Dublin School Board Candidates Joe Giannini and Sameer Hakim Share Their Visions for Dublin Education
And then there were two. At the next Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, September 22 at 5:30PM an interim replacement for departing Trustee Sean Kenney will be selected. Trustee Sean Kenney unexpectedly resigned his existing position on the board citing the extraordinary time commitments of his new job. As many of us know, fulfilling a role as a Trustee requires many hours beyond the bi-monthly District meetings.
While the District could have chosen to hold a costly public election, the Superintendent and the Board of Trustees instead chose to fulfill this vacancy via an appointment process. At the September 22 Board of Trustees meeting, the Board will invite public comment on the two remaining candidates, record advocacy statements, openly discuss their commentary on the choices and publicly record their votes for the new Trustee designee.
Once filled on Tuesday, this candidate will receive a Provisional Appointment that will last until the fall election cycle in November 2016. The Provisional title will be removed after 30 days, unless there is a public movement to remove the candidate and a 1.5% written and collected survey from the largess of the entire registered voter roll in the City of Dublin. Afterwards, this Trustee – or any other member of the community – would then be eligible to run for a two-year term in the fall 2016 election cycle.
The candidacy process has been open and transparent. Nine Dublin citizens opted to apply and all were granted in-person interview with Trustees Greg Tomlinson and Megan Rouse. Subsequently, the candidates were winnowed down to two finalists. OneDublin.org was granted the opportunity to interview the remaining two candidates who are Joe Giannini and Sameer Hakim.
Joe is a native of Alameda, CA and he has spent the majority of his career in peace enforcement as a member of the San Francisco Police Department – working in many regions of the City. More recently, he has been assigned to patrolling the San Francisco International Airport. He is married and the father to a 12 year-old son at Fallon Middle School and a 3 year-old daughter.
Sameer is a technologist and has worked for many high tech companies in Silicon Valley. He has attained multiple degrees and is presently employed by Albertson-Safeway Companies in Pleasanton. He is married and is the father of a 10-year old son at Kolb Elementary School.
In fairness, we wanted to express our interview questions to both candidates equally. Here are the responses:
OneDublin.org: In its present state, DUSD Board of Trustee members maintain a high visibility level at school and community events. If you agree with this assessment, why do you feel that this visibility is important?
Joe Giannini: “Attending school events such as back to school night, first day of school, sporting events and other school social activities is a great way to reach out to the community, and show you are vested, care, and are approachable. This gives the community a chance to speak with their representatives in a non formal setting. Maintaining high visibility and accessibility is of upmost importance to me. I have always been very open with the community and willing to share what I learn. Lately, I have opened my home to small town hall type meetings. In these meetings, I meet with members of the community and we collaborate about our concerns and we try to come up with possible solutions. Some people are new to the area and this is their attempt to get up to speed with the current state of the DUSD and the City as a whole. I feel it allows a comfortable, non-bias, opportunity to work through the issues they may have. These meetings are always open to whoever would like to join.
“I also feel it is important that the representatives are able to go to the different school sites in the community to observe what is happening, first hand. This allows a proper evaluation of the site, staff, and students. It can open eyes to problem areas, or highlight those areas that are exceptional. Frequent site visits allow the representatives to become very familiar with the result of the efforts they are putting forth in the community.”
Sameer Hakim: “I view the school board of trustees as the first point of contact in our publicly funded education system. They make decisions for the community and are responsible to the community. Trustees play an important role in supporting and encouraging public education.
“School and community events are for engaging the community. These events provide an excellent avenue for the school board trustees to connect with the community. The school board trustees get first-hand information on the progress made by the school and the community. The school board trustees should use the opportunity to listen to the community and bring the issues and concerns to the board discussions and in the decision making. The trustees should also use the opportunity to explain policies and decisions of the board to the community. The community also gets an opportunity to respond directly and provide feedback. This makes the school board more effective in the governance role.
“I support high visibility coupled with high accessibility. It provides a moment of truth for school board of trustees and the community. More visibility will equate to more awareness. If elected, I will ensure that I am always accessible to the community.”
OneDublin.org: While it is a hypothetical question, it is worth examining. What is your “dream scenario” for how DUSD would look like – from everything from a facilities, technology and achievement standpoint and from five years from now?
Hakim: “In 5 years’ time, I expect DUSD to have made remarkable strides in facilities, technology and achievement along the lines of our current strategic plan: Vision 20/20.
“From facilities perspective, we will have creatively resolved the growth impact to our schools by enabling neighborhood schools and commuting efficiencies. Our classrooms will be right sized providing equitable access of education to our students. Our students will have superior support for their social, emotional and physical needs from teachers, staff and counselors in a safe and healthy environment.
“From technology perspective, we will be enabling our students to use the state of the art technology products to educate and enrich their learning. We will be partnering with technology leaders like Google, Ebay, Tesla, Apple, Microsoft, etc to support and enhance the student learning to create the quality workforce needed for that time. Technology will enable collaborative excellence and productive learning experience.
