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County Board of Education: new running candidate:Ellen Santiago

Original post made by county board watcher on Sep 29, 2008

Last week, a few of us met with Ellen Santiago, who is running for a seat on the County Board of Education against incumbent Grace Mah, I was positively impressed.
Her background, goals for her candidacy, and listening skill are exactly what this board needs.
She did her undergraduate work at Stanford, became a certified accountant, and got her master's degree in accounting. She has her teaching certificate and taught for about five years, mostly in middle school. Currently she works as a web content manager at Stanford University.
These are excellent qualifications for the board seat. This board oversees a large budget of about $265 million. Her accounting skills would help the board with its organizing and budgeting.
The board meetings are not televised nor on the internet. They meet once a month on Wednesdays at 5:00 p.m. in San Jose- so it is difficult for us in P.A. to keep informed of the topics being discussed by this board. The seat that Grace Mah has represents our district and several others, yet we have not been updated at all this year (except for one school board meeting this whole year!)
Ms Santiago would like to see the County Board more transparent. She would like to work to improve communications to her constituents with this problem. She suggested as something to look into streaming on the internet.

Ms. Santiago doesn't bring a predetermined agenda to her role on the County Board. She would not only bring her real education experience to the County Board, but also her high-tech experience and CPA background. I think this combination is a WIN-WIN for the districts in Trustee area 1, which includes Palo Alto.

We need better representation at the County level. Now is our opportunity to vote in an excellent representative this November!

Comments (77)

Posted by Interested, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 29, 2008 at 11:30 pm

Thanks, county board watcher. It's easy with a national election going on to forget about the smaller elections, yet these impact our lives more directly in some ways.

Where can I go to get information about the two candidates and their positions on various issues that might come before them? Has this been covered in the local press? Will any of our local papers endorse one candidate or the other?

Please let me know, you've piqued my interest!


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2008 at 9:47 pm

interested,
Thanks for the questions. Firstly, I agree with you there is so much going on nationally that it is hard to remember right now that the local issues concern us as well - I won't even say- more or less.

You can get more information on Ellen Santiago by going to:
Web Link (I want to make one correction to my first posting- Ms Santiago taught for 2 years at the middle school, not 5.)
I think that Grace Mah should have been getting info to us all year since she had the seat all year. At this point, I feel it is too late.

There was a short article in the San Jose Mercury about two weeks ago- but that is all. I have seen nothing in our local papers. I recommend that they cover this local election.
I do not know if any of the papers will endorse either candidate.
I do think that if the local press meets Ms Santiago, they will see as I did, that she would be excellent on the county board.


Posted by PA_voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Thanks for the info and the link. I read Ellen Santiago's bio and she has an impressive and broad background. I, too, would feel better knowing that a CPA with actual teaching experience was helping oversee the County's budget. Do you know how Ms. Santiago stands on charter schools in successful districts like ours? I seem to remember that Grace Mah is very pro-charter.
Thanks.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2008 at 2:29 am

Grace Mah was the force behind PACE and the Mandarin Immersion, so, yes, very pro-charter if it suits her needs.

She applied to the board after the PAUSD school board voted no on MI. Once she got on the county board, the school board reconsidered (caved)--since Mah would have been on the board that had approval rights on the MI charter application PACE said it was going to file.

I'm not sure what Mah has actually done on the board. Anyone know?


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2008 at 1:27 am

PA_voter,
We asked Ms Santiago about her thoughts regarding charter schools. She at first said that she was open to them. We then talked about the original intent of the law of charter schools: that they were intended for school districts where parents were dissatisfied with the schools, and the achievement gap was very high. We discussed that P.A. has never had any charter schools, the reasons for this, and the ramifications of a charter in P.A.- that siphoning funds to a charter in P.A. would have a detrimental effect on our schools, etc. She then agreed that charter schools would not benefit areas such as ours.
She is intelligent, thoughtful and as I mentioned in my earlier post a good listener.
Ohlone Par,
I agree with you re Grace being pro-charter, when it suite her. She signed that letter that was sent to our school board after the vote was taken and MI was defeated. That letter stated that if the board develops an MI program, they will not put in a petition for a charter school. I believe that she stated that if a charter petition comes forward from P.A. she would not vote on it. But the rest of that county board know her views.
To answer your question: she spoke at only one school board meeting all year on the activities of the county board. I saw no other time. One time all year- is too little. I am ready to give Ms Ellen Santiago my vote.


Posted by Facts, please, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 13, 2008 at 2:49 pm

This is a question for the Weekly editors: Are you going to interview the candidates for this position and make an endorsement?

Many of us remember that Ms. Mah was selected to fill the remaining term of Bill Evers. There were two other candidates, Barb Spreng and Rose Filicetti, with far more experience serving school districts, yet the Santa Clara County Board of Ed. chose her in a secret vote that violated the open-meeting terms of the Brown Act. That decision was challenged by a group of Palo Alto residents.

Gary Rummelhoff, president of the county board and himself up for reelection this year was quoted as saying, "If the voters in that area think that this board has made a mistake and would like to force our hand, I'm not sure there's a whole lot we can do about it."

Rummelhoff also said that he respects the right to call into question the board's decision, but in the interest of saving money and time he hopes everyone will move on. "I only see a little more than a year that this person will be in place. There will be another election in November '08 and if Grace was not a good choice by this board then the voters can say no," he said.

Well, it is almost November '08, and there is scant information on Mah's accomplishments as a member of the board. How did she vote during her term? How do we know whether or not she was a good choice by the county board? Would Ellen Santiago, as suggested in above posts, be a better match for the area of the county she would serve if elected?

Editors, how about some coverage on this important election?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2008 at 3:10 pm

Without any better knowledge of what is happening here, my feelings are that Mah should not be reelected at any cost. I feel sure she has her own personal agenda and do not trust her in any type of elected position.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 13, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Well we know Grace Mah has a personal agenda. The question now seems to be is does she do anything when it doesn't have to do with her personal agenda? Or has she been a non-entity on the board?

PA Editors, enquiring minds want to know.


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Facts,
All good points. I also recall that Rummelhoff finally agreed that there may have been a violation, and concluded that they will be more careful in the future. Some of us had strong feelings about that remark. Normally that is not the reaction or result of a violation.
I would like not necessarily an endorsement but at least an interview and a summary of the interview with Ellen Santiago. Many of us already know where and how Grace stands and know that we have heard nothing from her all year-that is enough for me, but the community has not met Ms Santiago. A few of us met her and found her to be a great candidate.
Ohlone Par,
You give two options G.M. either has her own agenda, or she is a non-entity. Neither are ones that I would vote in. She could be both: self serving, and a non-entity on this board. I have been watching for the past year for any updates to our community who she represents and there have been none except for one brief update to the school board.

The county board does not seem to be high profile; however, they do make some important decisions. If our school board rejects the residents of the new San Antonio housing to be able to send their children to P.A. schools; they then take their complaint to the county board of education. When parents submit a petition for a charter school again if the district school board refuses it they then go to this county board. Most of the members of this board apparently are pro- charter, as Grace seems to be.

Parent,
I agree with you.
I feel that Grace has taken ample time- about 7 years to show P.A. who she is. And she has shown us that she is basically a one trick pony. She went before the board for approximately 6 years with the same item or agenda- a MI program in P.A. paid for by the public school district. She would come to the board meetings just when the MI discussions were starting and often leave just after they were done. I feel totally uncomfortable with her, according to her own behavior, and interests, representing us.

