for school board, are up for sale, and the winnings often go to the highest bidders. If you doubt that at all, look at how you can already donate to some candidates using your credit cards on Facebook, and how many local politicians already tendered their endorsements before the filing date for candidates even arrived. Why would local leaders lock in endorsements before they have even listened to what candidates have to say? Is this what it has come to in Davis? So make no mistake – you’ll see me out there, and I intend to get my message out for everyone to see.

    SouthofDavis made the comment that “it will better for all the kids if we have separate schools that cater to bright kids who want to go to college and other schools that cater to the not so bright kids who want to learn English.” Such separation (i.e., segregation) has been tried before, for example, by a Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas. To quote the US Supreme Court in 1954, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” They still are.

  10. Michael Harrington

    Sherman: In this town, to win candidates put up a lot of lawn signs, and send literature to frequent voters. But if you campaign full time and knock on massive numbers of doors, maybe you will win. Good luck !

  11. Sherman

    I very much appreciate the sentiments conveyed by Greg Brucker and have enjoyed the performances from the music programs he and Angelo Moreno have directed. There is no question that the text that he highlighted, “Music programs require that, in order to join the high school symphony, students need to undertake years of private lessons and therefore these programs service elite students rather than providing balance to the school district” is wrong.  Moreover, “elite” refers to only having the best musical students participating in these programs, and not that the program itself is elitist.

    Currently, there are 13 music courses offered by DHS. Of those 13 courses, 6 require successful auditions to participate and 5 require previous participation in a music program. The two remaining courses, with no prerequisites, are Essentials of Music (a broad overview of music) and Concert Choir (enjoyment of music and an interest in singing). As Mr. Brucker aptly noted, there are no entry-level instrumental music courses at DHS or the junior high schools. This underscores exactly the point that I was trying to make, however inartfully: where is the balance in the music program?

    Mr. Brucker notes that “it is true that we do not have entry level instrumental music classes at DHS or the JHS level (jr. high and dhs choir and the DHS music essentials class are entry level), and when there is money to pay for those classes, we will work to have them added. There hasn’t been the money for years to expand offerings and with the programs’ current structure, class replacements would do much damage to those students currently involved-the educational benefit wouldn’t be worth the educational cost.” 

    So here’s a reasonable question for a candidate for the Davis School Board to ask:  Is it really a good idea to sacrifice students that might aspire to be “late bloomers” to music by not providing a more broadly accessible musical instrument program that welcomes all students, while continues to foster development of the best?  Given that 11 music courses are competitively available or require previous experience, is there a way we can achieve Mr. Brucker’s objectives while still leaving no one behind who hasn’t had the benefit of a elementary/junior high musical upbringing or of private lessons?  Can we find common ground here?  I want to be clear to Mr. Brucker and others that far from “attack[ing] music and music classes” I am trying to learn if there are ways to expand access to even more students, including those who may not be the best of the best.  Wouldn’t everyone benefit from that?  If so — do you want the School Board’s help?

  12. wdf1

    Sherman: [i]I am trying to learn if there are ways to expand access to even more students, including those who may not be the best of the best. Wouldn’t everyone benefit from that? If so — do you want the School Board’s help?[/i]

    Some thoughts: Make music [u]required[/u] at the lower grades. Problem is you will get pushback in this fiscal environment. Adding to or increasing programs doesn’t sit well when positions are being cut. Secondary grades are typically modeled to have ~35 students in a class. That’s not a class size that is conducive to learning music at a beginner level. Beginning level music is a little more labor intensive, requiring the instructor to make frequent adjustments and give regular feedback as to playing quality and posture of the student. Smaller class sizes are more conducive to elementary level instruction.

    But Brucker is right. There has been steady growth in music program enrollment, and some impressive efforts at making the music program more widely accessible in the school district, particularly at the elementary level.

  13. rgreen

    For the record, running to make a point is hardly a waste of people’s time if it, you know, actually makes the point. These issues are all important ones that need to be discussed and frankly anyone who makes candidates think about them and holds them responsible for their answers sounds like a smart person to me. But she isn’t running with no intention of winning anyway, so that issue really is moot.

    You can’t win without spending money? Wow. What a sad commentary on the state of our elections. You’d really base your vote on the presence or absence of lawn signs? I say it’s refreshing to have a candidate who isn’t bothering with that stuff.

    Now, I am a graduate of the Davis music program. I started in elementary school and continued through junior high and high school. It’s a wonderful program, but it isn’t perfect by far. And yes, I have to say, students who hadn’t taken private lessons were behind. I knew someone who tried to start a new instrument in high school and was told he couldn’t join the band because he didn’t have the experience. That isn’t an insinuation, it’s a fact. Private lessons with professional musicians are going to prepare students better for auditions, so yes, the students who can afford those lessons are going to have an advantage. All the practice at home in the world will help but a professional can teach you how to audition successfully. Again, this isn’t a criticism of the music program, and for goodness’ sake it isn’t an attack on the teachers. No one is saying that.

  14. rgreen

    [quote]
    This statement isn’t true, and it is not a stated requirement for any DHS Auditioned Music Group. I have been teaching orchestra in Davis for 9 years (some of which at DHS) and have taught students who don’t take lessons and have made it into the auditioned orchestras at DHS. Do more students who take lessons audition in? Yes. But do you really expect something different? There are lots of very talented young musicians in Davis. How can that be in any way referred to in the negative? And having the programs to support and challenge them at that level is a bad thing? Why use it as an attack on music and music classes, when we have a Grammy Signature Award winning program at DHS (2007-8 and 10-11). Does that make DHS elitist? Not a chance. It’s an absurd accusation and insinuation about the students who are and are not involved. As well, it is an attack on us teachers who work very hard to be as inclusive as possible, and have had much success teaching students who don’t take lessons along with the ones who do. (This holds true for band and choir as well, not just orchestra.) [/quote]

    By the way, you kind of proved her point here. Lessons make you more likely to get into the auditioned music programs.

