HomeCity NewsStatements of the Seven San Marino School Board Candidates

Statements of the Seven San Marino School Board Candidates

Editor’s Note: The San Marino Tribune is pleased to print the statements of the seven candidates for three open seats on the San Marino School Board at the November 6 election. The candidates were given a 750-word limit for their statement. The candidate’s position on these pages is the result of a blind, impartial draw.

– Mitch Lehman


As a Governing Board candidate for San Marino schools, I am committed to providing the best education for San Marino students that can be achieved. Through collaboration with the team of Board members and district leaders, we will evaluate the policies that have been serving our students well and continue to build upon that excellence, to ensure all students are receiving a high-quality and balanced education. We need to work together with the community and schools to determine our educational vision and priorities in the best interests of our students.

Teaching and learning is at the heart of San Marino schools, and all programs should be studied to determine how they can be adapted to fit the needs and interests of the students in our community. Students in San Marino are faced with enormous pressure to succeed, and the schools need to create a challenging, yet nurturing learning environment that helps them find that success on multiple levels. Education has changed in the last twenty years in ways never seen before, with a rise in technology and industry that expects students to be well prepared to meet new challenges outside the classroom. Teaching to those changes requires examining our curriculum and instructional methods to maximize the learning potential of our children. Curriculum must be well developed and consistent. Our teachers, as valued partners, need to be trained and supported to deliver that curriculum. When students learn, they can be inspired to take that knowledge to another level that relates to real world application, which will prepare them for the challenges they will face after high school.

Our school district should be financially responsible in managing our assets and resources. The Board must evaluate how money is allocated, to ensure all students are receiving instructional services and support in a safe and appropriate environment. The community has long been generous in its support of schools through special taxes and donations, and the district must also look for additional sources of funding to support learning. We must be realistic, practical and innovative to determine how we can meet the various financial needs of our schools so that students can be exposed to a wide range of academic and extracurricular opportunities that inspire them to unlock their passion and potential.

For all of these goals to be accomplished, the Board and district must make up a strong leadership team that supports student learning. The Board must be collaborative with and accessible to the community it serves, to ensure accountability and responsibility. Board leadership must support school leaders, teachers and staff who always consider the student experience first before all other priorities. The culture of the schools will be reflected in the school leadership—leaders who are collaborative, diligent and smart will inspire staff and students to do their best. Leadership that is cooperative and innovative will model for our students the way to reach their highest potential in how they learn and how they work.

In all the work of the Board and district, there must be a demonstrated commitment to honest and open communication within the community as we work to identify problems and find solutions together. Everyone shares the same goal—to support our students to become their best, most fulfilled selves. It is only through sharing information, taking the time to work together, and engaging with one another that we will know where our priorities lie as a community, so that we can work to make that vision a reality. The community of San Marino has a rich history of mutual support that has achieved amazing results, whether in fundraising or at Grad Night, carnivals or the classroom. It is through communication and teamwork that we can achieve more, together. And through such collaboration, relationships and community are built.

I am excited to envision working with parents, schools and students to continue building a strong school district and community. The students of San Marino never cease to amaze me in their intelligence, enthusiasm and creativity. We owe it to our students to model a community that works hard to set and meet goals together. It is only through support and trust that we can all rise up together to raise healthy, happy and successful children who are well prepared for their bright futures ahead. Please vote for me to be your Governing Board Member for the San Marino Unified School District. Thank you.

Jane has lived in San Marino for almost ten years with four children in San Marino schools, SMHS through kindergarten, starting in fall 2019. Jane has a master’s degree from Stanford in Education Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation and worked as a teacher, college-student adviser and education research program manager before becaming a stay-at-home mom. Volunteer roles include Carver Carnival chair and Carver PTA vice president. She was awarded the Carver Golden Nugget in 2014.



Dear friends,

I humbly ask for your support as I run for re-election of my fifth term on the San Marino Unified School Board. I submit to you that my role represents San Marino tradition and I have been invited to run again to continue those traditions for you.

I believe I can contribute the following: First, I will provide 17 years of proven experience from the combination of previous successful school boards that you know well.

