What do you know about PUSD? – School Funding

When I was PTA VP Legislation and Advocacy I wrote several articles in the school paper about school funding. I’ve collected some of that information and created the third video in my series, “What do you know about PUSD?”

School funding is complex and follows many rules and regulations that make budget processes very different from standard corporation budget practices. PUSD funding faces the additional challenge of receiving less in special categorical funds (than neighboring districts) due to our demographics. Add in our complex array of Community Facilities District (CFD) and School Facilities Improvement District (SFID) areas and you can quickly see its not standard business.
Watch the video and learn more!

Key endorsements earned!

It’s official – I am very excited to announce that I have been endorsed by two amazing organizations:
The Coalition for Effective School Board Leadership and the San Diego County Democratic Party, both this week.

Learn more about the CESBL and their grassroots effort to support high-quality education for PUSD in the linked website: http://www.coalition4effectiveschoolboard.com/

In their endorsement press release they remarked,
“Darshana Patel, who has an extensive science and engineering background, will bring a positive and collaborative attitude to the role of school board trustee. She is known for
the combination of her evidence-based decision making and the ability to lead by consensus. A parent, school district volunteer, and past president of the Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council, Patel is a civic-minded, well-respected, and well-informed community leader. She has a solid understanding of the district’s curricular and funding priorities and believes in keeping the focus on education when making decisions. Patel will bring a steady hand to the school board. Coalition member Scott Fisher noted, ‘I trust Darshana Patel to effectively navigate the waters of Poway Unified during the coming years.’ “

Learn more about the San Diego County Democratic Party on their website.

I am honored to have the SDCDP endorsement since I have been a lifelong Democrat and our views on education policy are aligned.

What do you know about PUSD? Board of Education

As a candidate for the PUSD Board of Education, I think it is helpful to inform voters of the responsibilities of a Board Member and to be familiar with the Board Policies and Procedures. The second whiteboard video in my series, What do you know about PUSD?, focuses on a brief overview of the Board of Education. Of course, there is a lot more to know about being a Board member, so feel free to browse the link above on the PUSD website to get all the details.


What do you know about PUSD?

I firmly believe that a well-informed voter will be more engaged and responsible in the election process. One constant request from our community is for more communication and transparency from our district and elected school board members. While on the “campaign trail” I have met voters that don’t understand the responsibility of a board, “Why are they elected?” or how schools are funded. On a more granular level, they don’t realize that school buses are neither “free” nor guaranteed and that many enrichment programs are fully funded by parent support groups such as PTA and Foundations.

To address this, I have created a series of videos that give high-level overviews of #PowayUSD, the board, finances, curriculum and services. Today I am releasing the first one – District Overview.

Patel4PUSD – District Overview

Final Recommendations to the PUSD Board from the PUSD Educational Technology Advisory Committee (ETAC)

The ETAC committee, comprised of nine Board appointed volunteers from the PSUD community, presented their Final Recommendations to the Board and the community at the May 31st public board meeting. The summary of their findings is included below.

“The PUSD Educational Technology Advisory Committee (ETAC) is a PUSD Board-appointed committee of community volunteers who met from May 2015, where over 60 topics were identified (see Appendix), through April 2016. The committee refined its focus to three key topics (Leadership, Health and Safety, and Technology Planning) to discuss, develop, vote and approve the following ten recommendations.


1. The District should present a clear vision of the appropriate role for technology in education. All committee members present voted in favor: Joe Long, Sunny Rickard, Gabriela Dow, Jessica Xu and Noah Li.
2. The District should fund Physical Education, Arts and Music at a level that is at least comparable to the funding for technology. Joe Long abstained. All other committee members present voted in favor: Sunny Rickard, Gabriela Dow, Jessica Xu and Noah Li.
3. The PUSD Board and Superintendent should finalize the District’s IT Organizational Structure with clearly defined roles and position descriptions to ensure accountability. All committee members present voted in favor: Brian Senese, Dena Glynn, Gabriela Dow, Jessica Xu and Noah Li.

Health and Safety
The District should offer students a paper-based curriculum as an alternative option to instruction based on computers and mobile devices. Joe Long voted no. All other committee members present voted in favor: Sunny Rickard, Gabriela Dow, Jessica Xu and Noah Li.
2. The District should address the health and safety risks associated with digital devices, such as internet addiction, vision health, radiation, cybersecurity and privacy. All committee members present voted in favor: Joe Long, Sunny Rickard, Gabriela Dow, Jessica Xu and Noah Li.
3. The District should only introduce technologies that have been adequately studied through independent peer-reviewed research that demonstrates the new technology will not pose a health or privacy risk and will measurably improve student achievements.
All committee members present voted in favor: Joe Long, Sunny Rickard, Gabriela Dow, Jessica Xu and Noah Li.

