HAYWARD -- The race for two four-year seats on the Hayward school board on Nov. 2 is a mixed bag of candidates that includes a quiet incumbent, a vocal board critic, a youthful teacher, a retired instructor and a prominent parent activist.
While incumbent Sheila Sims is running for re-election, board President Paul Frumkin III opted to retire from the board as his term ends, meaning at least one new face will be at the dais come December.
Here are brief profiles of the five candidates -- Audie Bock, Lisa Brunner, Sue Lafferty, William McGee and Sims.
Audie Bock, a former state legislator who is also running for a spot on the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District's board, said during a recent forum that a "revolution" is needed on the school board, but at the same time, she doesn't consider herself a particularly radical candidate.
"I am just saying that they need to follow the law," she said. "Is that asking too much? It came as quite a shock to me to see the education code being dismissed as something that doesn't apply to Hayward."
Bock wrote a letter in June that brought to light the fact that board members were receiving a stipend larger that that allowed by the state, and she said she believed the board's problems went much deeper than that. She said the superintendent is far too involved in the board's decision-making process and there is a current culture of hirings and firings based on personal grudges. Bock said the open process to select a superintendent was aborted improperly, and that the public routinely is ignored at meetings and written correspondence was tossed aside.
Bock said she saw positive effects following the state takeover of Oakland schools, and suggests that the same should happen in Hayward.
"Basically, it's cleaning up the district office, getting rid of corruption," she said. "It doesn't need a takeover, or necessarily a change in the entire board and superintendent. If they just start following the law, and be responsible to the public, we can make the changes. "... We just need to clean up our act."
Lisa Brunner said she is an "active, civically minded parent" whose has been visibly involved with district affairs for a decade. She said her experience as a volunteer and her service on a host of committees will translate to effective leadership on the board.
"Yes, I am very opinionated, and usually have an agenda or certain ideas," she said. "But my experience working with people will come in handy. (Serving on the board) is something I can handle."
She said parental input is vital because parents are in touch with what each school needs.
"It will vary from school to school," she said, adding that teachers need more autonomy in the classroom because "they know what works best."
Brunner said the public needs to be given more information about where district dollars are spent, particularly when budget cuts are being made.
"There needs to be a full disclosure of funds," she said. "It needs to be put out there in writing, where it's going. They can't keep doing it the way they've been doing it. It may not be illegal, but it is unethical."
She said well-performing students in the district often go unrecognized, and she would like to see those kids be given their due credit. Similarly, programs such as band, choir and Advanced Placement courses need to be preserved, and she also stressed the importance of the Regional Occupational Program.
"Everyone needs to be served," she said. "I just want to make sure there are fair and balanced opportunities for all students."
Sue Lafferty said she's seen the district "go from near the top of the heap to near the bottom" during her decades as a teacher, and it's that long-term experience that makes her the most qualified candidate.
"I taught forever, and I know that the kids need to come first," she said. "We need a member who loves education, cares for our children and knows what every cut will mean. I know what they mean because I spent more than 20 years as a teacher in the trenches."
Lafferty said watching board meetings makes her cringe.
"I get so upset I can hardly stand it," she said. "It is absolutely beyond belief when people are rude and obnoxious to the chair of an official body. I'm very disappointed by board members who cannot behave in a civilized manner."
She said the board will need to work collaboratively to see results, and it's a daunting task they have before them.
"If there were a couple of easy steps, or a couple dozen easy steps, they would have done it by now," she said. "And honey, nobody has done it."
Lafferty said she is confident that with a change on the board, and the right people, they can turn the district around.
"We need to take dedicated people who will work at it consistently, evenly and fairly and not play a blame game," she said. "There are board members and candidates with set agendas that they are working from. "... I think they have closed their minds."
William McGee said the district lacks a connection with teachers, parents and students that he would help foster, and in doing so, start finding solutions to such basic problems as school safety and truancy.
