Tue09302014

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Four candidates vie for two seats on LASD board


Photo By: Photos by Ellie Van Houtte
Photo Photos By Ellie Van Houtte

Come Nov. 6, voters must decide which two candidates among the four running are best suited to serve on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees. Considering the district’s ongoing tension with Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos City Council, the election presents an opportunity to change the makeup of the board and perhaps turn a corner toward increased civility.

Amanda Burke-Aaronson

• Mountain View resident; UC San Francisco professor.

• Three children; attend Bullis Charter School; oldest daughter attended Santa Rita School for a few years.

• Last time the district redrew boundary lines, Burke-Aaronson served on the district’s Attendance Area Advisory Committee.

Burke-Aaronson lists two reasons for running: it is time for peace in the community, and the board needs to engage with the public more.

“We need to find a way to heal and come together,” she said. “Our kids are starting to be affected by (the district and charter-school dispute). As a Bullis Charter School parent, running is my way to reach across the aisle and then reach back to the charter school.”

The district needs to look at more creative solutions rather than redrawing boundaries, she said, adding that the district doesn’t need a 10th campus and that it should reconsider its 600-student population cap.

“I think the 600 number is a nice ideal, but I don’t think it meets the needs of our community,” Burke-Aaronson said. “From what I am getting, the communities would prefer to stay intact rather than readjust.”

Burke-Aaronson also suggested that the district increase its communications with parents.

“It seems the parents come out when things get negative,” she said. “If we can open up regular communications, that may help us avoid hitting a lot of the speed bumps along the way.”

The district and the charter school, she noted, should begin communicating their educational practices in a constructive way that promotes innovation.

Addressing the frosty relationship between Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District, Burke-Aaronson said it is time for the litigation to end.

“We need to create a site that works for Bullis Charter School,” she said. “We need to come up with more out-of-the-box ideas than we have currently.”

Burke-Aaronson said she hopes voters will see the fact that she is a charter school parent as a strength and an appropriate addition to the board.

“I think that it is a strength that I have a perspective that the rest of the board does not,” she said. “If I am on the board, we can start moving toward meeting in the middle. I am not in this to represent the charter, and hopefully people will see that.”

For more information, visit www.amandaforschoolboard.org.

Vladimir Ivanovic

• Los Altos resident; retired manager from the software field.

• Two children; attend Gardner Bullis School.

• Member of Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Finance; chairman of Gardner Bullis Technology Committee; member of Gardner Bullis Site Committee; organizer of Gardner Bullis Science Fair.

Ivanovic said he is running to help the district confront two major challenges – relations with Bullis Charter School and finances.

“I don’t have any of the background or baggage that the current board members have,” he said. “I want to cooperate with Bullis Charter School to find a solution for their needs.”

He added that he doesn’t think closing a district school will solve the problem, but acknowledged that some of the charter-school community’s complaints about the district are valid.

“I think the only way we are going to get to an agreement is to raise the trust on both sides, and I want to contribute to that,” Ivanovic said. “I think both sides have behaved badly and both sides have needlessly antagonized the other side – that needs to end.”

Ivanovic said the district may or may not need a 10th school site to absorb future population growth. He plans to look into the district’s density policy to understand its cap of no more than 600 students per campus.

“If we change the density, we don’t necessarily need a 10th school site,” he said. “Projections indicate there will be growth in our population, and we need some way of accommodating those issues.”

Regarding the district’s financial issues, Ivanovic said it is key to maintain a healthy reserve.

“We have a long-term structural deficit that needs to change,” he said. “We are spending more money than we are taking in, and eventually we will be insolvent.”

The real deficit, he said, has been masked by contributions from the PTAs and the Los Altos Educational Foundation.

“You should take that into consideration when looking at what the district is responsible to fund,” he added, emphasizing that an adequate reserve is essential to prepare for an uncertain future.

Ivanovic encourages technology integration in the district’s educational program and said it is important to understand technology’s effectiveness in the curriculum.

“There are going to be a lot of fabulous technology opportunities come down the line, but let’s be cautious about what we take on,” he said.

For more information, visit www.vladimir4lasdboard.org.

Pablo Luther

• Los Altos resident; financial executive.

• Three children; attended Los Altos School District schools and private school, now at Mountain View High School and in college.

• Member of district’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Finance for seven years; chairman of district’s facilities subcommittee for five years.

Luther has three main objectives to pursue on the board – academic excellence, collaboration and building bridges, and long-term financial stability. He said he brings a unique perspective to the board, as his children have aged-out of the district and he has previous experience with private schools.

“Since I have been through the school district and am no longer in the school district, I have an objective and a fair position,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten so much out of the district, it is time for me to give some of my time in terms of community service to the district.”

Luther said he wants to ensure that the district remains among the top-ranked in the state and continues to find ways to improve.

“Innovation in teaching is key,” he said. “I believe that technology can augment the curriculum but not replace the teachers.”

Building bridges in the community, particularly with Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos City Council, would be a top priority, Luther said.

“There are things going on in the community that are making our community uncomfortable,” he said. “I believe I can build bridges objectively because of my standpoint.”

Luther said that serving as chairman of the facilities subcommittee, he brought together members of the community from all sides of the district-charter conflict, including seniors, residents with no children, a Bullis Charter School representative and district representatives.

“I believe our town deserves more harmony than we are seeing now and there is a way to move toward that,” he said.

The candidate, who has an occupational background in finances, said he believes fiscal discipline in the long term is imperative for the district. The district has done a good job in recent years with financial planning, he said, but a long-term vision that takes into account economic cycles is needed.

“Teachers are key to our environment, and I believe they should be appreciated for everything they do,” he said. “But at the same time we have to come to a balanced budget. We need to continue to work collaboratively with the teachers and it will feed into a longer-term plan.”

For more information, visit www.lutherforlasd.com.

Steve Taglio

• Los Altos resident; vice president of marketing for education software company.

• Two children; attend Egan Junior and Los Altos High schools.

• Appointed to the board last year, has served nearly a year; former PTA president at Covington School.

Taglio said his primary reason for running was his belief in the value of public education.

“I’d like to make sure that the program we have, which is doing well, continues to evolve and keep up with what is in education,” he said.

Taglio said he’s a bit more collaborative than most people, and he doesn’t seek the spotlight on the board.

“I think I can be effective toward getting things done – and that is what I do,” he said.

As to the district’s long-running battle with Bullis Charter School, Taglio said he does not come with the same baggage or history as other board members.

“I think we seriously tried this past year to come up with creative ways to address the charter school,” he said. “I believe the only solution is working toward a long-term solution with the charter school.”

Taglio said both sides need to come together and conduct an honest discussion about a multiyear facilities agreement. Closing a high-performing district school is not the answer, he added.

The district and the charter school have had difficulty communicating in the current litigation-heavy atmosphere, Taglio said, and the district wants to move forward with solutions, not focus on the current situation.

“We keep getting pushed back toward ‘what is’ with these lawsuits,” he said. “Can’t we
focus together on what ‘will be’?”

Taglio said one of the district’s most important jobs is assessing how its educational program will evolve to meet students’ needs.

“I think the biggest opportunity we have right now is looking at how to reframe the delivery of education as we slowly get funds back into the community,” he said.

According to Taglio, the district should undo some of its funding practices, such as relying on the annual PTA contributions, which were originally designed to be a one-year infusion.

While Taglio admitted that the district isn’t quite there financially, he thinks the board should responsibly thank the teachers financially, properly fund the district’s capital needs and consider ways to integrate technology in the curriculum.

Taglio has no campaign website.

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