Editor’s Note: Patch will run a profile of each candidate. Candidates include: Larry Moody, Carrie B. Du Bois, Allen Weiner, . Election Day is Nov. 8, 2011.
By Cassandra Feliciano
Allen Weiner, 43, this election’s neophyte, is banking on a systematic approach to bridge the ’s education gap. He says the district’s hiring practices and curriculum should be the first areas subjected to evaluation.
“The most important thing that we can shape or influence is the teachers, who the kids are exposed to the most,” he said.
Weiner, a lecturer at Stanford Law School, currently has a sophomore at and an M-A graduate, who served as the student representative on the Sequoia board of trustees last year. His youngest, an eighth grader at , will also be attending M-A next fall.
As a parent, Weiner says he knows that “not all teachers are performing at the same level,” and he worries that the district may not be its teachers as often or as rigorously as they should, granting rewards—like tenure— too easily.
“My understanding is that we pay quite well and it’s an attractive district to work in,” Weiner explained. “But the question is not whether good teachers want to work for us, the question is whether or not we’re doing the best job identifying teachers who are the best.”
The Stanford Law School lecturer’s strong belief in the critical role of teachers comes from personal experience. Weiner grew up in a working class neighborhood in Denver, Colorado, and became the first in his family to attend college at Harvard University, an achievement he credits largely to his teachers in high school.
“I’ve always felt a very personal debt to the public education system,” Weiner said. “That’s why I took a year off [before law school] and said I wanted to give something back to the educational system.”
He taught at a private high school in Westchester County in New York instead of a public school system like he originally intended, as he didn’t have a teaching credential.
Weiner’s experiences in the classroom place him in an informed position, where he says he understands what is necessary to “providing an education that is aimed at giving our students the kinds of skills that they’re going to need to be able to function in a modern economy.”
For this, Weiner looks at the recently instated career technical education programs in the Sequoia’s four comprehensive high schools, , Menlo-Atherton High School, Carlmont High School and Woodside High School. Although he commends current board leadership for taking the initial step to develop such a program, Weiner fears that more work needs to be done to assure that it is “a curriculum as opposed to a collection of courses.”
Although Weiner admits that he was nervous about running for the job—he’s the only candidate without previous school board experience—he said that his 11-year stint at the U.S. State Department and his role as an academic gives him the analytical knowledge to better discern how to tackle public policy issues.
“I understand the importance of bringing key people together to analyze problem, how to try to develop a consensus, and how to persuade the people who we’re going to need to be part of the solutions so we can move on and move forward,” he said.
Moreover, Weiner did the research, speaking with professors from the Stanford School of Education and board members of the , all five of whom are part of his team of endorsers.
MPCSD’s who’s known Weiner for five years, believes that the candidate’s strategic approach will define the problems and solve them in a more focused way.
“[Weiner] also believes that education in the District should prepare our students for the 21st century,” Child said. “I believe many students who don’t see college in their future drop out because they don’t see any value in school. [Weiner] will work to change that.”