Seeking re-election, the trustee wants to keep students and teachers, and increase revenues
Getting more students enrolled is the first priority for Balaji R Venkatraman, who is seeking re-election to the Evergreen Elementary School District board of trustees in San Jose, California. The next is to retain teachers.
He said that rising home prices have driven many families out of the school district, leading to a decline in enrollment and revenue.
“We are trying … hard and diligently,” said Venkatraman, who was appointed in 2017 to the school board of trustees and is seeking to keep his job in the upcoming November 6 general election. Venkatraman had been appointed to the school board in 2011 but lost the election in 2012 and then in 2014, when he tried again.
There are five candidates running for the three open seats: Jim Zito, Vincente M Songcayawon, are both incumbent, and Bonnie Mace, not up for election as her term ends in 2020.
Venkatraman told indica that declining revenues have resulted in trustees having to grapple with labor issues, too. But despite budget constraints, the schools are offering new programs to attract students, he said.
Venkatraman has lived in the Evergreen community for 15 years. He has a PhD in computer science from the University of Florida, and an MBA from Santa Clara University. In addition to his board duties, he serves as an adjunct faculty teaching graduate-level courses in the Electrical Engineering Department at San Jose State University.
“What I have realized is that in the intervening three years, the fiscal crisis has deepened, morale is lower, scores are stagnant and labor peace is elusive. Furthermore, because of the declining enrollment, the district and unions are pushing to close schools,” he said, adding “I believe that communities and schools thrive together and closing schools is a drastic and irreversible step.”
The schools to be closed are all Title 1 schools, where parents are socioeconomically challenged, he said. According to him, those schools were picked because the parents there, who are busy working two or three jobs, are least likely to push back.
“They don’t dare pick the schools in the more affluent neighborhoods. SoI believe we have a duty to protect those schools, exactly those schools,” Venkatraman said.
He said he has the experience and the credibility to be an independent voice and preserve the educational opportunity for all children.
Venkatraman said that when he first served on the board in 2011 there were 13,300 students; now there are 10,400.
“We need to change the programs and services – add, for example, dual language, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) to attract and retain students and teachers.”