But, as in my first post I really want to discuss the merits of Ellen Santiago rather then denigrate Grace Mah.
In talking to Ellen Santiago she has so much to offer us and has no hidden agenda. With Ms Santiago we have no past negative history, no baggage. Her concerns are about education, and what she can offer the county board of education. Pls read her website. I put the link on my September 30 posting.
.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 13, 2008 at 10:27 pm

County board watcher,

I wasn't trying to limit to two options, just responding to what you were saying--making a logical inference.

But it would go with the single-mindedness. I never got the impression there was a lot of curiosity.

So Santiago would have to be a disaster not to have my vote, but I'd prefer that the race be better publcized and that people who were not part of the MI debate had the tools to understand the choice better.

So, I'd love a couple of interviews in the Weekly, etc.


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2008 at 6:45 pm

OhlonePar,
Thank you for your contributions to this thread. I did not mean to criticize. I was trying to myself comment on your statements. I agree that it would be better to get more publicity on this race. I have heard that only 20% of our residents have children in our schools. It would be good to reach the other 80%.
This board is not considered important. Arnold tried to disband them a couple of years ago. People do not know much about it-what it does what it oversees. Still it would be good to get the best person on it. And I believe after talking to Ms Santiago and comparing her to her opponent that she is the best choice.
I think that there will be some interviews. But time marches on.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 14, 2008 at 10:19 pm

county board watcher,

I appreciate your paying attention. The board may not be important, but thinking it over I think, given that they do have oversigt over charter appeals and boundaries that we don't want a board member with a history of not representing the interests of the PAUSD board--indeed quite the opposite.


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2008 at 10:35 pm

OhlonePar,
I was just watching the school board meeting. Skelly encouraged the board to reject the request from the parents from the San Antonio housing project. The board members were all in agreement with him. These parents will more than likely bring it to the county board.
A friend of mine read the county's minutes. There was a petition for a South Bay charter school this year- Grace voted for it.
I agree, the opposite would be good. We need someone on the county board who is representing our community who we can trust. Ellen Santiago would listen to our concerns. How do we let more people know?


Posted by Facts, please, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 16, 2008 at 10:05 am

The Charter school issue is quite relevant here. A quick check of the minutes for the county board of education meetings shows that the members pretty much vote in lockstep, with the exception being the approval of a Charter school petition, which was split 4-3 with Mah voting in favor.

Let's not forget that when Grace Mah suggested that she would start a Charter school to offer the Mandarin immersion experience that she wanted, two Palo Alto school board members considered the possibility of such a school in our district so onerous and threatening that they reversed an earlier decision and allowed the program to go forward.

For the two members who changed their minds, Mandy Lowell and Dana Tom, part of the justification for their fear and apprehension was the experience of Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, which was chartered by the county board of education after being rejected by the local school board, and has cost the district huge sums of money in legal fees and other expenses.

While it's true that some Charter schools do benefit and enhance the educational experience of the students that attend them, it is also true that they take away funding and resources from the districts in which they reside. In PAUSD, where student performance is far higher than in most districts in the state, the idea that Charter schools might provide better educational options doesn't really apply. In our district, where enrollment is increasing and space is very limited, the consequences of having to provide space for a Charter school would be devastating, according to Lowell and Tom.

What's important to understand from each of the candidates for the county position is not simply whether or not they support Charter schools, but whether they would automatically vote for any Charter petition that comes along, without considering the specific situation of the community in which the school would be housed. In Mah's case, we know that prior to her appointment to the county board she was personally willing to inflict the kind of pain on our district that a Charter school would bring.

I would like to hear from Mah's opponent, Ellen Santiago, about her position on Charter schools. This is an issue that is likely to directly affect our district at some point, and it's important to pay attention now in order to elect the person that will work with, and not against, our district.


Posted by Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 16, 2008 at 10:50 am

Facts,

"In PAUSD, where student performance is far higher than in most districts in the state, the idea that Charter schools might provide better educational options doesn't really apply."

Performance is irrelevant. What's better for you is not necessarily better for all. I like having options, even if in the end I choose for my kids to attend their neighborhood school. I am glad that we have the choice programs we do, and I am pleased that the state has a charter school law so that we could have charter schools if a group of parents feels the need.

We have a diverse population here with diverse notions about what a "good education" is. It makes sense to try to accommodate groups of parents where practicable.




In our district, where enrollment is increasing and space is very limited, the consequences of having to provide space for a Charter school would be devastating, according to Lowell and Tom.


Posted by Facts, please, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 17, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Flowers,
You say that school district performance is irrelevant. It isn't. Public education systems cannot possibly be expected to provide every option desired by parents. For that there are private schools, after school and weekend programs, religious institutions, clubs, and so on.

Charter schools provide an option that has been exercised in California to a far greater extent than in the rest of the nation, I believe, because the public school offerings in this state are by and large inferior to those in the majority of states.

But don't think that just because some Charter schools do a good job of educating their students, that they don't hurt the communities in which they reside -- they do. You have to look no further than Bullis Charter School in Los Altos to see that. And in a district like Palo Alto, the negative impact would be felt very strongly in the form of further crowding of students into already strained facilities and redirecting of dollars that could be spent to benefit students to the many expenses that a Charter school imposes on a community.

It's not only fair but extremely relevant to ask the candidates how they would evaluate a Charter school petition in the area in which they serve, including Palo Alto.

Based on what I know about Mah, that she would have imposed a Charter school on our community to its detriment, according to our school board, I will be voting against her and for Santiago who seems to take a more thoughtful approach to Charter schools.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 17, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Let a hundred,

I don't oppose charters--however since PAUSD is a basic-aid district, charters here are a costly proposition. There are some old threads on this that go into the ins and outs of the matter.

But back to Mah--she has a record of opposing the local school board and not caring about what the majority of voters want. She has her agenda and pursues it.

Is that what you want representing us on the county board of education? Someone who doesn't represent the people she's supposed to represent?

Board watcher,

Santiago needs to ramp up her campaign. There's no statement from her in my campaign booklet--that's not good.


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2008 at 4:38 pm

OhlonePar,
I agree with you about Santiago ramping up her campaign. She needs to do that, and I hope that she will.
The candidate statements in the sample ballot booklet cost $3100. Ms Santiago declined. She has excellent experience in teaching, accounting and the internet- but she has not organized a campaign before. She would be great on the board. This is the first time she is running in an election. That is not necessarily a bad thing- except that she needs to reach more people. I agree with you that we want someone (new)who will represent us- not just themselves.

Let 100,
I would strongly prefer to let not 100 but 10,000 flowers bloom- which I believe is the approximate number of students that we have in P.A.and growing...
You mentioned that charters would be good, "if practical"- according to the school board and many community members they are not practical in P.A.

Facts,
It may seem good to some people to have choice programs - except that once you really examine what is going on we already have more choice programs in our small district then many larger districts. Having so many choice programs means a lot more traffic, and fewer students going to their neighborhood schools. They start to make our community more segregated.
I agree with you re charters. The school board was absolutely opposed to a charter school after researching that option. And that is why they reversed their democratic vote of no MI- just to avoid the charter school threat (from Grace Mah). Also, often charter schools do not succeed. They are hard to establish and maintain- but in the meantime require much from the district. And often their curriculums have not proven to be any better than regular public schools.
But, back to the main focus of this thread: pls go to Ellen Santiago's website:www.ellensantiago.com to learn more about her.



Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 17, 2008 at 4:57 pm

county board,

I wish Santiago had spent the money--with the minor elections, the booklet is where most of us get our information.

Has she done any meet-and-greets? What does her district cover? Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos? Yes or no on Sunnyvale?

