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Meet the candidates for Los Altos School District Board of Trustees

Candidates for the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees include Vladimir Ivanovic, Tamara Logan, Martha McClatchie, Sangeeth Peruri and John Swan.

Five candidates are running for three seats on the five-member Los Altos School District Board of Trustees in the Nov. 4 election.

Incumbent Tamara Logan, who seeks her second four-year term on the board, faces challengers Vladimir Ivanovic, Martha McClatchie, Sangeeth Peruri and John Swan.

The Town Crier asked the five candidates to introduce themselves to readers and explain why they chose to run.

The candidates answer questions on topics that range from the district’s historically contentious relationship with Bullis Charter School to the $150 million Measure N bond, enrollment growth, the district’s financial outlook and ways to revolutionize learning.

10.7.2014 LASDSchoolBoardCandidates VladimirIvanovicVladimir Ivanovic
Age: 63
Occupation: Computer engineer and community volunteer
City of residence: Los Altos
Campaign contact information: go.vladimir4lasdboard.org; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 450-4101

Why are you pursuing a seat on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees?
    I’m running for the board because I believe in public education, I want the very best for our children, I value the vibrant communities that are our schools and I want to nurture and grow them all.

If elected, how would you suggest the board address enrollment growth if voters do not approve Measure N?
    The community is tired of the dispute between Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District, and it’s destructive to our children. We have a five-year window of opportunity to resolve this dispute in a way that meets the needs and interests of the community, of parents and of the children.
   Measure N is far and away the preferred option, but should the measure not pass, both district and Bullis Charter School children would be forced into already overcrowded schools.
   Options that should be explored include adding portables at the cost of less track and field space, reconfiguring schools, redrawing boundaries and examining leasing commercial office space.

What is your vision of the future relationship between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School, and how would you as a trustee foster that relationship?
    I applaud the five-year agreement. It took trust and courage on both sides, and I plan to build upon that relationship. I would like to see more cooperation and collaboration, more sharing of ideas and, perhaps one day, enough trust for the charter school to become part of the district.

The district aims to cap school size at 560 students per elementary school. Do you believe that exceeding that number would overcrowd local campuses? Why or why not?
    One of the reasons new families come to live in the district is our small, neighborhood school model and our small class sizes. When we exceed approximately 600 students at a site, we start to lose that sense of community that unites parents, teachers and children, and that makes our schools special.

District officials talk about their goal to “revolutionize learning.” What would you add to the district’s offerings to help achieve that goal?
    Two options come to mind immediately:
    • We could provide more professional development for our teachers. They want to do better, want to innovate, want to meet 21st-century needs, but they cannot do this without additional professional development. We could also use master teachers, one at each school, whose job it is to mentor and support classroom teachers, implementing best practices and fostering collaboration.
    • We could augment our use of technology to support the development of 21st-century skills by, for example, crowdsourcing a school newspaper or using mobile phone sensors to help minimize energy use.

Would you support the use of eminent domain to acquire a school site? Why or why not?
    I have difficulty imagining a successful use of eminent domain by the district. I would seek to cooperate with sellers rather than force a sale through eminent domain.

With the financial outlook of the district improving given property-tax growth, how can the board spend revenues responsibly while still preparing for the future?
    As a three-year member of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Finance and currently its chairman, I am very familiar with district finances.
    We are going to have to exercise exceptional care in choosing how to spend taxpayer dollars. Our job will be to choose programs of high value, to spend frugally and to do so with transparency and accountability.
    Maintaining a healthy reserve is a must.

10.7.2014 LASDSchoolBoardCandidates-0458Tamara Logan (incumbent)
Age: 55
Occupation: Software consultant
City of residence: Los Altos
Campaign contact information: ReElectTamaraLogan.com; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 450-3480

Why are you pursuing a seat on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees?
    With the significant increase in enrollment and ongoing challenges for public education, our students deserve experienced leaders like me who understand the needs of every district student and will provide continuity in implementing our successful program.

If elected, how would you suggest the board address enrollment growth if voters do not approve Measure N?
    There is no easy answer to housing the growing student enrollment in our community. If voters do not approve Measure N, then our children will face further crowding of our schools. Outdoor play and green space will need to be sacrificed to accommodate more portables, and the cost of installing and maintaining portable classrooms will divert resources that would be better spent on the educational program.