Second, I will continue to connect people and resources through my personal and professional background.

My lovely wife and I have lived in San Marino since 1991. Our kids learned their values at Valentine, Huntington, and San Marino High School and now practice as physicians in your community. My kids sat in the same desks as your kids, so I understand what you value. For nearly two decades, I have worked with you to build the better system we wanted for our children.

As a four-time incumbent, you already know my qualifications. A review can be found at JosephChang2018.com. It includes serving as a Hospital CEO and serving on 18+ civic board positions and 25+ organizations served throughout the San Gabriel Valley including San Marino City Club, Rotary Club and Chinese Club. To highlight a few other positions, I currently serve on the Board of Overseers at The Huntington Library, Board of Directors at Huntington Medical Research Institutes and am a Caltech Associate board member.

One of my fondest experiences is always standing next you under those bright Titan football stadium lights during Homecoming and seeing your children’s smiling faces. Back in 2005, I heard your voice to renovate the field because I understood your vision: from the ground up, you wanted a better common space for our kids to meet up and grow on and the best environment they would always treasure. I hope this example in transforming your voice into a reality represents my dedication to matching your evolving expectations.

To that end, I invite you to remember the triumphs we secured for our kids over the last two decades. Recall, these were victories that were hard won during the worst financial recession in recent memory. These were what seemed to be insurmountable challenges then, but objectively what we achieved together include:

*Measure E in 2003, including my role as Co-Chair, raising money while accountably reducing our budget by $2.5 million and avoiding elimination of school programs.

*Renovation of the Titan Stadium field in 2005.

*All schools continuously awarded California Distinguished and Federal Blue Ribbon schools.

*18 years being ranked #1 by the California Department of Education’s API and CAASPP.

*Protection of 2-4 times increase of property values associated with SMUSD’s reputation of educational excellence since 2001.

Beyond continued success, my next goal for 2018-2022 is transparency and increasing safety and stability of the district and continuing San Marino’s great reputation. We have already started a curriculum that meets Next Generation Science Standards and partnerships in the community for your children, like our Stem partnership with Caltech. It is irrefutable that SMUSD sets up your child for achievement in college, and makes successful citizens with good hearts in the real world. I hope to accountably oversee the Barth Athletics Complex and Titan Wellness Center and continue to match or exceed the highest levels of security in the nation for our school system.

For those of us who no longer have children in the district, I appreciate your vote as a resounding affirmation for continuing San Marino’s traditional values. Beyond our duty to provide great education, it is a practical matter to uphold educational excellence as it is associated with our property values.

I have been invited to run again to serve as a stabilizing force for the District. Just as I love San Marino as my home, I volunteer on the board as a labor of love. In hindsight, while I welcome new life and ideas on the board, it may take up to two years for a new school board member to learn how to oversee the District. However, the success of our board was created through passing down decades of experience. Once again, I humbly ask for your vote to continue this tradition of success for our children. The success of the SMUSD is built from the ground up with your help. I will transparently work hard to make your voice heard. It will bring me great joy when I shake your child’s hand at graduation and when I see them successful and happy out in the world. Thank you.

C. Joseph Chang has lived with his wife, Shwu, in San Marino since 1991 and is the proud father of two Eagle Scout sons who completed K-12 education in SMUSD. Joseph has been working as an active hospital executive in Greater Los Angeles hospitals. As a dedicated volunteer in the San Marino community, Joseph has served on SMUSD’s Governing Board for 17 years as the Board President in 2006, 2013 and 2017.



San Marino Unified School District needs new leaders who, while gratefully acknowledging the service and contributions of a prior generation of leadership, will bring a fresh set of eyes and an orientation toward new solutions for today’s ever changing learning environment. As a former tenured teacher with over ten years of high school teaching experience and a father of three and soon to be four children in San Marino Schools, I am fully vested in the success of the San Marino Schools. The education of my children and the children of our community depends on upholding our tradition of educational excellence. The following represent my priorities and the framework from which I make decisions.

