CUSD candidates’ forum: Charles Gardner

Posted by on Tue, October 5, 2004


Hello, fellow Coastsiders - My name is Charles Gardner and I’m a Candidate for the Cabrillo Unified School District in the election this November.

My primary focus is on the educational needs of our students. I live in Montara, and have twin eight year olds in Farallone View Elementary. I would like to see they have an opportunity to attend the new middle school we voted for in 1996. But just as important, I feel it vital to maintain and improve our curriculum, challenge our students with enrichment programs, and support our teachers and services. The quality of life we deserve here on the Coastside, as well as the legacy we can leave for our children, is my calling to service.

I ask that you take a minute to read my position statement, and please vote in the upcoming election.

1. Curriculum

During times of economic "tightness", it is difficult for a candidate to advance "new", or additional programs.  But it is always possible to look at a problem from a different perspective, to be creative, and to try new technologies, or adopt different methods.

Every year the Board develops a vision for its schools using district goals and objectives which are reviewed annually.  These goals provide the framework for decision and policy making.  In 2004-2005, the Board will start planning for a 5 year set of strategic goals. I strongly support this endeavor and hope that this will be an impetus for a new cycle of improvements in our schools. This will be a continuing "work in progress" similar to the cycle depicted below:

NW Regional Educational Laboratory

A. Teachers are the Key

Let’s support them with competitive salaries, a quality working environment, and a supportive administrative team, and good home-to-school communication. In hard budgetary times, we should prioritize the infusion of as many dollars as possible into the classroom. Here are some other focus points I would promote:

  • Support New teachers - Beginning Teacher support - in the profession. New teachers are the most at risk.
  • Evaluate new teachers - have high standards and good communication and have accountability.
  • Support the State mandated & New teacher assessment program
  • Support INTEREST-BASED BARGAINING-  we’re all in the same boat together.

B. Standards

I support the vision of higher academic standards at all grade levels, increased high school graduation requirements, and an alignment of district curriculum with state standards in language, arts, math, science and social studies.  At the secondary schools, I will support and encourage classroom programs in music and fine arts and a flourishing program in agricultural science. Being the son of a World Book encyclopedia salesperson, I wholeheartedly support a strong emphasis in literacy programs believing that reading is a key fundamental to future success.

C. Improvement

Federal and State mandates require our schools to improve test scores, which I feel can only be accomplished through attention to the basic fundamentals of education.

Here are some ways we can explore those opportunities:

  • Investigate innovative ways to bring in more money
  • Involve parents (the largest predictor of student success) in the process.
  • Encourage differentiated instruction - challenge every child at their
  • own level…
  • Increase the amount of reading
  • Review statistical test data… and incorporate improvements based on
  • analysis of strengths and weaknesses
  • Increase graduation requirements & Emphasize mechanisms that encourage and enable all children to be able to enroll in college
  • Increase number of children in AP courses
  • Literacy Progams - Every Child a Reader/ Writer
  • Support second language learners and challenge them.. they have the greatest need but also the greatest opportunity
  • Support Spanish families with Special Spanish meetings- times- translators
  • Continuation of our collaborative program that supports families, physical and mental health programs, breakfast programs, and health insurance.
  • Adult Education classes provide continuing opportunities for parents

2. New Middle School

I believe our community is in desperate need to build a new middle school and provide additional elementary classrooms. I have reviewed the history and criteria of the site selection process since 1995, and I am convinced the new middle school site at Wavecrest is the best, most constructive option of all the alternatives. My research indicates this site was selected by a process of public debate, recommended by a community-representative site selection committee, supported by the Half Moon Bay City Council, and ratified by the current school board and development partners. I do not believe my role as a newly elected board member would be to derail the arduous process that has already been put in place. My role will be to facilitate the making of the new school a reality for our children.

A new, modern facility will help prepare our children for the 21st century by providing the level of education they so richly deserve. A multitude of benefits will be derived from having a facility that can attract and keep good teachers, as well as provide a variety of academic and curricular benefits. The new school, permanent recreational fields, a Boys and Girls Club, What I bring to the table is the ability to plan for shared infrastructure costs, do good engineering and designing for "best-value" I can make sure we get the best "bang for our buck". It’s what I do for a living.

