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Recent Paly graduate to run for school board

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

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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.

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Comments

11 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2018 at 8:11 pm

Good for you Alex. Good luck!!


20 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2018 at 10:26 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

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


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

Good catch Samuel!


3 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 20, 2018 at 6:53 pm

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.


8 people like this
Posted by Magic words
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2018 at 8:12 am

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?


7 people like this
Posted by Wonderful news!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 21, 2018 at 9:02 am

Wonderful news! is a registered user.

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.


4 people like this
Posted by Pat
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2018 at 10:53 am

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.


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

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


Like this comment
Posted by Sandy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm

Is he related to former mayor Scharf??


4 people like this
Posted by Monica Yeung Arima
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 31, 2018 at 8:44 am

Monica Yeung Arima is a registered user.

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


2 people like this
Posted by Cindy Goral
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 5, 2018 at 3:18 am

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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