In preparation for the Palo Alto Weekly's coverage of the campaigns for Palo Alto Unified Board of Education, we solicited questions from our readers that speak to their topmost concerns about the school district.
From their many excellent responses, we've crafted a short questionnaire, which we hope will help elucidate the differences among the four candidates. They discussed their primary concerns and experience in education. They also offer their opinions on student achievement, COVID-19 learning loss, diversity and inclusion, the superintendent and innovations.
The candidates' answers on all these topics will be published as separate articles, one per day, through Sept. 26. Here's what they had to say to the following question: What has been your experience in education in Palo Alto? What qualifies you to be on the Board of Education?
After hundreds of hours spent researching the education we want for our children, we chose to plant our young family's roots in Palo Alto. And, now, our children are PAUSD students — my oldest is in TK at Palo Verde and my youngest is in Greendell's PreSchool Family program.
Education is the key to equity in our community — if we do not have equity in the education and opportunities provided to our children in our public schools, all other equity initiatives (in government, in the workplace, etc.) will fail. I have formally studied systemic inequity as a gender and ethinic studies double major and I've seen the opportunity gap in public schools firsthand. I volunteered in a less privileged, predominantly Latinx school district and my students were not reading at grade level in 10th grade. I also volunteered with an Asian American community organization to tutor and mentor Asian American middle school students, mostly Vietnamese American, and I saw a similar opportunity gap for those students. My education and these formative experiences showed me how difficult and how necessary it is to close the opportunity gap.
My diverse professional experiences have prepared me to serve on our school board. As an attorney, I have experience navigating complicated legal issues, assessing and addressing liability and risk, negotiating contracts and managing mediations. As a successful tech startup founder, I have experience dealing with multi-dimensional employment issues, growing a team while intentionally building a positive culture within an organization, and managing partner relationships. I took my startup scrappiness and grit to a large tech company where I lead dozens of employees, contractors and vendors and have managed a multi-million dollar budget, scaled complex operations, and found common ground between diverse stakeholders with different interests. These are valuable skills for a school board member.
My past four years on the board, including as president during school reopenings, have given me a great deal of experience in overseeing the district. During that time, I've immersed myself in as many working committees as I could to develop a stronger understanding of how the district works — including the property, board bond oversight, board policy review, board equity oversight, and fiscal advisory committees. I worked to increase the efficiency of our board policy review committee to end the backlog of policy updates. I shepherded the transition of the property committee into a standing Brown Act committee that has engaged with the community and worked substantively on construction proposals. I led the charge in creating the bond oversight committee and equity oversight committee — which I chaired — both of which have made significant contributions in the areas of construction and equity. These experiences have provided me with a great deal of insight into the impact committee work can have on the thoroughness of the proposals presented to the board, including through engagement with stakeholders for months before an item reaches a board agenda.
My experience growing up in Palo Alto schools has also provided me a perspective on how specific issues (such as mental health and academic inequity) can affect students in the long run. It also provides me with an intangible context — a mixture of connection, gratitude, and an obligation to make the district better — that drives my service.
I was a student (Ohlone, JLS, and Gunn). I am currently a parent to two PAUSD students and a substitute teacher in PAUSD classrooms.
I have a school consulting business in which I advise Peninsula families — both new and longtime residents — on how to evaluate local school options. All of these roles — spanning nearly two decades — give me experience, a long-term view and a unique lens into PAUSD.
My education and professional career, in addition to my extensive experience with PAUSD, qualifies me to be on the Board of Education, including:
• An M.A. in Education, an M.A. in Educational Leadership, a California teaching credential and an Administrative Credential.
• Teacher of English and English Language Development (ELD) for 10 years, and ELD Department Chair for 7 years at Lynbrook High School in San Jose.
• PAUSD Substitute Teacher (current).
• School Consultant to new and current parents on the peninsula (on-hold during campaign).
While teaching, I served on WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) committees and co-authored Distinguished School Award Applications. This involved evaluating data, setting improvement goals, collaborating, assessing outcomes and holding ourselves accountable to meet the needs of all learners.
My committee service and department leadership required cooperative collaboration, listening and empathy to understand viewpoints of diverse stakeholders. As department chair, I managed other educators and the school ELD budget.
Finally, I would represent an independent voice on the school board. I am new to politics but feel compelled to run because I know I can make a difference at this critical time. I have worked hard for and am proud of every endorsement earned. I'm heartened by the support and would work just as hard to serve PAUSD families.
My qualifications to serve on the Board of Education come from being a dedicated parent and loving mother of two children who have journeyed through the PAUSD from Nixon, Fletcher and now currently at Gunn. The transition through the school system has given me an opportunity to witness all of the different phases of a child's educational progress in PAUSD.
Furthermore, with my Business Administration background, I am comfortable and skilled at discussing income, revenue, expenses, budgets, allocation, and reallocation of resources. PAUSD is like a large corporation that has fiscal accountability and great leadership in the administration; there are quite a number of cogs in the wheel that require collaboration and corroboration in making a fiscally fit organization work at its finest. Student transitional experience and business background are a sound fit to be on the Board of Education — any business would be thrilled to have my experience on their side.
Check back on Palo Alto Online tomorrow for candidates' takes on another school district issue.