Editor’s Note: Patch will run a profile of each candidate. Candidates include: , , , . Election Day is Nov. 8, 2011.
By Cassandra Feliciano
For Carrie Du Bois, answering the longstanding question of how to solve the education gap in a school district as socioeconomically diverse as means looking outside the classroom.
“It’s not the teachers doing more, the schools are doing a good job,” said Du Bois, 53. “To me, if we have challenges, it’s the broad community.”
According to Du Bois, bridging the achievement gap can be facilitated by actively and deliberately reaching out to the district community—“the parents, those business partnerships [and] those philanthropic partnerships”—and she suggests the district starts as early as middle school.
A Carlmont High School mom living in San Carlos, Du Bois first encountered inequities in Sequoia at a parent/teacher meeting at Carlmont, where she noticed that parents from all feeder schools were represented except for Ravenswood.
“[I’ve seen] how hard it is for the kids to transition out of their community to all of these comprehensive high schools,” she explained. “So then I thought, ‘Okay, if it’s hard for them—and I could understand why it would be—why is that spot blank?’”
Reaching Out to Redwood City and East Palo Alto
But Du Bois, who eventually volunteered to act as a PTA liaison for Ravenswood, says other examples of underrepresentation occurred, and mostly involved parents from the less affluent communities that Sequoia serves.
In fact, she continued, many current district parents from feeder schools in districts like Ravenswood or haven’t even been to their student’s high school campuses, though some have more than one student.
“From the board level, what I would like to do is to make eighth grade transition a board priority so that all schools are doing it in the same way, and we’re doing it in a way that’s really effective,” she said.
This sentiment to focus on the transition period dates back, she said, to her previous work with school board associations throughout the state.
Du Bois’ involvement with the San Mateo County School Boards Association and the California School Boards Association placed her in several schools from both spectrums of the social strata. This exposure sparked her interest in “the achievement gap and the inequities of different communities […] and how these two worlds come together at the high school.”
Although she said opportunities to affect such changes arise in the San Carlos District, where she currently serves as a board member, Du Bois wants to extend her efforts specifically to high school students.
“When you think about [helping] kids, you don’t just think about little kids,” she said. “It’s almost like teenagers need us more.”
“Bridging the achievement gap” means more than just summer school programs to help eighth grade students catch up; in order to motivate Sequoia students to do better in school, district leadership needs to make a conscious effort to make families from all feeder districts feel like part of Sequoia.
Du Bois said that she’s already been chipping away at the problem. At Carlmont High School, Du Bois initiated a community building project whereby parents are bused to a meet-and-greet dinner from the Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto and the Sequoia district. The first event in 2010 garnered more than 230 attendees, and Du Bois said that the project will continue, under the direction of the Ravenswood Foundation.
“If [parents] feel part of the community, that this is really their school, then kids will do better,” she said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, but this is a place to start.”
Who’s Supporting Carrie Du Bois?
Du Bois’ desire to concentrate on underserved communities hasn’t gone unnoticed. Endorsers like San Mateo County School Boards President Seth Rosenblatt and California Assemblyman Rich Gordon, who has known the candidate for almost 20 years, believe that this perspective is the most important attribute that Du Bois can bring to Sequoia’s table.
“Of the people that I’ve met in my school board role, she certainly has one of the more holistic views,” said Rosenblatt, who’s worked with Du Bois for the last four years. “Carrie understands the interconnection from different backgrounds and communities and how that affects all of us.”
Edith Salvatore, the Sequoia District Teachers Association President, has said that the Association is supporting Du Bois because of Du Bois' desire to incorporate teachers into policy decisions.
“She believes that teachers are the education experts and that it will be her responsibility as a board member to utilize their knowledge as a resource to help students succeed,” Salvatore wrote in an email.
The list of endorsements from Du Bois, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent, also includes Joe Simitian (California State Senate), Evelyn Barajas-Luis (Ravenswood School District), and Liza Normandy (South San Francisco Unified School Board).