Without question, the hiring of a new superintendent is the most important decision facing the new school board. This decision should be made within a deliberative framework that includes input from multiple stakeholder groups—parents, teachers, administrators, and other city leaders. We need a superintendent who is accomplished but also someone who will foster respect, trust and decorum within our community. The new superintendent’s leadership skill must be evidenced through the demonstrated confidence in their leadership by his or her prior constituency. I will ensure that the process is open and transparent to foster a strong consensus among all stakeholders.

Periodic economic downturns will occur. Will we be prepared? The current economic expansion is an opportunity to prepare for the lean years to come. As a school board member, I will apply a conservative approach to budgeting and seek to apply funding to areas that will most impact and enhance student learning and college preparedness including a well-articulated CTE curriculum, community partnerships, classroom resources, as well as teacher pay, recruitment, recognition and engagement. I will seek transparency regarding our budget and spending process to foster confidence in our future and our leadership as board members.

Regarding the need for fiscal sustainability, as a current trustee of the San Marino Schools Foundation, I believe the Foundation can make a tremendous contribution to our fiscal soundness. Annually, the foundation supports our schools with a $2MM unrestricted contribution and has a small but growing endowment. I would like to realize a much larger endowment and see a significant increase in the annual support. Fostering even greater transparency regarding budgeting and spending on the part of the school board will promote confidence that will in turn promote greater giving.

Much has been said in the preceding months regarding the withdrawn bond issue. The bond issue represents a significant miscalculation on the part of the current board and recent superintendent. In the world public charities, one of the most important aspects of a fundraising campaign is a feasibility study that determines the appetite of stakeholders to take on the responsibility for a major fundraising effort. A written case for support is presented to stakeholders who in turn provide feedback used to modify the scope of the campaign and desired outcomes. Clearly, a similar step was missed in the bond issue process and a significant portion of the community did not consider the imposition of a large household tax to be justified by the anticipated benefits and outcomes.

Furthermore, a matter that does not appear to have received sufficient consideration but has been pointed out previously by others is the impact of the bond issue upon charitable contributions to the Foundation whose annual funding is critically important to our schools. I am quite certain that a household tax of approximately $2,000 in addition to the current assessments would result in a decline in annual contributions to the foundation and could result in a significant handicap to our schools. Recent tax legislation limiting the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT) makes the timing of the bond issue even more unfortunate.

My experience as a tenured teacher, university professor, fundraising executive and current philanthropic wealth advisor uniquely qualifies me to serve on the school board at this critical juncture in our history as a district.

As a community—we will be much better positioned for the future by diligently and painstakingly building a culture of trust—from the Superintendent’s office, through school hallways and into the hearts and minds of residents. I am committed to pursuing this culture of trust and respectfully request your support on Election Day.

Steve Sommers, Ph.D. is a Philanthropic Advisor providing advice to individuals and non-profit organizations in the areas of gift planning, endowment management and board governance. He is also a former tenured public school teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience and has over 17 years of service as a senior adjunct professor at a local university. Previously, he served as an Assistant Vice Chancellor at Pepperdine University. He and his wife, Meredith, are the proud district parents of four children.



For the past 5 years I have had the honor of serving you as a member of the San Marino School Board.

I am now asking for you to re-elect me to the SMUSD Board of Education and for you to entrust me with one of your three votes on November 6, so that I can continue my mission to maximize student achievement and achieve the highest educational environmental for our students. I am committed to building on the excellence SMUSD has achieved in the past 5 years that I have served on the school board.

I am an experienced and knowledgeable educator with over 35 years in the public schools as a teacher, counselor and school administrator. My focus always has been, and remains, on giving our children the highest quality education that provides each student with the tools for their future success. We achieve that by maximizing their individual educational experience, promoting student centered-learning and engagement, and providing a challenging, enriched environment, so that students upon their graduation from SMUSD have the tools to follow their dreams. I am the only candidate who has actual experience with the implementation of school district policies and the impact of a school board’s decisions on your child’s classroom experience. I am also the only candidate with experience related to the management of school instruction. Through my work as a high school teacher, counselor, and Principal, I am thoroughly knowledgeable at the most practical level on what is necessary for students to achieve their post-secondary educational objectives.