In Palo Alto, she'll get some of the anyone-but-Mah vote, but other districts weren't involved with the MI debacle. Los Altos might be interested in knocking out someone so pro-charter, but LAH might go for it.

I think Mah's big weakness isn't that she's been special interest personified.

But that needs to be out there.


Posted by Facts, please, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 17, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Here you go OP, buried deep within the SCCOE website:

Trustee Area 1 - Palo Alto Unified; Mountain View-Whisman (and corresponding portions of Mountain View-Los Altos Union High); Sunnyvale (and corresponding portion of Fremont Union High)


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2008 at 6:42 pm

Please, please, please, tell everyone you know not to vote for Grace Mah. She seems to have some supporters around here because I have seen lawn signs. Many people often vote for the incumbent unless they have good reason to not do so.

Please tell everyone not to vote for Grace Mah.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2008 at 12:14 am

My suggestion to Ms. Santiago is that she gets out and does some meet-and-greets at places like the farmer's markets. She should also have coffee forums in each of the cities where she's on the ballot.

She should also consider writing to the local newspapers and going into online forums like this one, a bit of the way Stephen Levy has. Create a thread, introduce one's self and offer to take questions.

I'm guessing from the last name that Ms. Santiago might speak Spanish--she should make sure she solicits the Hispanic vote in Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

If she has a way of accepting donations via PayPal online, I'll donate.


Posted by Facts, please, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 19, 2008 at 9:57 am

All good suggestions, OP. I have emailed Ellen using the contact information on her website and urged her to read and participate in this thread. Perhaps others would like to do the same. Visit her website at Web Link and click on the "Contact" button on the left side tool bar.

This election is too critical to the future of our district to allow it to default to the incumbent.


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Hi all

Here is Grace Mah's web site. Voters can read the background and experience of both candidates. Web Link

I do not know Ellen Santiago beyond the qualifications you mentioned. In addition to Grace's qualifications, I have observed that Grace Mah is a passionate supporter of Palo Alto, our schools, and education at every level.

Just vote and let the polls do the talking!


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 19, 2008 at 4:43 pm

I find it interesting missing from Grace Mah's website is any information about getting MI pushed thru in PAUSD. Is she she no longer proud of that "accomplishment"?


Posted by Enoch Choi, MD, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2008 at 4:46 pm

I don't know Santiago, and when I don't know someone I look for their platform and endorsers, neither of which are available at her website. In contrast, Grace Mah has received endorsements from former California State School Superintendent Delaine Eastin, former California State School Board Member Gloria Hom, Foothill-DeAnza Community College District trustees Hal Plotkin and Laura Casas-Frier, and current and former school board members Ellen Wheeler, RoseMary Roquero, and Juan Aranda (Mountain View Whisman School District), Barb Mitchell, John Tuomy, Carolyn Tucher, and Dr. Amado Padilla (Palo Alto Unified School District), and Dr. Hsing Kung (Fremont Union High School District ).

Web Link

This breadth of support and her platform, expressed on her website, shows her dedication to representing the needs of all county students rather than being a single-issue candidate as she's been painted out to be here in this Town Square Topic.

Enoch Choi, MD
Crescent Park
PAMF Urgent Care


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2008 at 5:10 pm

I am not too surprised at Barb Mitchell's endorsement of Grace Mah, but what is equally telling is that she is the only PAUSD board member, at present or at the time of the MI debate, who is endorsing her. It seems that even Camille Townsend who is equally in favor of MI, has not submitted an endorsement.


Posted by but seriously, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2008 at 7:23 pm

i thought i saw that camille endorsed her too.


Posted by big picture, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 20, 2008 at 10:39 am

Here in Palo Alto we normally do not hear much about the county board or our county representation. It should not be surprising that we have heard little from Grace Mah this year. Both candidates seem to have relevant qualifications. Grace has the advantage of having a year of experience and the endorsement of her colleagues on the board, Foothill-Deanza trustees, and others. These plus her involvement in the community, the YMCA, and Hoover show she is certainly not a 1-trick pony. From what I have seen, she is a multi-faceted individual who works very hard -- despite opposition from people who attack her dedication and perseverance. She seems capable of representing our area at the county level.


Posted by Facts, please, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 21, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Big picture,
The problem is that many of us do feel like Mah is a 1-trick pony. She relentlessly pressed her agenda on our district for about five years, and over the course of a couple dozen board meetings. She got the program she wanted by presenting such an unpalatable alternative to the board that they actually reversed their earlier decision. She literally undermined the governance of our school district.

Now, those who love the MI program and think that it was the right thing to do at any cost will disagree with me, but I can tell you that there are plenty of people who see it the way I do.

When Bill Evers' seat on the county board was vacated, Mah was appointed over two other applicants with far more experience relevant to being on a school board. The buzz at the time was that she was chosen as the one of the three most likely to be pro-Charter. The Charter school issue is one issue where an individual board member can swing the vote one way or the other, since this is the only set of votes I have seen where the members have split.

So the question is how does Mah stand on the question of Charter schools? We do know that she joined the California Charter Schools Association, which is one reason why the PAUSD school board viewed her threat to form a Charter school as credible. That's one clue as to her position on the issue. Another is the fact that she voted in favor of the Charter petition by South Bay Preparatory Academy, with the final tally being 4 in favor, 2 abstentions, 1 absent. Finally, we have the candidates' answers to the question asked by the League of Women Voters and posted on the Smart Voter website at Web Link:

"What should be the role of the County Board of Education with regard to charter schools?"

Mah: The County Board of Education hears appeals on charter schools which have been denied by their local school district. If an appeal is granted the County Office of Education becomes the authorizer for the charter school and has oversight for the school's financing and operation.

Santiago: Charter schools need to be appropriate for the community and they need to enhance the learning of all of the students. The board should facilitate the needs of the district.

As you see, Mah gives a non-answer to the question. We need the more nuanced approach to Charter school petitions that is provided by Santiago's answer, or we will have a Charter school in our community some day, drawing time, space, money and resources away from our district.


Posted by but seriously, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Seeing as the MI program will outgrow Ohlone in a couple of years, and will inevitably try to hijack Garland (also, no doubt under threat of charter), I should think all those who care about Mah's shenanigans re: MI Charter threat would make haste to vote her off the County Board.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2008 at 12:57 am

Enoch,

You're a long-time supporter of Mandarin Immersion--I came across it on your blog years ago. So let's get your agenda right out front and center and quit pretending you're a disinterested observer. You're not.

Big picture,

Grace Mah has done nothing for Ohlone. In fact, the MI program has yet to interact with the larger Ohlone community. The whole school has seen a general slump in volunteering--a sign of the divisions quietly and deeply felt in the school.

Except for PACE she hasn't been active in the schools--her previous experience prior to her board appointment was being on the site council. She's not someone with a huge range of experience. One-trick pony sums it up well.

Grace Mah threatened to file a charter-school petition when PAUSD board members voted against MI for several practical reasons.

Thanks to the endless meetings on MI, the board neglected serious matters such as the overcrowding issue in the schools, which now has us looking at the possibility of elementary schools designed for 300 students serving 500 students.

Charter schools are hard on a basic-aid district. Grace Mah didn't give a damn when it came to getting her particular program.

So--does Mah, the board member, give a damn about the general well-being of our district or not? We know she doesn't care about what the majority of voters think.

Fact is, you can't cite anything specific she's done--except push through the unpopular Ohlone/MI mash-up. In fact, I'll wager the real reason she wants to be elected is to ensure that MI isn't dissolved in three years.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2008 at 1:33 am

OhlonePar,

It's clear that you've taken this MI thing to the personal level and are a consistent Grace-basher. Not such an objective observer, either.


