DUBLIN — Chris Funk’s position at the helm of the Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) officially began July 1.
He’s now gearing up to tackle the unique challenges of a growing community returning to school after a pandemic.
The DUSD Board of Trustees selected Funk in May 2021 after an extensive search, which began in May 2019, following the March resignation of former Superintendent Leslie Boozer. Dave Marken filled the role on a short-term basis as the district searched for a permanent replacement from April 2019 until his resignation in June 2020. Daniel R. Moirao, Ed.D. then served as interim superintendent before Funk stepped in.
A native of San Jose, Funk comes to DUSD with more than 30 years in public education. Over the last nine years, he served as the superintendent of East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD), which consists of 16 high schools with a combined enrollment of approximately 26,500, as well as an Adult Education program that serves another 4,000 students. Prior to his time at ESUHSD, Funk spent five years in district office leadership roles in the San Jose Unified School District as the assistant superintendent of the Division of Instruction and director of Human Resources.
Noting that Dublin grew 93% from 2010 to 2020, Funk said he’s excited to bring his experience of working for a larger population to the once-small DUSD as it adjusts to its rapid growth.
“The biggest thing I want to portray is that I'm here for the long haul. My track record shows that,” he said. “I hope to bring stability. I hope to bring a level of professionalism. I hope to bring a level of engagement, and with that, I think trust will be built.”
Funk said there’s currently a lack of trust in the system, which he believes stems from its high turnover.
“The last four or five years there has been tremendous turnover, and turnover leads to a lack of trust,” he said. “And when there’s a lack of trust, even a good system will fall to the wayside, because there’s no accountability and people begin to operate in silos.”
As students return to the classroom this year following the closures from the pandemic, Funk recognized that students and staff alike will have a different set of needs in 2021 and beyond.
“We have to make sure we focus on the whole child, as well as taking care of our employees,” he added. “It’s about developing relationships and understanding that kids aren’t going to respond to school as they did before the pandemic. We will be tasked with addressing the learning loss and trauma that’s impacted so many families … For some kids, they haven’t even been on their elementary or middle or high school campus yet ... It’s going to be a big transition. We have to welcome kids back at where they’re at. I don’t mean to say that we’re not going to teach early on. I’m just saying we need to respond differently to kids early on than we traditionally have.”
While it’s another challenge, Funk said he’s excited to problem-solve the issue of the district’s bond program deficit. He reported that an external audit should come before the board in September or early October to explain how the DUSD’s bond program became $200-250 million underfunded from what was originally projected.
“I think one of the challenges that the district has faced in the past is maybe they didn’t have the right levels of skill set from people who were overseeing the bond,” he continued. “I don’t think there was anything unlawful that took place — I think that people weren’t skilled at monitoring the bond program.”
Funk said that other possible reasons for the bond deficit included an inflation in construction costs and the district’s decision to build new facilities on school sites instead of modernizing, when possible, as it costs more to build than to modernize.
However, when it comes to building new campuses to accommodate the DUSD’s growing student population, Funk looks forward to the opening of Emerald High School in two to three years. He further said DUSD is also exploring options for an additional middle school or possibly returning to a K-6 model, so that the middle schools are only seventh and eighth grades. The latter option is least likely, he said, as it could be disruptive to the educational programs.
“I don’t know if it’s worth (the change to K-6), but it is an option, and we need to fully engage our stakeholders and educators,” he said. “Plans should be completed by September.”
Funk said the DUSD community has warmly welcomed him, and he looks forward to working with the district that produces “some amazing graduates.”
“Our job as public educators is to serve every child,” he continued. “I will always try to find those gaps to see that no student falls through our system.”