Educational Support in the San Ramon Valley

History of the Danville-Alamo AAUW Branch’s support for education in the SRVUSD
By Marianne Gagen

In 1970, shortly after the branch was formed, branch president Sandy Varco learned of other branches in the US who had supported the teachers in their districts by acting as substitute teachers to release teachers for staff development. The Lawrence Hall of Science had recently opened and was offering week long staff development for teachers in science. The SRVUSD (San Ramon Valley Unified School District)¬†was not participating due to financial constraints. (So what else is new?) The branch decided to get behind this project and when Sandy proposed it to the superintendent, he couldn’t believe his ears.

Ultimately 14 teachers at all levels, elementary, junior high, and high school, were released. The non-credentialed members of the branch supported the credentialed members who were the substitute teachers, by providing day care and meal preparation services.

In the early 1970’s, the Balance of Nature Project supplemented the elementary science curriculum with a 20 minute flannel board and puppet show on ecology for the primary grades. All elementary schools were visited by about 10 volunteers.

In 1976, for the U.S. Bicentennial Celebration, the branch provided a readers’ theater presentation of Women in American History for the SRVUSD schools.

In the late 1970’s after Proposition 13 passed, and many education programs were cut, Florence McCauley started the Art in a Trunk project. This was a traveling art show in which volunteers from the branch visited elementary classrooms with trunks that were filled with art supplies and lesson plans for art projects that were grade level appropriate. In many classes, this was the only art instruction that the students received.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the branch started the After School Foreign Language Program for elementary students. The nominal fee for service classes met once a week at various elementary schools and provided instruction in Spanish, French, and German for second through sixth grade students. The fee covered the cost of supplies and snacks for the students. This program continued for 2-3 years until its popularity outstripped the ability of the branch treasurer to handle all of the finances. It was turned over to the Danville Community Center who promptly doubled the fee.

The SRVUSD Speech Contest was started by Susan O’Hair who was an AAUW member and a junior high school teacher in the district. For three years, Jan Geahry from the Danville-Alamo Branch provided the organization as a volunteer and recruited 100 judges from the Danville-Alamo and San Ramon branches for the speech contest. Many of the teachers who participated were AAUW members. Later the district took it over, and Jan continued the coordination of the contest for 13 more years.This project continues today with the popularity of the contest and the size of it requiring many more judges than the Danville-Alamo and San Ramon Branches can provide by themselves.

In the 1980’s the Danville-Alamo Branch started the Expanding Your Horizons Math and Science Conference for Girls in conjunction with Lawrence Livermore and Mills College who coordinated it as a national program. This conference is a one day event that features hands on workshop sessions exposing middle school age girls to careers in math and science. The branch provided the organization and support services for the conference. Originally it was so popular that students from Tracy and other areas were brought to the conference by bus. This conference continues today with support from the branches.

In 1983, our branch was represented by Julie Lundstedt and Florence McAuley on the founding board of the San Ramon Valley Education Foundation (SRVEF). In the early 1990’s, several AAUW members (Jan Geahry, Leslie Vilhauer, Carol Hughes, Julie Lundstedt, Chris Kenber, among others) became SRVEF Board members, and revitalized the Foundation by providing new focus and blood. They rewrote the bylaws to include provisions to allow it to take positions on issues related to funding and educational programs in the school district. Throughout the years, many of our members have served on the SRVEF Board and on the SRVEF Endowment Committee.

In the mid 1980’s, the branch was involved with the Global Education Project. Along with Social Studies teachers from the high schools, Merilyn Milam served on that board for three or four years with a network that included people from the World Affairs Counsel in SF, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and other districts throughout the Bay Area. The purpose of the group was to spread knowledge of world cultures by developing curriculum and providing staff development for teachers. It finally met its end with the onset of state standards that left little time for cultural explorations.

In the mid 1980’s, AAUW initiated a teacher inservice program. AAUW members participated on a committee of SRVUSD staff to plan a staff development day in which teachers put on workshops for other teachers in the district. AAUW members coordinated the food service and helped with the logistics on the day itself.

For many years, our branch had an education representative who attended school board meetings to stay on top of what was happening in the district, especially during the time when there were attempts at censorship. Our rep had a head-to-head in a board meeting with Superintendent Streshly over the elimination of Planned Parenthood materials meant as background for teachers who were teaching sex education.

In the mid 80’s our branch did an in depth study of the DECIDE Drug Education curriculum from the Center for Human Development that was implemented by parent volunteers in our district. After an exhaustive review, our branch concluded that not only was there nothing wrong with the curriculum, but that it was exemplary. It ultimately was censored by the school board who responded to a small but vocal contingent of vociferous parents.