    [quote]Someday I hope we have someone running for school board who can come out and say “all kids do not learn at the same pace” (even more so when they don’t all speak the same language) and “it will better for all the kids if we have separate schools that cater to bright kids who want to go to college and other schools that cater to the not so bright kids who want to learn English”[/quote]

    You do realize how horrible that sounds, right? You basically just said that “not so bright kids” who don’t know English need to be at a separate school from the bright, English speaking kids. Separate but equal, right?

    I’d much rather have a candidate who treats all the kids like equals and provides [i]everyone[/i] with the best educational experience. And that means making decisions based off of their best interests, not the loudest parents who have money and influence.

  15. SouthofDavis

    Sherman wrote:

    > “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
    > They still are.

    You are correct separate educational facilities are inherently unequal; UC Davis is not equal to Sac State or Sacramento City College. Do you think that it would be a good thing to put an 18 year old English learner from Sacramento City College (hoping to get a GED someday) in a freshman English class at UCD, or maybe put some of 18 year old super bright UCD Chemistry students in to an intro to Chemistry class at Sacramento City College. It sounds great to say that “we are all equal”, but we are not and mixing the kids makes it harder for ALL the kids to learn.

    There is nothing wrong with separate and unequal schools and classes as long as ANYONE (of any race color or creed) can qualify to get in.
    I love music and my parents paid for private guitar lessons when I was a kid, but even with a lot of practice and lessons I never became a good guitar player. In High School I started to play the bass since many people told me “you don’t need a lot of musical talent to play the bass”, unfortunately I had so little musical talent that I was not even a good bass player (and my friends kicked me out of their band and got a new bass player).

    If I didn’t qualify for Greg’s auditioned music class it would be a good thing since I could focus on the things I did excel in and the kids with a lot of musical talent would be able to learn a lot more without someone like me in their class slowing them down.

  16. civil discourse

    As Michael Harrington said, in order to win you must have lawn signs. The key to any campaign is lawn signs.

    In this regard, choosing a color scheme that is both complimentary and eye pleasing is key. Make sure and pick something that is both iconic of Davis (bicycles, farm fields, sunsets, vegetables, etc.) and understanded and simple.

    Also, make sure and research past icons and logos and lawn signs used by past candidates. If you mistakenly choose a color scheme previously used by a candidate, you risk “guilty by association” type charges.

    Lastly, once you procure your lawn signs, look for property owners to display your signs. Property owners are the true power players in Davis, as Michael Harrington rightly knows, and aligning yourself with their property is the only way to win.

    One free campaign tip: if you are lacking in enough “print time” in the local paper, try stealing your own signs, then release an angry toned letter denouncing the “lawn sign debacle”!

    Cheers to more lawn signs!!

  17. rgreen

    [quote]As Michael Harrington said, in order to win you must have lawn signs. The key to any campaign is lawn signs. [/quote]

    And here I thought the key to winning was actually being a worthwhile candidate who is knowledgeable about the issues and would put our kids’ educations first.

    By the way, are you really advocating that candidates steal from people? Because that seems like terrible advice, not to mention that stealing is illegal.

  18. civil discourse

    Sorry for the tone. I found the comment “without lawn signs…her candidacy is toast” to be lacking in ahem…vision…hence the heavy tone of sarcasm.

    I look forward to a day when the lawn sign is not how you win elections in Davis.

    Why does the lawn sign mean so much here? It is not like that in other towns. This is the only town I’ve seen where entire neighborhoods are plastered with 2-3 signs per lawn. Not even other cities where voter participation is high is there as much focus on lawn signs.

    Perhaps they offend my sensibilities. For that, I apologize.

  19. rgreen

    Don’t worry – they offend most reasonable people’s sensibilities, I think. It’s the basic philosophy that if you repeat something often enough it’ll stick in peoples’ minds. Plus they make people feel politically aware and involved. Hey, I put up lawn signs! I am clearly educated and aware of my town’s politics!

    Davis is a unique sort of political animal. Being over-involved and spending tons of money are considered signs of caring; it’s one of the problems I imagine teachers have run into with a lot of the parents here. Thus the appeal of this particular school board candidate, actually. She isn’t pandering or saying that she knows better than the teachers, she’s trying to involve everyone and make the system work equally well for all the kids.

  20. wdf1

    rgreen: [i]Davis is a unique sort of political animal. Being over-involved and spending tons of money are considered signs of caring…[/i]

    Could be worse:

    Lodi Unified sees much apathy for district seats ([url]http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120823/A_NEWS/208230317/-1/A_NEWS[/url])

  21. concernedparent

    Lawn Signs……. What makes or breaks a campaign
    REALLY???!!!
    Kind of miffed by the number of responses talking about signage and money needed to be spent to garner One’s vote.

    There has been way more discussion of signage over issues. If we stand with Ms. Sherman on the ISSUES, perhaps WE can create signage that meets our personal aesthetic and place it on our property.

    Isn’t this the kind of task grassroots community should joyfully participate in to support people that share our concerns and values?

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