First Campaign Press!

More exciting news to share: Our first campaign press. Argus education reporter Linh Tat has revealed my candidacy in a blog post entitled "Election Day’s not that far off…"

She also reported that Trustee Herndon has decided not to run and has endorsed me. And I quote:

Trustee Peggy Herndon told me today she will not seek a third term. In fact, she said, her decision not to seek re-election made it easier for Gebhardt to decide to run. The two are friends, and Herndon said she’s “wholeheartedly” endorsing him.

Her wisdom and compassion will be missed on the board come next December. I truly appreciate Peggy's support.

She's not my only endorsement. I'll be posting more on that soon.

But will there be Two seats up for grabs? Lin talked to Trustee Ivy Wu about her plans, which are up in the air. I know how difficult the decision is even in the best of health. My family and I wish Ivy the best of luck with her breast cancel check up. She is such a positive person, and I know that will help carry her through anything.

Lin mentioned to me that the Argus blog has just started recently. Check out the Tri-City Beat and add it to your RSS reader to stay on top of the latest local news.

I know it's early, but this election is definitely started! There's a lot of work to get the message out, and it's never too early to start.

Campaign Kick-off February 24!

I am excited to announce my campaign kick-off fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday, February 24th from
3 to 6 PM (
see flyer). Anu and Sundaram Natarajan have graciously offered to host the event at their home.

Mark your calendars now.
It is THE place to be before the Oscars!

I've also revamped the front web page a bit. Let me know what you think.

1/23/08 School Board Meeting

Here are a few highlights from tonight's school board meeting (agenda and background packet).
  • Progress Report on Preparation for Closed Campus - I support the goal of closing our high school closed campuses, but it's clear from this report that it's more expensive than the district can afford at this point.
  • Secondary Passing Times - This was in response to a request from a parent who was concerned there was not enough time for restroom use and breaks during the day for our secondary students. While I don't disagree it is an important issue, I believe this is not a great use of board time. This is better left to the sites and staff to solve with students and parents. The board should focus on higher level policy issues with its precious time.
And just such an important issue was on the agenda.

Science Course Sequence Options
The science curriculum in our 5 high schools are similar, but not the same. One of the key differences is that American high school has in recent years has made Biology a 9th grade class, while in other high schools Biology is normally a 10th grade course and integrated or earth science is a 9th grade course. (I am oversimplifying this a little, so please review to the board item for more details.)

This is an important item from both a philosophical and policy level. The board and district have to balance several difficult concerns.
  • Equity - Is it equitable that one high school offers a 9th grade Biology and others do not? Yes and no. We need to provide the best mix of classes we can for each high school student population, but we also need to not leave any students out.
  • Student choice - This is closely related to equity. We want to provide students with as many choices as they can and as many ways as possible to meet the standards we've set for them.
  • Teacher freedom - Teachers should have the freedom to teach the best way they can - to apply their expertise. We should set clear goals and desired outcomes and let teachers figure out the best way to get there with their students.
  • Staffing - Credentialed science teachers are difficult to find. Additionally starting in 2006 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires all teachers to be Highly Qualified (credentialed) in the subject they teach.

The district science curriculum committee recommended standardizing on Integrated science courses as the 9th grade class. I understand why they came to this pragmatic solution. However the board did not go with that exact recommendation. They voted to:
  • Offer at 9th grade 3 options: Integrated science, Biology, and Honors Biology,
  • Change the 8th grade honors science class to Integrated science, and
  • Ensure that 9th graders in Integrated science can have the option to apply for Honors Biology in 10th grade.

I agree with the thinking that the board went through to come to this decision. I think Peggy Herndon summed it up best in saying, "I think we need to offer our students more not less." Student choice and the equity of that choice are the prime concerns. Only slightly behind that in my mind is academic freedom. We must provide as much freedom as possible to allow our teachers to reach our goals using a variety of methods, and we must measure the results of these offerings. Are they effective? Would there be better options? Setting and measuring goals is crucial here. Freedom to do your job how you see fit only works when there is accountability.

So as a policy decision, the board, in my opinion, made the right call. Restricting equity, choice, or freedom because you can not find the teachers would be the "easy" way out. There were also concerns about the rigor of the curriculum, having enough lab facilities, and impact to test scores as a result of offering more choice. I believe there are solutions to each of these like the ones we will have to find for staffing. If these challenges prove too difficult we may end up having to go with the science committee's recommendation, but we have to at least try.

