Barbara Klausner for School Board

Kick off Speech

Learn more about Barbara
   Barbara's Goals for the Board
   Letter From Barbara
Q&A on District Issues
   Kick Off Speech
   Kick Off Photos
Meet Barbara in Person
   Upcoming Events
Donations and Volunteers
Contact Information
Helpful Links
*Download Barbara’s Brochure
* Download Barbara’s Flyer
* School Board Agenda
* Vote on Nov 6. Anyone can now vote by mail. Get a ballot here!

[Written Text of Barbara’s speech at her Kick-Off Party, September 15, 2007. She was introduced by Senator Joe Simitian]

Senator Simitian told you I’m a lawyer, a parent, and an educator – I'm going to talk to you about the educator part. I've taught third grade; taught all kids as a reading and math specialist; then moved to the district level and taught teachers at all 12 elementary schools.

I stand for three things. The first is about Academic Excellence and Inclusiveness. Its’ about being intellectually rigorous and keeping those opportunities open to all students. It can and should be done.
About seven years ago, I started a little pilot math program at Nixon. The goal was to fill the niche for high-achieving math students. I started with 12 students being pulled out of one classroom. The other teachers didn’t think the program was necessary. They were great teachers, but they weren’t looking at the students with the same vision and zeal that I had. Six years later, I was working with close to 100 students in pull-out programs AND I was going into the regular classroom to work with all of the students using the same teaching methods that I was using for the high-achieving students.

One particularly successful part of the program was called VSG, or Virtual School for the Gifted. I don’t know who liked the program more, the students or the parent volunteers that I supervised. Here’s a sample problem – one of the easier ones:

Draw two overlapping circles (point to banner). One circle is the set of all square numbers. The other circle is the set of all cubed numbers. What goes in the intersection and why?

Sometimes the students got so caught up in the problem, I’d find them in a corner hunched over some papers, lost in thought. I think I’ve got a bunch of former VSG students here today, and you can ask them.

Now, any of you who have been involved in pull-out programs like this – and we have similar situations throughout the district – you know how hard it is to include and exclude students. And many of you have had kids, and your kids have had friends, and you know how miserable kids, kids friends, and parents feel about exclusion. I found a way with the help of the teachers and the principal, to offer the program to all students who wanted to join. The students and parents could figure out for themselves whether or not it was a good fit based on work they had already done for me in class. I had to work pretty hard to create a program that was both academically challenging and open to all students. But holding true to those values is what makes our Palo Alto schools so exceptional.

The general idea of being inclusive and providing equal educational opportunities within our regular school program is one of my mantras. If a program is valuable and a part of what I believe to be core curriculum, then it should be offered to all students during the regular school day.

I am equally committed to supporting students who are struggling. For those students, there should be more support beyond the regular school day. I did in fact work for the Academy and the Nixon Homework Club, which are after-school programs. There is a different story to be told about that situation. The quick 20 second version is that we could and should be doing a better job coordinating our programs for those kids, both inside and outside their regular classrooms.

The second point is about fiscal responsibility, about maximizing output from our existing resources.
We have opportunities here that I think no one outside the system fully recognizes. We have pockets of excellence spread throughout our district, buried among the multitude of responsibilities and activities that every teacher takes on.

Think of each best classroom practice as a gem. If you are a parent, think of the gems your child had. What if we could replicate those gems, repeat them, show them to other kids -- and show your kids some gems some other kid found in her class. I find gems. I spent a lot of time as a teacher finding those gems currently out there. I polished them up by packaging those lessons to make them especially teacher-friendly. I explained where they fit into the curriculum. I placed each gem into a specific setting in the crown that is our balanced and comprehensive approach to teaching. I shared that crown with teachers across the district. I know it’s a little corny, but maybe you get the picture.

I'll do the same as a school board member

A positive synergy developed. Teachers from different schools started talking to each other about their best lessons. They visited each others’ classrooms. They participated in optional work sessions to consolidate their best practices. It didn’t cost the district a heck of a lot of money for these extra activities. We leveraged off of some of our own great teachers, who, as they say, took ownership and built up a sustainable, positive momentum. They improved the curriculum and went back to the classrooms inspired by this new framework. No question that students will benefit. We need policies that support a systemic approach to creating this kind of synergy.

Finally, I believe in and stand for including the community in decision-making, even when it feels inconvenient to do so. A few years ago, some parents came forward as strong advocates for a certain teaching approach called flexible ability grouping. It involves regrouping students during certain math periods. Some educators just shut the door on the idea. However, I’m one of those people who will listen to all sorts of good ideas, whether it comes from teachers or from parents. Teachers and parents sometimes start from different places, but they share that same desire to do what’s best for students. They needed was someone like me to find the common ground – to open the door, plant a few seeds and feed the idea. The end result was that that parent idea got translated into classroom practice in several schools. The program got good reviews, especially in the way that it helped teachers more effectively meet the needs of their students. In January, I had some teachers present their experience at a district-wide workshop. There was a good buzz about it. We leveraged both our parent initiative and our teacher expertise. A win-win situation.

There are three seats open in this election, and the board is made up of a team of five individuals. There are some excellent candidates in the field and I would love to see some of them elected. I am only asking for one of your three votes. The school board is a team and a team needs different member to have different skills. I am the only educator. Only I can bring that critical experience and perspective to the board. So, again, I am asking for your vote. And I ask that you communicate that same message to your friends and colleagues. I need your vote and their votes.

Thanks for listening. By the way, how many of you figured out the answer to the VSG problem of intersecting circles. Okay, you guys probably weren’t listening to a word I said – but I did get you excited about a math problem. As my kids say, it’s all good.