Orinda Union School District’s Newest Board Members: Looking Ahead

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
The newest members of the Orinda Union School District’s Board of Trustees, (L-R) Katie Shogan, Edda Collins Coleman and Eve Phillips, review the agenda of the first board meeting of the year on Jan. 9. Board meetings are generally held the second Monday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Board Room of the Orinda Union School District Office, located at 8 Altarinda Road.

    The Orinda Union School District (OUSD) has three new board members elected last November. Edda Collins Coleman, Eve Phillips and Katie Shogan are set to help the district navigate the next four school years, each bringing unique value and perspectives to the Board of Trustees. They will be working alongside returning board president Hillary Weiner and vice president Cara Hoxie.
    “When the students succeed, everyone in the district succeeds,” Coleman said, highlighting support for all students, all the time as a long-term goal. Promotion of positive culture and curriculum that prepares students to become leaders are also goals she emphasized.
    Ensuring the mental wellness of students and bolstering mental health initiatives are priorities, said Coleman, as is academic excellence.
    She also looks forward to working with the board to keep efforts centered on fiscal responsibility within OUSD, emphasizing “the financial stability of the district is important, is key.”
    Edda Collins Coleman currently serves as a managing director at Cogent Strategies, a bipartisan team of government relations, communications, digital advocacy and research strategists. She advises the company as they communicate with Congress and the Executive Branch of government and navigate the regulatory landscape.
    She’s also on the Board of Directors for global non-profit Facing History and Ourselves, and a former three-time gubernatorial appointee to the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.
    Coleman has spent two years as a board member for Orinda Intermediate School’s Parents’ Club and is a co-founder of the All In Together Campaign (AIT), whose mission is to encourage, equip, educate and empower women of voting age to participate fully in the country’s civics and politics.
    She wants to continue to build consensus and partnership, and engage with all the stakeholders—parents, families and teachers.
    “I’m really grateful and blessed to have the support of the community,” Coleman said.
    One of Phillips’ key goals is student safety, “which includes both physical and emotional safety, such that students are well situated to learn,” she said. “Ensuring we have the right physical spaces, supports and team are all critical here.”
    Another goal, Phillips said, is the maintenance of the tradition of academic excellence in Orinda “by continuing our community’s culture of engagement and support,” as well as the responsible focus of OUSD’s budget, especially when it comes to teachers.
    Given the district’s limited funding, the investigation of new revenue sources is a solution Phillips believes could be used to address needed repairs for campus facilities.
    Supporting the professional growth of teachers, ensuring evidence-based curriculum and the use of metrics to track progress where appropriate “are each important elements,” according to Phillips.
    Mental health is another topic Phillips highlighted and one that she sees as interconnected with student excellence and finances.
    A Lamorinda native, Phillips has prior first-hand knowledge of Orinda policy, having served as mayor in 2017 and as a member of the city council from 2014 to 2018. Professionally, Phillips is a Google health director of product management. She previously co-founded and served as CEO for Empower Interactive, Inc., a digital behavioral health platform. She is the parent of an OUSD student.
    Shogan said, “The former board did an amazing job.” A former California public school teacher, she also has experience as a school administrator. Along with her background in education, her role as a parent with children in the district, service on a public district school board in Pennsylvania and time on the board of a private international school, all contribute to Shogan’s expertise.
    She highlighted the immediate importance of ensuring school buildings and facilities remain a conducive learning environment for students, as well as addressing the teacher shortage. Academics and whole child wellness are also priorities, as is the district budget.
    Longer-term goals for OUSD, said Shogan, depend on finances and what revenue is coming in. “Budgets kind of determine what can be done in school districts,” she said.
    The mental health of students and the maintenance of innovative and creative programs are included in Shogan’s vision for long-term goals. “The district has been able to hold onto their elective classes generally,” said Shogan. “I’m proud of that for Orinda.”
    She sees the “continual improvement and tightening of programming and curriculum” as an area which could be worked on.
    With the new board members’ terms just getting underway, Shogan said she “plans to spend this first period of time listening and learning.”
    The Orinda Union School District Board of Trustees meets in the board room of the district office, located at 8 Altarinda Road, generally on the second Monday of each month. Open session typically begins at 6 p.m. Meeting information and time confirmations can be found at: https://go.boarddocs.com/ca/orinda/Board.nsf/Public.

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

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