Technology Planning
1. The District must finalize district-wide TK-12 Technology Standards by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, present those standards to the community, and work to finalize an overall PUSD Technology Plan as soon as possible. All committee members present voted in favor: Brian Senese, Dena Glynn, Gabriela Dow, Jessica Xu and Noah Li.
2. The District should provide job-embedded professional development via expanded TOSAs for teachers to be successful in implementing the TK-12 Technology Standards into the Common Core curriculum. This professional development should address the unique needs of students receiving special education services and/or using assisted technology. All committee members present voted in favor: Brian Senese, Dena Glynn, Gabriela Dow, Jessica Xu and Noah Li.
3. The District’s use of technology should emphasize creation, such as coding, tinkering, design thinking, project-based learning, robotics and experiential model lessons to support TK-12 Technology Standards. All committee members present voted in favor: Brian Senese, Dena Glynn, Gabriela Dow, Jessica Xu and Noah Li.
4. The District should develop or update a policy that addresses Digital Citizenship so that students are not only competent in technology but also understand, along with parents and teachers, the safe and responsible use of these tools. All committee members present voted in favor: Brian Senese, Dena Glynn, Gabriela Dow, Jessica Xu and Noah Li.”

PUSD LCAP Second Reading

At the PUSD BOE meeting last night there was a presentation on the second reading for the LCAP Review (starts at 1:03:30 time point in the video). The presentation was made by Acting Superintendent Mel Robertson and Associate Superintendent Malliga Tholandi. They provided clear goals and budget allocations for those goals.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 3.26.45 PM

I sincerely appreciate the massive amount of work that was put into hosting the LCAP forums, conducting the online surveys, and then collecting and analyzing the data. I used this opportunity to address the board in regards to LCAP Goal 2:Create systems and structures that provide multiple pathways of learning and engagement to increase College and Career Readiness of our students and close the achievement gap for all subgroups.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 4.34.41 PMMy concerns really focus on how well do we balance whole-child and the culture of maximizing the number of AP classes students take. Considering the UC system accepts a maximum of 8 AP credits, it is shocking to learn that it is no longer uncommon for students to take over 15 AP classes, and many take at least one as a Freshman. Check out the excerpt of my public comment below.

The sheer number also begs the question – Are the classes really college level? If so, why are we asking 14 year olds to take college classes? Most importantly, however, what is the effectiveness of this AP Pursuit and whether it genuinely has a significant, positive, impact on overall well being, let alone career success.

Platform Themes: Excellence, Resources and Advocacy

PUSD has a proven reputation as an exemplary school district, serving its community by delivering a high quality of education despite financial pressures. Our community has legitimate concerns that this outstanding quality of education is approaching a point of inflection.

  • There is a divided voice on the Board of Trustees
  • Residents don’t have a complete grasp of the rationale of board actions
  • Our top-level administration and significant number of staff are nearing retirement
  • Teachers are looking for training and support in transitioning to new education standards

I’ll work effectively every day for PUSD:

  • Excellence – Prioritize education, staff and finance
    • Our district has historically performed well based on mutual respect for all aspects of the education system. PUSD not only provides high quality education for our children but also is a responsible employer to several thousand residents. We need to work cooperatively to maintain this successful model of education.
  • Resources – Balance STEM, arts and whole child
    • Due to our current financial landscape, we must more effectively use our available resources to balance the education needs of our students. I will use a sensible approach in addressing education resource issues under board purview.
  • Advocacy – Seek participation, collaboration and reform
    • As a member of the board, I will keep open lines of communication and work with community groups. My years of community and school volunteerism have given me the right experience to focus on putting education first.

I am inherently a problem solver and consensus builder. I can use my strengths to guide our district in the right direction:

  • Needs of students – having three young children in the system, I have a vested interest in high quality public education
  • Era of STEAM – my formal education and training gives me the necessary background to support both science and arts
  • Respect for professionals in the district whose passion for education is proven with their dedication
  • Ability to rationally analyze data and priorities to develop strategies for success

* I am qualified: I have a PhD in Biophysics from University of California at Irvine, have a Bachelor of Arts from Occidental College, and have worked at the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, MD) and Genentech, Inc. (South San Francisco, CA). I am a strong advocate of public education and have a genuine interest in the education experience. I am capable of digging into the weeds, but not getting stuck in them. My science background brings valuable STEM expertise to the Board. My Certification in Project Management, combined with extensive experience working on civic boards, makes me an objective problem-solver who can manage budgets and resources.