4. Accountability

There is little doubt that our educational system of today is extremely challenging- limited financial resources, high stakes testing, a heterogeneous socioeconomic mixture of students and families, two-working parent families, and high expectations.  Many find it easy to criticize our system, find fault with our current board, and complain about lack of funding. What’s not easy is to build a plan and consensus, create workable solutions, and effectively communicate with your constituents. It’s not just about holding more open meetings, it’s about being a leader that can make difficult decisions, decisions that can provide the best benefit for those intended, our students. I believe as a board member, I have the ability to communicate the reasoning for decisions made, and have the character to be accountable for those decisions.

5. Moving Forward

The opposite of backward. Our educational system as a whole, and particularly here on the Coastside, can benefit from regular "tune-ups", but we are not, as some would have us believe, in a perennial crisis. We have a good system in place. There are many unsung heroes that devote a tremendous amount of time and energy in a variety of ways to our student and educational community. We have a lot to be thankful for. My commitment as an elected board member would be to maintain our focus on education (not land use), our children, and the quality of life here on the Coastside.

I hope this has been helpful to you in determining who I am, and what my priorities will be if elected to the school board. I appreciate the opportunity to serve my community, and I will be thankful for your vote and support this November.

If you would like to contact me for further discussion, I can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] , or phone (650) 296-3777.

Charles M. Gardner

Comment 1
Tue, October 5, 2004 12:38pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

I’m going to ask this question of all three candidates:

1. What experience do you have managing a budget? 

2. What has your pre-election review of the CUSD budget told you about the school district?

Comment 2
Tue, October 5, 2004 4:57pm
All my comments

Charles, you say that we’re “in desperate need to ... provide additional elementary classrooms.”

Our budget shortfalls have forced us to reduce the number of teachers and increase class sizes, not because we don’t have enough classrroms (we have several empty classrooms this year), but because we can’t afford more teachers.

On top of that, our K-5 enrollment has declined by 300 students in the last ten years, something that many Bay Area districts have experienced and that the state Department of Finance expects to continue.

Why are we in desperate need of additional elementary classrooms, and how will we pay for teachers to fill them?

It’s not surprising the big backpacks are a health risk.  As in all things educational, there’s research to prove it:

Hickey conducted a research study on the physically damaging affects of heavy backpacks after witnessing her own children strain under the weight of their schoolbooks. About 70 percent of the middle school students in her experiment were lugging around a backpack that was harmful to their growing bodies. While small kids hauling around 25-pound backpacks is a common sight in elementary, middle and high school hallways, according to Hickey’s computation, only a 200-pound person can safely carry a bag of this size.

My question for all the candidates:  Shouldn’t there be lockers at Cunha?  Will you support lockers at the new middle school?

To Barry:
1) I currently manage a budget of $30 million dollars on a lump-sum (hard dollar) public works project. Although the makeup of overhead, plant and equipment, and facilities are of different proportions to the CUSD budget, it is similar in the fact that there are no additional revenue streams that are perpetual. We have to make do with what we have, brainstorm innovations to save and best utilize resources, and solicit input from knowledgeable sources. I also participate in long term strategic planning, goal setting, and progress monitoring.

2 My pre-election review shows there is not much. Approximateley 85% of the budget is designated for salaries, and the remainder is for plant and equipment, maintenance, curriculum. Not much, but making all the more important to have effective leadership that can make the difficult but realistic decisions that keep the focus on education.

To JLundell:
My actual quote you parapharsed is that we are “in desperate need to build a new middle school and provide additional elementary classrooms”. Once the new middle school is built, we can address our need for a new elementary school. One only needs to attend the schools to observe the need to relieve the support burden placed on our facilites. Why is it we have split classes? Where are the empty classrooms in elementary school? Thats not my observation.

Comment 5
Sun, October 10, 2004 7:59pm
All my comments


We have split classes because the administration is trying to stay within class size limites (20 in K-3, 34 in 4-5) while minimizing the number of teachers.

There are four or five empty classrooms at Hatch this year. At least one or two are being used for other (worthwhile) purposes, but they were classrooms last year.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. For budget reasons, the administration is trying to minimize the number of teachers, which of course means minimizing the number of classrooms.

Perhaps you could tell us why the middle school needs so desperately to be expanded, given that the enrollment has fallen from nearly 1,000 to about 800 over the last 5-6 years. (I agree that the Cunha facility needs work, whethe it’s to be used for a middle school or for an elementary school. It’s a mystery to me why we’re not doing that work now.)

I ask again: how will we pay the additional teachers that we’d need to staff new elementary classrooms, especially in the face of falling enrollment and budgets?

I will be happy to answer that at the Teacher’s forum on the 18th, as written I believe the question to be based on false suppositions.
Back to work…

Comment 7
Mon, October 11, 2004 2:51pm
All my comments


Unfortunately, I won’t be asking the questions at the CUTA forum. Hopefully you can find the time over the next week to address the issue here.

