Incumbents hold strong in local school board races

Vaishali Sirkay
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos School District Board candidates Vaishali Sirkay, from left, and Vladimir Ivanovic and board member Sangeeth Peruri review election results on a smartphone Tuesday night during an election party gathering at the Courtyard by Marriott in Los Altos. Voters elected newcomer Sirkay and incumbent Ivanovic to the board.

Incumbents retained their seats on local school boards, and newcomers Catherine Vonnegut and Vaishali Sirkay will also join the high school and elementary school district boards, respectively.

Sirkay, a Community Health Awareness Council board member, will replace Sangeeth Peruri on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees. Peruri opted not to run for re-election. Sirkay came in third in the election, following incumbents Bryan Johnson and Vladimir Ivanovic.

Sirkay has volunteered in the school district and the community for the past eight years, holding leadership positions on the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Finance, the Los Altos Community Coalition, the Measure N bond campaign and other groups.

The election for the Los Altos School District came days after Bullis Charter School announced it was requesting the entirety of Egan Junior High’s campus for the 2019-2020 school year. The timing was not intentional – the facilities request was due Nov. 1 – but the candidates not affiliated with the charter school capitalized on the opportunity to win over voters.

“More than ever, we need to elect a board that is united in its commitment to serve in the best interests of our LASD community,” Sirkay wrote to her supporters.

Following the charter school’s facilities request, district officials released an incendiary statement that spawned the creation of multiple online petitions.

“BCS demands that LASD close its top-ranked Egan Junior High School and turn over the entire campus to BCS,” the release states.

A petition to “Save Egan” has received more than 2,300 signatures, and a petition to “Solve the LASD facilities issue” notched 200-plus signatures.

By the afternoon of election day, Nov. 6, Bullis Charter School officials had released their own statement, which said their selection of the Egan campus was forced by needing to pick a specific site or geographic region and needing to pick a site that wouldn’t require construction to house its kindergarten through eighth-grade classes.

Sirkay will join the school board at a divisive time – the district must provide an offer of facilities to the charter school by Feb. 1, is in the midst of purchasing land in Mountain View and has yet to decide which school would go on that land.

High school district

Incumbents Debbie Torok and Fiona Walter were re-elected to the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees, and newcomer Vonnegut earned a seat with a third-place finish. Vonnegut, a longtime district volunteer, will replace Joe Mitchner, who decided not to run for re-election after 11 years on the board.

“I’m very sad to be losing Joe Mitchner and his wealth of knowledge and expertise, but Catherine will be a great addition moving forward,” Walter said.

Vonnegut, a Mountain View resident, is a retired software engineer. She said she’ll bring her technological expertise to the board, as well as her volunteer experience in emergency preparedness. She has one son who graduated from Mountain View High, and she’s volunteered for many community organizations, including serving as president of the Mountain View High Parent Teacher Student Association and on the board of the Mountain View Educational Foundation.

MVLA passed a $295 million bond in June and expects to break ground on new facilities in the next year. Hand-in-hand with construction plans is the district’s soaring enrollment: MVLA has approximately 600 more students now than it did five years ago.

South Los Altos

South Los Altos voters helped elect three newcomers – Lori Cunningham, Jerry Liu and Satheesh Kumar Madhathil – to the Cupertino Union School District Board of Trustees. Cunningham was the first Los Altos resident to run for the board in 10 years.

The Fremont Union High School District passed Measure CC, a $275 million facilities bond, with 63 percent of the vote. Incumbent Bill Wilson was re-elected to the board, along with newcomers Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto and Rosa Kim.

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MVLA superintendent announces June retirement

After 38 years in education and 11 years as a superintendent, Jeff Harding, superintendent of the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, plans to retire, effective June 30.

According to an MVLA-issued press release, in the four years Harding has led the district, he championed services for underserved students including an expanded Advancement Via Individual Determination program, supported programs that attend to the well-being of all students and staff and oversaw the hiring of numerous administrators. He has kept the district’s budget in the black, the release stated, and initiated Measure E, the bond that is bringing $295 million in construction dollars to the district’s high school campuses.

“I’ll retire from MVLA knowing that our district fundamentals are solid,” Harding said. “Academic performance continues to improve. The passage of Measure E will bring new buildings to accommodate our growing enrollment. Our fiscal reserves have grown, and we have an outstanding board of trustees that supports the success and well-being of all students and staff. Without question, there’s a rosy future ahead for MVLA.”

MVLA Board of Trustees President Fiona Walter thanked Harding on behalf of the board.

“Many projects have moved forward under his guidance, including approval of a facilities master plan, passage of a facilities bond, technology improvements, support for student and staff wellness, and so much more,” she said. “We wish him all the best after 38 years in education.”

Harding said he plans to travel and spend more time with his wife, sons and friends, while also pursuing part-time professional projects, including leadership coaching for current and aspiring school administrators.

The board of trustees will initiate an executive search for a new superintendent in the coming weeks.

For more on Harding’s decision and time on the board, see next week’s issue of the Town Crier.

BCS to charter school in MV

Bullis Charter School plans to apply this fall to charter a new elementary school in the Mountain View Whisman School District.

Resident accuses MV councilman of conflict of interest on LASD site


A local resident leveled a conflict-of-interest complaint against Mountain View City Councilman John McAlister last week, casting doubt on the council’s decisions regarding the Los Altos School District’s acquisition of land for a 10th campus.

Mountain View resident Ellyn Berner wrote in a letter that McAlister’s vote on the district’s 10th site constitutes a conflict of interest because he co-owns Stepping Stones preschool, located on the Covington School campus, which leases land from the district.

Community college district weighs November bond measure

The Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees plans to discuss Monday whether to place a bond measure on the November ballot, according to Chancellor Judy C. Miner.

“Because we don’t know if we will actually go out for a bond, we have no dollar amount established at this time,” Miner said, noting that $898 million was the highest amount mentioned on a survey the district conducted last October.

By narrow margin, Mountain View council approves site switch for new district school

Town Crier File Photo
The Mountain View City Council last week approved the Los Altos School District’s pursuit of a 9.65-acre site to build a school.

Los Altos School District officials last week received the OK from the Mountain View City Council to pursue the purchase of a new 9.65-acre site for a school in the city’s high-density San Antonio neighborhood.

Council members voted 4-3 to approve the switch from the previously targeted property at California Street and San Antonio Road to the new site, currently occupied by Kohl’s, 24-Hour Fitness, Joann Fabrics and other smaller businesses, at California and Showers Drive.

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