What is your vision of the future relationship between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School, and how would you as a trustee foster that relationship?
    This summer, I led the district negotiating team in completing a five-year agreement on Bullis Charter School facilities. This agreement gives us the opportunity to reduce the division in our community. Staying on track with following the terms of the agreement by working directly with charter school staff and board members is a key next step. In the longer term, I would like to find a way to achieve a united school system where students can readily move between schools in order to meet their individual needs.

The district aims to cap school size at 560 students per elementary school. Do you believe that exceeding that number would overcrowd local campuses? Why or why not?
    The number 560 comes from cohorts of approximately 80 students in each grade divided into four small classes in K-3 and three slightly larger classes in 4-6. Obviously, there can be small variations from grade to grade. A consistently larger school where there are classes available for students as they progress leads to an enrollment of approximately 700 students and a much different experience.
    Multiple studies have shown that small schools provide a strong basis for child development. Not only do children thrive when they feel a strong sense of belonging and are well known by the adults, but teachers also are better able to work together. Smaller schools allow for more supportive teacher training and increased staff collaboration. I have consistently heard from parents that they are willing to pay a premium for a home in our district compared to surrounding communities with strong academics but larger schools.

District officials talk about their goal to “revolutionize learning.” What would you add to the district’s offerings to help achieve that goal?
    Revolutionizing learning is more about changing instruction than adding classes, though that has been done, too. As our children grow into adults in our global community, rote reading, writing and math are not enough. They need to learn how to interact in a multicultural world, think creatively and act decisively, and teachers need training and support to achieve those goals.
    In the past, a teacher might work with those in the same grade level in developing lesson plans and schedules and then use those plans for many years. Today, we expect our staff also to be learning new methods, new tools and new curriculum on a continuous basis. Those ideas then get incorporated into new ways to learn for children in every classroom. A great place to better understand that goal is the district staff development portal at losaltos.k12.ca.us/District/Portal/Professional-Development.

Would you support the use of eminent domain to acquire a school site? Why or why not?
    The best option for acquiring new property in the district is to find a willing seller and avoid the possibility of protracted court battles.

With the financial outlook of the district improving given property-tax growth, how can the board spend revenues responsibly while still preparing for the future?
    The district and current board have built a strong budget reserve, established a relationship of trust with staff and added to programs in a very careful and thoughtful way. We have used the expertise of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Finance to look at long-term threats, such as increasing retirement contributions, and to provide careful analysis of six-year budgets. This has been and will continue to be a recipe for fiscal prudence and educational success.

10.7.2014 LASDSchoolBoardCandidates-1010Martha McClatchie
Age: 51
Occupation: Community volunteer/parent of three children in district
City of residence: Los Altos
Campaign contact information: mcclatchie.com; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 799-2231

Why are you pursuing a seat on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees?
    I am running for the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees to help ensure fiscal accountability, enhance school programs for the 21st century and work closely with our cities on issues of traffic, bike safety and high-density residential development.

If elected, how would you suggest the board address enrollment growth if voters do not approve Measure N?
    If Measure N doesn’t pass, we need to proceed with a plan for a 2015 or 2016 bond measure, learning from voters’ objections. Space for the charter school, a neighborhood school for North of El Camino in-district students and the need for campus renovations will still exist. The district will need to evaluate existing capacity and school boundaries and re-evaluate the demographers’ growth projections to come up with a plan to house all students on existing real estate.
    I am in favor of including sixth grades at the middle schools, which would give the district more capacity at each of the elementary school campuses. I am not opposed to co-locating Bullis Charter School on the Covington site and developing plans to build out a portion of Egan as a permanent additional elementary school site, if land is not available.

What is your vision of the future relationship between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School, and how would you as a trustee foster that relationship?
    I envision a relationship of harmony and shared prosperity between the district and the charter school. Our local school boards should lead by example: meet frequently to share goals and objectives, encourage administrators and teachers to share best practices and in turn unite parents and students in fun activities (school dances,
spelling bees, concerts, sporting events, etc.). A public education community focused on educational outcomes for kids in the district will strengthen our entire community.

The district aims to cap school size at 560 students per elementary school. Do you believe that exceeding that number would overcrowd local campuses? Why or why not?
    Exceeding 560 would not overcrowd Covington, Egan, Blach (and possibly Santa Rita) campuses, given their acreage, but may lead to traffic and congestion.
    Although 560 students is consistent with the district’s small school/neighborhood model, over time, neighborhoods age-out of the Los Altos School District and the district is forced to change attendance boundaries to fill school sites. Adding two-story buildings onto existing campuses would increase density but not necessarily create overcrowding and allow for flexibility in years of declining and expanding enrollment.
    Adding (some number of) kids to a campus who cannot walk or bike to school would create traffic and congestion during peak commute times. Exploring costs to bus students to relieve congestion is an option if school sites house other than neighborhood children.