Posted by but seriously, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2008 at 5:57 am

anon, a lot of peple took personally the single-minded way in which she pursued MI at the expense ot hedistrict, ater the Board had spoken. She did not care about the district as a whole. My kids are in the system and I don't want it destroyed for her little ill-timed, boutique program. A lot of people, whom the MI crowd underestimated as a "vocal minority," still feel this way. Not surprising at all that MI has not meshed with Ohlone. Thta is exactly why people objected to the disingenuous link of MI with the Ohlone Way. The real suprise would have been if people like Nico Janik, who clearly did love the concept of MI in Ohlone style (and may have been literally the ONLY MI proponent to feel that way) had been able to pull off the mixture.

But if you think people who were bullied by that trick once are going to roll over and put Mah back in a position to vote MI into either charter or expansion at the expense of everyone else, you underestimate how thoroughly MI proponents alienated a great portion of the community. Once bitten, twice shy. We all know what MI folks are capable of pulling in 2 1/2 years, and this time will not leave ourselves open to surprise where MI gets the best and the large percentage of Palo Alto kids get the rest.


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2008 at 9:04 am

Ohlone Par and but seriously,
Thank you! It is difficult for most people to speak or write negatively about another person. I think that the MI proponents counted on this- if they even cared! I followed the MI mess and I agree with your every word of what happened. I want someone in- Ellen Santiago who has integrity and appropriate work experience for this position.
Choi- Actually re your first post-Grace does not have a platform. Her statements on her web are only the statements from the board.
And I take offense that you include where you work. Your views do not express their views. You are being unprofessional, and showing no integrity.
Everyone--Pls vote for Ellen Santiago, and get her name out there. This is her first running and normally this seat is not a very competitive race. Vote for Santiago not just to get Mah out of an ill-fitting seat- but because Ms Santiago would represent us honorably. She has the best qualifications, and the best intentions.


Posted by Facts, please, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 22, 2008 at 12:41 pm

Santiago appears to be a superb candidate for this position not only because of her background and experience but also due to her lack of an agenda. Her primary concern appears to be for the districts she would represent.

It is a pretty audacious thing for a county board member to approve a Charter petition on behalf of a community whose own locally elected school board has deemed that the school would not work well in the district. I would hope that the burden of proof would be on the Charter petitioners to demonstrate how the school would integrate, work with and benefit the district in which it resides, rather than harm it by drawing away scarce resources. Yet I have a feeling that Mah will never meet a Charter petition she doesn't like.

Santiago's main failing appears to be that she is inexperienced in campaigning for public office and uncomfortable in promoting herself. She hasn't spent thousands of dollars getting her name on the sample ballot or buying lawn signs. I actually find that refreshing. However, I did email her with a question and she wrote back the same day, so she is responsive and comes across as very knowledgable.

A vote for Santiago is a vote for a thoughtful representative of our district at the county level. Please join me in voting for Ellen Santiago.


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Facts,
I agree!! And thank you for supporting and voting for Ellen Santiago.
Several of the posters have asked for more direct information for Ellen Santiago. The Mercury News put their interview with Ellen and Grace
on the Youtube. Pls view it. (I hope that this link will work- I have not added one before.)Here is the link:
Web Link


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2008 at 3:25 pm

anonymous,

Of course I have an opinion about MI at Ohlone. Does that mean I'm being inaccurate? No. What I've said about Mah is factually correct and interlaced with my opinions of those facts.

A vote for Grace Mah is a vote for charters and a vote for a county board member who's willing to overturn the wishes of the local school board. Maybe that's what you want. It's not what I want. Palo Alto does not need to be held hostage by charter threats. The district has tremendous issues facing it--we are seriously overcrowded and we can't expect a huge increase in funds. We have a bond that needs to be spent well.

Grace Mah is a special-interest issue candidate. This isn't news, but it's obvious something that Grace Mah is trying to hide--not unlike Camille Townsend on her last run.

With Ellen Santiago, it's really a question of getting her name out there in Mountain View, Los Altos and Sunnyvale.


Posted by Facts, please, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 22, 2008 at 4:27 pm

There are three parts to the interview that John Fensterwold of the Mercury News did with Santiago and Mah. The link provided in the post above is actually for part 2. Here are the three links -- watch them in sequence. It looks like there might even be a part 4, but I don't see it posted yet.
1. Web Link
2. Web Link
3. Web Link

These videos let you see the candidates and hear what they have to say.


Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2008 at 10:12 am

Concerns about Santiago

Ellen Santiago wrote an editorial to the Mountain View Voice. First someone wrote this piece:

"End the waffling on exit exams"
Web Link

Then Santiago wrote:

"STUDENTS WHO CAN'T PASS EXIT EXAM SHOULDN'T GET DIPLOMAS"
Web Link

Basically, the first writer asked for fairness for learning disabled students to have alternative ways to meet graduation requirements. Santiago opined that requirements are requirements leaving no room for special needs kids. I found her attitude troubling. It's one thing to use exit exams for accountability, but it's another to show little compassion for special needs students. To me this raises serious concerns about Santiago.

Also, does anybody know why Santiago quit teaching after only two years?


Posted by Ask Ellen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2008 at 10:31 am

Concerned Parent, have you asked Ellen Santiago directly? I've heard she's good about returning emails.


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2008 at 11:21 am

Concerned parent I agree with Ask Ellen. I took issue with something in her article by Ian Port in the Post, and I emailed her- and she clarified her points. She explained that he quoted only half of her remarks and she responded to him in the Post toda. She believes that teachers, parents and the students themselves need to be accountable for learning. She feels that there should not be any finger pointing re whose fault it is that the achievement gap still exits. I think that they may have quoted her wrong. I know that she has also taught in an after school program. She is very sensitive to students' needs and I really think that she was misquoted. That does not sound like her at all. Email her and check it out directly.


Posted by Sandy, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 23, 2008 at 1:50 pm

I just viewed the links with the interviews of the candidates by the Merc. You'd think whomever was taping would have made sure that Ellen was miked properly so that she could be heard. No sound check prior to commencing?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 23, 2008 at 3:56 pm

I think Concerned Parent raises an interesting question--and I would appreciate it if Ellen Santiago made herself available to some sort of public Q and A--be it at a coffee thing or online.


Posted by Santiago supporter, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 23, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Stay tuned, Ohlone Par. Some folks are trying to set up a coffee with Ellen Santiago in a public place where everyone who is interested can attend. The info will be posted online when it's available. Thanks for your input.


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2008 at 10:49 pm

I asked Ms Santiago about Concerned Parents comments. She explained it in detail and it is not as was described. She does have compassion for special ed students, and for all students.

Ellen Santiago will have a public coffee this Sunday Oct. 26 from 2:00 -3:30- at Sophie's Cafe in midtown on Middlefield.
Everyone is welcome. She can explain herself her ideas on that issue and others. She will also try to post Online as soon as possible.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 23, 2008 at 11:31 pm

County Board Watcher,

Thanks for keeping us posted. I absolutely can't make anything on the 26th, but will try to come something else and certainly I'll be interested in any online forums.


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2008 at 11:39 pm

OhlonePar,
Too bad that you can not come! I am feeling that I am forgetting something that I have that day!
The thing is that we have very little time left. And I know that a lot of people have in fact already voted. Ellen has been getting a large number of emails and is answering them. I will try to get her to get something here Online to respond to several of the questions.
Also, she will try to get another Youtube done and posted to her website over the next few days.


Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2008 at 10:31 am

Mah vs. Santiago

Both candidates seem intelligent and hardworking. One went to Stanford, the other Caltech, and they both have graduate degrees. Both say many of the things that you'd expect a school board candidate to say. Mah has more experience, but that's because she has already held the office for over a year. The biggest negative with Mah is that she stepped on a lot of toes while working on the MI language immersion program. However, given her influence, her group could have readily formed a charter school which would have benefited them more, yet in the end they chose not to and to instead work with the district. Mah takes her position seriously, having gathered an impressive list of endorsements, whereas Santiago did not even submit a candidate statement in the voter guide. Santiago has experience as a middle school teacher, however she quit after only two years. Moreover, Santiago's overall work history looks erratic, jumping from career to career. This and her lack of seriousness suggest that she may do this post for a while then lose interest. In contrast, Mah has a consistent work history. Santiago does not appear to have any school children whereas Mah does and has been active in that school. Mah has provided community service through the YMCA.

While neither candidate is perfect, in my assessment, Mah is the better choice.



Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2008 at 11:54 am

Santiago a Better Choice for our county

Santiago is the better choice. Mah stepped on toes in a big way- splintered the community is how most P.A. residents describe it. She pushed the school board for 5-6 years until she got what she wanted for her self and her child. Her child is in that MI program. She showed no consideration that other issues also needed attention. I do not want that kind of representation.
Re the Charter school- it would not have benefited the MI proponents, in that the parents of the Charter school have to do a lot of the work. Having an MI program - meant that the school district has to do all of the administrative work, create the curriculum, figure out which books to use,etc. Often Charter schools get started, but soon fail for one reason or another. Often the parents find that it is too much work to run. And on this subject, she had the board so threatened and fearful of a Charter that Mah never even worked on the petition which also takes time and effort. This is quite unprecedented that a group gets a program just by saying that they will bring in a petition of a charter but never actually does it. Many politicians will endorse an incumbent and not even check to see what she has accomplished. The endorsements are not significant. What is important is what has Mah done on this board? Her website says that she visited some of the schools - that is part of the position. She wrote that she educated 22,000 students. She did not educate them. She was not their teacher. How much feedback have we gotten? None. Many people do not even know what this board oversees. If Mah is serious about this seat- she would have informed the constituents about the board. There were problems with the last superintendent Wilcox - did we hear about this from Mah? No.
This is Santiago's first time running in an election. She did not put in a statement. It would have cost $3100. She declined. She should have done it- I agree. But does this mean that she will not be a good board member? No, she would be excellent. She has a very good understanding of the educational system having been a teacher- more so then Mah who has volunteered some. Most PA. parents volunteer in the schools. Many people focus on one job and then go to another. She has experience in both. You are making assumptions and not checking them out. Santiago is a very serious person. She is serious in her intent, and interest in this position. She would do a great job honorably. She is having a coffee this Sunday Oct. 26 from 2-3:30 pls come and meet her.


Posted by Ellen Santiago, a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2008 at 8:28 pm

Concerned parent (aka Ellen Wheeler),

I fully support the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), and I believe we should do everything we can to help students succeed, but we should not lower our standards to achieve our goals.

The following is a quote from my letter to the editor of the Mountain View Voice. "California had to reduce the high school exit exam to middle school math and 9th grade English because too many students could not pass the exam. Even more alarming, students can flunk the exit exam and receive a high school diploma. (Students only need to get 55 percent of the answers correct to pass the high school exit exam. California originally required students to get 70 percent correct in order to pass, but too few students could answer 70 percent of the questions correctly.)"

I do not think it is too much to ask that students pass (55%) the high school exit exam (which measures middle school knowledge) in order to receive a high school diploma.

One of the reasons the high school exit was implemented was because too many high schools were giving diplomas to students who could not read or write at a basic level, let alone a high school level.

I think we should do everything possible to help students succeed in school and pass the exit exam, but I do not think we should lower the graduation requirements any further. All students are given numerous opportunities to take the exit exam. Special education students many take the exit exam an unlimited number of times and they have no time constraints when taking the exit exam. Students who cannot pass the exit exam are given extra help, tutoring, classes, encouragement, accommodations, etc.

Using "other" criteria to evaluate whether or not a student should receive a diploma opens a Pandora's Box. Schools would end up where they started, which is giving diplomas to unqualified students. How does this help anyone?

Concerned parent, would you go to a doctor who could not pass the medical boards? Would you allow him/her to operate on your children? Would you hire a lawyer who could not pass the bar exam? Would you allow your children to ride on a bus with a bus driver who could not pass the drivers' exam? If not, then why do you want to give a diploma to someone who cannot pass the high school exit exam?

I want to help all of the students reach their full potential, but lowering the bar does not help anyone succeed.


Posted by Parent of Special Need Student, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 24, 2008 at 8:35 pm

As the parent of a special need student (severe autism), I can say that I fully support graduation requirements for ALL students. Handing out diplomas to students who can't meet the requirements isn't compassion - it is patronizing, and it renders questionable or meaningless the goals those students do achieve.

Concerned parent, I don't know what your angle is, but my child doesn't need compassion from the school - he gets that at home - he needs strong programs and meaningful standards.


Posted by Ellen Santiago, a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2008 at 10:49 pm

Concerned parent,

1. I do not have any children in the school district, which makes it all the more altruistic that I am running for the board. I am very interested in helping all children succeed. I believe there are many ways to give back to society and, as you know, being on a board is one way. It would also be an honor and privilege to serve the parents and students in Santa Clara County.

2. The fact that I did not submit a candidate statement in the voter guide shows fiscal responsibility, which I will bring to the board. Only one in three people vote and the 1/3 that vote are usually very well informed. You obviously found my information at www.ellensantiago.com, so I believe it is prudent to spend the $3,100 (which is the cost to put a statement in the voter guide) in ways that are more productive. I hope this decision shows the public that I will not their waste money or resources.

3. The experience gained from being in the classroom is invaluable whether it is for one year, two years, four years, ten years, etc. I understand the workload, stresses, student needs, and triumphs (when students "get it"), and that knowledge and experience will help me as a member of the board.

Steve Poizner taught for one year and is running for governor of California. Erin Gruwell, who wrote Freedom Writer's Diary, taught for four years and is now a new teacher adviser at Long Beach State University. I was a full time teacher for two years (I have 100% more teaching experience than Grace Mah), student teacher for one year, I taught in an after school program for two years, and I worked in the business office of a private school for three years. That is solid experience that I can bring to the board.

4. I have a broad and enlightening background and a wealth of experience and ideas that I can pass on to improve our schools. I have my master's degree in accounting, I am a certified teacher, I have a background in technology, and I have a solid understanding of our educational system. I believe I have the right combination of skills and knowledge to succeed in this position.

As I said in the beginning of my response, it would be an honor and privilege to serve the parents and students in Santa Clara County.

Please email me if you have questions - ellen.santiago@earthlink.net

Thank you.


Posted by Perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2008 at 7:58 am

I, too, am the parent of children with disabilities. I, too, agree...either a student is capable of passing the HS Exit exam or not. If yes, she or he gets the degree, if not, she or he does not. Anything less makes it meaningless.

Of course, we are not talking about giving kids accomodations in order to pass it, such things as a quiet room or a little extra time to process. That is not the point, and any reasonable person knows that nobody is promoting that.

Another type of degree, a "Special Ed" degree, is fine for all the kids who can't pass it but simply need to keep moving on.

Ms. Santiago: Your comments are direct and refreshing. Thank you. I wish you could have put yourself out there more. I am voting for you, and will tell everyone I know. If you don't get in, next time gather up some money and let's get your name out there, at the very least in the booklet, ok?