I am a longtime resident of San Marino and share your values. As a parent of three children who have gone through our school system beginning at Valentine Elementary School, then Huntington Middle School, and graduating from San Marino High School, I share your values for our children. For the past 23 years I have been an active and engaged member of the San Marino community and have worked to better the opportunities and experiences of the children in our schools. I have volunteered extensively at all school levels and served on the SMUSD Academic Advisory Board. Consistent with those shared values, I am committed to ensuring that our school district (1) implements meaningful on-going performance evaluation for both teachers and administrators, so that our students receive excellent instruction at all levels (2) ensures our students are successful under the Common Core State Standards and CAASPP and ELPAC testing (3) thoroughly prepares children of all levels and abilities for college or post-secondary education (4) improves our excellence in academics, arts, and athletics while emphasizing prudent financial practices to avoid unnecessary expenditures that do not directly benefit our students and (5) remains vigilant to potential threats to the safety and well-being of our students and staff.

Since I have always valued your input, I have often communicated daily with many of you and have carefully listened to your concerns about your children’s education and your perspective about various issues facing our school district. I believe in transparency to the fullest extent of the law and I have acted with that openness and commitment as your Board member. I encourage all discussions because I believe that school board members serve the public and should be accountable for the decisions they make. If re-elected, I will continue to be accessible to all members of our school community, to advocate for the best interests of our children, and to make decisions to ensure that our children have the best public education in the State of California.

I am proud of the following partial list of what we have accomplished during my first term on the Board.

Top Performing School District Ranking on the CAASPP

All four schools have National Blue Ribbon and California Distinguished School
accolade Developed Partnership With Stakeholders to Build the Barth Athletic Complex

Implement Wellness strategy including Mental Health Academy, CAASPP student Intervention Program, Mindfulness Program throughout district with Wellness Center at SMHS,

Introduced new robust STEM programs including Computer Science classes, FIRST Robotics engagement, and the Next Generation Science program throughout the district

Implement SMHS honors class in partnership with Huntington Library (Honors Humanities – received CSBA Golden Bell Award) and Caltech (STEM Research Class)

In meeting the challenges facing our educational community, we need Board members who have experience, breadth and depth of knowledge, and a positive passion for education, our schools, and our students. I believe that I am the most experienced and qualified candidate to confront these challenges. I am eager to continue to serve you as a school board member and am committed to providing the best educational experience for our students. I again ask for your vote on November 6 allowing me to continue to build on the excellence I have achieved in the past five years.

Shelley Ryan is the President of the San Marino School Board and the acting Principal at Ynez Elementary, K-8 in Monterey Park. She and husband Kelly, a Civil Litigation Business Attorney, have lived in San Marino for 22 years and have 3 college graduated children. Shelley is an active member of the Academic Advisory Committee at SMHS, Member of the San Marino Community Church, on the Board of the Friends of the Crowell Public Library, and a Member of the City Club.



As an SMUSD parent, I believe student success in today’s rapidly evolving world requires an educational environment that maximizes each child’s potential. Through smaller class size, excellent educators, meaningful family engagement, individualized guidance counseling, transparent and responsible resource utilization, and community support for modernization of policies and facilities, SMUSD will foster highly educated, well-rounded, healthy, young adults properly equipped to lead a successful future. Further, the value of our students’ education defines the valuation of our community. Our students and community deserve superior results.

For our students to lead in globally competitive college admissions and future career paths, SMUSD must assess and modernize course offerings, research and implement creative and innovative strategies, all while providing safe and secure campuses against modern campus intruders and cyber security threats.

We must acknowledge our children’s diverse interests. They learn in a variety of ways and course offerings should be equally diverse. SMUSD is a successful district. However, we must always explore and consider successful strategies and programs with other educational institutions. By seeking creative, innovative and proven educational strategies, SMUSD will remain on top as the educational landscape evolves. More importantly, the quality of our children’s education will strengthen, and soar.

SMUSD must continue to reach into our surrounding community to build relationships to open doors for each SMUSD student across the spectrum. Our Cal Tech STEM Research course and Humanities course at The Huntington are an excellent start. Now we must develop similar opportunities to encompass all students. Such options as dual enrollment at a local community college, should be explored as a potential viable option in expanding opportunities for all students.

