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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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