“Assuming the facilities and technology needs are met, I anticipate that all students will be exceeding common core standards raising the bar for college and career readiness with each iteration year over year.
“Even though we call this hypothetical, we can make it possible by effective actionable planning.”
Giannini: “My ‘Dream Scenario’… DUSD is moving forward. We’ve had two new state of the art schools open in the past five years. We have another on the way with Jordan Ranch. Dublin High School has nearly been completely rebuilt. Wells Middle School has a beautiful new wing that was completed in 2011.
“I would like to bring this standard district wide. I’d like to see Fallon Middle School have the addition of a proper band / drama facility, new permanent classrooms, and the addition of a science wing. I envision a competition pool with full aquatic program (which we lack right now) at Dublin High School. Having this High School specific facility would allow us to expand the existing swimming program to include a diving team and a water polo team. A second High School is going to be needed. I’d like to see something on the East side of town, be it a satellite school or a comprehensive school but we do have assets on the west side of town that could be effectively used. I would like to improve the public transportation model to include Wheels service directly from different areas of the East side neighborhoods to the High School. Continued emphasis on robotics and engineering should be expanded. I’d like to see automotive technology brought back into the schools. Wells Middle School has a functioning wood and metal shop; I would expand and rebuild these facilities. Chrome books for all students would decrease the amount of books and binders children are required to carry. Modern ergonomic furniture allows children to have a little “wiggle room” while they are being educated. This allows them to concentrate better. In my “dream scenario”, I would also concentrate on staff satisfaction and retention to ensure continued, quality education across all facilities. Finally, I would like to analyze and compare the field trip experiences, that includes quality, quantity, and transportation. I feel some of these experiences are truly a beneficial supplement to our student’s educational experience.”
OneDublin.org: Given the economic climate in Sacramento, DUSD has been forced to consider alternate efforts for school site construction – the E-5 Jordan Ranch land swap with the City as one example. Please cite an example where you demonstrated “out of the box” thinking while attempting the resolve a school site issue during your tenure as a volunteer.
Giannini: “During my time of the DOC we discussed numerous ways to help alleviate our middle school crowding issue. While numerous ideas were talked about, I was the first person from the community to express interest in using a K-8 model. (Where the school is built to educate Kindergarten through 8th Grade), and house the proper facilities to do so. The K-8 model is one which allows the district to have the maximum amount of flexibility with our facilities and provide an equitable learning experience to all students. Our communities are changing daily and we need to be able to adapt to community’s needs.”
Hakim: “Dublin’s rapid school growth over the next few years and limited facilities/resources/funding will require us to think out-of-the-box to keep the quality of education high for our schools.
“Student safety is one of the most important element staff, administrators and educators have to consider for our public schools. It was also the challenge faced by Kolb elementary during its initial few years. Kolb elementary was built for a capacity of 800 kids which we reached quickly due to the growth spurt. Access to the school was only from Lockhart road. There was only one way in and one way out for the vehicles causing a pile up of cars onto Palermo every morning. Further parking was limited at the school site and had the same ingress/egress.
“It posed a traffic havoc during drop-off in the morning. This was the #1 Safety issue for Kolb elementary and required to be addressed urgently.
“I was a parent representative on the school site committee and was given the task of addressing this traffic congestion issue. Using my computer engineering and physics background, I simulated the traffic and identified the bottlenecks being the entry and exit into the parking area. I brainstormed ideas with city engineers and the city planning group. These options including reversing traffic flow, providing a new drop-off loop using the existing parking and adding separate exit path from the parking area. We also evaluated other options including starting kindergarten and higher grades at different times and alternate drop off points. was my out-of-the box thinking to attempt solving the traffic issue. We eventually ended up limiting the parking areas to the staff and limiting cars onto Palermo rd for drop off option only. We worked with the city and county to support walk-to-school initiatives, enabling walking school buses by limiting parent parking to Fallon sports park.
“It is expected in my profession as Enterprise Architect to think out-of the box to solve business problems bound by existing constraints and limited resources. If appointed, I will continue to engage the community and the out-of-box thinking to solve challenges brought to the board.”
OneDublinorg: When we consider the growth in Dublin over the past 10 years, the demographics and population of its residents and students have radically changed. In your own words, please articulate how and why you feel that you can effectively represent the city populace in 2015.
Hakim: “I feel confident that I can effectively represent the city populace.
“I am immigrant citizen to the United States of America. I grew up in India in the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai which is very similar to New York in the sense that it is a melting pot of cultures and a city of diverse thinking. Growing up in the metropolis has uniquely enabled me to understand diversity, culture, values and people. My education and value-system at home has taught me to empathize and create dialogue. Being in the technology field, I constantly work with people, experts, data centers spread across the world. My work also required me travel to different countries and continents and work with people of all ethnicity and background. This has built a strong foundation for me to understand and reflect appropriately with all people.
