The Rancho Santa Fe Post

Rolling Up my Sleeves

Running for office is like an extended job interview (in my case, the RSF School Board). You are ready to go to work, but you have a few rounds of interviews to go. I have been both the interviewer and interviewee in the corporate world. When I was the interviewee, I remember going through days of torture, waiting to see if I had landed that “dream job." I was ready to “roll up my sleeves” and get to work right after the first interview, but, alas, I had to be patient and wait for the company to be sold on our working relationship.

In the public office arena, it’s not days, but rather several months of waiting. It’s not one to three rounds of interviews with panels, but hundreds of interviews as people gauge whether you can tackle the job at hand. It’s spending hours looking over balance sheets and School Accountability Report Cards (SARCs) from the last few years, not knowing whether you will even get a chance to make any decisions (as a collective Board, of course) over the operations.

For the RSF School Board, I clearly see that one of the most critical needs at hand is to have a cohesive Board, and I believe the two vacant seats need to be filled by people who are discussing issues with all members of the community. Finding Common Ground and Consensus is what I repeat over and over again (probably, in my sleep, too, but you’d have to ask my wife if that’s true). Responsiveness to community input is just as important in this position. These are points for which I’ve already rolled up my sleeves. Whether or not you choose me to jump into the role, by making these points public, it brings awareness to whomever will fill the role, and hopefully those persons will both find common Ground and Consensus, and be Responsive.

Balancing the budget is critical in the next few months. On this, I am ready to roll up my sleeves now. As a General Partner for a Value Investing Partnership for the last 15 years, looking over numbers is second nature to me. I remember a time when a family member came over and saw me looking at a Valueline spreadsheet of Moody’s Corporation (MCO), and asked me why I would take the time to look at the numbers. A disciplined investor needs to know margin of safety of a company, in order to be ready for the worst-case scenario (800-point drops in the DOW, anyone?). In the same way, our state government has increased pension contribution requirements from the local districts. CalPERS contribution limits increased from 11% just a few years ago to 18% now, and will rise to 28% in 2022. For teachers (CalSTRS), limits have increased from 8% to a current 19%, and are expected to be flat for a while (although that is not guaranteed).

Contribution Rates Estimate

The RSF School Budget must have sufficient margin of safety so it can handle an increase of 2% a year. Our current deficit must be eliminated quickly before our reserves are spent. The deficit is running close to half a million a year, with a little over a million left in reserves. As I said in the School Board Candidates Forum held on October 9, I do not believe that we should go to the community in 2020 to cover future operating deficits. It is imperative that we balance it in the next several months. It is also important that we have sufficient reserves to provide maximum flexibility for our children in the future, while protecting the valuable faculty.

Regarding keeping our school and children safe, the Board and Administration already have their sleeves rolled up. I would continue to help their efforts as a Board Member. In addition, I believe having guest speakers to speak and inspire the children would be beneficial. Skits to re-enact real-life scenarios at the school to model proper behavior would help the children to know how to act in uncomfortable situations, such as bullying.

Improving the school curriculum is on everyone’s mind. The small class sizes continue to attract new parents to the district, but in my conversations, just about everyone agrees that the curriculum needs to be improved. There is much work to be done in this arena, and as far as is legally possible, all options are on the table, in my point of view. In the aforementioned “Responsiveness” trait, I want to hear specific ideas by all stakeholders in the community.

In my years in the technology field, the best candidates are those who have researched the company they are interviewing at, and the technologies listed on the job listing. They spent time getting up to speed, even before knowing whether they will have the job. I’ve done my homework, and my sleeves are already rolled up, but now I just have to wait for the “phone call.” That’s collectively up to you, the readers.

I ask for your vote this November 6, and I would be proud to serve the children, parents and community members of the RSF School District.