It’s been rough going in recent years for the Cupertino Union School District. The sprawling, 16,720-student K-8 district, which stretches from Los Altos (Montclaire Elementary School) to Santa Clara, continues to enjoy a solid reputation for high academic achievement. But declining enrollment since 2013 has district leaders facing $5 million in cuts for the 2020-2021 school year. The pandemic brought more challenges.
There’s plenty of opportunity to rebound. That process has already begun, in fact. The board fired a superintendent in 2017 whose lack of transparency marked a troubled tenure. Trustees chose a successor in Craig Baker who began addressing the shortcomings. He retired over the summer to help ease the budget crunch. Stacy McAfee-Yao, a highly touted administrator, has been promoted in-house to interim superintendent.
This is a pivotal time for the district as it moves forward. It needs proven leadership, as well as continuity in leaders. That’s why we endorse the two incumbents, Phyllis Vogel and Sylvia Leong, to retain their two seats in the Nov. 3 election.
Vogel and Leong face stiff competition from two passionate challengers, Wil Fluewelling and Sudha Kasamsetty. But the district needs Vogel, with her 13 years of board service, and Leong, a longtime district volunteer and parent leader, to get back on track. They’ve already made hard decisions regarding district leadership. There will be more challenges ahead: finding a successful strategy to pass a much-needed parcel tax (an attempt at one in March failed) and dealing with the painful probability of having to close a school.
These are not challenges best left to newcomers. Vogel’s 50-year commitment to the district spans roles as a parent, teacher, principal and assistant superintendent. Leong, who was appointed to the board last year from a pool of 14 candidates, has been working with parents and students for more than 25 years. Her involvement includes PTAs, advisory boards and leading the Cupertino Language Immersion Program Community Organization.
Vogel and Leong remain driven and committed to move the district forward. They will have our vote Nov. 3.