Plotkin to serve as Obama senior policy adviser

Palo Alto resident leaves Foothill-De Anza board after six years

Palo Alto resident Hal Plotkin, vice president of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees, is to resign July 7 to become a senior policy adviser in the U.S. Department of Education, the district has announced.

Plotkin will report to President Barack Obama's undersecretary of education, Martha Kanter. Kanter is the departing chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza district and will be sworn in to her new post Wednesday.

"Hal's knowledge as a trustee, journalist and policy-maker will be invaluable as we work to accomplish the exciting education agenda for the nation that President Obama and Secretary (of Education Arne) Duncan have put before us," Kanter said.

Elected to the Board of Trustees in 2003, Plotkin became the first Foothill College graduate to serve on the board.

Throughout his six-year tenure, Plotkin worked on a variety of board initiatives. He not only served as board president but also chaired the board's audit and finance committee three times.

He co-chaired the Committee to Pass Measure C, the district's successful 2006 bond measure, and sponsored the board's policy on public-domain learning materials, a policy that supports the production and use of free online learning materials as substitutes for more costly commercial texts.

Plotkin has firm roots in the Palo Alto community. He initiated his career in journalism as editor of the editorial page for Palo Alto High School's "The Campanile." After dropping out of school in the eleventh grade as a result of "unfortunate family circumstances," Plotkin wrote on his website,, he managed to graduate in 1975.

Over the next 10 years, Plotkin attended college part-time while freelancing writing and pursuing a career in journalism. He earned a bachelor's degree from San Jose State University in behavioral science.

Plotkin has written more than 600 articles for local magazines and newspapers on public policy, technology, science, education and business topics.

Plotkin initially worked as a reporter for San Jose Metro and news director for KPEN 97.7 FM. Later in his career, he wrote the technology beat column at and worked as a full-time Silicon Valley correspondent for the online operations of

While continuing his media career, Plotkin became involved in California state politics. In 1993, he won the Democratic party's nomination to fill Silicon Valley's seat in the California Senate, but he was defeated in the general election. The next year, he served a two-year term on the California state Economic Strategy Panel.

Former state senator John Vasconcellos, one of Plotkin's public-policy mentors, said Plotkin will help advance the new administration's educational agenda.

"I've watched Hal Plotkin since his teenage years develop into a person who really knows higher education with care, depth, deep passion and integrity," Vasconcellos said. "I know Hal will make a major contribution to meeting the higher education goals of President Obama."

Board President and former Palo Alto mayor Betsy Bechtel said this week: "Hal brought passion and energy in his role as a trustee at Foothill-De Anza. … As a former student at Foothill College, he understood what many students experience as they struggle to finance their education. We will miss Hal and wish him well in his new role."

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Like this comment
Posted by Paul Garrett
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 30, 2009 at 11:50 am

I first met Hal during the McGovern Presidential campaign in 1971 when he was a high school student. He was very interested in politics then and his grasp of education and polltics will serve the Obama administration well.

Jean and I wish him much success in his new role.

Paul Garrett

Like this comment
Posted by Debbie Ford-Scriba
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Very good news. Congrats.

Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jun 30, 2009 at 7:10 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Awesome Hal!! Good luck. We are lucky to have you and Martha working together.

Like this comment
Posted by Sanford Forte
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2009 at 12:29 am

Best of luck to you, Hal - and Martha, too. Looking forward to great things...

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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