If I’m making a false supposition, let’s use this forum to clear it up. I’ll start by making my supposition explicit (though I think it was clear enough before): it does us little good to build new classrooms unless we have teachers to staff them.

Additional classrooms (and the teachers to go along with them) can address two issues. One: enrollment goes up, so we need more classrooms to accommodate the increase. Of course, our enrollment is several hundred below its peak, so we might have a ways to go.

Two: more classrooms and teachers would let us reduce class sizes. That sounds good to me, but it runs into the wall of our current budget; our recent trend has been to increase class size to the maximum allowed.

If we have the money, I’d like to see us hire more teachers and reduce our class sizes. But let’s recognize that it’ll have to be paid for somehow.

Mr. Gardner: I am a resident with two very young children who will no doubt be affected heavily by these decisions. I am getting a lot out of this on-line debate.  I can’t attent the CUTA form, and I am hoping you can continue to explain your position here. I think Mr. Lundell’s position makes a lot of sense.  If you think he is basing his argument on false suppositions, then please let me know what they are. Thank you.

Comment 9
Mon, October 11, 2004 5:35pm
All my comments

I too am eager to hear why Mr. Gardner is intent on building an expanded new middle school to the tune of $20÷ million in the face of dropping enrollment.  How do we justify investing in oversized, new infrastructure when there are so many other pressing needs facing the school district?  When will be the right time to re-evaluate enrollment projections?

As a parent with a child at Cunha Middle School I am continually impressed by that site.  The kids are centrally located, have access to the HMB Library, orthodontists, shops, etc.  Ask the students at Cunha and they’ll tell you they love going to school in town. 

There is no denying the school site needs to be renovated.  But why not invest our community resources in refurbishing what we’ve got and get on with the more important tasks of finding ways to reduce class size and invest in more teachers?

Comment 10
Mon, October 11, 2004 10:28pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

Both at the candidates forum at the high school and on the midcoast mailing list you said that a second middle school in El Granada would increase the traffic on Hwy 1.

I don’t see how that is possible.

Can you point to an analysis that demonstrates a second school in EG would generate more traffic on Hwy 1 than “one middle school to rule them all” located in HMB?

Comment 11
Tue, October 12, 2004 11:52am
All my comments

I don’t get it, why won’t you give a complete answer the question about the need for the middle school?

Are you saying that the published current and future middle school enrollment numbers are wrong?

If so, what are the correct numbers?

If not, why do we need a new and bigger middle school?

Comment 12
Thu, October 14, 2004 4:29pm
All my comments

Dear Mr. Gardener,

I like your idea to compensate teachers more.  As a mother of two here at Cabrillo and a local high school teacher,  I see these problems being discussed in this forum from a variety of angles.  I wonder if you could comment about an area which I am professionally interested in:  English Language Learners in Cabrillo Unified.  Recently, the assistant superintendent, B.J. Mackle, sent out a letter to all Cabrillo parents recognizing that our English Language learners and students of low-income had been recognized in the “No Child Left Behind” Title 1 analysis as not being served to the appropriate levels.  I was turned off by her comment that although these students would have rights in other districts to change schools, they were stuck in Cabrillo’s middle and high school since they were the only middle and high schools in our district.

How do you forsee advocating for this increasingly large group (37% at Cunha) and ensuring that they both don’t get stuck in lifetime ELL tracks and get the services they need to develop there natural bilingualism. They are the growing sector of our public schools all along the coast.

Thanks for your time and good luck.
Claire Sheehan

Dear Mr. Gardner:

I wish you would answer some of the foregoing questions before the election is over. If this is the kind of “response” to citizen concerns that we can expect from Trustee Gardner, then it looks like we are in for “more of the same.”

As a separate question, I would like to know why you think that putting up a new building (in the form of a middle school) will somehow miraculously boost the quality of instruction or improve the district’s scores on state-mandated achievement tests.

I can certainly understand why builders, pavers, and graders would want one of their own on the school board, but can you give us some idea of your SPECIFIC plans to improve academic performance in our local schools?

Kevin J. Lansing

Mr Lansing and all:
I apologize for the seemingly untimely responses to this on-line forum. As I explained to Barry Parr, my time is limited in this campaign season, and I would try and address this site on at least a weekly basis. I have been expressing my positions and vision in the various public forums held recently, and my website enumerates answers to most, if all of your preceeding questions, with the possible exception to enrollment.

