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Palo Alto school board candidates share their experiences in education

What makes this year's contenders qualified for office?

Toko, a second grader at Fairmeadow Elementary School, works on an assignment in class in Palo Alto on March 16, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

In preparation for the Palo Alto Weekly's coverage of the campaigns for Palo Alto Unified Board of Education, we solicited questions from our readers that speak to their topmost concerns about the school district.

From their many excellent responses, we crafted a short questionnaire for the candidates to complete. In response, they discussed their primary concerns and experience in education. They also offer their opinions on student achievement, COVID-19 learning loss, diversity and inclusion, the superintendent and innovations.

The candidates' answers on all these topics will be published as separate articles, one per day, through Sept. 26. Here's what they had to say to the following question: What has been your experience in education in Palo Alto? What qualifies you to be on the Board of Education?

Nicole Chiu-Wang

Nicole Chiu-Wang. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

After hundreds of hours spent researching the education we want for our children, we chose to plant our young family's roots in Palo Alto. And, now, our children are PAUSD students — my oldest is in TK at Palo Verde and my youngest is in Greendell's PreSchool Family program.

Education is the key to equity in our community — if we do not have equity in the education and opportunities provided to our children in our public schools, all other equity initiatives (in government, in the workplace, etc.) will fail. I have formally studied systemic inequity as a gender and ethinic studies double major and I've seen the opportunity gap in public schools firsthand. I volunteered in a less privileged, predominantly Latinx school district and my students were not reading at grade level in 10th grade. I also volunteered with an Asian American community organization to tutor and mentor Asian American middle school students, mostly Vietnamese American, and I saw a similar opportunity gap for those students. My education and these formative experiences showed me how difficult and how necessary it is to close the opportunity gap.

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My diverse professional experiences have prepared me to serve on our school board. As an attorney, I have experience navigating complicated legal issues, assessing and addressing liability and risk, negotiating contracts and managing mediations. As a successful tech startup founder, I have experience dealing with multi-dimensional employment issues, growing a team while intentionally building a positive culture within an organization, and managing partner relationships. I took my startup scrappiness and grit to a large tech company where I lead dozens of employees, contractors and vendors and have managed a multi-million dollar budget, scaled complex operations, and found common ground between diverse stakeholders with different interests. These are valuable skills for a school board member.

Shounak Dharap

Shounak Dharap. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

My past four years on the board, including as president during school reopenings, have given me a great deal of experience in overseeing the district. During that time, I've immersed myself in as many working committees as I could to develop a stronger understanding of how the district works — including the property, board bond oversight, board policy review, board equity oversight, and fiscal advisory committees. I worked to increase the efficiency of our board policy review committee to end the backlog of policy updates. I shepherded the transition of the property committee into a standing Brown Act committee that has engaged with the community and worked substantively on construction proposals. I led the charge in creating the bond oversight committee and equity oversight committee — which I chaired — both of which have made significant contributions in the areas of construction and equity. These experiences have provided me with a great deal of insight into the impact committee work can have on the thoroughness of the proposals presented to the board, including through engagement with stakeholders for months before an item reaches a board agenda.

My experience growing up in Palo Alto schools has also provided me a perspective on how specific issues (such as mental health and academic inequity) can affect students in the long run. It also provides me with an intangible context — a mixture of connection, gratitude, and an obligation to make the district better — that drives my service.

Shana Segal. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Shana Segal

I was a student (Ohlone, JLS, and Gunn). I am currently a parent to two PAUSD students and a substitute teacher in PAUSD classrooms.

I have a school consulting business in which I advise Peninsula families — both new and longtime residents — on how to evaluate local school options. All of these roles — spanning nearly two decades — give me experience, a long-term view and a unique lens into PAUSD.

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My education and professional career, in addition to my extensive experience with PAUSD, qualifies me to be on the Board of Education, including:

• An M.A. in Education, an M.A. in Educational Leadership, a California teaching credential and an Administrative Credential.

• Teacher of English and English Language Development (ELD) for 10 years, and ELD Department Chair for 7 years at Lynbrook High School in San Jose.

• PAUSD Substitute Teacher (current).

• School Consultant to new and current parents on the peninsula (on-hold during campaign).

While teaching, I served on WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) committees and co-authored Distinguished School Award Applications. This involved evaluating data, setting improvement goals, collaborating, assessing outcomes and holding ourselves accountable to meet the needs of all learners.

My committee service and department leadership required cooperative collaboration, listening and empathy to understand viewpoints of diverse stakeholders. As department chair, I managed other educators and the school ELD budget.

