December 4, 2023


education gives you strength

Board of Education races pits newcomer against board veteran

Robert Goldman, a 10-year incumbent on the Marin County Board of Education, is being challenged in the Nov. 3 election by Felicia Agrelicus, a 25-year-old youth program director for Marin’s Spahr Center.

“I’m running for re-election mostly based on my record of accomplishments,” said Goldman, who was elected to his current seat representing Area 4 on the county board in December 2009 and before that served on the Kentfield school board for 16 years.

Goldman, who earned two teaching credentials and a graduate degree in law before retiring as an FBI agent, has been endorsed by Mary Jane Burke, Marin County superintendent of schools, and five of his six fellow board members.

Agrelicus, who works for Marin County’s only community agency devoted to serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said, “I believe in educational equity first and foremost. I have really deep connections with folks who are advocating for social equity. I have an active network of folks who are in the school system — students, teachers, administrators, families — who I am actively in contact with and collaborating with every day. This means I have an unparalleled understanding of what is happening on the ground in schools.”

Agrelicus and Goldman agree on a number of issues. Both oppose the idea of getting rid of the Marin County Office of Education as a cost-cutting move and support the idea of requiring high school students to take an ethnic studies course in order to graduate.

“It just has such a big impact on the students who are experiencing microaggression and marginalization,” Agrelicus said. “After I graduated high school, I majored in feminist, gender and sexuality studies in college, and I essentially had to relearn a lot of the history that I had learned in high school because it was sugar-coating things.”

Goldman said, “It should be required, but I also think they should expand it to include religion studies, the Muslims, the Jews and others.”

On one issue, however — whether to continue using school resource officers (SROs) in schools — the two candidates are miles apart. Earlier this year amid calls for policing reforms, Marin County supervisors put on hold plans to accept a $440,000 state grant to fund a second SRO for the unincorporated area of Marin for two years.

“I’m a strong proponent of school resource officers,” said Goldman. “The school resource officer is not there to arrest kids, or punish kids or take them to jail. They are there to stop fights and to prevent outsiders from coming in.

“They deal with the kids on a one-on-one basis,” he said. “They try to turn them around. I’m opposed to getting rid of them.”

Agrelicus opposes the continued use of resource officers.

“I support an increase of mental health resources and a decrease of police in schools,” she said.

Agrelicus said there is no data that proves that SROs prevent shootings or reduce crime levels in schools. She cites recent reports of a disproportionate number of black and Latino students being suspended or expelled from Marin schools as evidence that “there is racial inequity and differentials in policing in our county.”

According to Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, however, SROs do not get involved in suspensions and expulsions. Those decisions are handled by school administrators.

Agrelicus said, “I don’t think SROs are the ones that make decisions about discipline for students, but when that is the system in place in a school, teachers default to calling the SROs versus calling a restorative justice coordinator or something like that.”

Goldman said he fully supports the idea of consolidating Marin County’s 19 school districts to save money and has been since he served on the Kentfield board.

“We have too many superintendents;” he said, “We have too many principals. We have too much duplication.”

Agrelicus said she isn’t sure if consolidation is a good idea or not.

“There are a lot of really complicated components around this question,” she said.

“One of the pros of having more districts is that districts can make sure they’re providing the individualized attention and education that their students need,” Agrelicus said.

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