School district meetings would hardly be a new thing for , who has decided to take the plunge and run for a seat on the Piedmont Unified School District's Board of Education after years of volunteering in a range of school councils and committees.
Elliott has become increasingly entrenched in the workings of the district ever since the oldest of his three children, now a senior at Piedmont High School, was in fourth grade at Havens Elementary School.
An engineer and lawyer by training who works in the environmental policy arena, Elliott first got involved as part of the math and science support team at Havens. It was then that he says he first learned the word "differentiation"—the concept of adapting instruction to suit the needs and abilities of every student in a class. An interest in curriculum reviews followed.
Five years ago, Elliott joined the Mathematics Review Committee and the same year became a member of the GATE Advisory Council, where he helped develop the educational plan for gifted and talented students—an issue he's particularly passionate about, "as the parent of a very sharp kid."
He has also been a regular at site council meetings at the middle school and high school and sat in on the English Language Review Committee meetings, even though he didn't have an official seat at the table.
As a member of the school board, Elliott said he'd push for continued improvement in the district's involvement of the public and transparency around curriculum decisions. He pointed to dust-ups, including the recent uproar around the revision to the , "unnecessary."
Changes, he said, would go down easier if all the stakeholders were looped in earlier. And he said he would want administrators to explain their preference for a particular educational approach.
"The answer 'we're the professionals,' is never going to wash with me," he said. "Tell me why you have that view."
For the past two years, Elliott has turned his attention to district finances, advising the school board as the chair of the Citizens' Advisory Committee, which was established by the passage of parcel tax Measures B and E in 2009.
"When the CAC was created I volunteered for that, not because I love finance, but because that was clearly the critical set of issues," he said.
Over the summer Elliott said he finally came to the realization that in order to make an even bigger difference he had to be, "on the other side of the dais."
He noted that the district has been working for the last several years, as state funding has slumped, to match its educational program to a smaller financial footprint. As a member of the school board, Elliott said he would encourage more rigorous thinking about what that will entail if Piedmont wants to be sure its students have up-to-date knowledge of the world and technology 10 years from now.
"Are e-books ready to be economical yet?," Elliot listed as an example of questions he said needed to be asked. "As a board member with some clout … I'll volunteer to look into that … or set a date certain to get an answer [from administrators]."
Three spots on the school board are up for grabs in the Feb. 7 election, with June Monach terming out, Martha Jones deciding not to run again, and Rick Raushenbush facing reelection.
Former Giving Campaign chairwoman has also just jumped into the race.