Finally, I would represent an independent voice on the school board. I am new to politics but feel compelled to run because I know I can make a difference at this critical time. I have worked hard for and am proud of every endorsement earned. I'm heartened by the support and would work just as hard to serve PAUSD families.

Ingrid Campos

Ingrid Campos. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

My qualifications to serve on the Board of Education come from being a dedicated parent and loving mother of two children who have journeyed through the PAUSD from Nixon, Fletcher and now currently at Gunn. The transition through the school system has given me an opportunity to witness all of the different phases of a child's educational progress in PAUSD.

Furthermore, with my Business Administration background, I am comfortable and skilled at discussing income, revenue, expenses, budgets, allocation, and reallocation of resources. PAUSD is like a large corporation that has fiscal accountability and great leadership in the administration; there are quite a number of cogs in the wheel that require collaboration and corroboration in making a fiscally fit organization work at its finest. Student transitional experience and business background are a sound fit to be on the Board of Education — any business would be thrilled to have my experience on their side.

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Palo Alto school board candidates share their experiences in education

What makes this year's contenders qualified for office?

by Palo Alto Weekly staff / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 7:11 am

In preparation for the Palo Alto Weekly's coverage of the campaigns for Palo Alto Unified Board of Education, we solicited questions from our readers that speak to their topmost concerns about the school district.

From their many excellent responses, we crafted a short questionnaire for the candidates to complete. In response, they discussed their primary concerns and experience in education. They also offer their opinions on student achievement, COVID-19 learning loss, diversity and inclusion, the superintendent and innovations.

The candidates' answers on all these topics will be published as separate articles, one per day, through Sept. 26. Here's what they had to say to the following question: What has been your experience in education in Palo Alto? What qualifies you to be on the Board of Education?

Nicole Chiu-Wang

After hundreds of hours spent researching the education we want for our children, we chose to plant our young family's roots in Palo Alto. And, now, our children are PAUSD students — my oldest is in TK at Palo Verde and my youngest is in Greendell's PreSchool Family program.

Education is the key to equity in our community — if we do not have equity in the education and opportunities provided to our children in our public schools, all other equity initiatives (in government, in the workplace, etc.) will fail. I have formally studied systemic inequity as a gender and ethinic studies double major and I've seen the opportunity gap in public schools firsthand. I volunteered in a less privileged, predominantly Latinx school district and my students were not reading at grade level in 10th grade. I also volunteered with an Asian American community organization to tutor and mentor Asian American middle school students, mostly Vietnamese American, and I saw a similar opportunity gap for those students. My education and these formative experiences showed me how difficult and how necessary it is to close the opportunity gap.

My diverse professional experiences have prepared me to serve on our school board. As an attorney, I have experience navigating complicated legal issues, assessing and addressing liability and risk, negotiating contracts and managing mediations. As a successful tech startup founder, I have experience dealing with multi-dimensional employment issues, growing a team while intentionally building a positive culture within an organization, and managing partner relationships. I took my startup scrappiness and grit to a large tech company where I lead dozens of employees, contractors and vendors and have managed a multi-million dollar budget, scaled complex operations, and found common ground between diverse stakeholders with different interests. These are valuable skills for a school board member.

Shounak Dharap

My past four years on the board, including as president during school reopenings, have given me a great deal of experience in overseeing the district. During that time, I've immersed myself in as many working committees as I could to develop a stronger understanding of how the district works — including the property, board bond oversight, board policy review, board equity oversight, and fiscal advisory committees. I worked to increase the efficiency of our board policy review committee to end the backlog of policy updates. I shepherded the transition of the property committee into a standing Brown Act committee that has engaged with the community and worked substantively on construction proposals. I led the charge in creating the bond oversight committee and equity oversight committee — which I chaired — both of which have made significant contributions in the areas of construction and equity. These experiences have provided me with a great deal of insight into the impact committee work can have on the thoroughness of the proposals presented to the board, including through engagement with stakeholders for months before an item reaches a board agenda.

My experience growing up in Palo Alto schools has also provided me a perspective on how specific issues (such as mental health and academic inequity) can affect students in the long run. It also provides me with an intangible context — a mixture of connection, gratitude, and an obligation to make the district better — that drives my service.

Shana Segal

I was a student (Ohlone, JLS, and Gunn). I am currently a parent to two PAUSD students and a substitute teacher in PAUSD classrooms.

I have a school consulting business in which I advise Peninsula families — both new and longtime residents — on how to evaluate local school options. All of these roles — spanning nearly two decades — give me experience, a long-term view and a unique lens into PAUSD.

My education and professional career, in addition to my extensive experience with PAUSD, qualifies me to be on the Board of Education, including:

• An M.A. in Education, an M.A. in Educational Leadership, a California teaching credential and an Administrative Credential.

