Natomas School Board Race: Working with Others

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

EIGHTH IN A SERIES

THE NATOMAS BUZZ invited the five candidates running for the Natomas Unified school board to participate in a series of articles wherein they answer questions submitted by readers. Today’s question asked,

“What experience do you have that will enable you to effectively collaborate with the other four members of the Natomas Unified school board, in particular, when you may not agree on an issue?”

Here are the answers submitted by the deadline, in the order they were received:

JAG BAINS
I’m an engineer, so I am used to solving complex problems and working with people who see things differently. In my career, I’ve worked on many large projects for the County and know firsthand that constructive disagreements can lead to better outcomes. I’ll use this experience to manage relationships with other Trustees. I operate on a simple maxim: Seek understanding before seeking to be understood. However, with so many of our students being left behind, there should be more disagreements because something isn’t working. I’m optimistic about the future of Natomas Unified, but it’s going to take real leadership and Board Members who aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions to make changes for the better. Every minute we wait to tackle the issues comes at the expense of student success. As your Board Member, I will always be open to fresh ideas. I humbly ask for your vote.

CYNTHIA CONNELL
As president of the teacher’s union during some tough budget years, I worked on compromises with the district to help create a balanced budget. I’ve worked through differences in opinion and philosophy among members of the negotiations team to draft contract language to present to the district. Individuals should feel empowered to express their opinions. I encourage discussion and debate; each party brings experiences or beliefs that can influence wise decision-making. In my classroom, I let discussions happen around the differences in how problems were perceived. We should have disagreements on the board, and use public board meetings to discuss our opinions and debate the big issues. Currently the school board votes almost unanimously without in-depth discussions in public. This concerns me; it appears that decisions are being made prior to the meetings. I would propose ‘special board meetings’ where the community weighs-in on a specific topic that evening.

TERI BURNS
Both on the school board and in my professional life I work very collaboratively with people of all types. I get to know my fellow board members and find out what their interests are and where we can work together. It is sometimes the case that we must agree to disagree, but I do that in a respectful way. Talking things through, we can often find common ground. I prefer not to embarrass my colleagues publicly and believe that it is important to keep opportunities for dialogue open. Experience has shown me that we will agree more than disagree because the realities of law, resources and the needs of children will drive our decisions. I have worked through painful budget cuts, difficult negotiations, and long-range planning and maintained positive working relationships with all of my past and present board members.

GABRIELL GARCIA
Starting Roller Derby in Sacramento back in 2006. It was a relatively new sport, all female athletes that played the sport and ran the league. I was the President of our local league and the Chief Marketing Officer, a board position, for the international association, WFTDA, much like NBA is to basketball. Our league had over 100 members and 7 board members. Since it was new there was a lot we did not agree upon and had to figure out as we were representing 100+ of our teammates. I feel like some of the best ideas and solutions come from this process. If everyone is just agreeing, then the progress feels stagnate. If there is respect and proper communication the result will be in the best interest of everyone. PTA, jury duty and owning my own business has lent a hand in strengthening my ability to effectively collaborate during disagreements.