Posted by Perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2008 at 7:59 am

I, too, am the parent of children with disabilities. I, too, agree...either a student is capable of passing the HS Exit exam or not. If yes, she or he gets the degree, if not, she or he does not. Anything less makes it meaningless.

Of course, we are not talking about giving kids accomodations in order to pass it, such things as a quiet room or a little extra time to process. That is not the point, and any reasonable person knows that nobody is promoting that.

Another type of degree, a "Special Ed" degree, is fine for all the kids who can't pass it but simply need to keep moving on.

Ms. Santiago: Your comments are direct and refreshing. Thank you. I wish you could have put yourself out there more. I am voting for you, and will tell everyone I know. If you don't get in, next time gather up some money and let's get your name out there, at the very least in the booklet, ok?


Posted by Ellen Wheeler, a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Re the heading "Concerned Parent (aka Ellen Wheeler)," I have not participated in this email string. I appreciate being informed that someone had referred to me by name, so that I could make this correction of assumptions. Please do not assume I am following this string. If you wish to speak with me, please phone my business phone of (650) 967-8743. Thank you.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 26, 2008 at 12:33 pm

How much does the county board have to do with establishing graduation criteria for special-needs kids?

I know the board makes decisions on charter and boundary appeals, but what else?

Ellen, if you're still here, I'd like to know why you want to be on the board.


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Invitation to all posters,
Ellen Santiago will be meeting and greeting and answering questions such as OhlonePar just asked today from 2:00 to 3:30 at Cafe Sophia's at 2706 Middlefield just north of Loma Verde.
OP sorry that you can not come. She can also answer you online. There have been questions asked of her, and comments made that do not reflect the responsibilities of this board. However, this board does have some special ed students at the schools under their jurisdiction.
Thanks.


Posted by Ellen Santiago, a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2008 at 10:19 pm

OhlonePar,

1. The county board is not involved in the graduation criteria for special needs students. My response concerning graduation requirements was in answer to issues raised by "Concerned Parent," regarding a letter I wrote to the Mountain View Voice in April 2008.

2. The board establishes the operating budget and sets the policies that guide the County Office of Education. The board also appoints the county superintendent who manages the administration of the office.

In addition to its policy-making and budgetary functions, the board identifies educational needs and services in the county, and

Conducts appeals on student expulsions and inter-district transfers

Maintains accountability for student learning in schools and programs operated by the county office of education

Oversees the migrant education program

Oversees 98 programs serving over 1300 special education students in Santa Clara County

Fulfills statutory responsibilities in connection with charter schools

The following is a link to the Santa Clara County Office of Education's budget for 2008
Web Link

3. I believe education is the key to improving the lives of this generation as well as future generations. I am passionate about education and the opportunity to improve the lives of so many is the main reason that I am running for the Santa Clara County Board of Education.

Three key issues that I would like to focus on as a member of the board are

Close the achievement gap and reduce the number of students who drop out of high school

Bring our schools into the 21st century with technology, infrastructure, and teaching

Facilitate the success of all students and schools in Santa Clara County


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 27, 2008 at 1:50 am

Ellen,

Thank you for your response. I agree with you that there needs to be a focus on the achievement gap and the abysmal high-school drop-out rate.


Posted by Perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2008 at 7:05 am

Apparently we have no idea if the real Ellen Wheeler is actually writing in this thread or not. But, if not, I am voting for whoever is writing using her name!


Posted by county board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2008 at 10:36 am

Ellen Santiago,
Thank you for your detailed description of what the county board does. Many people who I have spoken to lately had no idea. This is the first time that anyone has given us this information! Very useful.
Your working experience in the two fields of teaching and acounting would be so beneficial for this board.
You have my vote.


Posted by Jennifer Zilliac, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 27, 2008 at 2:15 pm

I'm glad this discussion was here on this forum -- I appreciate that people took the time to express their questions and thoughts. I am voting, and I need access to information about all the items on the ballot to make informed choices.

First let me put my bias right out front: I am a Spanish Immersion parent, and I strongly support immersion programs. I would be thrilled to have immersion programs in every neighborhood school so that all families who want a language immersion opportunity can get it at their neighborhood school. That doesn't mean that I automatically support Mah -- if Mah is running around stepping on toes, I don't think that's a good thing. But if she is working tirelessly to achieve goals that she deeply believes in, like the value of language immersion in the elementary schools, that I can applaud.

Several red flags have come up for me in this discussion:

First, the mean-spirited nature of the attacks against Mah. These extremely negative voices are clearly *against* Mah solely for reasons related to Mandarin Immersion and *supportive* of Santiago because she is not Mah. One commenter stated (paraphrasing) that Santiago would have to be a complete wreck to lose her vote.

Next, I believe the issue of Santiago skipping around from one field to another is symptomatic of someone who has not found her passion. And that's fine, but I don't see any reason to believe that the Santa Clara County Board of Education is her real passion. From the YouTube video, it does seem to be Mah's passion. Mah clearly shares my deep concern for children living in low income neighborhoods throughout Santa Clara County and is interested in exploring new ideas. Santiago, based on her own comment above, seems to care more about fiscal frugality and shows no passion at all.

Going back again to Santiago's statement above, she says, to save $3,500, she did not put a statement in the voter guide. This causes me concern that she is out of touch with the realities of politics, is not eager to make information about herself available to voters, and may be motivated by ideology rather than an interest in the children of Santa Clara County.

I am also concerned that she does not have children going to school, and touts herself as "altruistic." She's running as an altruist? I suspect she may be an idealogue running for this office as a stepping stone. I have a gut feeling that she may be much more conservative than most voters in Santa Clara County.

I find her argument for her experience to be unconvincing: Two years as a teacher that evidentially did not go well may not be good experience for this position. Experience in the accounting office of a private school may also not be good experience for this position. The worlds of private school and public school financing are far apart. In general, her lofty language around her qualifications doesn't match her stated qualifications themselves.

I'm going to vote for Mah. I would rather have someone who will step on some toes in support of my values than someone who will save $3,500 at the expense of keeping voters in the dark.


Posted by Respectful & considerate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2008 at 10:30 am

Santiago has been forthright, thoughtful, intelligent and kind in her responses. Her ideas are refreshing, yet she receives mean-spirited, ad hominem attacks. Why?

At least Santiago and Mah have the guts to run for office, which is more than I can say for Jennifer and the other mean-spirited bloggers. Too many people shoot spitballs from the sidelines because they do not have the guts to run for office. The spitball shooters prefer tearing others down rather than discussing the real issues regarding the board seat and how the candidates can help the schools and students.

As Mother Teresa wrote in her poem "Anyway",

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

I hope Santiago keeps giving the world the best she has!! We need more people like her.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 28, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Jennifer,

I believe you were referring to my post. What is it that you think Mah has done--you refer to a youtube video. Don't you have something a little more fact-oriented?

As far as my vote. Well, I've seen first-hand the damage Mah has done to the district. I've seen her willingness to put her own special interest needs above those of the district as a whole.

I saw how much time the board spent on MI when there were other much more pressing issues.

I saw how Mah used a charter threat to get her program. I saw her quote in the NY Times which was less than flattering to those who dare to not share her views.

You can kvetch about it--but fact is Mah's record is what it is. She does *not* have a good record representing the best interests of the district as a whole. She doesn't have some great history of serving underprivileged kids and she doesn't have prior work experience in education. She certainly shows no history of conciliating groups or reaching workable compromises.

You're an SI parent and say it doesn't affect your vote. Nonsense. You think it would be great if there were immersion programs in every school. Guess what? A lot of us don't WANT our kids in immersion programs. (While some Escondido neighborhood parents would just like their kid to get into the neighborhood school instead of having them get bumped by SI.) My guess is that you don't begin to understand that.