Mr. Lundell states in his latest ad in the Half Moon Bay Review “District enrollment has fallen drastically in the last eight years”. Eight years ago (when we voted for Measure K) District enrollment was 3668 (‘95-96). In 2003-2004 enrollment was 3649, a “dramatic” decrease of 19 students. Sure, in the interim it went up, then back down, mostly due to the addition of Seacrest, homeschooling increases, and probable frustration of parents with no progress on a new middle school taking their children out of the system to other private schools.

The State Dept. of Finance (which is our demographic source predictor)projects enrollment “bottoming out” between 2008-2010, and then increasing at a steady rate. Even at our buildout rates, considering Cunha was designed for 500, now has 850+, and our modular capacities are at or beyond state limits, the need to move forward is imperative especially in a long range strategic sense. Wavecrest, in my opinion, remains the most prudent choice for timely constructability, and best economic benefit to our community. A miraculous boost to the quality of instruction? I don’t think that is what’s offered. What is, is a new modern facility that can provide the support for additional enrichment programs when they can be made available. The quickest way for that I see is to complete the school, and begin to reap the benefits.
More later….till then I suggest you go to my website at

Have a good Pumpkin Festival!

Comment 15
Fri, October 15, 2004 9:30am
All my comments

Mr Gardner plays fast and loose with the facts.

First, district enrollment peaked at 3,889 in 1997-98. Our enrollment this year is 3,489 (not counting 41 home schoolers that are receiving services).

That’s a fall of 400 from our peak enrollment, a far cry from Mr Gardner’s claimed 19.

More to the point, the Facilities Master Plan (which is the basis for our middle school plans) projected 4,858 students this year, That’s 1,369 more than we actually have attending our schools.

As for Sea Crest and home schooling, we really have no idea where the kids have gone. In 1992, a Review reporter counted 300 students going out of the district, mostly to private schools. This is nothing new.

San Mateo County’s population has been dropping for three years. I’ve been tracking DoF enrollment forecasts since 1995, and each year the DoF has been cutting its projections.

Mr Gardner claims that Cunha is designed for 500, contradicting the Facilities Master Plan, which tells us that Cunha has a capacity of 866. And Cunha peaked at 982 students.

And of course Mr Gardner conveniently ignores the fact that my proposal reduces Cunha enrollment to about 550 students, while he favors a middle school with a capacity of 1,150.

That’s too big, whether it’s at Wavecrest, Cunha, or anywhere else.

Dear Mr. Gardner,

You did not fulfill your commitment as a member of the Midcoast Community Council.  As a voter this worries me.  Please explain your reasons for resigning your seat on the MCC and how we can be sure that, if elected, you will fulfill your commitment on CUSD and not jump at the next political opportunity.

To Claire on English Language Learners:
I think we as a Board and teachers collaborate to emphasise the individualism to “meet the needs” (my priority item#1) of our ELL students. We recognize that all parents, from any cultural or socio-economic background want their child to receive an education that will prepare them to make it in our world today. Individualized testing can help identify students who need additional work, and after school time should be made available for “catch-up”. Also of importance is to meet individually with the parents to stress,“We need you to come, to participate, to belong.” We also need to foster a commitment from the Board, with the teachers that “It is possible.”

To 2Frogs:
I was approached and asked to consider CUSD as I was MCC. I have enjoyed being considered a “voice of reason” on MCC, but I do not have the time to do both. I made the decision based on my belief I can be more effective, and have more positive impact on my family, and our community as a CUSD Board member. I do not forsee running for another office during this tenure.

Now, can we stay focused on the issues?

Comment 18
Tue, October 19, 2004 9:57am
All my comments

Hey, Charlie,

In several candidate forums, and again last night at the Kings Mountain forum, you’ve complained that under my facilities proposal (build an elementary school at Wavecrest, shift from K-5 to K-6, and make Cunha a grade 7-8 JHS) we’d have to expand elementary facilities such as multipurpose rooms—even though my propsal reduces elementary site enrollment by more than 10%.

Can you explain how a drop of 50-60 students per site would require expanding multipurpose rooms?

Second, you’ve claimed several times (and again yesterday) that building a second middle school on the midcoast would increase rather than decrease traffic. Since nobody’s proposing to send midcoast students to HMB, or HMB students to the midcoast, please explain how a midcoast middle school would increase traffic.

