News

Recent Paly graduate to run for school board

Alex Scharf, 21, joins four candidates running for two open seats

A 2015 graduate of Palo Alto High School focused on special education and mental health reform is running for a seat on the Board of Education in November.

Alex Scharf, currently a part-time Foothill College student, submitted the necessary paperwork to begin his campaign on Tuesday.

Scharf attended the Palo Alto school district from elementary through high school. Personal experience with the district's special-education and mental health services, which he said are lacking, drove him to launch a campaign for the school board.

"What I'm trying to bring is a perspective of someone who went through the school system and knows how the school system actually works as opposed to how it's supposed to work from the school board and how the rules are set," Scharf said in an interview Thursday.

Scharf attended Juana Briones and Ohlone elementary schools; the now-renamed Frank Greene and Ellen Fletcher middle schools; and Paly. He left the district feeling unsatisfied with how special-education students are treated, particularly by a lack of accountability when it comes to adhering to students' individualized education plans, or IEPs. He said he often did not receive the accommodations spelled out in his plans and wants there to be more accountability for the teachers and administrators responsible for implementing them.

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He also criticized the district's case manager structure, which he said isn't conducive to students developing relationships and advocates. When he was in middle school, case managers were assigned by grade, and in high school, he had four different case managers due to high turnover.

"I never really got time to know them and have them advocate for me properly," he said.

Scharf's mother, Cindy Goral, served as the special-education representative for Paly's Parent Teacher Student Association from 2011 to 2015, according to her LinkedIn. In that role, she helped other parents of students with special needs navigate the school system.

Scharf's other main campaign priority is student mental health. He's concerned that seeking help is still stigmatized and that the district should be doing more to support struggling students. Particularly in middle school, he said he "didn't want to get seen going to the counselor.

"That's very disruptive to people who need help and don't look for it because of the stigma," he said.

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Scharf suggested that the district should provide scholarships or some form of financial compensation for students who are seeing therapists outside of school to increase accessibility.

In 2015, Scharf helped plan a youth forum on mental health called "In This Together: A Place to Share, A Place to Support, A Place to Heal." The goal was to raise awareness about mental health among both youth and adults, with discussion circles and workshops.

Acknowledging that he is an unusual candidate given his age, Scharf said he doesn't "necessarily need to bring a lot of life experience" to a board already full of it.

Scharf joins four other candidates running for two open seats: incumbent Ken Dauber, parent Kathy Jordan, lawyer Shounak Dharap and special-education advocate Stacey Ashlund. Board member Terry Godfrey, whose term expires in November along with Dauber's, is not running for re-election.

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Recent Paly graduate to run for school board

Alex Scharf, 21, joins four candidates running for two open seats

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 19, 2018, 4:40 pm
Updated: Mon, Jul 23, 2018, 8:45 am

A 2015 graduate of Palo Alto High School focused on special education and mental health reform is running for a seat on the Board of Education in November.

Alex Scharf, currently a part-time Foothill College student, submitted the necessary paperwork to begin his campaign on Tuesday.

Scharf attended the Palo Alto school district from elementary through high school. Personal experience with the district's special-education and mental health services, which he said are lacking, drove him to launch a campaign for the school board.

"What I'm trying to bring is a perspective of someone who went through the school system and knows how the school system actually works as opposed to how it's supposed to work from the school board and how the rules are set," Scharf said in an interview Thursday.

Scharf attended Juana Briones and Ohlone elementary schools; the now-renamed Frank Greene and Ellen Fletcher middle schools; and Paly. He left the district feeling unsatisfied with how special-education students are treated, particularly by a lack of accountability when it comes to adhering to students' individualized education plans, or IEPs. He said he often did not receive the accommodations spelled out in his plans and wants there to be more accountability for the teachers and administrators responsible for implementing them.

He also criticized the district's case manager structure, which he said isn't conducive to students developing relationships and advocates. When he was in middle school, case managers were assigned by grade, and in high school, he had four different case managers due to high turnover.

"I never really got time to know them and have them advocate for me properly," he said.

