Two incumbents and five newcomers are vying for seats on the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees – a significant increase in the number of candidates who have run over the past 10 years.
According to data from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, no more than three candidates have run for seats on the board in the past four elections.
The Town Crier asked this year’s candidates to share their opinions on why so many people are running for seats in the Nov. 4 election. Their answers shed light on several issues that appear to have prompted the spike in contenders.
Candidates Kevin T. Kramer and Fiona Walter pointed to the fact that only one trustee – incumbent Joe Mitchner – has children in the district, and both expressed a desire for a board with more parent representation.
“When you have children in the (school) system, you have a feedback loop in terms of what’s going on at the school,” Kramer said. “The more (trustees) who have children in the school system, the better off (the school) is.”
Walter agreed, calling it a matter of having “ears on the ground.”
Several candidates brought up what they perceived as weak communication between the board and parents. Specifically, Walter referenced Los Altos High School’s recent decision to integrate mandatory laptop instruction into the fall curriculum, which the Town Crier reported on July 23.
“None of the parents had any idea that was happening,” Walter said.
Mitchner, too, said that “communication is something we always need to be working on.”
Kramer added that the problem could be remedied with more parents on the board.
Walter said a school board full of parents would ensure that it’s the “people making the decisions who will have to live with them.”
Kramer weighed in on instituting a PE exemption for student-athletes – an idea the board could not agree on before the school year despite encouragement from parents and students.
“My son went to the board meetings and spoke,” Kramer said. “It would have been good if the board had been a bit more responsive.”
Board candidate Doug Moore attended the May 12 board meeting alongside Kramer to show his support for the exemption. Moore declined to comment.
Candidate Sanjay Dave said most of the contenders are running for their own reasons, but they all happened to throw their hats in the ring at the same time.
“Some of the candidates got involved with the school board due to the PE exemption issue and this led them to want to be a part of the board so that they can more actively participate in school decisions,” he said.
Incumbent Debbie Torok partially attributed the new interest to the positive press the district’s schools recently received – Newsweek ranked both Mountain View and Los Altos highs in the top 1 percent of high schools nationally.
“People who are running are passionate about the district,” she said, citing the recent gold medal U.S. News & World Report awarded to Los Altos High for its academic excellence, something that “people might want to join in on.”
Retiring incumbent Judy Hanne- mann had some thoughts on the subject.
“I think this is going to be a really big year with the new Common Core,” she said of the national education initiative that outlines the English and math skills students should master in every grade as a way to encourage consistency.
Candidate Dana Bunnett and incumbent Susan Sweeley – whose term doesn’t expire until 2016 – said they did not know why the school board race has garnered more contenders than usual.