Palo Alto School Board Endorsements 2022

In short: I’m endorsing Shana Segal and Nicole Chiu-Wang for the Palo Alto School Board in 2022 because they are compassionate for all our children and they aren’t complacent about the state of our school district.


Who am I?

I’ve been a close “student of school boards” since the Fall of 2017 in San Mateo when I put together a candidate’s forum focused on Special Education. I started going to school board meetings regularly and got to know the candidates and members of my local school board. In 2018, I co-led a postcard campaign in support of a school parcel tax. And, in general, I was a very active part of the special education community in the San Mateo Foster City School district.

In 2021, my family moved to Palo Alto, and, I’ve been attending and speaking at Palo Alto school board meetings fairly often. I helped organize a “special education and disability” focused in-person candidates forum held on October 19th, 2022.

What do I look for in a school board member?

I’ve come to respect the huge amount of work that it takes to both run for and do a good job as a school board member. It is much more than attending a couple of meetings. Nor is it ‘management’ or “financial oversight” except in the broadest sense of the words. It is:

  • Oversight of the main executive of the school district (the Superintendent).
  • Setting and holding the district accountable for policy (less than they probably like).
  • Helping families and students and community members when anything as large and complicated as a school district doesn’t function properly (probably the most critical function)
  • Feeding the ordinary bureaucracy of keeping the lights on (approving budgets, staff, dealing with disputes and legal matters) winds up taking up the most time.

As a group, the school board sets the “tone” for the school district.

Complacency

Palo Alto is an excellent school district by all of the standard metrics and the community is rightly proud of it. But, when you are doing well, it is easy to be comfortable and that is my sense of the current state of the district. Things are going well for a lot of students.

But not all.

While my personal focus is on “special education” students (students with IEPs and 504 plans), it is not the only marginalized group in the district. English Learners, Socio-economically disadvantaged students, and Hispanic students are not thriving.

Together, these groups make up several thousand students in our 10,754 student body (There were 1087 Students with Disabilities in 2021 – just over 10 percent).

For all these groups, the ambition of the board and the district seems pretty… modest.

Improvements of 3 percent or 5 percent a year are fine when you are doing well, but not when there are substantial numbers of students the equivalent of years behind in their education (see the Palo Alto Special Education Metrics that I assembled for the forum), but there is similar data for other groups.

When you aim small, you will tend to work around the edge of a problem.

Instead of pushing hard on the crux of an issue.

Perhaps these issues don’t affect you. I would also say to you that the way you remain excellent is by continuing to be ambitious.

I just turned 57 and was a child in California in the 1970s. Our public school system was a crown jewel in the state and one of the top in the country. In the decades since, it has drifted down until we are in the 30s or 40s depending on who you ask and what you are asking about. It didn’t happen all at once, just a slow, gradual drift.

Palo Alto actively fought that. A lot of our neighboring school districts could have, but didn’t and that is a big part of the gap here on the Peninsula.

The Candidates

Putting together the candidates’ forum gave me an extra “look” at the 4 candidates. I first reached out to them in early September once I secured the location for the event and interacted with each of them while putting the event together. I also looked closely at their website and followed their other activities.

Ingrid Campos

While I disagree with her about many things, I have a lot of respect for Ingrid. It has to have been extremely challenging running a campaign with a very different view of the school district from the rest of her competitors and many in the community. I’m not voting for her, but I am glad she has participated. You should read more on her website.

Shounak Dharap

Shounak has both an advantage and a disadvantage as an incumbent. I’ve seen him doing the job as well as watching his campaign. There is no question of his general competence. I wasn’t here for the bulk of the COVID crisis, so I can’t speak to that. I am concerned about his passion for the job (based on what I have seen of his campaign) and, like some of his fellow board members, his complacency with the status quo in the district. You should read more on his website.

Shana Segal

Shana has done the hard work of meeting tons of people and learning from them. She knows the inside of the school system like no other candidate. It is clear that she cares deeply about our students, teachers, and community. She wants things to be better and will help make that happen. You should read more on her website.

Nicole Chiu-Wang

Nicole didn’t know it, but the candidate forum was especially critical for her from my perspective. I had pretty much decided to vote for her, but I was very unsure about publicly endorsing her. She has done her work to learn about the school district and meet parents and community members. She has run a good campaign and does actually have substantial experience and a clear willingness to do the job. You should read more on her website.

The only question and answer that really matters

I’m a parent with kids in the school district. If my kids were having serious problems that I couldn’t resolve any other way – who would I ask to advise me and help me resolve things with the school district… there is no question I’d go to Shana or Nicole.

 

Similar Posts