Q&A with School Board candidate Shirley Hooi

Shirley Hooi is one of three candidates vying for two seats on the PUSD Board of Education. This is her first time running for public office.

What is your age and how long have you lived in Piedmont?

I have lived in Piedmont since 2012.

(Editor’s note: We believe the age of candidates running for elected office is an important data point for voters to have and will update this article with that information when confirmed.)

What you do for work, either in or out of your home?

I work in the manufacturing industry sector.

If you have children, do they attend, or have they attended, Piedmont schools? If so, which ones?

I have two children in the school district. My older child attends Piedmont Middle School and my younger child attends Havens Elementary School.

Have you worked or volunteered in Piedmont schools (or elsewhere) previously? If so, in what capacity(ies)?

I have volunteered over the years as a classroom helper, field trip chaperone and lunch volunteer in the schools. In addition, I have volunteered for the Havens Dads Club Poker Night. 

A majority of my volunteer time has been spent outside of Piedmont to help the needs of at-risk low income youth. I was a 10-year member of the Children’s Support League of the East Bay; and have spent approximately 20 years involved with various Oakland Title 1 public schools at differing capacities.

What does public education mean to you?

A public school education to me means providing each and every student a free education in a welcoming, safe and nurturing environment.

What inspires you to run for office?

I was inspired to run for School Board because I see our students as the future. They are our future doctors, scientists, graphic artists, etc.  

Over the years, Piedmont has built a solid educational foundation and I envision further strengthening the foundation to appeal to the needs of all of our students (from academics, to specialized education, to athletics — I hope that each student feels heard and supported) .

What are your qualifications to be on the School Board? Any special skills or experience the voters should know about?

I would come to the School Board with a business mindset and contrasting opinions than current school board members. I will work with stakeholders to think outside of the box to find solutions.

What do you see as the most challenging issues currently facing the school district?

The most challenging issue the District faces is the recruitment and retention of teachers, staff, coaches and administration. Quality teachers and coaches are essential in preparing our students to achieve academic success and prepare them to be well-rounded individuals.

What do you see as strengths of the Piedmont schools?

The major strength of Piedmont schools is the dedicated parents and community members who are so financially supportive of the students in their annual fundraising efforts and volunteer work.

What will be your top priority if elected?

Students are my top priority. We need to refocus on what our students may need and these include:

  • Strengthen academic outcomes
  • Foster positive partnerships between students, parents, teachers, coaches and administration
  • Recruit and retain outstanding teachers, coaches, staff and administration
  • Engage and support students toward their academic goals
  • Focus on student wellbeing & ensure mental health services are provided
Do you see yourself being especially involved in any particular school issue or program, whether or not it’s your top priority?

I do not envision myself overly involved in any singular program within the District. I will not unfairly focus my time and energy disproportionately within the District.

Whether it may be a student with STEAM aspirations, a student with special education needs or a student athlete, my goal is to ensure that each and every child who walks through the doors of the District receives an equal, inclusive and quality educational experience.

If you are elected to the School Board, you will be involved in the search for a new superintendent. What will you look for in a candidate?

The important qualifications I would look for in a new superintendent include:

  • Experience in other school districts
  • Leadership skills
  • Management qualities
  • Recognition of the importance of student learning
  • Communication skills (with both board members and stakeholders)
  • Fiscal understanding
Student surveys show many Piedmont students are struggling after the pandemic. How should PUSD work to resolve lingering learning loss and mental health challenges?

The District should work to resolve lingering loss by:

  • Providing after school tutoring; or
  • Help in coordinating peer-to-peer study sessions on school campuses; or 
  • Encourage parents and students in taking off-campus classes 

As for student mental health challenges:

  • Ensure there are necessary funds to retain quality diverse mental health specialists for the Wellness Center
  • Destigmatize mental illness by promoting mental health awareness on campus

Teacher recruitment and retention has been a challenge for Piedmont in recent years. What should Piedmont do to improve this situation?

Teacher recruitment and retention is a nationwide issue, more so in the high-cost-of-living Bay Area. I believe the simple solutions to recruit and retain teachers would be:

  • Offer a competitive compensation package
  • A supportive workplace
  • Defined vertical career pathway to advancement within the District
PUSD’s budget depends on state and local funding. What would you do to ensure our funding is robust?

Due to underfunding from the State of California, the District is fortunate that

  1. Piedmont homeowners continue to provide school revenue thru parcel tax Measures G and H; and
  2. Piedmont Education Foundation and the Piedmont community accomplish an exceptional job in their annual $3+ million fundraising to benefit the District.

In order to ensure that local funding remains robust, stakeholders need reassurance that their ROI reflects the District’s commitment to focus on the needs of every PUSD student while maintaining open engagement with parents and community members.

How should PUSD tackle the issue of declining enrollment?

As the District (along with surrounding Bay Area school districts) continue to experience declining enrollment, it is essential for the District to step back and ask:

  • “Why are students transferring out?”
  • “Where are the students transferring to?”
  • “What is PUSD not providing?”
  • “Is PUSD financially solvent to provide those key retention elements?”

I believe the key elements to tackling the issue of declining enrollment is in these questions.  

Over the years, there has been discussion of attracting students from neighboring districts. I see this as an unjust solution. My suggestion would be for the District to focus on the retention of current PUSD students whether by way of increasing the availability of challenging curriculum or reevaluating the April 2022 revision of Item #7 of Board Policy 6146.11

(Editor’s note: Item #7 of Board Policy 6146.11 relates to Alternative Credits Toward Graduation / Taking Courses at an Outside Accredited School.)

The current board and administration have redoubled their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. How do you think the Board should support these goals?

The United States was built on the backbones of immigrants. As a female of Chinese descent, I am fortunate that my family is able to experience the multitude of diverse cultures within the Bay Area.  

There has been much healthy debate lately about equity and equality that requires defining. In its simplest terms, equity means providing additional resources and opportunities to CERTAIN individuals while equality means providing resources and opportunities to ALL individuals. 

The District and the Piedmont Board of Education must always comply with state law, which on this point is clear: “The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”

California’s most recent attempt to overhaul the state’s math curriculum framework has sparked debate. How do you think PUSD should approach K-12 math instruction?

The California Math Framework is a guideline – it is not mandatory, nor was it developed with our District in mind. We are empowered to interpret it as needed, or even reject it altogether, according to our students’ capabilities and needs.

There has been much debate around whether or not the proposed curriculum framework would be making guinea pigs out of our public school students, and the outcomes in SFUSD, where such a curriculum was implemented in earnest, were not promising.

I believe the District should adopt a curriculum and instructional methodologies that maximizes the academic outcomes of our students. We need to work more transparently with the key stakeholders — in this case the teachers and the parents — to assess how well the current curriculum and approaches to instruction are working for PUSD students. I would also apply this belief to the District’s reading curriculum.

School Board members must navigate a wide range of parent opinions and demands. How will you handle those pressures?

Stakeholder oversight of the Piedmont Board of Education is the cornerstone of democracy in America. Stakeholders vote for the candidate which he/she believes will be able to handle the issues and pressures of occupying a seat on the Board. 

In my line of work, I am faced with daily pressures to achieve goals or diffuse situations. I would come to the Board expecting to face similar pressures and will face those head on. I will listen, keep an open mind and accept all opinions, suggestions and criticism with the understanding that parents have a vested interest in their child’s education and overall wellbeing.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with voters about your candidacy?

As you decide on a candidate, I ask you this simple question: Are you currently satisfied with the education the children of Piedmont are receiving?

Please share your candidate website and email with voters.

http://www.shirleyhooi2022.com | shirleyhooi2022@gmail.com

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