7/02/2020 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Reelect Tom Panas to School Board 2020
El Cerrito, CA, July 2, 2020: The first thing that I want to say is that I hope this note finds everyone and their family in good health and able to help others who are not so fortunate. It is with the support of so many good people in West County that I am kicking off my campaign for re-election to the West Contra Costa Unified School Board from Trustee Area 5. I picked July 2nd to announce the start of my re-election campaign because it’s four years to the day from when I announced my first campaign for school Board in 2016. That makes it an important date in my life!
These last four years have been very busy for me. It has been amazing to visit schools and attend events throughout the District. I have completed hundreds of school visits and I am continually impressed by the incredible work being done in our schools. I have learned so much from our educators, I am proud to be able to support them and partner with them, and I am seeing that although we have lots of challenges facing us, we have incredible things happening in our schools.
Before Covid, I was volunteering in classrooms once a week at two high-needs schools. In my first year I was at Verde Elementary in North Richmond; this school has the highest percent of low-income students in the District. It was a great introduction to the current classroom environment for me and I was so impressed by the teachers and the administration at Verde. I have since found the same thing all over our District.
I care deeply about our schools community on both a personal and professional level. My wife was a teacher, my brother was a teacher, and his wife was a teacher. My mother and mother-in-law were school nurses. My sons both went through WCCUSD schools from K through 12. Being around schools is natural for me. I am a retired CFO and CPA and have lived in El Cerrito for more than 40 years, after originally moving here to get my MBA in Finance at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. I started my involvement in the community many years ago as a Parks and Rec Commissioner in El Cerrito. My community work has never stopped and in 2014 the City Council elected me to the El Cerrito Wall of Fame.
Equity needs to be at the heart of everything that we do at WCCUSD: our culture, our practices, our priorities, our policies. “Does this drive equity?” should be the first question we ask about everything that we do. As we move forward I will be focused on four things:
• to be an anti-racist, fighting against racism and all of the racial injustices and inequities it has fostered in our communities, as well as ensuring that equity permeates the Board’s conversations;
• to ensure that every student gets the best possible educational outcome;
• to foster transparent and ethical financial and managerial processes at all levels of the WCCUSD; and
• to broaden genuine community engagement at all levels and places in our K-12 school system.
My focus on equity for all students has been evident almost from the day I was elected. Very shortly after I was elected I found myself invited to the RYSE Youth Center in Richmond for a community meeting about immigration and the community’s fears of actions that might be taken by Donald Trump. That meeting was the genesis of the Immigration Resolution that we passed at my first School Board meeting!
I have worked hard to get things done for our kids and our community since then. A few highlight are:
• Centering all conversations on students and student outcomes, supported by analysis of data that is broken down by ethnicity and type of learner.
• Granting our teachers and other staff members the raise they have deserved for a long time.
• Supporting the Positive School Climate Resolution and using it to drive change in how we think about discipline in our schools.
• Working with principals and teachers to clearly understand the impacts of curricular decisions.
• Pushing forward the change from district-wide elections to trustee-area elections.
• Changing our practices so we only enter into contracts for services that have clear, measurable expectations for student outcomes.
• Pushing forward and funding our resolution supporting our goals for African American student achievement.
• Replacing our costly and inefficient Design-Bid-Build approach to construction for large projects with the Design-Build approach.
I have served on the WCCUSD Youth Commission since I was elected and have championed the work of the diverse students who I have had the honor of serving with in this role. The voice of the students who sit on the Board is so important that when I was President I instituted a system to make sure we always heard it. Our students have so much to add to the conversation and they don’t get caught up in politics. It’s rare that I don’t gain additional insight as I listen to them speak; I wish we had more of them on the dais! Making sure our kids are getting what they need to be successful is the main reason I want to stay on this Board. We have lots more work to do to support our students and my professional financial background and experience will help us navigate these turbulent financial times.