Sep 16 2020

Piedmont School Board Candidates Answer Questions

Voters will select three from five candidates for the Piedmont Unified School District Board.

 All School Board candidates were asked to respond to the following questions in 60 words or less by September 15.

1. Which listed issue is your highest priority and why? –  Funding,  Teachers,  Facilities,  Transparency, Administration,  Achievement,  Equality,  Community Involvement,  Safety

2. What has the School Board done well during recent years?  

3. As a School Board member, what changes would you advocate? 

Candidate responses are listed in the order received.  There has been no editing of the responses.

Cory Smegal – School Board Candidate

1. My top priority is our students – both their learning and mental health.  This fall, distance learning has improved. There is a consistent schedule, clear assessments and accountability.  We must not lose sight of the fact that distance learning is very hard on students’ mental health. We need to create opportunities for our students to make safe in person connections. 

2. Recently, I’ve led our Board advocacy efforts.  Beyond this current pandemic, the biggest problem for California schools has been and will continue to be serious underfunding.  Piedmont has become active in raising awareness of this issue, meeting with state representatives, working with the Alameda County Coalition and hosting a week of events to get the state to fund education now.    

3. During my term, I’ve advocated for clear communication and improved public outreach.  It is critical that all stakeholders understand what is going on and how decisions are being made.  There is definitely more work to be done to enhance communication and promote participation in the process.  Cory Smegal 


Hilary Cooper – School Board Candidate

1. Students and their safety is my highest priority.  When we think about returning to the classroom, we must prioritize safety and let science drive our decisions.  Some schools have already applied for a K-6 waiver and that will afford us the opportunity to learn from each other and implement best practices.

2. Our school board has a proven record of supporting innovation.  They voted to adopt a one-to-one connected learning program, providing Chromebooks for each student.  They have supported innovation through groups like Piedmont Makers and the Wellness Center.  Most importantly, they supported the STEAM building through Bond Measure H1.  Our district’s forward thinking mindset enables us to address challenges.

3. Our district needs to build on what we’ve learned during distance learning to advance our curriculum and instruction. Our teachers have learned to use technology more effectively during this time, and that should continue. While we work hard to get kids and teachers safely back in the classroom, we shouldn’t settle for “returning to normal,” but reach for better together.    Hilary Cooper


Jason Kelley – School Board Candidate

1. Community involvement is my priority because it leads to excellence in all the other listed areas. Our community is filled with parents and residents who have expertise in each of these areas, and a school board that welcomes input from community stakeholders ensures the best possible outcomes.

2. The School Board and Piedmont’s amazing educators have done a good job during this most difficult time in pivoting school from in-person learning to distance learning. Changing conditions have required flexibility and hard work. There is always room for improvement, but Piedmont’s students have been provided with a more robust at-home program than many others in California.

3. I advocate greater transparency. Parents and other Piedmont residents should be able to understand how and why the School Board is making the decisions it does, especially as it grapples with how and when to re-open schools. The community needs to see that it is being protected, and parents should know how their children’s educational needs are being met.  Jason Kelley


Veronica Anderson Thigpen – School Board Candidate

1. I have three priorities:
–  Maintaining excellence in education throughout the pandemic and beyond.
–  Elevating equity as a core value in every classroom, in every school, across the district to ensure that students are served across the spectrum of learning needs.                                                                          – Creating more spaces and structures for students voices so they feel welcomed, heard, understood, empowered and engaged.

2. A centerpiece of achievement is the new high school STEM facility, expected to open this school year. The project is a much-needed revamp of the aging PHS campus. It took years of site development planning plus a successful public financing campaign. Currently, phase two of the project is underway and will result in a new performing arts and theater facility.

3. I would seek opportunities to include community and youth perspectives in decision- making. Recently, I experienced the efficacy of this approach when I engaged with community advocates from the PADC and the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign (PREC) along with teachers, youth and district administrators to craft racial and educational equity policies that now have widespread buy-in.  Veronica Anderson Thigpen


No responses were received from School Board Candidate Hari Titan.

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