This November, The Mountain View Los Altos High School District Board of Trustees will hold its first contested election in six years. Three seats are up for re-election, and seven candidates are running, including two incumbents, Joe Mitchner and Debbie Torok. The third, Judy Hannemann, is retiring.
The School Board is a group of five people that holds ultimate authority in the district. Their responsibilities include approving the district’s budget and overseeing the superintendent, who runs the district on a day-to-day basis.
For this issue, The Talon explains each candidate’s positions and background.
Dana Bunnett is the director of Kids in Common, a nonprofit that provides for the basic needs of schoolchildren in Santa Clara County. She was drawn into the race when the district chose to close the Young Parents Program, citing the experience of a teen she mentored who relied on the program.
Bunnett’s focus is on being an advocate for disadvantaged students. She wants to consider ideas such as vocational education and hopes to increase Latino involvement with the board. She is also concerned about ensuring that the board is accountable to parents. She argues that decisions such as the choice to implement the Bring Your Own Device program at Los Altos should have more input from the community. Like others in the race, she says that she will only serve for one to two terms.
Sanjay Dave has worked in technology since 1988, and is the father of a Mountain View High School (MVHS) freshman and a Huff Elementary fourth grader. He says that his role as a parent and his personal connection to fields in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) have made him a strong advocate of the expansion of high school level programs in computer science, bioengineering, and environmental science. In an interview with the Mountain View Voice, Dave noted that there were courses to be added to keep students competetive.
According to the Mountain View Voice, Dave thinks that the district needs to find new ways to support low-income students, doing so in a way that brings together high achieving and low achieving students.
Dave believes that having high and low achievers work together will give students a better understanding of the real world.
Kevin Kramer is a district parent and a lawyer for Yahoo. He states that he wants a board with more parent representation because trustees with children in the district are more accountable for their decisions. He also states that his prior experience with managing money and people qualifies him well for the position.
Kramer was drawn into the race by the controversy over a ninth grade P.E. exemption. He argues that having an exemption for freshman athletes involved in multiple sports would give them flexibility and says that the board’s choice not to offer an exemption this year has limited his son’s class choices. He also wants to consider other ways of expanding class offerings and giving students flexibility.
Joe Mitchner is the current board president. He was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2007 and gained another term in 2010 with no opposition. He has a background in finance which he says allows him to understand and evaluate the district’s expenditures more effectively, and is the only current board member with children in the district.
He says he is proud of the board’s recent accomplishments, including the narrowing of the achievement gap for disadvantaged students, as well as a large expansion of course offerings at both schools. In addition, he feels that the current board has a good working dynamic and wants to continue with their past successes.
Doug Moore is a former CEO with a background in finance and business and has served on a board of company directors. He is the father of a MVHS freshman, and he believes that it is essential for board members to have their own children in the district system. This would mean that the board members would be closer to the issues and decisions that would affect all students in the district.
As the parent of a freshman, Moore believes that ninth graders should have the option to be exempt from P.E. The effort for this cause has been spearheaded by several parents districtwide. Moore’s main goal is to lead change from a high level and to make decisions on issues that affect any parent in the district. Due to his belief of needing to have children in the district in order to serve as a school board member, Moore plans to step down once his children are out of the district and to only run for one term.
Debbie Torok is the mother of three high school graduates, and just finished her first term on the school board. She has lived in Los Altos for 18 years and has been involved in volunteer work since 1993. Torok made efforts to close the achievement gap and reach out to low-income students, encouraging them to take difficult classes.
Though she thinks the district has already made great strides in supporting minorities and struggling students, she believes that it is a volatile issue, and therefore continues to warrant school board attention. According to the Mountain View Voice, Torok also hopes to see through the implementation of new techniques and resources, including Common Core Curriculum and technology upgrades.
Fiona Walter is a Los Altos resident and a parent of children in the district. From 2004 to 2012 she served on the board of Mountain View Whisman School District and was last year’s PTSA president at MVHS, which she says would allow her to join the board without a learning curve. She has a background in aeronautics and engineering, which she says gives her a useful analytical mindset.
Walter’s focus is on boosting communication between parents and the board. Like Bunnett, she believes that parents deserved more notice of the Bring Your Own Device program, and that the district needs to do a better job of keeping them in the loop on news. With two children at MVHS, she feels that she would be more accountable for her decisions because they directly impact her.