By Teresa O’Neill
During the past ten days, there has been a discussion in the community about comments made by Council candidate Srinivasan Sambathkumar (known to most of us as Sam Kumar) during the City’s candidate forum and in a flyer received by some residents of District 3.
I don’t agree with Sam’s comments on the teaching effectiveness of his opponent, Karen Hardy. I have asked Sam to not distribute flyers that hold Ms. Hardy responsible for the overall score of Wilcox High School on an eleventh-grade state math assessment that also has a quote from me. I don’t want anyone to think that I agree with this criticism of Ms. Hardy. I believe the consensus opinion (including mine) is that Ms. Hardy is an excellent teacher who goes the extra distance to help her students. It is my understanding that Sam completely stopped the distribution of the flyer.
While I don’t agree with Sam on this issue involving Ms. Hardy, I do believe he is sincere in his concern for all Santa Clara students and their families. We had a long and passionate discussion on this topic. I won’t bore you with the details of various forms of assessments that purport to tell us how much our students are learning. His recounting to me of his interactions with District 3 residents and their concerns for their students has led me to consider a lot in the past week what should we as a community be doing to more effectively help our students and all schools.
Rather than focusing on criticizing individual teachers, especially one with Ms. Hardy’s reputation of achieving excellent student outcomes, we can have serious community conversations on what more our school districts, non-profit organizations, and city governments can and must do to help with creating educational opportunities and a quality of life that fosters learning for everyone.
The roles of the school district and the city are distinct and defined, but can the city help with more library and recreation programs? Can non-profits add before- and after-school supplemental learning opportunities? What should our school districts do to provide effective, richer learning experiences for students? Can we all work together to lower the cost of housing and the impacts of traffic to moderate stress and improve quality of life for families and all of us?
My sincere hope is that candidates Sambathkumar and Hardy will be leaders in this discussion regardless of the outcome of the November election. I look forward to hearing their proposals.