There are four candidates running for three spots on the Redwood City School District school board: , , , and . Patch will run profiles of each candidate. Be sure to vote by Nov. 8, Election Day!
board incumbent Dennis McBride has volunteered for education non-profits since he graduated college over 30 years ago.
He’s been surrounded by a family of educators, from his mother to his sister to aunts and uncles. And though he’s an accountant by day, he said he’s used this finance knowledge combined with his devotion to public education to champion the students of Redwood City.
“I want to make a positive difference in at least one person’s life every day,” he said.
And for McBride, it’s a job that can have the greatest impact without worrying about a candidate’s political agenda.
“It’s one of the purest elected offices,” he said. “For the most part, no one is looking to move on and use it as a stepping stone.”
His Education —and Finance— Background
McBride has already been involved in the corporate industry, with a career steeped in finances and a global network. This background, he said, brings a different perspective and knowledge to the diversity of the board.
“[McBride]’s financial background and experience has helped in dealing with the most difficult financial situation that any school district could face,” said Assemblyman Rich Gordon.
But he believes with this amassed knowledge and career success comes sharing it with others.
“Even when you disagree with people about certain education issues, you stop and ask, ‘is it about you or the kids?” McBride said.
“Dennis McBride is a saint,” Mayor Jeff Ira laughed. “To do what [the school board trustees] do is purely volunteering.”
Right out of college, McBride and his colleagues at Silicon Graphics, Inc., a computer hardware and software manufacturer, “adopted” 18 high schoolers, mentored them and exposed them to the world of finances. The sophomores were able to see what a Chief Financial Officer does and what a day looks like for a finance person. The high schoolers all eventually became the first in their families to graduate high school. McBride’s mentee went on to obtain a Bachelors degree and two Masters degrees.
He only considered an elected position after his son left the district, because “kids still need help.”
But he first did his research. He attended every school board meeting for two years and sat in the back, digesting the information and familiarizing himself with the process.
“It was easy to sit in the back of the room and make judgments about what was the ‘right’ decision,” McBride said. “But now that you’re up there making decisions, you realize it’s not so easy.”
But one aspect that does make the job more manageable is increasing communication with the public.
When he was president of the board, he oversaw putting the school board meetings, agendas and minutes online on the school district’s website.
Plus the district now has a spokesperson to communicate with the larger public.
In a previous term, McBride implemented a rotation where board meetings were held at individual school campuses. Though this made it easier for parents to attend, the costs for facilities employees to stay overtime for set-up and clean-up began to add up. The board eventually had to hold meetings at the district office, but the effort was not lost on parnts.
But as valuable as providing transparency and communication amongst the city, communication with elected officials is a high priority for McBride. And it also gives him an opportunity to share his pride in the district’s schools.
On Day 5 of Assemblyman Rich Gordon’s term, McBride played a proud tour guide to several of the Redwood City schools so Gordon could get a first-hand view of the progress and learning going on. McBride has similarly showed off campuses to former Assemblyman Ira Ruskin and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo.
“Teachers and administration haven’t had a raise in four years, yet they still care so deeply,” McBride said. “Nobody in the district says ‘we don’t have money so we can’t do this.’ There’s never any excuses.”
It’s All about the Kids
If you’ve ever attended a school board meeting, the agenda often contains the less-than-rosy subject of dwindling budgets, as the state continues to fund schools less and less.
Eight years ago, the district had approximately 8,000 students with a $100 million budget. Today, they have 9,200 students with a $78 million budget.
“But then you go out to a school and see how positive and wonderful it is,” McBride said. “That just refills your tank.”
And by visiting the physical campuses, McBride said he can see the successes and achievements, far beyond a single API (Academic Performance Index) number.
“At the end of the day, it’s a score,” he said. “You have to be cognizant of it, but you have to look at the broader child, and if emotional and social needs are being met.”
Though that API number is only one barometer of academic performance, McBride does cite the . Eight years ago, several schools had scores in the 500s out of 1000. This past year, scores averaged 766, with North Star one of the highest in the state.
“It’s one of the best jobs you’ll ever have because you’re helping kids,” McBride ultimately said of his motivation to run again for school board.
“Or maybe it’s all the trouble I caused my teachers in high school,” he joked.