District officials talk about their goal to “revolutionize learning.” What would you add to the district’s offerings to help achieve that goal?
    I would reinforce a culture of allowing for mistakes and making time for exploration, inquiry and reflection in order for our
children to grow.
    I would support training all teachers to teach curriculum with 21st-century learning goals in mind. Teachers and site administrators need to be encouraged to envision their own opportunities to “revolutionize learning” with a meaningful feedback loop.
    I am very interested in exploring Massive Open Online Courses, where classrooms may no longer have walls as we know them, students can be more self-paced and teachers can reach individual students at their own unique educational continuum.

Would you support the use of eminent domain to acquire a school site? Why or why not?
    Use of eminent domain is not my first choice. If there were a way to use eminent domain in a friendly manner without lawsuits, I would be in favor of such an option.

With the financial outlook of the district improving given property-tax growth, how can the board spend revenues responsibly while still preparing for the future?
    Maintaining adequate reserves is important for the district to weather changes in revenues received. Spending money on student programs is an investment in our community’s future. Introducing foreign language in kindergarten, having an enhanced arts curriculum and designing programs for individualized learning would benefit all children in the district.

10.7.2014 LASDSchoolBoardCandidates SangeethPeruriSangeeth Peruri
Age: 38
Occupation: Father, husband, education philanthropist, private investor, former investment manager
City of residence: Los Altos
Campaign contact information: Sangeethperuri.com; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Facebook.com/perurilasd2014; (917) 841-5747

Why are you pursuing a seat on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees?
    A strong education is the single best investment we can make in our kids – I am running for the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees to actively support the district in fostering a K-8 academic experience that is not only world class, but also transformative and innovative.

If elected, how would you suggest the board address enrollment growth if voters do not approve Measure N?
    Without Measure N, enrollment at most of our schools would surpass 600 students, compromising the district’s neighborhood school model. To address this I would: (1) develop a plan to successfully pass a bond measure in 2016, (2) allocate resources toward community development to maintain a familylike atmosphere, (3) provide training to prepare teachers and staff for the challenges of operating larger schools and (4) provide additional overhead to maintain order.

What is your vision of the future relationship between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School, and how would you as a trustee foster that relationship?
    We are fortunate to have access to wonderful district schools, a high-performing charter school and well-regarded private schools. Our schools should collaborate as one education community to develop the best possible education for our kids. The five-year agreement provides a great opportunity to work together on the things we all care about. We should share ideas, teacher training, after-school programs and hold communitywide events. If we work together on the things we have in common, we can build the relationships needed to resolve our most difficult challenges together, as a community.
    In every decision we make, we have to consider everyone’s perspective – teachers, students, parents and our neighbors. If done right, strong schools build strong communities. Working toward this goal, I spend a significant amount of time meeting with and understanding the perspectives of the entire community, including members of the Los Altos School District board, the Bullis Charter School board and the Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View city councils.

The district aims to cap school size at 560 students per elementary school. Do you believe that exceeding that number would overcrowd local campuses? Why or why not?
    When I visit our schools, I am always amazed how close the communities are. The principals know the names of their students. The parents, teachers and students are friends. Our schools act like an extended family. A crucial ingredient of our success is the size of our schools. I don’t want to risk what we have by letting our schools get too large.

District officials talk about their goal to “revolutionize learning.” What would you add to the district’s offerings to help achieve that goal?
    For the past few years, I have been working with the district on curriculum development. The areas I have focused on include:
    • Raise Kids Who Never Give Up: The most important trait we can teach our kids is an ability to adapt. If they fail, we want them to get back up. We want them to crave challenge and not fear failure. If we succeed in this vision, when students see difficult problems, they will get excited, and when they see something easy, they will seek out more.
    • Teach Foreign Languages at Younger Ages: The later you start learning a new language, the harder it is to get fluent. We should start teaching our kids foreign languages in kindergarten.
    • Robust After-School Offerings: Robust after-school offerings are the best way to fulfill the varied passions of our students. The range of opportunities include: districtwide competitions/Olympiads (math, science, chess, robotics, etc.), art classes, special-needs classes, sports offerings and foreign language offerings.
    • Create Metrics to Evaluate Our Progress: The district recently created a wonderful five-year plan. I would like to see the board approve metrics to evaluate our progress. It’s OK to miss our goals, but it would be a tragedy to not know how we performed.