I am glad the board set the bar higher, and asked our district, "What more can we do for our students?"

My MacWorld 2008 [updated]

I hope you all will permit me a non-campaign and non-school related post. Enjoy!
Those who know me know that every year I go to MacWorld. This year was no exception. I love walking every nook and cranny of the show floor looking for new and neat stuff. This year was no exception. I never seem to have enough time to get to everything I want.
Well anyway, hear are my impressions.
Deals! Deals! Deals!
Let’s start with the important stuff… the deals! Some of these end very soon so act now. Here are the deals that tempted me.
  1. Buy Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 Mac 10% of with promo code MACWORLD08 at the Adobe store until 1/31.
  2. RAGE Software - show specials on all products until Friday - coupon code MACWOLRD08.
  3. Kensington MacWorld 2008 deals on there cool mice and other products until 1/21/08
  4. Aspyr gives you $5 off some releases until 1/25 (coupon code: MACWORLD)
  5. SmithMicro Macworld 2008 Store has deals until 1/27. VMWare Fusion is a good option. Most of the others don’t really interest me.
  6. 20% off - I’m going to get PDFpen for filling out PDF forms. They have other interesting stuff too. They also have an education store that gives 30% off.
  7. Home design studio from Punch! Software - 20% off until 2/15. Need home design software. I guess we’ve been doing too much remodeling talk lately (kitchen, media center, bathrooms next...).
  8. Western Digital MyBook Studio hard drive can be had for 20% off with coupon code MAC2008 until 1/31
For even more deals check out dealmac: “expo” deals
Best of Show
Here are the Macworld Best of Show winners that turned my eye the most.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac
One word: Awesome!
The killer feature for me is
PhotoMerge. It allows you to merge group shot photos to big the best shots of everyone. I could have used this for our Christmas card picture. With kids always one is looking at the camera and the other isn’t. Check out the demo to really understand.
This feature alone is going to get my to pre-order this. And of course it has all the standard photo editing and managing tools. $89 pre-order deal.
Super cool! I walk up to their super small booth and this guy comes up and says, “Want to see the demo?” He then takes my picture and wirelessly it gets uploaded to iPhoto. It’s amazing they fit a wi-fi radio into an SD card. A 2 GB SD card is $99. A bit pricey, but super convenient. Perfect geek toy. While I was standing there he found out he was best of show at MacWorld. They also got an award at CES the week before.
This is a nice little program that can sync iCal calendars between your local macs. In the next version they’re adding Google Calendar support. I’m real tempted to pick it up. I live and die by my calendar, so have it in sync everywhere would be nice.
Best of Bryan Show
So what did Bryan like best at the show?
I always visit OmniGroup. I own most of their products including there just released OmniFocus (which also got best of show). I learned that they’re working on OmniGraffle 5 and that it will be able to read binary Visio files, which is great for those of you who work in Visio shops. I like Visio, but there’s something about the elegance of OmniGraffle that makes it just feel easier to use even though it doesn’t have nearly the same stencil set and feature set as Visio.
This is a program I love. It makes all those internet passwords effortless to fill in and works in all Mac browsers. I highly recommend it. I met one of the main developers. Nice guy from Ontario, Canada. He told me they’re in beta on a My1Password website that will allow you to access your passwords form anywhere via the web. He said his goal was to keep it very inexpensive for 1Password users. He just wants to cover the cost of server hosting and bandwidth.
The usual game Mac companies were there (Freeverse, Aspyr, Feral) as well as EA. Nothing that interested me too much except for Battlefield 2142: Macintosh. I played that for 2 minutes and was hooked. It’s next on my list just as soon as I finish Command and Conquer 3.
Aspyr I talked to a real nice tech support guy about my problems running Empire at War. It was refreshing to be taken seriously. I’ve always liked Aspyr’s customer friendliness.
Belkin isn’t a game company, they had one of the more interesting gimmicks I’ve seen in a while. They had a champion Quake player who goes by the alias PMS Missy. If you could kill her once in 3 minutes playing Quake 4 you got a Best Buy gift card. Needless-to-say I got schooled. I went back later in the day and found out that no one scored a Best Buy gift card. It’s amazing, but video game playing has gone professional. PMS Missy and PMS clan do challenges like this all over the place now. If only I knew playing video games was a career option. Happy
So I decided to look for a new digital camera. It’s amazing how much they change every year. Mines three years old and I feel in the dark ages. More on my camera search later, but I have to say MacWorld is a nice place to compare and contrast. Casio, Nikon, and Canon are all there showing off their latest.
Turns out I didn’t get to the apple booth until only a half hour before the show closes. Ugh! Here’s my take on some of the announcements.
  • MacBook Air Another elegant and amazing Apple product. Even though my rational mind says it’s not the right laptop for me, I can’t help wanting one. Darn Apple! This was is totally worth going to the Apple store to see in person when it’s out. Check out the videos of it’s multi-touch trackpad. That was very cool! You can bet it’ll make it’s way into the other MacBooks.
  • Time Capsule Everyone’s talking about MacBook Air, but for me this was the most exciting announcement. I recently decided I needed more disk space for backups. This combines a disk and an 802.11n base station at an extremely competitive price (1 TB $499). Amazing! I’m totally getting one.
  • AppleTV I wanted to see this, but didn’t get to. I’m very interested to see how much better take 2 is.
  • Apple iPhone Yes, I know it’s awesome. I’m waiting for 3G though. The new apps they released are very nice.