• Teacher of English and English Language Development (ELD) for 10 years, and ELD Department Chair for 7 years at Lynbrook High School in San Jose.

• PAUSD Substitute Teacher (current).

• School Consultant to new and current parents on the peninsula (on-hold during campaign).

While teaching, I served on WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) committees and co-authored Distinguished School Award Applications. This involved evaluating data, setting improvement goals, collaborating, assessing outcomes and holding ourselves accountable to meet the needs of all learners.

My committee service and department leadership required cooperative collaboration, listening and empathy to understand viewpoints of diverse stakeholders. As department chair, I managed other educators and the school ELD budget.

Finally, I would represent an independent voice on the school board. I am new to politics but feel compelled to run because I know I can make a difference at this critical time. I have worked hard for and am proud of every endorsement earned. I'm heartened by the support and would work just as hard to serve PAUSD families.

Ingrid Campos

My qualifications to serve on the Board of Education come from being a dedicated parent and loving mother of two children who have journeyed through the PAUSD from Nixon, Fletcher and now currently at Gunn. The transition through the school system has given me an opportunity to witness all of the different phases of a child's educational progress in PAUSD.

Furthermore, with my Business Administration background, I am comfortable and skilled at discussing income, revenue, expenses, budgets, allocation, and reallocation of resources. PAUSD is like a large corporation that has fiscal accountability and great leadership in the administration; there are quite a number of cogs in the wheel that require collaboration and corroboration in making a fiscally fit organization work at its finest. Student transitional experience and business background are a sound fit to be on the Board of Education — any business would be thrilled to have my experience on their side.

Comments

felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2022 at 8:00 am
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2022 at 8:00 am

Excellent Forum. The Questioners from the Weekly and schools were very good, as was the Moderator.

I was impressed by Ms. Segal’s knowledge and experience that she would bring to the Board as an education professional. She went to school in town and lived here for a long time, so she knows the District culture, our kids and families’ successes, concerns and struggles.

[Portion removed.]

Shana Segal, and also incumbent Shounak Dharap, have the serious qualifications, knowledge and experience needed to be our School Board Trustees.


Ugh
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 21, 2022 at 8:50 am
Ugh, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2022 at 8:50 am

My vote is for Shana Segal-- she has the most experience as a teacher, volunteer, and parent in the district, and she also has had kids move through the district.

As an Asian American, I cannot vote for Nicole, even though she is Asian American-- she has no practical experience, isn't an educator, and only moved here a short while ago. She hasn't volunteered in school and can't see the intricacies and push/pull of parents/students/teachers/administrators that are apparent once you are actively volunteering or working in PAUSD schools for a long time. [Portion removed.]


CalAveLocal
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Sep 21, 2022 at 11:38 am
CalAveLocal, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2022 at 11:38 am

Shana Segal, hands down, is the only one with real qualification to serve on the board and to make a difference.
Shounak Dharap, maybe - at lease he has experience going through PAUSD himself. Since two spots are open, I will somewhat reluctantly vote for him too (I was not impressed by his first term).
Nicole Chiu-Wang haș no experience in education, her children are in pre-school, and she has no experience of PAUSD not having grown up here. I am sure she is a lovely person, but she needs to gain a bit of experience with our schools first, IMHO.
Ingrid Campos - a hard no.


Father of Gunn Graduates
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Sep 21, 2022 at 7:18 pm
Father of Gunn Graduates, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2022 at 7:18 pm

Ingrid Campos has my vote. Her strong financial background will will provide helpful expertise to the board in both managing and using funds efficiently for the maximum benefit of our children. She will also be a strong, independent voice for parents and students.


jamiebarnett
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Sep 22, 2022 at 7:24 am
jamiebarnett, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Sep 22, 2022 at 7:24 am

All I have to say is attend and listen. You will be blown away by Nicole Chiu-Wang. She is smart, thoughtful, and really well-prepared. As an entrpreneur and legal exec at Google, she is experienced at all the things board members do: running a budget, managing the superintendent, and setting district culture. And as a student of gender and ethnic studies and the law, and an enthusiastic volunteer in schools throughout her life, she has the passion and demonstrated commitment we need here at PAUSD. Also, I'm proud to sign my name to this post. - Jamie Barnett


Greene and Paly Parent
Registered user
Professorville
on Sep 22, 2022 at 9:15 am
Greene and Paly Parent, Professorville
Registered user
on Sep 22, 2022 at 9:15 am

Thank you Palo Alto online for hosting the debate! I am concerned with the limited view expressed by board member Dharap of the role of PAUSD board. This is in sharp contrast to the more expansive view at similar districts. According to Dharap, hire the superintendent and dictate a "vision". But the "vision" examples were picturesque statements of the type designed to advance political careers rather than improve ground level experiences and outcomes. This view dodges accountability under some umbrella excuse that "board members are not education experts."

