Vaishali Sirkay, a Community Health Awareness Council board member, recently threw her hat in the ring for a seat on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees.
Sirkay, president of the Los Altos-Mountain View PTA Council in the 2017-2018 school year, is running for one of three open seats on the five-member board. However, her daughter, an eighth-grader at Egan Junior High School, will head to Los Altos High and another district before the Nov. 6 election.
According to Sirkay, she waited until this point to pursue a trustee’s position to avoid being seen as an advocate for one school, as her goal is to serve all schools in the district.
“I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in the school district and in the greater Los Altos community,” she said. “I believe all these experiences will give me a great perspective that I can bring to the board.”
With a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Columbia University, a master’s in public health from Tulane University and a career in community health, Sirkay said that she has done a lot of data collecting and would apply that experience to helping the district gather community feedback.
In particular, Sirkay said she would like to tackle school issues such as enrollment growth, teacher housing and Bullis Charter School’s need of a permanent site.
To keep enrollment growth from impacting the district’s “small neighborhood school” environment, Sirkay supports the trustees’ decision to purchase a 10th site in the area north of El Camino Real, where the population is projected to increase at the fastest rate.
To address the teacher housing problem, Sirkay said she favors Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian’s proposed housing project in Palo Alto, but she noted that it will take a few years before those units become available, so the district must pursue creative solutions in the meantime.
Sirkay proposed helping teachers find low-cost rentals by connecting them with senior homeowners who live alone. If a teacher rents a room from a homebound senior, the teacher can offer the senior some assistance in exchange for lower-than-market-rate rent, she explained.
As associate director of the Center for Age-Friendly Excellence, which aims to create a sustainable, intergenerational community for seniors, Sirkay said some teachers are already tenants at senior residences, but she would like to formalize the arrangement.
“I’ve heard that an Almond teacher reads to his landlady, who has vision problems,” she said. “It’s mutually beneficial.”
Sirkay also would focus on the district and Bullis Charter School reaching an agreement in the search for a permanent charter school site.
“What I would like to do is to reach out to the charter school board and see how we can find a solution acceptable to both sides,” she said. “It may require some amount of compromise, but for the best interests of our students, I think we can move forward.”