"We need to talk with the parents and especially talk with the students -- they're the ones who are in school day in and day out," he said. "They can tell us what's going on."
McGee said getting to the root of such concerns would reveal possible solutions, and at the same time such dialogue would shed a light on what needs to be done in terms of creating an academically inviting environment.
"We need to make sure that what's going on in classrooms is relevant, that students are not bored," he said. "Lessons need to be culturally relevant. Schools were designed to do something a long time ago, and we need to update the standards."
McGee said the district needs to encourage more community involvement: "The board is not listening, and if it's not listening, it can't be the voice of the public."
He also would like to seek out more partnerships with other organizations that might help alleviate basic problems that cause a ripple effect. For example, they might find that students could benefit from an expansion of the Kids Breakfast Club, or a group that provides food for families, he said.
"Some students aren't eating, some are staying up late taking care of siblings," he said. "We need to start addressing the whole needs of students."
Sheila Sims, elected to a two-year seat in 2008, said she wants to continue on the path toward improvement that the board has taken.
The most immediate problem, she said, is the unbalanced budget. She said recent reports have been positive and it looks like the district will be able to pull itself out of risk of receivership, and will be able to get back to focusing on student improvements.
Sims has been the quietest member of the board, and said that if re-elected she wouldn't position herself to take outgoing President Frumkin's spot as leader of the meetings.
But she said she was there to make the difficult decisions, and would like to be re-elected so she can help Superintendent Janis Duran's action plan move forward.
"We've had to make some really deep cuts, very difficult cuts for the community," she said. "But we were able to do that. And we've made progress despite a reputation as a low-performing district."
Sims said constantly "bashing the district" doesn't help, won't lead to change and gains are often going unrecognized.
She pointed to Academic Performance Index targets that were met at many district schools this year, and said she expects to see continued gains with new administrators and principals at schools throughout the district.
"Yes, I think they will definitely help turn (the district) around," she said. "I have faith that good times are coming, and we're going to do much better. But it takes time. We didn't get into this situation in two years."
hAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD,
Occupation: Teacher/scholarship director
City of residence: Fairview, 5 years
Local businesses/properties owned: Saddle Arabians Show and Pleasure Horses, the Rides Foundation, scholarship affiliate of East Bay Community Foundation, Oakland.
Family: Adult daughter
Education: UC Berkeley, bachelor's from Wellesley College, master's and Ph.D. from Harvard.
Elected positions held: State Assembly, 16th District, 1999-00
Other experience: Sun Gallery board, Japan Society of Northern California board and acting director, Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival board and coordinator, Theater of Yugen board.
Occupation: Parent, semiretired Medicare interviewer
City of residence: Hayward, 27 years
Local businesses/properties owned: Homeowner, one rental property
Family: Husband, two daughters
Education: A.A. from Chabot College, studies at East Carolina University, aviation electrician certificate from Naval Air Training Center.
Elected positions held: Hayward High PTSA president, vice president; Hayward High Band Boosters secretary.
Other experience: Civically active parent and volunteer
Occupation: Retired teacher
City of residence: Hayward, 56 years
Local businesses/properties owned: Homeowner
Family: Three children, five grandchildren, five great-grandchildren.
Education: San Jose State, teaching credential from Cal State Hayward.
Elected positions held: None
City of residence: Hayward, 6 years
Local businesses/properties owned: Ideas, Solutions, a professional services and Web design firm. Homeowner.
Family: Mother, father, sister
Education: Bachelor's in liberal studies, teaching credential, working on master's in educational leadership.
Elected positions held: None
Other experience: Paraprofessional
Occupation: Retired teacher, incumbent board member
City of residence: Hayward, 42 years
Local businesses/properties owned: Homeowner
Family: Husband, two daughters, two grandchildren.
Education: Bachelor's and teaching credential from Cal State Hayward, special ed credential from San Jose State, A.A. from Chabot College.
Elected positions held: Hayward Unified School District trustee
Other experience: Real estate sales, police communication dispatcher, para educator for English and math.