There are two seats open on the Cabrillo Unified School District board of trustees this election cycle. Last week, we suggested voters in Trustee Area B reelect current Board President Kim Hines. This week, if you live in Trustee Area D, which includes much of Half Moon Bay, we recommend reelecting Sophia Layne.
Frankly, we think the challengers would also serve the district well. We were particularly taken with Yvonne Seeley. She practices family law, possesses a master’s of business administration and is active in a number of community and professional groups. She suggests that the cash-strapped district seek private donations and lobby the powers that be in Sacramento for more equitable funding. She was a breath of fresh air and could grow into a terrific elected representative.
Likewise, we appreciate the passion Nicholas Wrotniewski has for the job. He’s a behavior specialist who previously worked with students in the district. Both Wrotniewski and Seeley argue for teacher pay raises, but only one candidate seemed to truly understand the financial hurdles that stand in the way of better pay.
And more than that, Layne best expressed an empathy for students challenged by current remote learning and, for many, the socioeconomic forces beyond their control. Perhaps that is because Layne herself was an English-language learner, coming as she does from a family of immigrants.
Layne speaks Spanish and sits on the trustees’ LatinX roundtable. She acknowledges that in some cases systemic racism holds kids back. She knows that some students live in overcrowded conditions, that some parents — because they don’t speak English or because they work nights or due to some other difficult aspect of life — are not as well equipped to help their children through it. She notes that the classroom experience is designed for “ideal students” and that programs for kids who fall behind are layered on top of that. Those good intentions can themselves carry a stigma that becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy of poor academic achievement.
While teachers asking for better pay briefly staged a protest in front of her own home earlier this year, she agrees they deserve more money. She told us they are underpaid in terms of their qualifications and in relation to peers over the hill. She also knows it’s not as easy as merely spending down the district’s reserves, as some teachers and Cabrillo candidates would have you believe.
To try to understand the district’s budget is to take a trip down a rabbit hole created and controlled by the state. At the Sept. 10 Cabrillo board meeting, district staff described the budget situation alternately as “a storm that has multiple storms” and “a giant, crazy, confusing math problem.” The bottom line is that deficit spending continues within the district and the county Office of Education continues to monitor Cabrillo expenditures.
While the challengers suggest simply spending reserves to raise teacher salaries in the midst of a global pandemic, Layne has been more prudent with taxpayer dollars. Teachers deserve a raise (as do an array of essential workers on the coast). But only one candidate in Trustee District D seems to understand the budgetary implications amid a historic downturn in the economy.
Sophia Layne has two children in district schools. She is trained in the sciences. She is fluent in the arcane acronyms of public education. She is the most likely of the three candidates to stabilize the district’s funding so that teachers may someday be paid what they deserve.
— Review editorial board