Meet The Candidates: Sheri Mowbray

Think About Your Vote

Welcome to our first “Meet the Candidates” profile blog: An introduction to the leaders in our community running for school board office.

Meet Sheri Mowbray

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Which Marin School Board are you running for?

 

SM : Tamalpais Union High School District

How long have you lived in Marin County?

 

SM:  I grew up in San Rafael and only left Marin to attend UCLA.  After graduation, I moved back to Marin, to Mill Valley, in 1993 and then to Larkspur in 2000.  I love living in Marin County and feel so lucky to live here!

How many children do you have in this school district?

 

SM: I have twin daughters who are freshmen at Redwood High this year. 

What are the biggest challenges facing the district now and in the next 5 years?

 

SM: The biggest challenge facing the Tam District is growing enrollment.  The District expects to add about 1,000 additional students in the next five years.  As a Basic Aid district, funded by local property taxes and not by the state, that means that more students will be attending, but without additional funds following them.  The District will need to prioritize student needs more than ever. 

What do you think are the district’s greatest strengths?

 

SM: The Tam District is one of California’s top performing High School Districts.  The level of academic achievement our schools foster is extremely high.  The teaching staff is truly exceptional and committed to all students.   Students are not only engaged in learning, but also passionate about improving the world around them.  Finally, the community is tirelessly supportive of the high schools with its tax dollars.  

What would you say are the district’s greatest weaknesses?

 

SM: There seems to be some feeling of disconnect between the administration and the staff that definitely requires attention.  I am also concerned about the high level of drug and alcohol use among our students.  The figures show a problem among the worst in the state.  Finally, I think the district ought to be incorporating technology more.  Technology allows for more differentiated instruction, which I really think is key for learning and engagement.

Why are you running?

 

SM:  I have served on the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District for six years, including serving the past two years as Board President.  School governance is very complex and I have really committed myself to learning best practices.  I feel I have a lot to give, in terms of governance knowledge and understanding, but also as a parent of two daughters in the district.  The only board member who is also a parent with children currently enrolled is leaving the board and I think it is critical for school boards to include members who currently have children in the schools.  Parents have a front row seat to what is happening in our schools and see things from a very personal perspective.  Also, parents are most accessible to other parents in the district.  Above all, I care deeply about kids and education – and I enjoy serving the community in this way.

What do you feel you would bring to the school board that makes you unique?

 

SM: I bring two very important qualities to the board:  six years of experience as a trustee in a feeder district, and the fact that I am a parent of two students currently in the district.  No other candidate or current board member has the advantage of these two valuable qualifications. 

What would be your main goals as a trustee during your tenure on the board?

 

SM: My focus as a trustee would be to encourage the implementation of authentic, two-way communication avenues between the administration and the staff that fostered an environment of trust and mutual respect. 

Think About It: Value of Independent Learning


This Independence day, focus on the value of independent learning!

4thAh, summertime. Three months of melting ice cream, poolside parties, and…brain drain?

It’s scary, but it makes sense: Extended time away from school can lead to “summer learning loss,” a phenomenon documented by education expert Harris Cooper at Duke University. Through a study conducted in 2009, Cooper found that over the ten-week summer vacation period, students of all backgrounds can lose about a month of math skills on average, while low-income kids can lose up to three months of reading comprehension on average. If you add up those numbers over 12 summers, you’re looking at a lot of backslide.

The good news is that most summer learning loss is preventable. According to Cooper, most summer learning loss occurs when kids spend their ten weeks in a state of mental idleness. But how can you make sure your children are getting mentally challenged? The key is to teach them how to think independently of adult supervision early on. Summer is the best time to start!

Here are five easy ways your child can beat the brain drain on his or her own:

1. Take an online class

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Now that online courses are getting offered in practically every subject you can dream up, from differential calculus to art history, there is an endless list of archives in which to take these classes. Try Khan Academy or MOOCs, “massive open online courses” which are offered through major American universities such as Stanford and Yale. These classes extremely accessible, plus,  when else can you go to class while lying in bed?

2. Keep a journal

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Think scribbling to yourself is a waste of time? Think again. According to a study featured by the Wall Street Journal,  writing by hand is one of the most effective ways to learn about something–even baby boomers benefit! If you’re not taking classes, what’s better than learning about yourself and your surroundings? Clear, effective prose is enormously helpful for any student or professional to have in his toolkit, and a daily writing habit certainly couldn’t hurt – nor could a little introspection.

3. Start a garage band

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Don’t yell at your kids for shredding chords in the basement with friends–they might be working on that corpus callosum. In 2009, the International Symposium on Performance Science conducted a study in which a group of young subjects took a rigorous music course and then was individually tested spatial and numerical reasoning. The study concluded that these kids improved both their spatial and numerical reasoning, regardless of musical background. This study, along with other studies, has found that learning music enhances creativity, improves motor skills, and can even increase levels of serotonin, the depression-battling neurotransmitter. So crank up the amp, dig up some instruments, and call up your musical friends!

4. Watch TED talks

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If you’re starting to feel lazy in the summer heat, pour yourself some lemonade and click on over to the TED Talks website. On the TED Talks website and even on Netflix, you’ll find an online repository for compelling speeches by pretty much any influential modern thinker or doer– from Melinda Gates on what nonprofits can learn to Coca-Cola to 12-year-old iPhone app developer Thomas Suarez. Most of the speeches generally run from 5 to 20 minutes and  provide a lot of inspiration in a small chunk of time. Here are two of my favorites.

5. Read…a lot

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In Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon’s character once said, “You blew 150k on an education you could have gotten in $1.50 in late fees from the library.” Although Damon’s character may have been exaggerating a little bit, he was right about one thing: Reading is the most efficient way to inhale and digest information. A fun, low-key reading idea would be to reread your favorite children’s books! Rereading your favorite children’s books can bring out layers you never knew even existed. I remember the second time I picked up Madeline L’engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, I realized how cool it was that little kids were reading about heady scientific concepts like mitochondrial cells or the tesseract. Additionally, now that I had taken biology and geometry classes, I could finally different concepts in a deeper way!

Summer has always been a great time to relax from the rigor and structure of school. Summer is also a time to start figuring out how to learn outside the classroom! Learning outside the classroom can be an incredible leg-up skill once your children get to college and find themselves underneath mountains of reading. So, this independence day, don’t only relax, but also focus on the value of independent learning!