The board is the elected entity linking the interests of our community and families to a self-interested entitiy providing service. If the board does not ensure that the diverse needs and priorities of our students are met, then no one will! The role of the board should be to require transparancy, fiscal responsibility, that policies are data driven and evidence-based, that meaningful measures are in place and data is collected, that parent and student input is meaningfully taken. Board members do not need to be education experts to do that. And because they are not doing this, despite huge available funds, our students suffer.

For context, other districts (e.g. Los Altos, Cupertino, and Saratoga) make expansive use of "Board policies" that the district must follow with checks in place. A common practice is a board policy for math placement and pathways with board oversight of results. At PAUSD we have a process that is secretive, contrary to evidence and own data, often harmful to students, lawsuit layden, and ignores input from families and teachers. Other districts have a transparent sensible process in place. See Cupertino example:
A honest, detailed, LCAP report (PAUSD dodges collecting this data!):
Web Link
Math pathways board policy:
Web Link


D. in Barron Park
Registered user
Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2022 at 12:10 pm
D. in Barron Park, Barron Park
Registered user
on Sep 22, 2022 at 12:10 pm


The Forum was very informative, although one minute seemed to rush the answers. Your journalist's questions were understandable, short and to the point. I always enjoy reading her articles about PAUSD.

I was most impressed by Shana Segal. Her refreshing non-political viewpoint will serve our community and, most importantly, our children well.

Ms. Segal also mentioned something that I've been hearing about for a few years... Low teacher morale. People have forgotten how teachers were put up on pedestals at the beginning of the pandemic. They should always be held in high esteem. With the increasing teacher shortage, teachers have the ability to go where they feel most appreciated. Good teachers make a difference in how a child feels about themself and whether they enjoy school. We can't continue to lose good teachers!!!

Ms. Segal's credentials and passion for education and educators make her the best candidate for a more balanced school board.


Palo Alto Mom
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2022 at 2:59 pm
Palo Alto Mom, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 22, 2022 at 2:59 pm

I have long been impressed with Shounak’s calm, kind, wise presence on the school board. He has gone above and beyond and proven his steady leadership through all the uncertainty and angst of the pandemic which triggered our already intense over-involved parent community to rise to new pressure cooker heights. I am so thankful that he is willing to serve another term in this unpaid and often highly stressful and thankless role as a PAUSD board member. He has my gratitude & vote!
The fact that all 3 of my favorite board members (Shounak, Jennifer, Jesse) endorse Nicole would really be enough for me to vote for her, but I have had the opportunity to get to know her and attended her kick off which made it abundantly clear why she is who they hope to work with. What a breath of fresh air Nicole is! She is incredibly smart, accomplished, personable, hard-working, has done her homework and cares deeply about improving the lives and school experiences of all of our students. She has a lot of skin in the game with her kids having just started PAUSD. And I love the fact that she is Chinese. Representation matters and with 40% of our students being Asian (most of them Chinese); we have never before had a Chinese woman on the board. It's high time. Her educational, work and volunteer experiences are incredibly valuable and relevant to managing a school district. She will strengthen and add diversity to our board. Nicole gets my enthusiastic vote! 
[Portion removed.]


Greene and Paly Parent
Registered user
Professorville
on Sep 23, 2022 at 7:04 pm
Greene and Paly Parent, Professorville
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2022 at 7:04 pm


@Palo Alto Mom
Your language says it all to me:
-- "Most of THEM" (referring to our Asian students)
-- "Chinese woman" (reference to US-raised and educated half-white Nicole Chiu-Wang).

I find it disrespectful that you assert that your chosen candidate represents a group that you are not a member of. Let me try to convey why.

I am a PAUSD parent (of 20 years) of what you call "Chinese kids." Our community had been demonizing Asian family values of academic excellence and dismissing priorities of Asian families. Asian parenting was blamed for the heart breaking incidents of PAUSD students dying by suicide [facts: Asians have HALF the suicide rate of whites, CDC investigation dismissed that link for PAUSD]. PAUSD Asian parents felt profiled and helpless when approaching district staff, especially on issues related to academic needs. The worst (IMO) was "Trusted" adults at school (well-meaning in their conspired world) messaging students that their parents are harming them. Just try to imagine how harmful this is, especially when parents are foreign-born.

