Schools

Vogel, Leong ahead in race for two CUSD board seats

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Town Crier File Photo
The incumbents are leading in the race for the Cupertino Union School District Board of Education.

The incumbents are in the lead in the race for two seats on the Cupertino Union School District Board of Education, according to the vote totals released thus far.

Sylvia Leong is well ahead with 37.88% of the vote, as of 5 p.m. Monday. Fellow incumbent Phyllis Vogel is at 26.86%, just under three percentage points ahead of challenger Sudha Kasamsetty, who’s at 24.02%. Wil Fluewelling trails at 11.24%. Countywide, an estimated 87% of the vote has been counted.

“Honestly, I’m so humbled and proud to be able to continue representing our district and representing the voices across the entire district,” Leong said. “It’s a privilege.”

Leong said she believes the results show that the community wants stability and experience on the board, as the district faces a number of key decisions.

CUSD has sustained repeated budget cuts in recent years, as enrollment has declined, and the board is currently in the midst of discussions over how to remain solvent in the years to come. The options on the table include permanently closing schools, as well as asking voters to support a parcel tax to help fund the district. The district attempted to pass a parcel tax back in March, but it failed to secure the needed two-thirds support from voters.

“I really think the stability of having the five of us stay together is going to be important as we move forward with those decisions,” Vogel said.

Vogel is by far the longest-serving current board member, first elected in 2007, and previously worked in the district for more than 40 years. The other four current board members joined in 2018 or later.

Vogel said she believes the district may need to consider closing at least one school next fall to remain solvent. Beyond budget considerations, small schools can limit educational options for students and be harder on teachers, she added.

Kasamsetty ran on a platform that included opposition to closing any schools, arguing that other solutions should be employed to close the budget gap and that more parent engagement is needed. She also pushed for a square-footage parcel tax, where the amount of the tax is determined by the size of the development on each parcel of land. Kasamsetty was not available for an interview before the Town Crier’s Monday press deadline.

In recent weeks, as the board has considered the possibility of closing schools, parents have turned out to virtual board meetings in large numbers, urging the district to keep schools open.

Leong said she believes that in this moment, it’s important for the community to come together and work collectively. She said there has been division as parents have felt threatened and wanted to protect their own school at the expense of another.

“I really hope that as we move forward that we can stop having this divisive language and instead really come together, and remember that we are one district,” Leong said. “Instead of being a district of schools, we have to be a school district.”

In a statement to the Town Crier, Fluewelling thanked his supporters and asked that Leong and Vogel be treated with “kindness and patience” as tough choices lie ahead.

“Try to remember we’re all in this together,” he said.

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