Would you support the use of eminent domain to acquire a school site? Why or why not?
    Our community has seen enough conflict. Using eminent domain is slow, expensive and inhibits creativity. We should work together to create mutually beneficial solutions.

With the financial outlook of the district improving given property-tax growth, how can the board spend revenues responsibly while still preparing for the future?
    We should maintain strong reserves to prevent headcount or salary reductions during a recession. Remaining funds should be used to increase salaries for our teachers, the lifeblood of our district.

10.7.2014 LASDSchoolBoardCandidates JohnSwanJohn Swan
Age: 63
Occupation: Business development executive
City of residence: Los Altos Hills
Campaign contact information: JohnSwanforLASD.com; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 823-2755

Why are you are pursuing a seat on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees?
    To enhance our children’s future and build harmony in our community through a fresh, collaborative effort grounded by strong financial management and transparency.

If elected, how would you suggest the board address enrollment growth if voters do not approve Measure N?
    Our community highly values education. If Measure N fails, we as trustees need to understand why and come up with a new plan that is strong and clear enough to gain community support.
    I’ve been out talking to voters. What I’m hearing is that voters want clear priorities and transparency and accountability over how the money will be invested. Hopefully Measure N will pass, because enrollment growth is a real issue. However, if it doesn’t, we’ll take voter feedback and come back with a stronger plan in 2016.

What is your vision of the future relationship between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School, and how would you as a trustee foster that relationship?
    After decades of public education leadership, serving on the boards of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the West Valley-Mission Community College District Foundation and the San Jose State University Foundation, I’ve learned that public education at its best cultivates diversity of all stripes, including diversity of learning structures. Our children are not all the same, and one size does not fit all for educating them. Los Altos School District schools provide a wonderful experience, and the charter school provides a wonderful
but different experience.
    We need collaboration between the district and charter school boards. Let’s create either nonvoting board seats on each school’s boards or a separate standing board committee comprised of charter school and district board members plus parents and community members. Either action would
generate active dialogue and sharing of best practices for the benefit of all Los Altos public school children.

The district aims to cap school size at 560 students per elementary school. Do you believe that exceeding that number would overcrowd local campuses? Why or why not?
    Research over decades has shown that smaller class sizes are key for excellent learning environments. Keeping class sizes small should be the first priority, while the second priority should involve trying to maintain the size of existing neighborhood school communities.

District officials talk about their goal to “revolutionize learning.” What would you add to the district’s offerings to help achieve that goal?
    My career is characterized by: (1) championing public-private partnerships, (2) innovation and entrepreneurship and (3) fiscal responsibility.
    To “revolutionize learning,” we must better leverage Silicon Valley’s tremendous resources to create the best curriculum possible. This means going well beyond test scores. New technologies can help us achieve true individualized learning and better accommodate a range of learning styles. Let’s tap into Silicon Valley innovation to help our children develop critical-thinking skills, draw connections across disciplines, collaborate in cross-functional teams and, most importantly, develop a lifelong love of learning.

Would you support the use of eminent domain to acquire a school site? Why or why not?
    Eminent domain should not be the driving force to secure properties. If a property owner does not want to sell, we should not force the issue and potentially open ourselves up to more litigation. We should only use eminent domain to enhance the overall offering to the seller, e.g., the seller can take advantage of unique tax deductions and extended times for exchanging into other properties through this process.

With the financial outlook of the district improving given property-tax growth, how can the board spend revenues responsibly while still preparing for the future?
    The increase in property-tax revenues affords us the opportunity to infuse increased transparency and community input, as well as a much-needed long-term view, into the district spending process. As a board, we need to be better stewards of the communities’ assets with which we are entrusted. We cannot afford to repeat mistakes. Let’s plan for the future so that we don’t make poor long-term decisions due to pressing short-term needs.
    Part of planning should involve actively partnering with the community and city councils. As an example, I would work with local governments to increase our community’s effective park space by instituting shared-use agreements between the district and the public for after-school hours. This revenue growth is a gift: It’s imperative that we apply it to a well-reasoned, long-term plan.

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