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

Santa Clara Unified School District, Area 3

Michele Ryan

My mission is educating the next generation. Over the breadth of my career, I’ve taught students in classrooms from kindergarten to college. As a parent of three SCUSD students and the only credentialed teacher on the Board, I focus on the best outcomes for every student. Today’s challenges require experienced education leadership on the Board.

  1. Taking into consideration the profound impact of COVID-19 and the expanded movement for racial justice and equity, what do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?

    The top three issues currently facing families in our district are distance learning and the safe reopening of schools, services for specific student sub-groups, and ending education inequity.

    In making decisions on the safe reopening of schools, I want to be guided by the recommendations of the County Public Health Department and the County Office of Education, but I also want the input of our community: our teachers, our staff members, our parents, and our students. As a board member, I have a track record of using facts and evidence to guide our decision making.

    Serving our underserved communities has been one of my key focus areas as a board member. I have a track record of supporting improved ELD programs and college readiness for all students. I have also worked to ensure that students aren’t tracked into a non-A-G program and that all students have the opportunity to take advantage of our early college and STEM leadership programs.

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

    As a teacher and a parent, I know that the most important work in education occurs in the classroom, so my priority in budgeting has always been to preserve as much as possible those areas that directly impact student learning. Three of the most critical areas are attracting and retaining the best possible teachers for our students, keeping class sizes as small as possible, and maintaining services for both special needs and ELD students. These three areas have the greatest impact on student learning, and they would be the last places I would want to look for budget cuts.

  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?

    I am proud that the Santa Clara Unified School District operates several state subsidized preschool programs and has trained some of our preschool teachers in the SEAL [Sobrato Early Academic Language] Program methods to help our youngest English language learners.

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

    As the parent of students who have received special education services in the district, I am deeply committed to ensuring that the district meets the needs of all students with special needs. As a school leader who has worked collaboratively with families and special education teachers to develop Individual Education Plans [IEPs] for students, I know that we must always remember the “I” in IEP means that the plan must be developed for each student’s unique, individual requirements. As a teacher who has implemented the special services identified in IEPs for hundreds of students, I know how critical it is to ensure that IEPs are implemented with fidelity. I am proud of the progress we have made in improving our special education department during my time on the board, and I look forward to continuing this work.

  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?

    Based on my experience in the District and as a teacher, I know that we can best serve our traditionally underserved student groups through research-based instructional methods like SEAL (the Sobrato Early Academic Language Program.) Providing such programs consistently and implementing them with fidelity, however, requires a strong focused district leadership team that sets clear expectations and provides the training and resources to support those standards. I’ve supported these changes as a Governing Board Member, and I am running for re-election so that this work will continue.