When alternative sources of funding are available, such as the City of San Marino exploring School Resource Officer funding, outside grants, or matching state funds, we must ambitiously and aggressively secure those funds for the education and safety of our students. Every day, month and year we wait to implement plans for quality programs and facilities, we miss an opportunity to provide for today’s students, our students, our children. Let’s move past distraction, channel our passion in a constructive direction and explore our needs, research viable options, consider the evidence, implement policy and make it happen, for our children.

We are a community fueled by passion, especially for our children and their future. Yet we should be mindful that as we engage with each other in our community with differing viewpoints, we must be aware:

Our children are listening.

Our children are watching.

Our children are learning.

Children find opportunity to learn in every situation. Therefore, as a community, we must recognize this opportunity to teach our children, through example, healthy conflict resolution strategies, constructive communication and community support. Let’s creatively work together, channel our passion in a constructive fashion and keep San Marino schools on top!

Our elementary school focus should incorporate foreign language, along with expanded music, STEM, art and computer lab programs.

Our middle school focus should include a robust guidance counseling program aimed at student wellness and academic planning as the counselor follows students through the middle and high school. While recognizing our children learn in different ways, we should work to offer hands-on learning opportunities like wood shop, metal shop, drafting, etc. Providing children the opportunity to work with their hands by designing, planning, and constructing a product while understanding what tools to use, and why, develops fundamental and crucial life skills they will apply throughout their lives.

Our high school focus should open doors to expanded course offerings, by incorporating diverse CTE Pathways providing students an in-depth opportunity to specialize in their individual area of interest. Selection of CTE Pathway programs should include input from our community, including parents, students and alumni.

Our time to explore, research and implement these programs is now. Each day is an opportunity to educate. As children move through our schools, delay does not create a “later” opportunity, but rather a “lost” opportunity.

As a San Marino Schools Foundation Trustee, I have worked with our community to reduce class size through increasing district funding. As a successful business owner, I understand the realities of working within a tight budget while achieving success. As a fiduciary, I understand the need to always place the district’s interests above my own. As a parent, I understand it’s now time to secure our students’ success. Once elected, these principles will guide my policy decisions.

Michael Killackey and his wife Stefanie moved to San Marino for our schools. His 4th grade son attends Valentine and his 7th grade son attends Huntington. As a Schools Foundation Trustee, Michael Killackey volunteers time to maximize our schools’ resources, as a School Board Member Michael Killackey will work to maximize EVERY child’s potential. Michael Killackey invites each of us to visit killackey4smusd.us and call him for a constructive conversation about advancing our children’s future.



As a board member my aim will be to bring my expertise in finance to ensure every possible dollar is directed to our children’s classrooms.

Professionally I have worked for over 23 years in accounting, financial controllership and financial planning and believe this perspective is needed on the board to ensure the district makes the most of its funding.

San Marino Unified does many things very well and as I talk to parents and residents, there are areas where we can do even better. The best organizations in the world are constantly innovating and SMUSD should be no different.

Colleges have been changing the way applicants are evaluated for admission, which means we must be proactive in offering more ways for students to distinguish themselves in order to keep our competitive edge. As a Board member, I will work to create opportunities for students to demonstrate their interests such as fully articulated CTE pathways and dual enrollment in college, programs for which external funding is available. I will also support more extensive Honors and AP course offerings, and will advocate they be less restrictive and inclusive of more students, considering the overall high caliber of our student body.

A key task that the newly seated board will have to tackle is selecting a new superintendent. While the superintendent is somewhat of a CEO and needs to be strong in many areas, I feel the next superintendent needs to have a very strong curriculum background. Someone who has a track record of seeing trends in curriculum and program offerings and leading the way to make changes. I feel SMUSD, especially at the high school level, has largely rested on its laurels. So much focus has been placed on certain rankings that necessary changes in the curriculum to keep SMHS students competitive have not yet been made. A strong superintendent is needed to respond to these urgent needs.