Censorship became an issue again when the school board set up the Curriculum Review Committee of parents to review curriculum that had been developed by the nurse educators and health teachers in the district for drug and sex education. AAUW was given one representative who along with the PTA rep was outvoted throughout. As a result the health curriculum in the district was basically reduced to little more than “Just Say No.”

During the 1989-90 school year, the school board appointed a Finance Committee to review the district’s budget and make recommendations as to how the district could improve their budgetary procedures. Two branch members, Chris Kenber, who became chair of the committee, and Joan Buchanan, who became vice-chair were appointed to the committee. Later, sensing that the committee’s conclusions were not going to be flattering, the school board attempted to pack the committee with people more amenable to writing a less damaging report. The committee resigned and this gavvide by themselves.

In the 1980’s the Danville-Alamo Branch started the Expanding Your Horizons Math and Science Conference for Girls in conjunction with Lawrence Livermore and Mills College who coordinated it as a national program. This conference is a one day event that features hands on workshop sessions exposing middle school age girls to careers in math and science. The branch provided the organization and support services for the conference. Originally it was so popular that students from Tracy and other areas were brought to the conference by bus. This conference continues today with support from the branches.

In 1983, our branch was represented by Julie Lundstedt and Florence McAuley on the founding board of the San Ramon Valley Education Foundation. In the early 1990’s, several AAUW members (Jan Geahry, Leslie Vilhauer, Carol Hughes, Julie Lundstedt, Chris Kenber, among others) became SRVEF Board members, and revitalized the Foundation by providing new focus and blood. They rewrote the bylaws to include provisions to allow it to take positions on issues related to funding and educational programs in the school district. Throughout the years, many of our members have served on the SRVEF Board and on the SRVEF Endowment Committee.

In the mid 1980’s, the branch was involved with the Global Education Project. Along with Social Studies teachers from the high schools, Merilyn Milam served on that board for three or four years with a network that included people from the World Affairs Counsel in SF, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and other districts throughout the Bay Area. The purpose of the group was to spread knowledge of world cultures by developing curriculum and providing staff development for teachers. It finally met its end with the onset of state standards that left little time for cultural explorations.

In the mid 1980’s, AAUW initiated a teacher inservice program. AAUW members participated on a committee of SRVUSD staff to plan a staff development day in which teachers put on workshops for other teachers in the district. AAUW members coordinated the food service and helped with the logistics on the day itself.

For many years, our branch had an education representative who attended school board meetings to stay on top of what was happening in the district, especially during the time when there were attempts at censorship. Our rep had a head-to-head in a board meeting with Superintendent Streshly over the elimination of Planned Parenthood materials meant as background for teachers who were teaching sex education.

In the mid 80’s our branch did an in depth study of the DECIDE Drug Education curriculum from the Center for Human Development that was implemented by parent volunteers in our district. After an exhaustive review, our branch concluded that not only was there nothing wrong with the curriculum, but that it was exemplary. It ultimately was censored by the school board who responded to a small but vocal contingent of vociferous parents.

Censorship became an issue again when the school board set up the Curriculum Review Committee of parents to review curriculum that had been developed by the nurse educators and health teachers in the district for drug and sex education. AAUW was given one representative who along with the PTA rep was outvoted throughout. As a result the health curriculum in the district was basically reduced to little more than “Just Say No.”

e fuel to the recall campaign that had already been initiated.

In 1990, after the national AAUW changed its policy to allow branches to endorse non partisan candidates, the Danville-Alamo and San Ramon Branches held the first of many succeeding Candidate Forums for the SRVUSD School Board Election. After questioning each of the candidates publicly, the members vote to endorse the candidates who best meet the princiles that AAUW stands for. Although not all of them were endorsed by either the Danville-Alamo or San Ramon branches, over the years, several members of both branches have been elected to the school board: (in alphabetical order) Joan Buchanan, JoAnne Erickson, Marianne Gagen, Stuart Goldware, Kia Hatch, Chris Kenber, Judy Locker, Karen Stepper.

Since the 1990’s Local Scholarships have been awarded to many young women who have lived in or attended school in the San Ramon Valley and who have junior, senior, or graduate standing at an accredited, four-year college or university.

In 1998, the branch decided to support Tech Trek, a week long summer program for incoming 8th grade girls to introduce them to a wide variety of careers. The branch raises funds and gives scholarships to 12 middle school girls in the Danville, Alamo, and Walnut Creek area.

Throughout the years, countless members have held leadership positions in the PTA’s and in the many attempts by the SRVUSD to pass school bonds and parcel taxes. In 1991, Carol Hughes and Joanne Hahn were co chairs of the successful Measure A school bond campaign. In 1998 and 2002, several members helped with the successful Measure D and Measure A school bond elections. In 2004, Gail Clark headed up the successful parcel tax election. Both branches of AAUW have endorsed every parcel tax and bond election of the SRVUSD.

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