BYRON -- Keeping student achievement on an upward climb despite uncertainties about funding is on the minds of the three candidates vying for two seats the Byron Union School District board.
Incumbent Ken Silman is running for his third term on the board against challengers business manager Mark McBride and stay-at-home mom Bobbi Greene.
Incumbent Bobbi Nugent is not seeking re-election.
All three candidates said that continued decreases in revenue from the state budget, along with increasing expenses, is the most difficult challenge on the horizon.
Byron Union, which has an operating budget of about $11.8 million, did not have to lay off any teachers this past year, increase class sizes or have furlough days. Its two elementary school eclipsed the 800 mark on its Academic Performance Index scores, the state mark for proficiency. Its lone middle school, Excelsior Middle, scored a 794.
Silman, 38, is running because he wants to be true to the message the district set years ago of establishing continuity and consistency.
"We had had a high turnover rate of teachers, and we knew our kids would do better if we kept them. We've got a lot of veteran teachers now," said Silman, a teacher at Brentwood's Heritage High School. "We've also had pretty good consistency with our elementary principals."
Silman, who lives in Byron, also has a sixth-grader and a second-grader in the district, along with some nieces and nephews, which he says put him "still in the middle of it."
Silman would like to see the district's budget picture improve such that the ratio of students-to-teacher in each classroom could again be reduced to 20 to 1, but notes that the budget picture has to be clear so the district is not changing ratios each year and frustrating teachers.
He also wants to see some focus on improving test scores at the middle school level while maintaining the high standards at the elementary schools.
"We keep taking away and expecting the same thing, and it's a credit to the people in our district that we keep improving. It shows they're working double time," he said.
McBride, 48, is running because he wants to give back to a school district that has treated his children well, especially his special needs son.
"It's been just a wonderful experience. I want to ensure that other children have that as well," said McBride, who has twin eighth-graders at Excelsior and a sophomore at Liberty High School.
"I take public service very seriously," McBride said.
He has been involved in Delta Baseball & Softball League, including creating a league for developmentally disabled children and young adults. His professional background will serve him well in keeping the district on solid financial footing, he said.
"The district is in the black; we just need to keep it there," he said.
Among the concerns for the Discovery Bay man is finding out why there is a drop off of test scores for kids once they enter middle school and what can be done to change that. Perhaps one of the reasons is that some district teachers have less passion for the job, he said.
Byron Union should do more for teachers as far as providing resources and equitable pay and showing them appreciation, he said.
"I think it can affect the kids," McBride said. "We need to find out what we can do to help bring their passion back and do it," he said.
Greene, 36, says she is running because there is a vacant seat, and believes that the board has been leading the district in the right direction.
"Hopefully, I can bring a bit of a new blood to the board and a different perspective and ideas," she said.
The mother of two -- a seventh-grader at Excelsior and a sophomore at Liberty -- volunteers often in the classrooms and has established relationships with some of the teachers and staff.
"I think I'm able to bring that parent perspective to the board and hopefully we can get more parents involved and being a part of something big," she said.
An 11-year Discovery Bay resident, Greene says she is a firm believer in the idea of No Child Left Behind and wants to make sure all students are successful, along with teachers.
"There have been a lot of cuts to the classroom. It's important to praise (teachers) and let them know they are appreciated and make sure they have what they need," she said.
Increasing the number of parent volunteers could alleviate some of the burden placed on teachers, she said.
Greene admits she will have a learning curve if elected, but says she's been attending meetings and studying up on the district budget and the state ballot initiatives that could affect funding.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.