New Woodside school board members are district parents with business backgrounds | March 13, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Schools - March 13, 2019

New Woodside school board members are district parents with business backgrounds

by Angela Swartz

There's some new blood on the Woodside Elementary School District Board of Trustees: Peter Bailey and Jenny Hayden, parents of district students, officially joined the board on Jan. 15.

Both have business backgrounds and say they intend to use them to work on the district's budget, something that is a concern to both because of rising pension costs. They both serve on the district's budget committee, which also includes staff members, a Woodside School Foundation member and a PTA representative.

There were only three candidates for three open seats on the five-member board: Bailey, Hayden and appointed incumbent Jennifer Zweig, so the November election was automatically canceled. Incumbents Claire Pollioni and Marc Tarpenning did not run for re-election.

There are 410 students enrolled in the district this school year. The district has one campus: Woodside Elementary, with grade levels from TK (transitional kindergarten) through eighth grade. There's also a fee-based preschool on the school's campus.

Peter Bailey

Bailey, 46, is originally from New York and moved to Woodside for its schools. Bailey has three sons who are in kindergarten, second and fourth grades. This was his first time running for school board and it is his first time in an elective position.

"As you get older, you start making decisions about how you want to spend your time," he said. "You think, 'What can I do that can have the biggest impact?'"

Bailey, who is also a Woodside Planning Commissioner, headed the Safe Routes to School program in Woodside, working with other parents. The program promotes walking and biking to school, and improving traffic safety around school areas through education, incentives, law enforcement and engineering measures.

The program's goals include improved child safety, integration of physical activity into the everyday routine of children, and decreased traffic and air pollution associated with school drop-offs and pickups. Mapping apps — like Waze — bring more commuter traffic to Woodside by giving users alternative routes off freeways and onto side roads, he said. Last year, the group presented the Town Council with a petition, which led to the addition of new crosswalks in town.

As a school board member, Bailey wants to become more involved in other district issues as well. Rising pension costs, along with cost of living increases for staff, will cause district costs to increase 2 percent more than revenue coming into the district by the next school year, he said.

"Our district is very fortunate given our existing reserves and financial support from our community," he wrote in an email. "Other districts have been put in dire straits" as a result of public agencies' rising contribution costs to state pension systems in recent years.

There are other causes for budget concerns. Historically, property taxes have increased an average of 5.9 percent annually and are anticipated to continue growing an average of 5 percent per year, according to the district. Even though state and federal sources provide about 7 percent of the district's total funds, funding from these sources has been "significantly decreasing" in recent years, according to the district. The district anticipates that funding from other sources will remain flat or decrease in future years.

Bailey comes from a background in business, human resources and budgeting. He is CEO of Vertical Communications, a Santa Clara-based company that helps businesses upgrade their software. He previously worked in investment banking.

Before his business career, Bailey earned a bachelor's degree in English at Princeton University. His experience in finance and business will help him contribute as the district navigates budget and financial challenges resulting from rising pension costs, he said.

Bailey, a current member of the district's technology task force, also wants to explore how technology can aid or hurt education while on the board.

"As a parent I think we all have concerns about the use of smart devices with kids to the extent they are spending too much time on devices vs. learning, playing and experiencing the world; however, generally I view that as a concern regarding time spent outside of school vs. using a laptop to do research in a classroom setting," he wrote in an email.

"Our plan and strategy (in the school district) is to go slow with technology and adopt 'proven' solutions that we have high confidence will enhance our core teacher-led instruction. We look at this constantly and we will continue to assess it going forward as more and more tech becomes available for education."

The district's design lab is one way technology is helping students, Bailey said.

"I think the professionalism and scope of the resources we have in the design lab are incredible," he said in the email. "The teaching resources and equipment are first-class and enable interested kids to pursue a wide variety of 'maker' projects whether creating an object with 3D printers or laser cutters, coding software, or developing complex experiments and science projects, which in our case led to a national award for one of our eighth-graders (Georgia Hutchinson)."

Jenny Hayden

Jenny Hayden, 40, has three kids in Woodside Elementary School; they are in kindergarten, third and fifth grade.

Hayden, a stay-at-home mom, grew up in Woodside, and attended Woodside Elementary and Woodside High. She left the area, but moved back in 2014 to be closer to family. She says she loves the district's small class sizes — an average of 18 students — and how tight-knit Woodside is as a community.

She served on the Woodside School Foundation board and helped campaign for Measure Z, the district's parcel tax aimed at maintaining academic programs, keeping class sizes small, and attracting and retaining high-quality teachers. It passed in April 2017. She also volunteers in district classrooms.

She had never run for a spot on the school board before last year. A friend and Hayden's mother, Betsy Hobson — a Woodside school board member from 1986 to 1994 — encouraged her to run.

"I want to have a hand in my kids' education; it's a privilege," she said.

Hayden finds it "fun" and "challenging" to work toward a better understanding of how the district and its school function, she said. She names three main priorities as a board member:

• Ensure that every child receives an excellent education. The board tracks student performance (through standardized test scores and other means) to ensure that teachers and staff are performing well.

• Maintain the financial health of the district in the face of dramatically increasing costs.

• Continue the board's communication and engagement with the school community and the Woodside community at large. She is taking part in the district's effort to streamline communications on the district's website, the district's weekly email and the room parent email. The board also sends a summary of its monthly board meetings. For in-person communication, the board holds two parent chats per year and the superintendent holds two parent chats a year.

Hayden agreed with Bailey that the district faces the challenge of rising pension costs, as other California schools do.

"A big piece of managing rising costs is going to be taking a close look at where we can cut or reduce other costs," she Hayden said. Although she is too new in her position to have specific recommendations on areas to cut, she said, she believes that Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposed relief of the pension liability "would be a huge win."

During the 2016-17 school year, to address some of these rising costs, the district began to reduce expenses by renegotiating some professional service contracts and reducing consulting, equipment and office supplies, according to the budget FAQ.

Hayden said her background in finance and organizational skills will serve her well on the board. She worked at GE Capital, a financial services company, and Bain & Company, a management consulting company. She holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Boston College and a master's in business administration from Duke University.

"Just knowing how to look at financial statements is helpful (for serving on the school board)," she said. "I have the training, and if something jumps out at me, I feel like I can ask questions and understand the answers."

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