OUSD Candidates Vie for School District Seats at Public Forum

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(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
On Thursday, Oct. 13, the five candidates running for the three open seats on the Orinda Union School District’s (OUSD) school board (L-R) Michelle Chang, Linda Delehunt, Eve M. Phillips, Katie Shogan and Edda Collins Coleman, answered questions posed by the public and discussed challenges facing the district.

    On Thursday, Oct. 13, the five candidates running for seats on the Orinda Union School District (OUSD) board of governors participated in a public forum held in the Orinda Library’s auditorium.
    The event was sponsored by The Orinda Association, The Orinda News, the League of Women Voters and the Orinda Network for Education (ONE) and had both in-person and virtual attendees, who tuned in via Zoom.
    Ann Flynn of the League of Women Voters, moderated the forum.
    The five candidates – Michelle Chang, Edda Collins Coleman, Linda Delehunt, Eve M. Phillips and Katie Shogan – are vying for the three open seats on the board. Topics included transparency with the district’s budget, challenges OUSD faces with special education and gun violence in schools.
    Chang spent 25 years in public education working as a teacher, founding director of an after-school program and as a founding principal at a California distinguished school. She currently continues her work in education, “supporting school principals, their communities and collaborating with every department in the school district that I work in to support our students.” She highlighted her volunteer work within Orinda schools inside and outside the classroom and spoke of ensuring all community voices are heard to “build bridges with our community to best support our schools.” She is a parent of an OUSD student.
    Delehunt talked about why she is running for school board.
    “It is to assist and provide excellence to this school district and to sustain the Orinda Union School District as an exemplary district.” she said. “Excellence is difficult to achieve and preserve,” calling the excellence embedded in OUSD’s programs “well worth preserving.” A member of the Orinda community for 42 years, Delehunt has been involved with Orinda schools as a parent, a volunteer, a Girl Scout leader and a teacher. She has served on the parents’ board of Glorietta Elementary and Orinda Intermediate Schools, and the Educational Foundation of Orinda’s board.
    Eve Phillips, who grew up in the Lamorinda area and attended Miramonte High School, currently works at Google as a product executive on a healthcare software team and was elected to the Orinda City Council in 2014. “I was alerted to some of the challenges that currently exist in our schools – educational, financial mental health – by some of our community members,” Phillips said, saying that her “experience in driving community transparency through that role on the board would be helpful, after such a tumultuous pandemic period.” Phillips also served as mayor of Orinda in 2017 and is the parent of an OUSD student.
    Former California public school teacher and administrator, Katie Shogan emphasized it is “critically important to maintain and strengthen our public schools, so that they continue to provide an excellent and comprehensive education for all students.” An OUSD parent, Shogan has previously served on the boards of both a public school district and a private international school. She spoke of her “insight in the district’s unique needs” resulting from her extensive volunteering in and for Orinda schools. Shogan stands for sustaining the “broad range” of education-enhancing programs within area schools and the providing of a safe and inclusive learning environment, as well as the recruitment, retainment, and support of teachers.
    Edda Collins Coleman spoke of her collaborative work with the current school board and administration, as well as her previous role as a public communication professor and over 20 years of experience in policy and communications, which she said will help her “build consensus and partnerships.” Coleman highlighted “the refining and enhancing [of] our already robust academic excellence, broadening of mental health programs and enhancing the budget to ensure it remains fiscally sound” as important aspects of the district. Coleman’s roles as a teacher, student and community leader are experiences she believes gives her a unique ability to appreciate the contributions of those in the school community.
    The effectiveness of OUSD’s communication with stakeholders, the district’s greatest strengths and challenges and the finding and retaining talented teachers were topics discussed at the forum. Candidates were also quizzed about the different allocation of funds for better student outcomes and the reopening of schools post-pandemic.
    “I think [public forums] are useful because by having all the candidates respond to the same questions, it provides a springboard for ideas,” said Malkani after the event wrapped up.
    “I would encourage our community to do their homework and learn the differences between the candidates,” OUSD Superintendent Aida Glimme said after the forum, acknowledging citizens’ role in the election. “It’s a very important vote.”
    To view the recorded event, click here.

Andrea Madison can be reached at drea.madison.05@gmail.com.

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