Of course you favor a candidate who has shown a vested interest in maintaining the immersion programs.

The SI parent's group has a less-than-stellar reputation as it is when it comes to considering the interests of others. I know some lovely SI parents, but the parents group has had some issue.

So back to Ms. Santiago. She probably is more conservative than I am, but I don't see that as a huge issue for this position. She's right in that the achievement gap and high-school graduation rates are a huge issue--a lot more important than any of our specialty programs (my kids' or yours). She has worked in education--not a long time, but a lot longer than Mah. There are any number of reasons why people don't choose to stay in the classroom. Santiago has obviously continued to have an interest in education.

Job longevity? Like, who cares? Someone else can run if she decides to not run again. Not the end of the world.

So Santiago--more knowledgeable about education and being in the classroom, no known record of being tightly tied to a special-interest group.

In other words, I *know* Mah's record and I don't like it. What I know of Santiago's, so far, is okay by me.

Oh, and while Ms. Mah was perfectly happy to use the Forum for PACE PR purposes, she never has been very good about coming here and answering questions.

So, Mah--pursues own agenda regardless of larger interests, nonresponsive; Santiago--clearly open to discussion give and take, no known special interest.

By the way, I'm NOT running for the board, so I think Ms.Santiago should not be the target of attacks on those of us who oppose MI. One of the reasons I support Ms. Santiago is that she's not part of the debate and will function independently.


Posted by Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 28, 2008 at 4:47 pm


Jennifer,

I agree with you about the red flags. There are too many posts here that do not address issues, and engage in fallacious arguments and dirty politics.

I personally am in favor of having a variety of approaches to schooling. I like it that parents in our district have the opportunity to send their kids to the choice programs (though my kids did not get into the two we applied them for), and I like it that they have the option to start a charter.

I'll say it again: I like the charter law for our district. It means that if the district is not addressing the needs of significant numbers of families, they have recourse. Keeps the district honest.

Now, according to the logic on this thread, anyone who supports charters, also wants to promote divisions, to be selfish, to ignore serious district matters, to be a bully. In short, if you support charters, you simply don't "give a damn about the general well-being of our district."

What a crock. It's exactly like McCain's attack ads. Just fabricate some charges, repeat them, and as proof cite something irrelevant.

Charters are not the focus of my criteria as I evaluate the candidates, but for me it certainly counts in the favor of a candidate if he or she strongly backs charters. What is Ellen Santiago's position on charters?


Posted by Jennifer Zilliac, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 28, 2008 at 4:47 pm

Dear OhlonePar,

The tone of this conversation is less than respectful, and I believe that if we use our real names we will be more respectful of each other. I invite you to put your name to your comments.

I won't take the time to rebut you point by point, but I will address the issues that I think are most important:

- I think it would be great if immersion programs are available in every neighborhood school, but I would also want the traditional program offered in each neighborhood school as well. Immersion is not right for every student. In fact, our 12-year-old daughter went through SI at our neighborhood school, but our 8-year-old daughter is in the traditional program at the same school because a language immersion program would not have been a good fit for her.

- "Special interest" is what somebody else cares about. "Important issue" is what you yourself care about. I think language immersion programs are fantastic for kids -- for me it is an important issue. For you it's a special interest.

- I thought my point about job longevity was clear: it's about passion for this job -- not how long someone will stick in this particular job. Santiago seems to be coming at this from a traditional fiscal conservative perspective, which typically does not grow out of a passion for the best interests of children.

- I don't believe I made any personal attacks against Santiago. She is running for elected office and it seems totally fair to look at her public statement in this forum and discuss it. I don't see how the views that you and others have expressed in this forum are somehow more kind, respectful, or appropriate than the views I expressed.


Posted by Jennifer Zilliac, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 28, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Dear Flowers,

Thanks for the supportive response. I was surprised by the use of the word "mean-spirited" in describing my post. I wasn't feeling mean-spirited when I wrote it!

Ellen Santiago doesn't seem to have strong opinions about charters. My sense is that this isn't an issue she has thought a lot about.


Posted by my issue with Mah, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 28, 2008 at 5:41 pm

My issue with Mah is integrity. In the fight for MI, she knowingly misrepresented our intentions in a grant application, extorted a vote from the school board. She dissembled freely, and was disingenuous in presenting information by taking it out of context or presenting only an unlikely interpretation.

It's great to have someone on your side who actually gets things done, but lack of integrity always comes back to haunt you eventually.


Posted by Facts, please, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 28, 2008 at 6:07 pm

OhlonePar, very well said. What I find fascinating is that Mah's name is inextricably linked to the Mandarin immersion program, of which, incidentally, her child and consequently her family are direct beneficiaries. If she believed that most people thought that her interest in bringing the program to Palo Alto was out of sheer altruistic passion and belief in immersion education, then she should be trumpeting this fact on her website, when it isn't mentioned at all. Clearly she feels that this accomplishment is a liability.

Jennifer, you called Santiago an ideologue who is using this position as a stepping stone to other elected offices. Yet I'm sure you will also call me mean spirited if I say that I think that Mah's interest in this position is a hedge against cancellation of the MI program, because if it doesn't survive the pilot period, which it may not given the extreme space constraints the district is dealing with, then the Charter threat may come up again, and if our school board denies the petition it can then be appealed to the county board.

For anyone who says that Charter schools are fine and we should have them in Palo Alto to meet the needs of various groups of parents, I point again to the fact that two of our board members considered that a Charter school here would be so destructive that they reversed an earlier decision, an unprecedented move.

And Flowers, what's up with your nom de plume? I assume you're referring to a Mao's campaign in China in the 1950's to flush out dissidents by encouraging them to show themselves as critical of the regime, then wipe them out. The campaign was a political trap, and Mao persecuted those who had views different from the party. The Hundred Flowers Campaign led to the persecution of intellectuals, officials, students, artists and dissidents. Over half a million people were humiliated, imprisoned, demoted or fired from their positions, sent to labor and re-education camps, tortured, or killed.

No wonder some of us don't want to use our real names.


Posted by Jennifer Zilliac, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 28, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Dear Facts, please,

Regarding your comment, "Jennifer, you called Santiago an ideologue who is using this position as a stepping stone to other elected offices."

I stated, something to the effect that, I *suspect* that Santiago may be an ideologue. We don't have very much information to go on with Santiago, and that is one of my concerns. With so many voters angry with Mah, this seems like an ideal opportunity for someone to slip in with little scrutiny. I am confounded by her decision to skip the statement in the voter information guide. I find the information on her web site to be exceptionally weak -- pretty much anyone running for a position like this could stand behind her "Three Important Ideas" statement with the exception of a few tell-tale phrases like "quit making excuses" that sound like they are coming from a conservative ideologue who does not respect all the blood, sweat, and tears that have already gone into the effort to close the achievement gap.

Regarding this comment, "Yet I'm sure you will also call me mean spirited if I say that I think that Mah's interest in this position is a hedge against cancellation of the MI program."

I'm actually okay with that comment. If I had worked as hard as she has to create the MI program, you can bet that I wouldn't want to abandon it either. I do sense that she cares about a lot more than just the MI program, though.


Posted by BTW, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2008 at 10:16 pm

Jen,

Grace Mah is endorsed by the Santa Clara County Republican Party. Check out this link Web Link

Santiago has posted on this blog with her views along with some facts about the board. I'd like to read something from Mah adding too or clarifying any issues on this blog.


