This November 6th election, five candidates are vying for three expiring Emery School Board seats vacated by elected member Donn Lee Merriam and appointed members Bailey Langner and Brynnda Collins.
Collins, the only incumbent, along with Susan Donaldson, Sarah Nguyen, Katy Brown and former councilmember Ken Bukowski all filed campaign statements to run for these seats prior to the August 10th deadline. Elected candidates will join Cruz Vargas and Barbara Inch who were both elected in 2016 and have two years left on their terms.
Elected candidates will be entrusted to work with our Superintendent to provide leadership and oversight for the district that reflects our community’s values and standards. The EUSD faces considerable challenges including fiscal constraints, lagging student performance and employee retention.
The E’ville Eye provided candidates the below 20 questions that cover a broad range of topics relevant to our city and our district. They were given a week to reply and asked to keep their responses to 250 words. Ken Bukowski opted to not participate in this questionnaire.
Emery USD School Board Candidate Questionnaire: Youth Development Coordinator Brynnda Collins
1. Tell us about your professional background and how these skills might transfer to being on the school board.
I am currently employed with SFUSD Prek In-Take Unit. I was previously employed with EUSD filling many positions within the district such as Student Activities Coordinator, Special ED. Instructional Assistant, Student Body Advisor, Internship/Outreach Coordinator, EUSD Parent Engagement Coordinator, EUSD PTO President, EUSD Post-Secondary College and Career Coach. I coordinated EUSD After School Programs, monitored and overseen the student accounting budgets for EUSD, wrote grants, Chaired the School Site Council, and held the position of CSEA Treasure. I am familiar will many rols and responsibilities within our district. Education is what I do, it’s what I know.
2. Do you have any school age children and if so, would you have any reservations about enrolling them in the EUSD?
As the current School Board President and past employee, I feel as if all the EUSD students are my children. Biologically, I have one daughter who is now an Emery Alumna, graduating Class of 2010 School President. I believe in the many opportunities EUSD has to offer our youth and would have no reservations in enrolling her now if she was k-12 school age.
3. Ultimately, what factors made you decide to run for school board and list your top-5 priorities for the district should you be elected,
I am inspired to continue my call to service, there is plenty of work to be done on behalf of our student and staff. I am well connected to the EUSD and show great transparency. I am passionate about ensuring quality education for all students, bringing the best programs possible to this district, improving teacher retention, making EUSD fiscally strong, and raising student academics are just a few of my top priorities.
4. Like many local school districts, Emery Unified has been running under an unsustainable budget deficit. How do you recommend we address this?
I recommend close review of how the budget was spent to see where we could make sounder budgeting choices. I also recommend fundraising and taking other approaches to securing funds.
5. There’s been some discussion at School Board meetings around a Parcel Tax measure as there is a correlation between funding and student achievement. Would you support a Parcel Tax as a way to improve enrichment programs and to close the deficit exacerbated by employee pension debt?
Yes, I am in support of the Parcel Tax as it is one of the lowest in the county. It would help to support funding and student programs.
6. How much of the success of a child’s education do you believe is the responsibility of the parent(s)/guardians and how can our district help busy parents monitor a child’s progress, address deficits early and get them actively involved in their children’s education?
I am not sure how one would measure parent(s)/guardian success when it comes to educating their child as every parent is different in their needs to be successful and in their need to educate their child. In most cases children spend more time with school staff than with their parents due to busy work schedules. Great staff will help support parents and will know their student, understanding their needs and find the resources for students and their family. It truly does take a village.
7. How do you suggest we improve teacher and employee retention in our district?
Good leadership making staff feel supported, welcomed and valued is a great start. Paying fair wages and showing transparency while incorporating team work.
8. What metrics will you use to evaluate the effectiveness of new Superintendent Dr. Quiauna Scott (test scores, enrollment, teacher retention …)?
I would evaluate her through the Superintendent Goals.
9. How much of our districts’ limited resources should we dedicate to closing the racial achievement gap?
We would have to use the resources necessary or go out to secure other resources in assisting use in reaching the goal of closing the racial achievement gap.
10. Only about half of our student population actually live in Emeryville with a majority of the other half being district transfers from Oakland. Do you believe the percentage of Emeryville families should be higher and if so, how do you recommend we achieve this?
As of recently numbers are showing an increase in Emeryville families in several grade levels. I believe if our students live in Emeryville or Oakland we have a responsibility to offer all student quality and equitable education. I would like to make EUSD a first choice for all families especially our community. I would like to gain a deeper understanding as to what the Emeryville families need from their educational institution and build off the feedback.
11. Some local parents seem reluctant to send their children to Emeryville Public Schools. Have you discussed this with any parents of younger children and what is your takeaway with what the reasons are?
Yes, I have had discussions, while some choices were made from past district practices and not present.
12. Although this is beyond the district’s control, how can our local government improve the “Family Friendliness” of our city to keep school age families from leaving our district and improve continuity among residents (e.g. Housing, Cost of living, crime increases, quality of life issues …)?
Offering affordable housing would improve “Family Friendliness”. When Families move due to the cost of living and spikes in rent, their children move with them impacting the community in more ways than one.
13. There are roughly 700 children of school age living in Emeryville and our school district has a capacity of roughly the same amount. Should increased enrollment be a goal of the district?
A recent study shows that enrollment has increased in most grades, there are however a couple grades not at capacity. Yes, certain grades should show improvement, others should stay comfortable.
14. Some officials see our city as a transient city and therefore have suggested we eliminate Emery High and become a K-8 only district. Do you agree with this suggestion?
I am not in agreement nor am I seeing the relation to being a transient city to the high school.
15. Some officials have also suggested that we should merge our district with a neighboring city (either Berkeley or Oakland). What do you believe are the pros and cons of this and where do you align?
I align with believing that “We the People” have a responsibility to offer accessible and quality education to all children in our community.
16. Many district parents, primarily families of color, have suggested having a School Resource Officer to ensure our children grow up with positive associations with peace officers. What do you see as the Pros & Cons of this and where do you stand personally?
From my experience School Resource Officers have been an amazing resource for the EUSD campus in the past. Their presence was not to criminalize our community but was able to build unity. They worked with the students and staff, mentored at risk youth and developed relationships that led students into a law enforcement career. I believe some of these same student would have a totally different perspective and outlook on life if it were not for our SRO.
17. Do you have a personal stance on Charter Schools and can Public Schools coexist with them in our area?
I think they should have the same governing rules as public school. Yes, I believe they can coexist as they have been doing so in the past few years in Emeryville. They offer choices, parents have a right to choose.
18. A prominent member of the political group “RULE” has routinely disrupted meetings and engaged in bullying tactics against members of the community and city staff. I hope you’ll agree that this degree of vitriol doesn’t belong anywhere near our children. Will you “lead by example” and stand up to bullying by refusing their endorsement and campaign contributions from RULE members unless they enforce a code of ethics among active members?
I am not comfortable commenting on this question as it is coming off as controversial to me.
19. Are you endorsed by our Teacher’s Association and provide your insights why you were or were not endorsed by them?
Yes, I have the endorsement of the Emery Teacher Association. They know I understand the district needs, know our students and parents and will listen to not just their concerns but all concerns. They have confidence in the work I am currently doing and are supporting me in my efforts to retain my School Board seat.
20. How will your campaign be funded and list which politicians & PACs have donated or pledged to donate to your campaign. How will you ensure you will be free from external political influences in your decisions?
My campaign will be funded by various friends, family and community members. Anyone that know me know I am not influenced by anyone internal, external, political or not. As current EUSD School Board President my decisions have been and will all ways be made on behalf of the EUSD students, staff and parents!