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Published October 5th, 2016
OUSD Candidates Tout Need for More Transparency
Sarah G. Butler Cara Rubinstein Hoxie Hillary Weiner

Three candidates are running for two positions on the Orinda Union School District board of trustees. Below each candidate answers five questions put to them by the Lamorinda Weekly. For more information regarding the candidates, see links to their websites, below.
What makes you the best candidate for OUSD?
Sarah G. Butler, Incumbent Board Member
I am the best candidate since I am the only candidate who is an incumbent, and experience matters on a school board! During my four-year term, I have taken professional development courses for board members including: Effective Governance, Student Learning and Achievement, Policy and Judicial Review, School Finance, Human Resources, and Collective Bargaining. My strengths include a strong knowledge of the district budget and fiscal outlook for state funding. Past experience: Parent Club, EFO board member, and School Site Council Member.
Cara Rubinstein Hoxie, Retired CEO
My experience makes me the best candidate for OUSD. I have served as the co-president of the Educational Foundation of Orinda for the past three years. As EFO co-president, I worked to increase the total amount EFO donates to each school, I worked with all of the Parent Clubs in Orinda to collaborate on joint messaging which resulted in the It Takes Both campaign. As the president and CEO of Rehabilitation Services of Northern California, I have had the real world experience of running an organization with multiple campuses. I understand our community. I went to Orinda Schools, my kids went to Orinda schools and my Mom taught at Orinda Union.
Hillary Weiner, Community Volunteer
As the only candidate with children currently attending OUSD schools (my children are in second, fourth and sixth grades), I have a current pulse on our schools and the issues faced daily by teachers and students. I was a litigator in San Francisco for 12 years, before stepping back to focus on my family and community. I served as Parent Club president for Glorietta, board member for EFO, commissioner on the Orinda Parks & Rec Commission, K-5 parent representative on the OUSD Fiscal Advisory Committee, and auction chair for Children's Health Guild. I am a critical thinker, great listener and collaborative leader.
What accomplishments in the field of education are you most proud of?
Leg Team co-chair, district level committees: Strategic Planning Committee, Parcel Tax Oversight, District Budget Committee, and Site Council Member, three schools.
I am very honored to have been selected as the Su Stafford Award for Friends of Education recipient in 2016 given by AUHSD. I was honored as the Volunteer of the Month by OUSD in November 2015. I was asked to participate in the selection process for our new Superintendent of Schools, Carolyn Seaton. I have been asked to participate in the Funding Task Force recently established by Seaton to review all of the fundraising in the Orinda schools.
I am an active volunteer and community leader. I helped found the Got Shabbat program for preschool families at Temple Isaiah. As Parent Club president, I helped develop a technology plan during the pilot year of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress system testing, oversaw playground and outdoor classroom initiatives, and collaborated with teachers on fundraising and program development on the school site council. I'm an active participant on OUSD's fiscal advisory committee and drove conversations to restore programming and positions cut during the downturn.
Are there any changes you think are required for OUSD?
More transparency, better communication and incorporating all stakeholders' input into the decision making process.
I think OUSD needs to engage in a districtwide strategic planning process involving all of its stakeholders to develop a vision for the future of our schools. I think we need to continually review curriculum to make sure that it is meeting the needs of all Orinda students.
Innovation. OUSD must have a clear plan to enhance our schools and classrooms, across facilities, technology and the classroom experience. Fiscal responsibility. OUSD receives significant local funding to fill gaps between state funds and district needs. We need to prioritize fiscal responsibility and smart, transparent use of financial resources. Strong community partnership. OUSD must be a trusted neighbor, engaging in an open communication process with the entire community.
What are the biggest challenges you foresee for OUSD?
Fiscal Challenge - The lack of adequate state funding that OUSD receives is almost at the bottom of the funding chart. That creates a big challenge to continue to offer the best education, and to continue to attract and retain quality employees. We will need to continue to monitor our budget process for fiscal stability. As a current OUSD board member, I have the fiscal and legislative experience needed to guide our district through the next several years. I have served on the district level budget committee in the Acalanes Union High School District, which has given me a very good understanding of the school district budget process. I also currently serve on the Contra Costa County School Boards Association as the vice president of legislation and as the OUSD board representative to our local Las Trampas Creek Council legislative team.
Facilities - Another challenge is our aging school facilities, which need improvements and upgrades to provide the best learning environment, including updated technology infrastructure. We need to update our Master Facilities Plan. My degree in environmental planning and management and my past professional experience makes me an asset to our district in this area.
Other challenges - 1. Need for Strategic Plan, 2. Improving communication, transparency and collaboration among all stakeholders.
Funding is and will continue to be the biggest challenge for our district. OUSD receives the second lowest amount of funding of any district in the state of California. Because of this, 33 percent of our funds come from private donations (Parent Clubs, EFO and parcel taxes). In order to maintain this amazing community support, our school district needs to communicate openly and honestly with our community. In addition, we need to continue to focus on hiring and retaining the best teachers.
Funding: OUSD remains one of the lowest funded districts in a low funded state. We rely on the community to fill financial gaps and provide supplemental programming, technology and services. Facilities: Orinda facilities are aging. OUSD needs a financial plan, created with community and teacher input, for upgrades to each school site. Technology: OUSD needs to establish a long-term plan for technology upgrades, funding and professional development. Curriculum: Successful implementation of Common Core and Next Generation Science curriculum standards requires increased professional development and other resources for teachers, as well as improved parent education.
How, if at all, do you think that OUSD should interact with other school districts?
OUSD staff currently meet for articulation with the AUHSD staff since our eighth-grade students continue at Miramonte for high school. The superintendents, principals and staff meet on a regular basis, and this will likely need to increase, to coordinate Common Core Math and Next Generation Science Standards. I also think it is beneficial for the school board members from Lamorinda and other districts to meet occasionally as I currently do with CCCSBA and the LTCC legislative team.
It is so important that OUSD coordinate with the Acalanes District, as most of our students matriculate from Orinda Intermediate School to Miramonte. As EFO co-president I supported funding to allow teachers from OIS and Miramonte to meet and discuss curriculum, expectations, and the transition from middle school to high school. It is imperative that we continue to develop well defined pathways that allow students to excel in math, language and science.
As a K-8 school district, OUSD needs to interact with AUHSD to prepare our students for high school. OUSD should engage with neighboring districts to ensure that our teacher salaries are competitive and that local fundraising is effective. OUSD should consider partnering with neighboring districts for district staff positions in technology, human resources, and special education.

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