iTunes Library Sync Saga
I’ve been looking for a way to keep two different sized libraries in sync. I want a small library on my laptop and my full library at home, but I want ratings, play counts, and new additions to all be relatively easy to sync.
I stumbled across an application named
SuperSync that syncs two iTunes libraries over a network. I bugged the developer a bit and then decided what the heck, I’ll buy it and try it.
A few hours later I stumbled across ANOTHER iTunes library sync program —
I’m honestly not sure which one is better or how they differ, but I’m going to start with the one I bought. Both programs are cross platform (i.e. on Windows too).
Here are some miscellaneous things that I noticed on the show floor.
  • FastMac - They over a wireless 802.11n card you can install yourself (for the brave) in your MacBook Pro - $59 at the show; $99 normally. Good to know that option is out there.
  • Guitar Center offered the - MIDIsport Uno for $39. It provides a MIDI to USB interface for 1 device. Perfect for me to plug my keyboard into my Mac and use Garage Band to rock out! Alas
  • Harmony One remote: This replaces the excellent Harmony 880 remote which I own. It has much better buttons and a cool touch screen. Retails for $250, but you can get one for much less. Also look for close outs on the 880.
  • I love my Belkin Flip VGA keyboard/monitor switch. They announced a DVI version last year, but somehow I missed that it was actually shipping. Belkin : Flip DVI-D KVM Switch with Remote - (Part #F1DG102D) - $149
  • Yugma looked interesting. They were talking about a cross platform Skype plugin. They support Windows, Vista, Mac and Linux — truly cross platform. Might be good for work.
  • Intuit rewriting Quicken Mac from the ground up. This is major! The new version is expected in the fall, but it won’t have the same feature set of the 2007 version. Update: More details in the MacWorld article. I feel for the Quicken Mac team and applaud their bold move. Quicken 2007 is an ancient code base probably even still compiled in Code Warrior. Getting to Intel native would be a major undertaking (much like the Office 2008 team just took years to do). Instead they’re doing it all in Cocoa and giving it a true Mac look and feel. On the down side they aren’t likely to have any of the investment, stock, and 401k stuff. Quicken Online, their new all online product, may help bridge the gap by providing investment and stock hooks.
  • I bought Swift Publisher from Belight Software in the December Macupdate Promo. I found it so easy to whip up a flyer that at the show I upgraded to the retail version with like 23,000 clipart images.
  • TechTool Pro 5 is coming in March. I own TechTool Pro 4, but thankfully have had no need to use it. For better or worse I’ll upgrade when I’m in desperate need.
  • DiskWarrior from Alsoft - Version 4.1 coming next week with full Leopard compatibilty. Show price was $79; it’s regularly $99. Very well regarded product, but again I’m going to wait until my hour of need.
  • Elgato Systems - didn’t get as much time to look at these guys as I would have liked. They always have an excellent show special if you’re in the market for their products.
  • Mac Office 2008 - I am going to upgrade. Being Intel native is nearly reason enough. Exchange support is in Entourage 2008 supposed to be a bit better too, which will help me at work. (updated)
Furniture section
What’s more exciting?! We’re redoing our office and I was keeping an eye out for more pleasing laptop stands like the Rain mStand - $49. But other than that I didn’t find much, except for the weird stuff at Anthro. Not my style.
I know from first hand experience that being in a chair all day is hard on the body. I’m always interested in the latest. I stumbled across
Swing Seat, which make an interesting approach. It was quite comfortable and they seemed knowledgeable about how to customize your chair for you. Prices where in the $300 to $400 range, which isn’t too bad for a good chair. But for now I’m sticking with what I got.