“Even with the cultural diversity, people from all walks of life with different careers, affiliations and value-systems, I find a lot of commonalities with respect to education. Every parent wants their kids to succeed to the best of their abilities. As a school board member, I will leverage these commonalities to engage the community and take the quality of education to the next level.
“It is my opinion that diversity is an asset to our community. It enables our students to succeed better in a multi-cultural environment making them better global citizens.”
Giannini: “I have worked for 20 years as a San Francisco Police Officer, working alongside, and for, a very diverse community. I have had to engage with nearly every type of ethnic origin and language speaker. I have always been able to work with an open mind, address concerns and get the job done, in a caring and compassionate manner. My profession is to serve the people, and that is what I have done for the past 20 years. I have reached out on my own to learn about basic customs, traditions and values within the different groups that I come into contact with. This allows me to have perspective, understanding and most importantly, respect. I respect people’s differences, whether it be cultural, or opinion. This is my chosen profession because I strive to help people, it’s what I enjoy doing. My cultural compassion and knowledge base has allowed me to accomplish objectives that affect people’s lives in a safe and efficient manner. With as much diversity that Dublin has, I feel that I can truly represent all of Dublin. I also have numerous friends within the community that are from all walks of life. I have instilled these values into my children whom in turn have been able to make friends very easily and thrive here in Dublin.
“Five years ago, my family was on the other side of the school board fence when we were part of a boundary change we were not too happy about. We were not thrilled with the decision, and rather than complain, and do nothing, at that point we decided to work more with the schools and city to understand the issues, and help the community understand, and build their knowledge base. Having been through this, and staying active in the city and school community, I feel I have a certain amount of empathy to bring to the school board. With my son in 6th grade now, and my daughter in preschool, we have a long future ahead in the DUSD.”
OneDublin.org: While the Board of Trustees and the district are aligned with the Vision 20/20, if you were appointed, what initiative of change would you champion for DUSD if given the opportunity?
Giannini: “DUSD is on the right track and moving forward with the new adopted Common Core teaching standards. Our recent test scores show that district wide we are ahead of the curve. I can only feel that we will continue to move forward in a progressive manner. Even in these trying times our educational standards are being upheld, which I think should be applauded.
“One area I would like to improve is being conscience of the emotional state of our children. I would like to share a personal experience we had when our son entered the testing arena in 2nd grade. This was going to be his first year of state testing and, as we all know, schools weigh heavily on these tests, trickling down to teachers, and students. My wife helped in the classroom on a regular basis, and the week before testing, the principal at the time, made a point to go to EVERY classroom, and speak with EVERY student about what should be expected in the upcoming test week. The emphasis was not on getting the best, highest scores, studying, and what the scores mean. The emphasis was on getting a good night’s sleep, eating well, and taking care of yourself. It was not over a loudspeaker, or in a newsletter, it was in person, she sat on the floor, and spoke with these kids. (This was the last year for this principal, as she moved on the following year). Since then, our family has been witness to neighbor kids getting sick the night before testing, losing sleep, or crying with pressures of impending test days.
“With modern society, we put great demands on ourselves and our children with both academics and sports. There have been kids in grades as low as 6th grade coming to counselor in emotional distress and this is a red flag. There has also been a rise in suicides among young people. While this is a difficult topic to discuss, it MUST be talked about, and worked through. From my experience often these topics are not talked about at home, I would like to see more opportunity for discussion of modern day stressors, both for parents and for very young students, in particular.”
Hakim: “Each of the four strategic initiatives formulates the four pillars that will enable the vision 20/20 strategic plan. Each initiative is intertwined with the success of the other three.
“Student learning is the most important as it prepares our students for the next level of schooling and for success in college and service to the country. This cannot be achieved without providing a safe and healthy learning environment. The current school facilities are stressed due to the growth spurt within Dublin. If appointed, I will champion this issue. Without adequate facilities, we cannot enable the productivity of teachers/staff and improve the quality of education within the district. The school board needs to drive the vision around the facilities master plan so that the school district has the right sized facilities that can absorb additional kids from the neighborhood. The facilities master plan will enable the school district to identify the needs, solutions and resources needed to implement projects. With the right facilities in place, we can align resources, establish, maintain and create productive partnerships to better support student learning.
“These four strategic initiatives have to succeed together to achieve the goals set for the students in the DUSD.”
And so we are left with these two final candidates. In some ways, it is a shame that there is only one vacancy on the Board of Trustees. However, the September 22nd session will represent an open opportunity for the two remaining candidates to state their case and for their supporters make a public plea on their behalf. The School District will be facing some serious growth challenges over the next several years and the composition of the school board will play a large part in where the direction is dictated.
Please consider making your feelings known as we traverse into this unknown world. The future of the district is at stake. Follow the DUSD meeting schedule here.