The two-minute speech

One of the things about all the candidate forums and endorsement meetings I’ve been doing is that you’ve got to cut to the chase. Most organizations give you just two minutes to sell your candidacy. If you’re not done with your pitch, sorry — the buzzer rings or the timekeeper waves a “STOP” card and you are shown the door. Here’s my two-minute pitch, roughly word-for-word:

Hi, I’m Rachel Norton, and I’m running for the San Francisco Board of Education. I’ve been a public school parent since 2002. For the past seven years, since my children were toddlers, I have been an active member of Parents for Public Schools, an organization that is empowering parents to take a leadership role in our public schools. One of my children has autism. In the course of navigating the special education system for her, I discovered that special education is highly complex, and that parents who lack English skills, are low-income, or lack advocacy skills are at a tremendous disadvantage in getting appropriate services for their children. For the past three years, I have served on the district’s Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. As part of my service on the committee, I’ve worked to support parents of children with disabilities, particularly non-English-speakers and low-income families, to help them get better programs for their children. I’ve also worked to make the Board aware of the many problems in special education programs. For the past two years, I have also served as an officer on the School Site Council at my daughters’ elementary school. This has been helpful in teaching me about budget issues, how schools are funded and what the relationship is between the district and individual schools.
I’m running because I think there should be more parents of current students on the Board of Education. Currently, just two of seven members have children enrolled in public school, and one of those members –Eric Mar –will be leaving the Board after this year. Parents have an on-the-ground perspective that I think needs to be better represented on the Board.
My priorities include: implementing the strategic plan, which is designed to address our most pressing problems, such as the achievement gap; demanding more accountability and sunshine in our special education programs; and addressing what I see as a “trust gap” between our district and the community — not just parents and students but also city residents, city government and community organizations that partner with the district. We need leadership on the Board that will address this trust gap, and begin to repair the relationship between the school district and the community.
I’ve been endorsed by United Educators of San Francisco, the San Francisco Democratic Party and a number of major Democratic clubs in the City, as well as the Mayor, Assemblyman Mark Leno, District Attorney Kamala Harris, Sheriff Michael Hennessey and six members of the Board of Supervisors. I would be honored to have your support as well.

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