Solana Henneberry, Board of Education
Solana Henneberry, Board of Education
Do you support passage of Measure I? Why or why not?
I support Measure I because our schools are in desperate need of repairs and infrastructure upgrades. Everyone deserves a safe place to learn and work.
If voters approve Measure I, how would you prioritize the projects it would fund?
The school board, district and community need to collaborate with all stakeholders to prioritize which projects require immediate attention. Quattrochi Kwok Architects, developers of the master facilities plan, should participate in order to help with prioritization.
If voters reject Measure I, what if any facilities projects would you continue to seek to implement, and where would the money to pay for them come from?
As the district transitions to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), it would be important to upgrade the wireless internet infrastructure in each school. It is critical for 21st century learning as well as successful participation in SBAC testing. Additionally, fixing and upgrading facilities to present safety regulations is imperative to keep our children safe as well as implementing alternate energy sources and overhauling areas in which we unnecessarily waste or lose energy. The district needs to seek out alternate funding sources available (grants, low interest loans) as well as relocating the district offices to a more cost-effective site.
If elected, you will be charged with hiring a new superintendent for Alameda Unified. What characteristics and experience do you think the ideal candidate should have?
First and foremost a new superintendent must be someone who is committed to doing what is best for students and classrooms in Alameda. They must be honest and transparent and have a good track record of building a collaborative relationships with employees and the community. Furthermore, they must be a strong leader capable of hiring competent people who they will be able to delegate to at the district office rather than micromanage.
The district’s recent demographic study found that Alameda Unified’s student population will grow by 1,000 students over the next decade. How do you think the district should accommodate these new pupils, and where will the money to pay for and new schools and/or services needed come from?
We are funded on a per pupil basis and will be receiving additional funding through the Local Control Funding Formula. Therefore each of these new students will bring funding to the district. Additionally as new developments are built impact fees can be negotiated with developers to pay for schools throughout Alameda or, as in the case of Ruby Bridges, to build a school in the development.
How do you think the district should address parents’ desires for different types of learning environments?
The district needs to create and maintain innovative programs throughout the district for the benefit of all children. The process the district implemented when creating Maya Lin School worked well. Teachers collaborated and wrote a plan for the program. The board then worked with the teachers to make sure the plan fit the student needs in Alameda. Once the plan was completed, the board allocated resources toward implementing and opening the new school as a magnet school. That means students from across the Island can attend if they apply. Franklin Elementary is currently in the planning process to develop an innovative program. Our teachers are creative and have great ideas about innovative programs and need to be given the opportunity and resources to implement their ideas.
Community members have expressed distrust in the school district. How will you help the district regain their trust?
The district has created nothing but problems for itself. With the departure of the former superintendent and the rehiring of a well-regarded district veteran as interim superintendent it appears as though things may be lined up to restore the trust between Alamedans and the district. If the district can show through action that that there’s a real interest in working cooperatively and in being truly transparent with their budgeting and overall plan for the district, trust can be regained. As a board member I will work hard to make certain this is the case.
What strategies would you use as a board member to rebuild the relationship with Alameda’s teachers given the animosity between the teachers union and district leadership in recent years?
As a teacher and a union member myself, I would communicate with the teachers on a regular basis. It is also important for the teachers to meet regularly with district administrators and trust that they are getting the same information that is being given to the board. Perhaps it would be beneficial to have a board member sit in on some of these meetings while trust is being rebuilt.
As a board member, what would you do to address the discord that has existed between school board members and to help the board run more effectively? What experience do you have that would aid those efforts?
As a special education teacher I work with many groups and teams every day in the classroom and with administration. I have worked on instructional leadership teams, school site councils, district assistive technology and augmentative alternative communication teams and countless IEP teams. So I have firsthand experience dealing with hard issues that often require finding a compromise. I have not seen the dynamics of this board during closed session, but when I watch the open session portion of the meeting, I wonder if longer conversations during closed session could be beneficial in order to get everyone’s ideas on the table to see if a compromise can be reached. We could then get feedback from the community on the compromise during open session.
How would you collaborate with the city, and on what issues and/or projects?
The possibility of building a new school was mentioned in question #5. New school construction would be an important issue that would require district/city collaboration. Additionally, parks are another issue that requires collaboration since many of our school sites use parks and park facilities. Finally the services provided by park and rec (like after school care and summer camps) are very important to our families and require close communication to run smoothly.
The district has seen high turnover of principals at schools. How would you support leadership development and staff retention?
Our principals need support and training just as our teachers do. Job responsibilities like evaluation and program development should not be taken lightly and our principals need support in order to be competent at doing these types of important tasks. Our principals need to feel valued by the district and need some autonomy to make decisions at their school sites. In the recent past my observation has been that principals often felt caught in the middle when district decisions were being made rather than being treated as instructional leaders able to provide guidance and support to the teachers.
What is your understanding of Common Core, and do you think it’s a positive step for education? Explain your answer.
Common Core is an exciting opportunity to provide more open ended instruction and the ability to foster more creative and flexible thinking for our students. It also allows the district to provide training for teachers and principals. I really welcome this departure from scripted curriculum and am excited about this opportunity for our students and staff. We need to ensure that we foster innovation while incorporating 21st century learning styles as part of our curriculum.