Updates: Fixed broken links and noted that OmniFocus also got best of show. Much deserved.
Updates 2: Added Quicken, Entourage, and Exchange articles

1/14/08 School Board Meeting

Here are a few highlights from tonight's school board meeting (agenda and background packet).

Board Discussion on the Proposed Patterson Ranch Development
The school board discussed a number of aspects of the development including the following aspects.

Size: How many students? From the board packet:

The projected number of elementary students generated from the 800 unit Patterson Ranch development is estimated at 171. The projected number of elementary students generated from the 276 unit Villa d’Este development is estimated to be 94. Elementary K-6: District-wide average from all homes is .339 per home X 1,076 homes = 365 [elementary] students American High School total enrollment is 2,060 with an anticipated increase in student enrollment ranging between 89 students and 102 students... Based upon these calculations, the new development will generate between 48 and 54 students [at Thornton Junior High School].

That's 365 elementary students and around 150 secondary students.

Staff has recommended an elementary school with enough core facilities (bathroom, multi-purpose room, etc.) for 840 students to accommodate growth and enough classrooms for 600 students as follows:

School Cost for 600 Students: Adding underground infrastructure for future expansion of 11 more classrooms for a potential build out to 840 students would add $3.85 million dollars to the project. For planning purposes $26.85 million would be a 2007 cost estimate.

Another benefit is that it provides potential space for Forest Park and other overcrowded American attendance area elementary schools. An interesting and related comment from trustee Lara York was that the previous developments in that area were Patterson family land and have generated many more students than planned for. It can be said this is just the next phase in the development of that whole area. Staff is going to research this.

Location: All elementary kids would have to cross Ardenwood Blvd. This is a non-starter for safety and traffic reasons. In the current proposal they have placed the church closer to the homes than the school! That makes no sense to me.

Costs: In summary, the board wants the developer to cover all the costs. "It's important that all the costs and fees ... are born by the developer," said trustee Larry Sweeny. Cost considerations include:
  • The board was very strong in saying the school must be ready before they sell the homes, and that this be committed to in the development application. If not, then the houses will be assigned to another elementary school with capacity which could be quite a distance from the homes.
  • Inflation factors need to be built into the building costs.
  • The developer needs cover any additional costs that accrue due to any delays.
  • The district would very much like to own the land.
  • The developer should also provide funding to mitigate the impacts on secondary schools impacts.

Process: Need the school and housing application to go forward at the same time and that they be linked. The housing application can not go forward without having agreement on the school development. Superintendent Doug Gephart summarized it well. "We need to be a prime player. Our interests need to be considered at the same time as the others. This should be done simultaneously." I agree. Schools are not a secondary concern. They are the primary concern of many if not most of those home buyers.

Unfortunately, there has been little dialog between the developer and district at this point. The developer wanted to do their own independent assessment of the costs of the school. After that they do want to work with the School Board.

This is the second of two major proposed developments (the other being the A's ballpark village) in Fremont that the board has discussed in the last 6 months. This is a great proactive step to put the district's needs in front of the developers. Unfortunately, the district has little leverage in negotiations with developers.

Fortunately these two development are big enough to really call for a new elementary school to be built, and it is in the developers best interest to make sure a school is built. However, I am not sure developers may truly appreciate the needs. The pessimist will say they are looking to minimize costs, which I am sure is a consideration. But it's really impossible for them to truly understand the schools' needs. That's the job of the school district. But it's critical that the city and developers seek to understand this need.

Teachers and other contracts
FUDTA (the teacher's union) and the school board have ratified a one year teachers contract agreement. The contract includes a 4.55% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for this year (2007-08) only. This contract only set salaries for one year, which means next year the district and employee groups will have to negotiate salary again, but given the ominous state budget deficit it may be for the best.

