The Coronado Times is conducting short interviews with all candidates for Coronado Unified School District board of trustees. All candidates have received the same six questions and the answers are in their own words; each candidate is invited to share photos; interviews are published in the order received. November 8, 2022 is election day.
Q: What experience will you bring to the school board?
A: As a native of Denmark and the son a diplomat I grew up attending school all over the world and in multiple languages. Since moving to the US in 1998, my wife and I and our three children have lived all over the US. We have had the chance to experience many different educational choices for our kids including private school, charter school and public schools. Ultimately our focus has always been trying to identify and provide our children with the best academic and educational opportunities that we could. Our goal as parents is well-educated, independent, healthy young adults ready to take on life. I have come to believe that both my personal school experiences as well as that of my children gives me a unique perspective. Over the past 20 years I have worked in the medical industry in a number of leadership positions where we constantly strive to make the right resource allocation decisions to maximize the opportunity in front of us. Ultimately the role of the CUSD School Board is to consider the educational needs of our community and then make the right resource allocations to meet those challenges. I believe that my background will allow me to do this in an impartial manner that puts our children’s educational needs first. This is not a political mission for me but stems from a desire to see greater involvement of the community in holding the leadership of our school district accountable to the academic needs of our students.
Q: In your mind, what are the biggest challenges facing CUSD today?
A: The answer here for me is simple, we need greater leadership from parents of students currently enrolled in our schools. There were several incidents over the past few years that made it clear that the people running our governing board were not in touch with the community and did not have children in the district. Should I be chosen to serve I will do so only as long as I have children in the district. Secondly, I think we must do more to support all our learners, as an example the implementation of the 4×4 program at CHS has in my mind not been well executed and I don’t think has met the expectations that were laid out by the board. Finally, the upcoming potential changes in the funding structures of our school district will require a board that is well versed in making wise financial choices.
Q: What is something CUSD does well?
A: I think the school district has done an excellent job integrating new students and making them feel welcome. We experienced this personally when we moved here five years ago, and it is not an easy thing to do. I have personally attended seven different schools in five different countries in my life so I speak from a strong personal knowledge that creating an environment that feels welcoming and allows kids to find a place can be challenging.
Q: How do you feel about local control?
A: As I have said one of my primary reasons for running is increase local control by getting parents to lead our schools. I think this is probably one of the most important things we should tackle as a community. If we are not engaged and holding our district leadership to account for their choices, then we have failed our children. This will be especially important with the change to our school funding structure that is on the horizon. I find it highly questionable that the current board voted to take out a $12 million loan in anticipation of future gains. I have been in the corporate world for 30 years around the globe and the only thing that is certain is that the future is unpredictable. If for some reason things do not go exactly as planned, we will face some significant challenges and there will undoubtedly be more ideas on where to spend the funds then there are funds available even under this new model.
Q: What is your stance on social-emotional learning? Do you think that teaching children empathy, responsible decision making, and emotional awareness is important in schools?
A: The easy answer here is yes. To me the real question is how we do that, in my experience at CUSD we are not doing it very well. On the topic of responsible decision making, our kids especially in the high school are largely left to their own devices. If you want children to make good choices it starts with teaching them accountability and I have not seen this being a focus at CUSD. They are constantly expected to make critical decisions for themselves with little support. I have experienced other school models where there has been a much higher degree of support for the kids as they wrestle with these types of decisions by creating clear expectations and then employing accountability to back that up.
As far as empathy and emotional awareness goes, we constantly create social groups and then tell our children that they need to be inclusive when by the very nature of creating these special designations we are calling out the differences. I went to high school with children from 35 different countries, we learned emotional intelligence by doing, by being thrown together, not being told we were different. Coronado is in a unique position as we constantly have children coming from around the country, even the world, who add richness and diversity to our schools, a fact that I think we should use to our advantage. I am not sure I have the answers here, but I think we can do better than we are doing.
Q: As you must be aware, school board meetings can be contentious, but it’s important for board members to work together. Do you think you are good at building consensus? Please provide an example if possible.
A: I think the key to building consensus is the ability to see the other side, I am not coming to this campaign with any agenda beyond trying to do the best for our children with the resources we have. I believe that this fact will allow me to work across the board and with the leadership of the district to find a common path.