One of the first priorities for the school board should be regaining the public trust by communicating better with parents and keeping them involved, says Nancy Schrum, one of four candidates vying for the open at-large seat on the school board.
"Until they decide they're going to tell the public what is happening, that trust will not come back again," said Mrs. Schrum, a 39-year-old Pasadena resident.
The board has a poor record, she said, in dealing with parents generally.
"If they were a business, they'd be out of business," said Mrs. Schrum. "What is their definition of parent involvement? In business, when a customer calls and asks for information, you don't leave that person hanging and then have them make three more calls. "
Mrs. Schrum became a board-watcher when she took over as president of the Bodkin Elementary School PTA, where two of her daughters go to school. She's known for her organizational ++ ability and spearheaded a campaign to buy and install computers for a student lab at the school. She's also involved in the school's Citizens Advisory Committee and has developed a network among PTA and PTO organizations in schools that feed into Chesapeake High School.
The candidate said she wants to bring the perspective of a parent volunteer onto the board. "Maybe the other board members had it in the beginning, but now they've lost it," said Mrs. Schrum.
For example, she said, every month the school board honors an employee and a teacher.
"Where are the parents?" she asked. "Why aren't they [board members] honoring parent volunteers?"
Mrs. Schrum also would like the board to be more accessible to parents, perhaps sponsoring public forums, as Carol S. Parham did beginning in July with her temporary appointment as superintendent.
Treating parents as valued customers isn't the only change Mrs. Schrum advocates -- she thinks the entire school system needs to be revamped to run more like a company.
To do that, the system needs a new way to retrieve data so it can be used in a more useful way, Mrs. Schrum said. In trying to do her PTA homework, she's found that the information she's requested from school system headquarters doesn't always come in the easiest-to-under stand format, and in some cases doesn't exist at all.
Her drive toward organization stems perhaps from her experience at Westinghouse Electric Corp., where she worked for 12 years.
"I worked at a field site, and it was just the engineers working with the customers, who were relying on the hardware to work, and I supervised the movement and replacement of hardware. If I needed something from the factory I called, and they responded. That's kind of how I view the school system, as a factory -- at Riva Road -- with field sites."
She said she never thought that one day she would run for a seat on the school board.
"I was going to be a career woman," said Mrs. Schrum, a graduate of National University in San Diego who with husband John has three daughters, Maria, 7, Samantha, 5, and Megan, 3.
"But I decided to make the sacrifice and stay home, because I believe parental involvement is a necessity for a child to get a good education in the public school system," she said. "If I was a board member, my last thought before I cast my vote would be 'How will this affect the children in the classroom.' "