Additionally, the assistant superintendents and superintendent have been given a 4% cost of living adjustment. The district has also extended the 3 assistant superintendent contracts to all be July 1 2008 to June 2011.

All COLAs are retroactive to July 2007.

Speeches and Writings added

I have added a new section to the web site with some of my speeches and writings from my time on the school board. You will learn a lot about my views on education and the role of a school board member in these writings.

1/9/08 School Board Meeting

Here are a few highlights from tonight's school board meeting (agenda and background packet).

Employee Contracts
The board ratified the agreement between Local 1021 SEIU and Fremont Unified School District for 2007-2010. Additionally, a tentative agreement is now in place with the teacher union (FUDTA). Both of these contracts only set salaries for one year, which means next year the district and employee groups will have to negotiate salary again, but given the ominous state budget deficit it may be for the best.

Community Day School
Val Williams (Directory of Pupil Services) presented her teams report on finding a location in Fremont to set up a community day school. She is exploring the Fremont Teen Center.

I am very supportive of this initiative. The challenges are many but I can think of no more important group of kids to invest in. It makes me think back to what former school board member Guy Emanuelle has said, "“Never give up on a student even when a student may have given up on themselves."

Having served on the board, I can say one of the most difficult jobs a school board has is being the final review for all student expulsions. I am thankful that we had the option to send our students to Hayward Community Day School, but that is not a great solution because many of the students never make it there. It's just too far. When you look at Robertson Continuation School that serves another group of at risk students, routinely 30% of their students miss school. And to those who say these kids don't try hard enough, you try being a 14 or 15 year old and take public transportation for as much as 3 hours a day to school from north Fremont.

You have to remember that these are kids that have "given up on themselves." We need to show them we value them, they are part of our community, and that there are other ways to behave and succeed. They benefit and we, society, benefits. And frankly, $155,000 in additional money it would cost is a cheap way to provide hope and help to this group of kids.

Two-Story Modular Construction and Approve Classrooms for Warm Springs Elementary School.
The board approved adding 7 classrooms to Warm Sprints Elementary School. These are the first two story modulars in the district. They are much more expensive than single story classrooms, but given the size of our sites in the north and south of Fremont and the growth at each end of the city I think we'll be seeing more pressure for two story construction. The big question will be how to fund these.

Safe Schools
When I was on the board in 2006, we established district-wide goals including one focused specifically on safe schools.

2007-2008 Safe Schools Strategic Goal:

To ensure that our schools provide a safe environment, conducive to learning, for all students and staff, and that our schools encourage positive behaviors and choices, teach students to respect themselves and others, and provide appropriate discipline and counseling for negative and self- destructive behaviors.

This update presented the many types of programs that the district and community have organized to make schools safer and give students the skills to resolve conflicts. Students need to feel safe at school, because only students who are safe will be able to focus on learning.

I had the great fortune to talk a bit with Jan Steed the assistant Director of Pupil Services. She really helped me understand that safe schools programs are about helping student make better choices. We want to arm our students with the skills to choose words over fists, compassion over ignorance, understanding over name calling.

But how do you measure safe schools? For example, the number of suspensions and expulsions are a bad measure. Suspensions and expulsions are tools to improve school safety, like any other program. The measures need to be the behaviors we're seeing in our students. Maybe we measure the number of fights in schools or continue surveying our students. I don't know what the right measures are, but we need to find the best ones to evaluate our programs and the choices our students our making.

The next board meeting is on January 14, 2008 (next Monday) for a Patterson Ranch study session and to ratify the teachers contract. It's at 6:15 pm at City Council chambers.

Two other important unscheduled but upcoming items:
  1. The updated SchoolWorks demographic study and report is almost ready and will be is coming soon to the board.
  2. Length of residency as an overload requirement is being evaluated by legal council now.

New resources page and education links

I just added a page of resources. Right now it contains my education-related web links that I find here and there. I'll be adding to them. You can subscribe to an rss feed by clicking this link

Over time I'll be adding campaign and other types of resources. Feel free to send me links you'd like me to add.

FUSD Boundary Maps

I recently stumbled across great attendance area maps on the Fremont Unified School District web site. The Parent Resource Information - Attendance Area contains a list of which schools are in which attendance area along with easy to print maps.
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