The California School Boards Association has named former Almanac reporter Barbara Wood a recipient of its inaugural Golden Quill Award for fair, insightful and accurate education reporting.
The Menlo Park City School District board, which nominated Wood for the award, presented her with a certificate of excellence in reporting at the board's Jan. 15 meeting. Wood wrote for The Almanac from the early 1990s until she retired from full-time reporting in September. She is now an Almanac correspondent.
Wood thanked the board for the nomination during the meeting. Afterward, she told The Almanac: "I am honored and thrilled that the school board and district nominated me for this honor and by their kind words at the meeting. Thoroughly understanding something as complex as public school financing or curriculum issues or teacher tenure laws isn't easy, and it was gratifying to have my years of hard work to fairly and accurately report on all aspects of education in our four local school districts acknowledged."
School district and county boards of education nominate journalists for the award. Criteria for judging nominees include how effectively they help increase the understanding of the objectives, operations, accomplishments, challenges and opportunities of public schools.
Menlo Park district officials and school board members at the meeting thanked Wood for her education reporting. The district noted in a press release that Wood faithfully attended board meetings and the many community input sessions that were held in the run-up to the district's 2017 parcel tax election and the development of a long-term financial plan.
“You did an incredible job of representing good journalism,” Superintendent Erik Burmeister told Wood at the meeting. Some of Wood’s stories on the district were flattering, while others weren’t, but Wood did her job with “grace, professionalism, commitment to transparency and community engagement,” he said.
Former board members Terry Thygesen and Joan Lambert attended the meeting to offer their congratulations.
The district was fortunate to have Wood “really dig in and spend the time needed to get to understand the facts and the challenges” the board faced, Thygesen said.
“We didn’t need anybody to be our cheerleader,” Thygesen said. “Barbara is nobody’s cheerleader; she’s a straight-up journalist, but we felt like if the facts are accurately reported then that’s going to (seep) down to the benefit of our schools.”
Board President David Ackerman said that as school principal he had a policy of not talking to the press.
“You (Barbara Wood) turned that around for me,” Ackerman said. “You dispelled another one of my prejudices.”
Since retiring from full-time reporting, Wood, who has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, has continued her volunteer work with the Red Cross, traveling to North Carolina to help with the disaster response after Hurricane Florence and to the Camp Fire in Butte County.
She is one of 25 recipients of the 2018 Golden Quill Award. Go here to see the full list of winners.