A board candidate that stood for Asian families got hammered by committee after having "many Asian names" in the list of supporters. The "old guard" board, elected by voters that bought these conspiracies, are now hand picking and endorsing candidates of Asian descent (but "certified" to share "the right" (YOUR) priorities).

Mutual respect (even when your family choices are different) should be the hallmark of a liberal community. You can have your private clubs and football and beer and I can have my math fun and I still respect your choices. Why are you vilifying mine? For years I wondered. Here is an explanation (read the whole thing):
Web Link


D. in Barron Park
Registered user
Barron Park
on Sep 25, 2022 at 12:03 pm
D. in Barron Park, Barron Park
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2022 at 12:03 pm

Greene and Paly Parent,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for speaking your truth. The article was enlightening as well, thank you.

Who knows, one little school board contest could open the eyes of our community to more than anyone expected. Let's not forget and continue to deal with this subject after the election.

Also, having board members hand pick a candidate and outwardly support them with parties and money isn't the way It's supposed to be.


Greene and Paly Parent
Registered user
Professorville
on Sep 30, 2022 at 8:45 pm
Greene and Paly Parent, Professorville
Registered user
on Sep 30, 2022 at 8:45 pm

[Post removed; repetitive of prior comments by same poster.]


toransu
Registered user
Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2022 at 4:21 pm
toransu, Barron Park
Registered user
on Oct 5, 2022 at 4:21 pm

Love how a "Father of Gunn Graduates" wants a bigot like Campos on the school board who will gleefully enact policies that will cause more tragedies like the ones that occurred when I was a student at Gunn.


Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2022 at 11:56 pm
Palo Alto Resident, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 6, 2022 at 11:56 pm

@Palo Alto Mom

"we have never before had a Chinese woman on the board. It's high time."

Like your favored candidates (or maybe all of them), your memory is short. We can let Barbara Sih Klausner, Board member from 2007 to 2012, and very much a "Chinese woman," that she's been officially forgotten. Sorry Barbara!


Anony Mouse
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 9, 2022 at 8:44 pm
Anony Mouse, College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 9, 2022 at 8:44 pm

Shana Segal is just what we need right now. There's a looming teacher shortage - even in Palo Alto, despite what 25 Churchill might think. We need to optimize the assets we have. Our human capital is being squandered in political sideshows and grandstanding. The actions of the current administration have cratered morale and damaged the core of this institution. Shana knows that teachers and staff need support because that has a direct effect on student outcomes. She's not interested in political advancement and chest-thumping.

On the other hand, Nicole Chiu-Wong is also a strong candidate, but for other reasons. She brings something different to the table. She's bright, energetic and open. She listens and takes in new information. She has the humility to know what she doesn't know. The fact that she has young children is actually a positive. She's deeply committed to this institution BECAUSE she's new to town, BECAUSE her children are so young.

25 Churchill spins a huge number of narratives to suit their political ambitions. Shana will see right through the fog because she's an experienced educator. Nicole is bright enough to not be taken in by the spin - young people see right through the awkward spin of the olds. Who knows - maybe the days of the Board voting unanimously on EVERYTHING are over?


staying home
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Oct 10, 2022 at 12:45 pm
staying home, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Oct 10, 2022 at 12:45 pm

@Father of Gunn Graduates I fear Campos is not running to represent all students. Her qualifications are basically being a parent, being employed at a company she owned, and believing in "traditional" values. Given that this community is super vigilant on the performance of the PAUSD School Board, shouldn't we have higher expectations?


Trent Howard
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 11, 2022 at 9:03 am
Trent Howard, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 11, 2022 at 9:03 am

The PAUSD does not need a rubber stamp committee serving as a school board.

Ms. Campos will keep things on track by striving to ensure that public education remains pertinent and not a vehicle for promoting trivial and/or controversial subject matter.


Facts and Figures
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 12, 2022 at 9:32 pm
Facts and Figures, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2022 at 9:32 pm

@Palo Alto Mom and Palo Alto Online,

I would like Palo Alto Online to redact @Palo Alto Mom's post (as it does to others that are factually incorrect).

Barbara Klausner as noted by another poster was a fabulous Chinese woman PAUSD Board member. But she wasn't elected for representation only. She had deep experience in PAUSD and education prior to running (and she was a lawyer).

As she posted on her website (still up): An Educator's Insight and Passion

“From teaching students in the classroom to collaborating with educators and parents on the creation of new programs, my focus has always been on further improving PAUSD’s educational system. I have experience with what works well for our district and how to balance strong competing interests The role of the school board should be to find the common ground, guide the efforts of all who are involved, and focus these efforts on making systemic, long-term improvements to our district in order to best serve the needs of all of our students.”

Web Link


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