* Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of five stories profiling candidates in the Davis Board of Education race.
Parent and activist Nancy Peterson says she brings a portfolio of experience to bear as she seeks a seat on the Davis school board in the Nov. 6 election.
Peterson has had children at Montgomery Elementary in South Davis for 12 years — from the time the school opened. In 2009-10, Montgomery became the first campus in the Davis school district to enter Program Improvement status under the widely disliked federal No Child Left Behind legislation.
Birch Lane Elementary entered PI status in 2011-12, and several other Davis schools may follow suit this month as it becomes increasingly impossible to comply with the law’s requirement of 100 percent student proficiency in math and English by 2014.
Peterson does not offer an evaluation of the merits of the federal law. But she does say her experience at a school that has dealt with it would be an asset on the school board.
“And I would bring to the board the impact of a changing socioeconomic picture at a school, and how fluid we sometimes need to be as a school, in order to deal with a changing population,” Peterson added.
She emphasized that there are several avenues that support academic success.
“The goal is to produce students who become lifelong learners,” Peterson said. “One of the very important things to consider is what drives children to become successful. Children have have their own unique interests, and we need to foster those interests by keeping programs like music or athletics strong. Kids need these varied interests to stay engaged at school.”
Peterson — who has one child at Montgomery, another in the Da Vinci Charter Academy program at Emerson Junior High and a third at Davis High — added that “we need to look at things as a whole district. No program exists in isolation, and a decision (about a program) doesn’t happen in isolation. There’s a domino effect. We need to look at things in terms of all the children, not just certain special interests.
“As a district, we often look at children (who are performing) below grade level, and then we talk about GATE (Gifted and Talented Education). But there is this whole large group that exists between those two groups,” she continued. “We need to make sure that those children are also part of our planning and program decision-making — that we engage all of those children as well.
“One thing we need to focus on is the junior high school program. It tends to get lost in between the very engaged elementary school communities and the high school community. The junior highs get left in the middle. But a lot of what happens at junior high leads to high school.”
Peterson also points to her diverse background as a participant and leader in groups that support the school district.
“I was on the Site Council for five years at Montgomery Elementary, and three years at Harper Junior High,” she said. “I have been on the board of the Davis Bridge Foundation for seven years.” The foundation’s mission is to “strive to make college and academic success a realistic option and goal for all Davis students, regardless of income, race or ethnicity.”
Peterson also has been on the board of the Davis High School Blue & White Foundation, which helped raise money to build a new stadium, among other goals, and has been a supporter of the Davis Junior Blue Devils.
“I know the difficulties with fundraising and working on facility issues,” Peterson said. “The new stadium at Davis High has made a huge difference at the school and in the community — having a first-class track and playing field.”
Peterson said she would also look to look at Davis High’s course offerings in career technical education. “Are we reaching enough children?” she asked. “Are there enough courses available for students who are more drawn to CTE and ROP-type classes” as compared with programs for students whose goal is a four-year college?
Peterson grew up in the New York City metropolitan area, where she attended public schools. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Princeton University, a master’s degree in physical therapy from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Yeshiva University.
Her husband, Rob Peterson, is an orthopedic surgeon. The Peterson family has lived in Davis since 1998.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at email@example.com or 530-747-8055.