SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE Heather de Roos: MBA for MBUSD
by Mark McDermott
Heather de Roos has accumulated several titles in recent years.
She’s the vice chair of the Board of Trustees for the Natural History Museum, vice president of fundraising for the Neptunian Club, and has held an array of leadership positions as a volunteer within the Manhattan Beach Unified School District, including PTA VP of Communications, PTA president of Grand View, and resident of the Manhattan Beach PTA Council. She is currently the MBEF representative to Manhattan Beach Middle School.
“I am all sorts of things,” de Roos said.
She also has a varied education, including an MBA from the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary and B.S. in Mathematics with a minor in English from Roanoke College. Her work experience includes working in human resources and management for a chain of retail stores in Boston and serving as a manager at Amazon in the early days of the company.
But the biggest role in de Roos’ life is also the reason that she is a candidate for the MBUSD Board of Education.
“One of the reasons I’m running is probably the most important, which is I’m a parent of an eighth grader at our middle school here in Manhattan Beach,” de Roos said. “So being involved in the schools is really important to me because I think it makes for a better experience for him.”
De Roos is one of four candidates running for two school board seats in the November 3 election. She is originally from Washington D.C. but moved around a lot both during childhood — “l was a Navy brat,” she said — and then in her corporate career. She and her husband Dirk have thus really relished establishing roots during their 16 years in Manhattan Beach. In serving two years as PTA president for all seven MBUSD schools, de Roos worked closely with Superintendent Mike Matthews and his leadership team and came to know a lot of key players throughout the district. She believes her business background combined with her experience within MBUSD is a perfect preparation to serve as a board member.
“It’s all about experiences, which I think adds to the position so I can think more broadly,” de Roos said.
She’s participated in almost every board meeting for the last year to further prepare herself. “I didn’t enter into this campaign, and election, lightly,” she said.
Her top priority is to get students safely back to in-person school.
“It’s one of the most important things that will happen. I’m really known for being collaborative and a transparent, clear communicator, and so I want to bring that to helping our community understand the decision-making that has to happen,” de Roos said. “I also want to make sure we’re not losing sight of families that moved their kids to school in other places this year. I want to bring them back. Because that’s lost revenue for us next year if they don’t return.”
The recent difficulties in getting special needs students back to in-person instruction, she said, have been heart-wrenching but will pave the way for when all students are able to return to classrooms.
“Every day that goes by it becomes more frustrating for those families,” de Roos said. “I understand that. But we definitely have to balance that with wanting to make sure that we’re really thoughtful and set the stage for the rest of the folks returning — you need to make sure the right safety protocols are in place, you need to make sure that the staff is ready and able to return. I wish it could have happened yesterday, but I appreciate the district taking a thoughtful approach to it.”
Another priority de Roos has identified is the possibility that MBUSD could be searching for another superintendent in the near future. She noted that Superintendent Matthews has only a one year contract, meaning the district needs to prepare itself to find new leadership should he leave. In her role at the Natural History Museum — which has a larger budget than MBUSD — she was part of a subcommittee that conducted a search for a new president.
“It was a great, very inclusive search, and I think we got a great leader,” de Roos said. “I want to bring that experience in hiring leaders to our hiring decision, because it’s going to set the tone for the school district for years to come….The hiring of a new leader is going to be one of the single most important things that will happen during this four year term.”
Given the district’s tight budget, de Roos hopes to bring “creative funding solutions” to the discussion while honing in specific areas that need to be addressed.
“I want to make sure we’re understanding the needs of students today and for the future, and what our philosophy as a district is, especially around music education, visual arts, you know, what are the creative functions right now that are just not fully funded,” she said. “As well, I think we have some work to do, especially in our math department at the secondary level…And also our special education, where the board did an audit last year and identified some opportunities there to look at. I want to make sure we are always meeting the students’ needs but also make sure we are not increasing the costs too significantly.”
The board is losing a lot of institutional knowledge with the departure of trustees Karen Komatinsky and Bill Fournell, de Roos noted. She believes she’s prepared herself to help fill those shoes.
“I just look forward to dedicating myself to further service for the schools,” de Roos said. “And it makes for a stronger community as well.” ER
by Jen Ezpeleta