Start at the beginning. Your “proposal” does not take into account Measure K Funds cannot be used to build an elementary school.Even if you claim to find a “Bond attorney” that would interpret something different than that what was explicitly voted for (that being a new middle school). That would only bog down the process by insuring litigation procedures against the District similar to what most likely would have happened by your support of the failed Measure D. I go back to my original questions, are you “proposing” a new tax? A new Bond? Once your clear these most basic of hurdles, then we could discuss the merits (or demerits) of which educators determined long ago about 6 graders remaining in elementary school.
On the issue of traffic, pick the location (if you can) that could be built upon within a reasonable time period, and I’ll be glad to explain how someone would have to drive there from HMB and back, or are you proposing two middle schools? Wouldn’t that further disenfranchise the students by having the predominately minority students in a HMB area middle school, and the “white flight” once again to this unspecified (and probably unachievable)school on the northern coast??

Comment 20
Tue, October 19, 2004 1:28pm
All my comments


I propose to build a new middle school, per the language of Measure K, at Cunha (though I read the measure’s language as permissive rather than restrictive). I’d be happy to provide a copy of my bond counsel’s opinion; if you have a contrary one, please let me see it.

As for litigation, no doubt there are obstructionists on all sides of this question. No doubt no matter what we end up doing, somebody’s going to threaten a lawsuit. I don’t think it’s good policy for the board to give in to those threats in advance, especially when we’re on solid legal ground.

As a matter of district history, we moved sixth graders from our elementary sites to Cunha for space reasons, not for educational reasons.

And of course I’m proposing two middle schools. When enrollment justifies it, we should build a second middle school on the midcoast. That’s what I’ve been saying all along, and it seems clear enough.

As for the “unachievable” second middle school, the FMP projects 1,670 middle school students over its life. Are you proposing to expand a Wavecrest middle school to that size?

If midcoast population doubles, as the county buildout numbers suggest it will, are you proposing to expand our elementary sites to over 1,000 students each?

Of course we’ll need to find new sites and build new schools if enrollment grows. Better to find them now than to wait.

Would a midcoast middle school be all white? I think not. That’s never been the case with El Granada, for example, and needn’t be for a middle school.

But let’s get the simple question answered: you’ve repeatedly claimed that my proposal would require expanding the elementary multipurpose rooms. Why have you been saying that?

Because they are full

Comment 22
Tue, October 19, 2004 3:38pm
All my comments


Say they’re full for the sake of the argument (though the capacity numbers in the FMP contradict that). You’re still saying that reducing the number of students implies that we need bigger multipurpose rooms?

Maybe that’s something you need to go to facilities planning school to understand, but please explain it to us laymen.


I’m writing this from a $30 million dollar “facilities planning school” from which I have been in attendance for over 30 years. Perhaps your philosophy training clouds your perception of reality. Your whole argument for reduced number of students falls apart on the premise you have the money to build an elementary school. We don’t. Nor do we have the money to build two middle schools, much less the administration to run them. I’m certain you will insist on having the last word, so when you post a reply, remember you are reinforcing what I have suggested to our constituency as nothing more than fanciful notions that do not stand up under the light of practicality.

With that, I’ll let the voters decide.

Mr. Lundell’s argument seems clear to me. Build an elementary school at Wavecrest, shift from K-5 to K-6, and make Cunha a grade 7-8 JHS. Your retorts seem rather dismissive and rhetorical rather than substantive.

Lundell’s plan clearly implies a reduction in elementary attendance. You argue that his plan requires expanding the muti-purpose rooms.  Lundell calls you on this argument because it doesn’t make sense, and the best explanation you have is “because they are full”? Is that the best you can come up with?

You say Lundell’s ideas fall apart for lack of funding, but he makes clear that we need to apply a permissive understanding of Measure K.  You can’t counter that Measure K has to be applied strictly, because as Lundell already pointed out construction is so late that it doesn’t even apply to the kids for whom the facilities were originally intended. Your counterargument is simply to reiterate your original point that we don’t have the money?

I was hoping this forum would lead to a meaningful exchange of ideas where the different views on priorities and philosophies would come out. Instead we are getting dismissive retorts and condescension. Regardless, I’ve heard enough to know how I’m going to vote.

Dear Mr. Gardner,

Fighting the fight and seeing the job through is an issue.  It’s a character issue, as important to a voter as plans and ideas.

Don’t be fooled by the post name.  I voted for you for MCC and am further surprised and disappointed to hear you resigned at the behest of others who approached you.  Politics as usual.

Your responsibility was to your constituency, not to these unnamed others.  And since ‘they’ seem to have convinced you to run for two different offices, I guess I should have directed the question of your future to them.