* I am dedicated: I have served on The Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council (serving as President, and Chairs of Education, Web&Print, Fiesta and Safety Committees), The Rancho Peñasquitos Planning Board (appointed member of the Land Use Committee)
SDPD Police Captain’s Advisory Board – Northeastern Division, Park Village Elementary School Foundation (Science and Technology Director), Park Village Elementary School PTA (Reflections Chair and VP Legislation), Poway Unified School District Advisory Committee.

* I am trustworthy: In every role I have stepped into, I have fulfilled my responsibilities, held organizations to higher standards and have had the strength to voice my concerns. I am committed to ethically fulfilling my board responsibilities. I will continue to work collaboratively and effectively with teachers, administration and the community. Our children’s education is my top priority.

I am the strong leader PUSD needs to build consensus and restore education excellence as the top priority.

CAPTA adopts Statewide Dyslexia Resolution

On May 7th2016, the California State PTA unanimously passed the Decoding Dyslexia California and San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs Resolution “Dyslexia: Addressing the Educational Implications in Public Schools”. Dyslexia is a specific neurobiological disease that is characterized by difficulties in accurate word recognition and decoding abilities. Dyslexia is has a 20% prevalence in our student population and is a medically recognized learning disability that is acknowledged by the California Education Code and Federal law as a learning disability. Scientific research shows that when students who have the typical characteristics of dyslexia are provided with evidence-based, multisensory instruction in a structured and explicit manner, most of them learn to read and spell successfully.

By passing the resolution, CAPTA has resolved to:

  1. Recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that need to be better addressed by public schools and school districts
  2. Adopt the definition of dyslexia, “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge”
  3. Support teacher/staff training necessary to improve the understanding of dyslexia and its warning signs, including training in appropriate evidence-based Structured Literacy Instruction for students with dyslexia in accordance with the International Dyslexia Association’s Knowledge & Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading, and to promote knowledge of appropriate accommodations for dyslexic students
  4. Support early screening for signs and symptoms of dyslexia in kindergarten through the third grade, with parental notification; the use of evidence-based Structured Literacy Instruction as defined by the International Dyslexia Association; and the use of appropriate accommodations in order to provide students with dyslexia equitable access to the general education curriculum
  5. Bring this resolution to the National PTA for consideration by the delegates at the National PTA convention in June.


Congratulations to these organizations for having success through the local and state processes and for showing how PTA advocacy works to support our students’ educational needs.

Student Enrollment and Vaccines

 Most of us were busy preparing our student enrollment/registration packets this week so that our children can continue learning at our wonderful school. One new part of registration this year is implementation of the updated vaccination requirements. Last June, Gov. Brown signed Senate Bill 277 into law and it takes affect on July 1st 2016. SB 277 eliminates the personal-belief exemption so that all medically eligible children are immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases. The goal is to provide the highest level of protection possible for all vulnerable children in California. PUSD is following the law. Here are some details:

  • Personal beliefs exemptions (PBEs) filed at a school or child-care facility before January 1, 2016 will remain valid until the student enrolls in the next grade span, typically at kindergarten (or transitional kindergarten) or 7th grade.
  • Only a licensed Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) may provide a medical exemption.
  • Exemptions are available for students who are enrolled in homeschooling or independent study without classroom instruction.
  • IEP required special education and related services are enrolled regardless of vaccination status.
  • The California Department of Public Health, Immunization Branch has an excellent reference website, http://www.shotsforschool.org/k-12/ (general summary below).


Students Admitted at Ages 4-6 years Students Admitted at Ages 7-17 Years
·  Diphtheria,Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP, DTP, or DT) —5 doses ·   Diphtheria,Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP, DTP, DT, Tdap, or Td)—4 doses
·  Polio (OPV or IPV)—4 doses ·   Polio (OPV or IPV)—4 doses
·  Hepatitis B—3 doses ·   Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)—1 dose (2 doses required at 7th grade)
·  Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)—2 doses ·   Varicella (chickenpox)
·  Varicella (Chickenpox)—1 dose ·   Tetanus, Diphtheria,and Pertussis (Tdap) —1 dose at  7th grade or out-of-state transfer admission at 8th–12th grades

*Note that this required schedule only includes 6 out of the 12 vaccines recommended by the CDC vaccination schedule.


It is unlikely that any legal action against this state law will succeed at the Supreme Court since legal precedent is on the side of the California law. In 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court case Prince v. Massachusetts, the majority opinion concluded that, “The right to practice religion [personal belief in the case of SB277] freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill heal