Area Two School Board Race: An interview with Kinnear and Barth

September 21, 2020

On Nov. 3 Riverside will vote on who will become the next Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) Board member for Trustee Area 2. This position is currently held by Patricia Lock-Dawson who gave up her seat to run for mayor. Dale Kinnear and Kathleen Barth are the two people running in this election and here is the North Star interview with each of them. 

North Star: What do you think is the biggest problem with the school board or the district right now?

Dale Kinnear: With certainty, we’re facing a financial crisis.  RUSD is deficit spending 9 million dollars this school year, more next year and nearly thirty million dollars by the 2022-23 school year.  To the credit of RUSD and the Board, our beginning balance this year is large but it will quickly be erased with deficit spending.  No one likes to entertain budget cuts.  However we must address this financial crisis now in a transparent fashion to allow us to make the best decisions.

Issues of equity from the learning loss experienced as a result of the pandemic to the achievement gap demonstrated before Covid-19, from busing our Eastside elementary students to the inequity which exists in our facilities – these are all urgent problems.  In addition, we can’t forget the examples of racism brought to light in RUSD during the last school year.

 We must increase our efforts to effectively serve students who enter the work force directly after high school.  Although I’d love to have all of our kids qualify for college, it’s not realistic. Not every student learns the same way. Done well, career/vocational classes connect young people to school, provide everyday meaning and prepare students for the future.  Imagine a city where business leaders tell us that the students from our local schools are more qualified and perform their jobs in a superior way than neighboring districts. I can.  Career vocational education programs and pathways need to be strengthened and expanded.

Kathleen Barth: Well the biggest problem we are undergoing right now is just the chaos from the COVID-19 response. I think the biggest problem with the school board right now is that I feel that they really didn’t show enough leadership during this. It was a hard situation already but by offering so many choices they really made a difficult situation more confusing. The amount of choices that they allowed, I feel like it would have been better just to keep what we’re calling a hybrid model right now and have people learn remotely as needed. 

North Star: What personal experiences do you have with the district? (Jobs, family, etc.)

Dale Kinnear: I served as a high school principal in Riverside Unified School District, first at Poly (1988-92) and then at North (1992 until my retirement in 2011).  Serving as a high school principal for so many years was a challenging yet rewarding job.  Frankly, I never wanted to do anything else.  I worked hard with long hours.  We faced difficult and frustrating problems and issues.  However, I had the ability to make my toughest day enjoyable by leaving my office and visiting a science lab, listening to the band play or talking to students in USL, the Multi-Cultural Council or journalism.  I’m proud to have been a high school principal for 23 years.

I was hired by RUSD as a mentor/consultant for Mr. Nakamura during his first year as North’s principal. I continue to volunteer as a mentor for 11th grade students in the GBIT Academy. I’m in my second year serving on RUSD’s Citizens’ Independent Bond Oversight Committee.

Kathleen Barth: I volunteered with the school site councils, the PTA [Parent Teacher Association] and I was the president of North’s PTA my son’s senior year. I was part of the Blue Star Regiment’s booster club. One of the big things I did while at North was that I took a letter to the school board to revisit the projects we had slated for the Measure B fund and that’s how we got our stadium. 

I have a teaching credential and taught elementary school for a number of years and then I still teach private piano and music lessons. I have a masters degree in counseling and that helps even more how I work with people and how I work with groups, it enhances my collaborative nature. 

North Star: How well do you think the school board addresses issues of equity among the schools?

Dale Kinnear: One needs to just visit our RUSD school sites to know the answer to this question. At the elementary level, why is it that for 50 years 1,500 students, who are largely children of color and from families who financially struggle, are bused miles from their Eastside neighborhoods when we’re quick to build new schools in other parts of the district?  Why is it that when two high schools which were built at exactly the same time, has one that’s currently undergoing major improvements while the other is not?  Most of us have visited many, if not all of the high schools in RUSD.  Do you see a difference? 

Kathleen Barth: As an active parent at North High School I found it very upsetting when projects happened and we felt ignored. So I would really like to make sure that that is not happening and I would like to make sure that resources are divided equally and that things are done in ways that people realize that the school district is treating them fairly. 

We can’t necessarily make sure that every school site has exactly the same things because we can’t afford it. But we have to be equitable in terms of making sure that there are opportunities for everybody and that nobody feels left out. 

North Star: What would you most want to do in your position if elected?

Dale Kinnear: The manner in which school board members conduct their business is critical.  Trust and transparency are fundamental attributes to effective leadership.  Far too often, these are just buzzwords commonly used today.  People talk about transparency and honesty but when push comes to shove, they’re not core values. As a high school principal for 24 years, I know firsthand that openness, honesty and accountability define transparency.  My decisions and actions were open to scrutiny, by staff members, parents, students and the community.  These decisions were carried out publicly including the decision-making process itself.  As a result, trust was developed and fostered.  I was viewed as a credible principal who always put student interests first. By far, I was less than perfect.  I made lots of errors.  However, as Gandhi said, “Truth never damages a cause that is just.”  We must be open and honest not only when convenient but always.  The lack of transparency in leadership and governance is irresponsible.  It causes mistrust because it appears deceptive.  As a school board member, I will confront the issues, problems and challenges our district faces.  I will do so in a manner which is transparent and honest.

Kathleen Barth: I am very interested in making sure that the equity piece that the district is working on, the task force and their plan, gets really pushed forward into place and that we start seeing some results. I would really like to see those root problems of those gaps [the opportunity gap or achievement gap] to be addressed and solved so that we can have every student able to come to school, whether that’s electronically or in person, that they can come get their education and get the most out of it so that they are well positioned for success. 

We are going to have a bunch of financial things we are going to have to take care of because  the response to coronavirus is expensive and other things are going to be happening that are going to take a financial strain on the district. I want to make sure that we handle these things without losing some of the programs that are so important. For instance the arts; as a music teacher I have a big focus on the arts and the arts support learning in all different ways. They support language acquisition and reading and achievement at school and interest at school. So I want to make sure that we get through this without losing any of that. 

North Star: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dale Kinnear: This November, voters in Riverside have a choice.  In these difficult times, it’s important that we elect a board member with firsthand experience leading successful schools.  As a classroom teacher and a celebrated principal, my focus has always been on students.  As we face a fiscal and educational crisis as a result of the pandemic, effective leadership with demonstrated experience is what’s important in Riverside.  Experience, commonsense leadership, trust, accountability and transparency – that’s exactly what’s needed.  What was good for students has always guided my decision-making, even when the decisions were difficult.  Our students and their families deserve no less. 

Kathleen Barth: I just hope people in this election do their homework, look at the candidates and look at what they’re doing now in the community. I’ve worked with lots of different youth groups and groups of children in different kinds of families. I have been very active in both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. I am still active in the Girl Scout’s alumni steering network where I’m part of the diversity task force, I’m active with the city and am a part of the human relations division for the city of Riverside. I think I have my finger on the pulse of a lot of groups of people and I’m interested in doing that. So I think that if people weigh my experience and look at all the different kinds of things that I am bringing to the table, they might be interested.

For more information on each candidate: dalekinnear.com and barth4rusd.com

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