Because of the way that California funds public education, communities like San Marino rely heavily on the community to fund high quality programs. In San Marino roughly 18% of the district’s funding comes from parcel taxes and contributions to the Schools Foundation. I want to make sure that our community has confidence in how all district funds are spent so that we are able to trust our investment is spent well. This will give the District and the Schools Foundation a much stronger position when they are fundraising and the parcel tax renewal comes to a vote.

Another key issue that will likely be coming on a future ballot will be a bond to improve the safety and general conditions of the school campuses. I believe the bond proposal that was put forward earlier this year didn’t engage with the community enough for the district to understand what projects would be supported by residents. After walking the campuses and reviewing the capital needs and deferred maintenance reports, it is clear there are some projects that are badly needed. The Board and District need to develop a focused list of projects with robust cost estimates and work closely with the community to come up with a proposal that will have broad support.

Another key area where we can improve is communication and transparency. I have heard from so many in our community about their struggles getting information from the district or understanding certain policies or decisions. A few simple changes could go a long way to turn this around. One thing that would help right off would be to live stream board meetings and archive them so people can go back and watch. This would make it easier for parents and others in the community that are unable to attend to better understand the business of the district. Our families are the customers of the district and it’s imperative that they feel heard and are given excellent customer service when concerns arise.

It is encouraging to see that all of the new candidates in the race this year are parents with students in the district. I have a third grader, so I have a vested interest in driving improvements across schools at all levels.

With three open seats we have a wonderful opportunity to select members who will bring skills and life experiences that complement each other for the good of the district. I look forward to serving with others who’s varied skill sets will combine with mine for a strong board to lead SMUSD into the future.

Learn more about my campaign at barberieforschoolboard.com

Corey Barberie is a vice president and financial controller at an entertainment company, where he has been employed over 23 years. He works with colleagues all over the world and lived in Amsterdam for two years prior to meeting his wife Jennifer. Jennifer grew up in San Marino, is active in the Carver PTA, a Brownie leader and started the San Marino Moms In Prayer group. They have one daughter at Carver Elementary School. He earned a BS in Accounting from San Diego State and an MBA from USC.



Editor’s Note: John Gabriel has changed his statement from its original form, which was sent to The Tribune on October 2.

I am a long-time resident of San Marino. My wife Jameela Chen Gabriel and I are proud parents of three children who are part of the K.L. Carver Elementary school community.

My number one priority is to ensure that each of our students is fully equipped to go directly to an institute of higher learning of their choice, as this district has historically enabled them to do. I will focus on practical matters first, to ensure that our teachers at all levels are properly supported and given the necessary resources to maximize their teaching environment. I will work to ensure adequate course offerings across the school district so that when our students leave the district, they are best equipped with the skills and knowledge to achieve any goals they have in mind. I want the SMUSD #1 rating to be evident in every student that moves on to new challenges.

I will serve as a clear and open channel of communication between the school district and the San Marino community at large, and ensure that the school district reflects the diversity of the San Marino community. I will work tirelessly to guarantee all San Marino parents are a meaningful part of the educational process

I bring to the table my proven ability to arrive at creative yet practical solutions. This combined with my business acumen, makes me uniquely suited for a position on the school board. I want to make the San Marino Unified School District the #1 choice for San Marino residents by bringing to the position my experience with making organizations thrive.

I am an active volunteer at Carver Elementary School and am regularly involved in fund raising activities throughout the year. I serve as the Head Coach of Carver Elementary Golden Phoenix Lego League Team and as a member of the Carver Elementary Safety Committee. I am a parent and community advocate whose actions speak volumes about my commitment to students. Let’s make San Marino Unified School District the best it can be by joining me in working for the best School District for all our students.

I want to ensure that all stakeholders within the San Marino Unified school district have the tools they need to succeed.

You can reach me at johncgabriel@gmail.com and 626-869-9004 Website: www.facebook.com/JohnGabrielforSMUSDBoard

John Gabriel is a director and management consultant serving public, private and governmental sector clients. John and his wife, Jameela –a local physician – live in San Marino and have three children ages 10, 7 and 4. At Carver Elementary, John coaches a Lego League team and is a member of the Safety Committee. John served on active duty in the US Army for six years. John earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Pepperdine University.


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