Santa Clara County Voter's Guide On Children's Issues

Berryessa Union School District

David Cohen

My focus is on implementing a rigorous curriculum with support for students' social and emotional well-being in a safe learning environment. Guided by a strategic plan, I will continue to invest in programs such as music, foreign language, and technology, which will prepare our students to be successful.

  1. What do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?

    The three key issues for children are the availability of quality pre-K education, adequate funding of K-12 schools, and social-emotional well-being. I have been a strong advocate for increasing California's school funding so that it is above the national average. I support the California School Boards Association's effort to get us to the top 10. To facilitate that, we need Prop. 13 reform. I signed the petition to get split roll on the ballot in 2020. This is crucial to better support for education, and allow us to fund statewide universal preschool.

  2. How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?

    I have made students' social emotional well-being a priority in our district's strategic plan and budget process. As a result, we have added social workers at every elementary school and increased our counseling/social worker staff at the middle schools back to where it was before the recession. We need to partner with preschool/childcare providers to offer early PreK and after school programs. PreK is the key to making sure our children are prepared for success when they enter kindergarten.

  3. What steps will you take to address the high cost and lack of availability of quality child care and preschool programs in our communities, especially for low-income children and English language learners?

    Our district needs to be open to offering our facilities to preschool providers so that there are more spaces for children in our district. I would advocate for state funding to allow school districts to expand TK programs to all 4 year olds. We are finding that students who participate in TK are better prepared when they start kindergarten, but we are currently only able to serve 25% of 4 year olds.

  4. What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?

    One of the biggest challenges school districts face is hiring and retaining special education teachers and support staff. For some particularly hard to fill jobs, I support adding additional stipends to make it more attractive to take a job with our district. We must have a rigorous professional development program so that all staff are able to offer a positive learning environment for students with special needs. We should strive to mainstream students when possible, both to benefit them and so that other students learn the importance of everyone having an equal opportunity for success.

  5. Much of the student achievement gap has been linked to the "opportunity gap" that low-income children and children of color experience, including lack of access to healthy food, preschool, tutors and enrichment activities. If elected, what steps will you take to address this issue?

    I believe that parent and community involvement in our schools is a key to improving outcomes for everyone. That is why I am proud of our school district's efforts to hold "Parent University" programs in multiple languages for our families who need extra support. We invested in a new central kitchen so that we can offer healthier food choices, and we provide breakfast at two of our Title I schools. Our district is one of the few that continues to offer instrumental music to all students starting in 3rd grade, as the arts are important to academic success.