05_05_21_SCH_MVLANewAdmin

Courtesy of MVLA Michelle Bissonnette, left, and Perla Pasallo, right, are both long-time Los Altos High School educators who recently got appointed to new roles in the district office.

Two longtime Los Altos High School educators have been appointed to newly created district-level roles, as part of an administrative reorganization in the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District.

LAHS Assistant Principal Perla Pasallo will become the director of student services and equity, while teacher Michelle Bissonnette will serve as community outreach specialist. Both start their new positions in July.

As director of student services and equity, Pasallo will oversee a range of areas focused on supporting students, including the special-education department, English Learner program, academic counselors and the district’s equity initiatives. According to Superintendent Nellie Meyer, the idea was to bring all the programs together in one place.

“We really have been talking a long time within the district about how to have a systemic approach to districtwide interventions to support students,” Meyer said. “This office really will do that and … will serve students who may need extra support.”

Pasallo said the job appealed to her because, though the position is new, she has extensive experience with the work involved.

"(It) was exactly what I’ve been doing for 20 years, which is supporting students – all kinds of students – and this would just be having a further reach,” she said. “To me, that was so appealing.”

Pasallo has served as an assistant principal at Los Altos High since 2010, and before that she was an academic counselor at the school for eight years. She also worked as a therapist and case manager at Alta Vista High.

In her new role as MVLA’s community outreach specialist, Bissonnette will oversee outreach efforts to students, parents and other community members. According to Meyer, the position came about after the district saw a big increase in community engagement during the pandemic.

Many parents and students have attended district board meetings over the past year and reached out to administrators with feedback about MVLA’s distance learning program and reopening plans. Some have been critical of MVLA’s response to the pandemic, including urging administrators to have better communication with parents.

“Whether they were pleased or concerned about the distance learning, we had that engagement, and we want to make sure to continue to be responsive and continue to partner with … our families as we come back,” Meyer said.

Bissonnette said in a press release that “the opportunity to move into a role that will focus on the crucial work of building stronger partnerships with our students, staff, and families in the MVLA community is not only timely but critical to building on the momentum we have gained this last year.”

This year, Bissonnette has served as a “teacher on special assignment,” working on projects including the district’s reopening planning task force. She is also former president of the district’s teachers union and has worked for the U.S. Department of Education.

According to the release, the new positions are intended to be “cost-neutral if not incurring cost savings.” That’s possible, Meyer said, because the district is consolidating some existing positions. The director and assistant director of special education roles are currently vacant and will be replaced by a single special-education administrator. MVLA also no longer has a distance learning administrator, after Teri Faught was appointed to an associate superintendent position.

The district plans to roll out a second phase of administrative reorganization in the coming months, Meyer said. The potential changes involve the district’s business department, special-education program and the high schools’ student services coordinators.

Correction: This article was updated to remove a line that said Michelle Bissonnette did not reply to an interview request. Due to a technical error on the Town Crier’s part, Bissonnette never received the email seeking comment.