Scharf's mother, Cindy Goral, served as the special-education representative for Paly's Parent Teacher Student Association from 2011 to 2015, according to her LinkedIn. In that role, she helped other parents of students with special needs navigate the school system.

Scharf's other main campaign priority is student mental health. He's concerned that seeking help is still stigmatized and that the district should be doing more to support struggling students. Particularly in middle school, he said he "didn't want to get seen going to the counselor.

"That's very disruptive to people who need help and don't look for it because of the stigma," he said.

Scharf suggested that the district should provide scholarships or some form of financial compensation for students who are seeing therapists outside of school to increase accessibility.

In 2015, Scharf helped plan a youth forum on mental health called "In This Together: A Place to Share, A Place to Support, A Place to Heal." The goal was to raise awareness about mental health among both youth and adults, with discussion circles and workshops.

Acknowledging that he is an unusual candidate given his age, Scharf said he doesn't "necessarily need to bring a lot of life experience" to a board already full of it.

Scharf joins four other candidates running for two open seats: incumbent Ken Dauber, parent Kathy Jordan, lawyer Shounak Dharap and special-education advocate Stacey Ashlund. Board member Terry Godfrey, whose term expires in November along with Dauber's, is not running for re-election.

Comments

Hulkamania
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2018 at 8:11 pm
Hulkamania, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2018 at 8:11 pm
11 people like this

Good for you Alex. Good luck!!


Samuel L.
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2018 at 10:26 pm
Samuel L., Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jul 19, 2018 at 10:26 pm
20 people like this

This phrase is one of the greatest things ever written by PA Weekly,"...to a board already full of it."


Hulkamania
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2018 at 4:02 pm
Hulkamania, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2018 at 4:02 pm
3 people like this

Good catch Samuel!


C
Palo Alto High School
on Jul 20, 2018 at 6:53 pm
C, Palo Alto High School
on Jul 20, 2018 at 6:53 pm
3 people like this

Where can I find more details about the policies he proposes to rectify these problems? This article only conveys that he is aware these problems exist but says little of what he will do to fix them.


Magic words
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2018 at 8:12 am
Magic words, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2018 at 8:12 am
10 people like this

He said the magic words: “Accountability “


He has my vote.

And this also distinguishes him from the other candidates, the district staff and the teachers in our schools.

It is a concept so radically different than anything I’ve heard in 15 years of watching this circus; how could I NOT. vote for this guy?


Wonderful news!
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 21, 2018 at 9:02 am
Wonderful news!, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jul 21, 2018 at 9:02 am
7 people like this

Our family also experienced a lack of accountability towards IEP and 504 accommodations both at Jordan/Greene and Paly. At Jordan, one of my daughter's teachers refused to even attend the IEP meeting. No reason ,just said no.

Alex would add a great perspective - that of an actual PAUSD student - to the school board.


Pat
Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2018 at 10:53 am
Pat, Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2018 at 10:53 am
4 people like this

Great that these issues will be raised. However, others with more than a little bit of Foothill College should also run so voters have some choices.


Can this get worse?
Gunn High School
on Jul 21, 2018 at 4:22 pm
Can this get worse?, Gunn High School
on Jul 21, 2018 at 4:22 pm
8 people like this

Anyone new will do, get rid of the last remaining holdovers from the Kevin Skelly era.


Sandy
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm
Sandy, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm
Like this comment

Is he related to former mayor Scharf??


Monica Yeung Arima
Registered user
Professorville
on Jul 31, 2018 at 8:44 am
Monica Yeung Arima, Professorville
Registered user
on Jul 31, 2018 at 8:44 am
4 people like this

It’s wonderful to see our young generation participate in the process. Bless!


Cindy Goral
Barron Park
on Aug 5, 2018 at 3:18 am
Cindy Goral, Barron Park
on Aug 5, 2018 at 3:18 am
2 people like this

Alex now has a website where you can find out more, submit your thoughts and questions, donate to the campaign or volunteer to help.

Web Link

Sandy - he is not related to former mayor Scharff.


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