Posted by Grace supporter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2008 at 11:59 pm

Grace Mah is also endorsed by the San Jose Mercury News:

Web Link


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2008 at 1:43 am

Jennifer,

I don't use my name here because I don't want my kids involved in this. The MI controversy led to some very heated comments in the threads. One child who spoke at a meeting and was the child of an MI opponent was slammed online. You won't find it because most of it was removed by the editors here--but it was ugly.

You are using your own name and were called on your attitude here--towards me. Your concern about respect might come as a little more genuine if you, say, apologized to me and the forum instead of trying to reprimand me.

You've made a couple of negative comments about Santiago without being able to back them up--it's just what you think. That's not persuasive.

At the same time, you don't rebut what I've said factually. Special interest is not simply a personal interest--in the case of PACE it was pushing for a program against the best interests of the district that would benefit a handful of children at the expense of others. In this case, MI meant that a previously approved expansion of the Ohlone program (for which there is a large waitlist) was pushed aside because Mah threatened a charter.

And I don't have to speculate about this--it's a matter of public record. Basically, Mah's aggressive tactics meant PACE cut in line. For this reason, I don't have a high opinion of Mah's ethics. Again, matter of record.

Meanwhile, you "suspect" Santiago may be an idealogue--but you can't find any proof of this. You just think this. Not real useful--in fact, I'd say it shows a bias on your part. Why because she managed Web content at Hoover? There's actually a big range of opinion at Hoover--yeah, I've known some people there.

Grace Mah, by the way, hasn't done anything to actually create the MI program--she stuck the administration and teachers at Ohlone with that job. And it's been a real distraction for them. There's no charter here--the grunt work's being done by other people.

But you make my point for me--Mah's self-interest (to the tune of saving $20 grand a year in private school tuition--probably similar to your self-interest here) interferes with her ability to be objective about what's best for the district--a bad trait in someone in a position of oversight.

BTW,

So Grace Mah has been endorsed by the Republicans for a non-partisan position. Interesting--probably in part because of her aggressively pro-charter stance.

Well, one more reason for this blue-stater to vote against her.

Gee, Jennifer, did it ever occur to you that Grace was quite a bit more conservative than you thought?


Posted by LASD Parent, a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 29, 2008 at 10:20 am

I'd be interested in learning more on where Ellen Santiago stands on Charter Schools. Some of the Board of Education decisions have directly affected our district (LASD), most recently by allowing Bullis Charter School to have a geographic enrollment preference (oddly enough for a part of the district, the school is not located in). Grace Mah voted no on that enrollment preference: that much we know, how would have Ellen Santiago voted?


Posted by Jennifer Zilliac, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 29, 2008 at 11:03 am

OhlonePar,

Regarding, "Gee, Jennifer, did it ever occur to you that Grace was quite a bit more conservative than you thought?"

This kind of sarcasm is extremely disrespectful. I didn't intend to be disrespectful to you -- as far as I know I just disagreed with you and pointed out that the tone of the discussion was mean-spirited. Comments like these: "Seeing as the MI program ... will inevitably try to hijack Garland (also, no doubt under threat of charter), I should think all those who care about Mah's shenanigans re: MI Charter threat would make haste to vote her off the County Board." and "So let's get your agenda right out front and center and quit pretending you're a disinterested observer. You're not." and calling Mah a "one-trick pony" all strike me as unkind. Someone also cast SI parents in a bad light -- as an SI parent with many friends in SI, that didn't feel good.

Probably my characterization of the discussion as "mean-spirited" was a mistake. That was my honest take on the tone of the discussion, though. If you point to a comment I made that was disrespectful to you, please just point it out and I will definitely apologize. I *don't* want to be mean-spirited, disrespectful, or rude on this forum or anywhere else, and I'm very sorry if I was.

Regarding speculation: I stated speculation as speculation. I am open to both counter speculation and facts that counter my guesses. I really did come to this forum to learn more about both candidates and to make an informed choice. I didn't come to support Mah and I didn't come looking for a fight. After reading what was here and checking out the resources, I voted for Mah.

You are stating as fact that Mah was "pushing for a program against the best interests of the district that would benefit a handful of children at the expense of others." That is your opinion. The immersion programs also have many more families who want them than there are spaces. I support both Ohlone's program and language immersion programs. Lots of families enter the lotteries for both programs and don't get into either. I am thrilled that my older daughter is fluent in Spanish and she feels very proud of herself. I hope that as the year's go by, all or at least most families can get into the programs they want. I would especially like it if people could get the programs they want at their neighborhood schools -- I know that's a tall order, though.

I am glad to know that the Republican party is endorsing Mah -- that lessens my worries about Santiago somewhat. I wish they said why they were endorsing Mah and not Santiago.

The charter school issue is complex, and I don't have strong, black and white opinions about it. My sense is that both Mah and Santiago have nuanced views on the topic.

So please let me know what offended you; I will sincerely apologize. I'll try to learn from this so I can express my thoughts without offending people if possible. Hopefully we can move forward in a more mutually respectful way.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2008 at 11:40 am

Jennifer,

What is "extremely disrespectful" about it? You argued against Santiago because you had a "gut" feeling about Santiago's motives and politics without, as you admitted, any evidence.

So, no, not disrespectful--but to the point.

Yes, it's speculation--but it's not open-minded speculation. It was speculation you used to favor one candidate over the other and, presumably, convince others to do so.

No, it's not my "opinion"--the fact is Ohlone had been approved for an expansion of its program by a half strand. MI took over those spots and those portables. It was not a situation in which there was a huge crossover appeal between families who wanted Ohlone and wanted Mandarin. In fact, there's exactly one family who falls into that category.

It might be *your* opinion that Mandarin is more important than other programs, but the fact is another pre-approved program was pushed aside.

This concern, by the way, was one of the reasons Dana Tom originally voted down MI. He was far from opposed to immersion programs, but he saw the issue here--one of fairness, essentially.

My own feeling has been that MI would have been best pushed off a couple of years and then put in Greendell when half of it becomes available in 2010. The MI/Ohlone mash-up is poorly conceived--politically expedient and educationally counter to successful immersion models. (I won't get into it here--I'll discuss this if you want to open another thread.) There was no compelling reason for the district to put in MI when they did--except the charter threat. And a better *MI* program could have been created if there had been a wait until it could have its own space.

Unfortunately, I don't think it was coincidental that a couple of PACE's founders--and, yes, Mah is one of them--had kids who would have been too old for the program if it had been put off a couple of years. So, again, an issue of self-interest at work. I don't need that in someone on the county board of education.

As for the GOP endorsement--Mah is as pro-charter an incumbent as you're going to get from this area. Charters are fine in a lot of districts but a bad idea in a high-performing basic-aid one. So, no, I wouldn't argue that Mah has shown a "nuanced" understanding of the charter issue--though I agree with her vote on the Bullis preference. Board watcher's comments indicate Santiago has.

Also, I think, in Santiago's favor is her view regarding education cuts--keep them out of the classroom and give districts some discretion here. I think functional districts should have the according amount of autonomy.

Santiago is on the standards side of the graduation argument. That is the more conservative side of the issue, but it's not one I have a problem with. Kids *do* need to be able read, write and compute to function in this society. She seems to have a much wider range of experience with education than does Mah who comes from a high-achieving background, was an academic high-achiever and lives in a high-achieving school district.

So I don't see any indication of a breadth of knowledge regarding educational issues with Mah. She's a well-trained engineer. I don't think she's an idiot, but I think she has a narrow focus and has never developed an ability to balance needs.

I don't need an apology--I mentioned it because you are quick to make value-judgments without checking out the tone of your own posts.


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