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Here's how this year's Palo Alto school board candidates want to serve you if elected

Original post made on Sep 20, 2022

In their own words, the four candidates seeking two open seats on the Palo Alto Board of Education share their topmost concerns about the school district.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 20, 2022, 8:44 AM

Comments (26)

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 20, 2022 at 1:28 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Nicole Chiu-Wang and Shounak Dharup are at the top of my list of candidates. I am so worried that our students are not recovering from PTSD from Climate Change, Pandemic, distance learning, heads in their devices for two years, social media pressures. Their World has changed dramatically. They are stressed and anxious. As grown-up we have to guide and supervise and they are deeply aware there are few role models in us adults for them to count on. When they know 95% of the their teachers have to travel from places like Aptos or San Francisco or Oakland, yet we are asking for excellence from both teacher and our student. To thrive yet they see the hypocrisy that is prevailing so intensely on the ground they, walk, study, sleep, learn and watch. Their friends are moving because of the high cost, the economy. High pressure and very little to look forward to. I keep hearing from CC families are here for the schools. Yes. True and for many other reasons too. To be near relatives, for higher paying work, and for the extraordinary diversity in human population -- from all walks of life. Let be the change we want to see. Let's model for our kids we care about teachers, collaboration in partnerships between the city, PAUSD, Stanford. Let do this change. Vote for Nicole! Vote for Shounak. Our students will thrive with their human connection, their empathy (which is leaned), their sharp intelligence and their very grown-up approach to the needs of our children and our city. Go Nicole, go Shounak. Just seeing these bright young faces, ready for the challenge. PS If I hear the term "data driven" one more time my hair will be totally grey by Nov election. We so desperately crave the real, deep human connection.

Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2022 at 2:25 pm

Palo Alto Mom is a registered user.

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!
Hats off also to Board members Jennifer and Jesse who I have the utmost respect for. The fact that all 3 of my favorite board members endorse Nicole would really be enough for me to vote for her, but I have also 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! For starters 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 also has a lot of skin in the game with her oldest just having started PAUSD. And I love the fact that she is Chinese. Representation matters to our youth and with 40% of our students being Asian (most of them Chinese), it is high time we add a Chinese member to the board. Nicole gets my very enthusiastic vote!
I have not given Ingrid a second thought since learning she is Republican and wants to bring back “traditional family values.”
Shana working as a private education consultant guiding students away from public to private schools feels like a huge conflict to me. Plus I found her announcing her candidacy in the comments of the Weekly’s article about Nicole to be tactless.

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 20, 2022 at 3:55 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

We need a member of school board that has experience with education, understands students and understands this community. Shana Segal is that person. We do not need another candidate that has no students of their own in the school district. We do not need another candidate with zero experience in education and zero experience with students or families in this district claiming they know what needs to change. How can anyone who has no student in the district, no background in education and has lived in Palo Alto for less than 6 months know the culture much less know what needs to be fixed? To have someone actually work to solve the many issues in the district, including issues with the mental health of our students, we need someone that understands these issues, not someone that needs to learn on the job for the next four years.
As a long time Asian parent in this community, I am tired of the stereotyping of Asians parents. I also would love representation in the PAUSD. board However, someone that has never been a parent in this district and does not have any personal or professional experience with middle and high school students (where the pressure actually starts to be felt) can not claim to represent any middle and high school parents or students - Asian or not. We do not need tokenism in PAUSD. An an Asian candidate with zero experience that is already aligned with current board members is pure tokenism (putting forward a candidate claiming to represent a certain group but who has no real voice or power). It is sadly not real understanding or representation for Asian families in PAUSD. It is just another vote for the prevailing majority of the Board that has put the district where we are now - the low teacher moral, lots of missteps at the high school and middle schools, no change on the achievement gap, and declining enrollment in our schools. Asian families, like all PAUSD families, need a strong candidate with experience relevant for a school board.

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 20, 2022 at 4:18 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

[Post removed; successive comments by the same poster are not permitted.]

Posted by Red
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2022 at 4:36 pm

Red is a registered user.

Representation matters. 34% of our K-12 PAUSD student body is of Chinese descent and another 3-5% have origins from East, Southeast and South Asia and Pacific Island nations. Shounak Dharap.of Asian Indian background is the only one currently on the school board with an upbringing that prepared him/her to comprehend the significant and subtle learning styles of children from the Far East. Dharap, an accomplished incumbent, recognized that a second board member such as Nicole Chiu-Wang would be an great asset to the school board and encouraged Nicole to compete. Nicole was not only raised by Chinese immigrant parents in the United States, highly educated at the U.C. University's ethnic studies and women's focused programs, and grew up as well experiencing the struggles of a student and adult in academia and business as a double minority (Asian and female). Both SHOUNAK DHARAP and NICOLE CHIU-WANG are best suited to further improve our excellent school district. RED

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 20, 2022 at 4:49 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

@Red Let me correct you please - Shounak was brought up in Palo Alto. He never attended school in India or anywhere in South Asia. He is not an expert on learning styles of South Asian students and I don't think he has ever claimed to be. If he has - please find the quote.

Yes - a large portion of the district is Asian and deserves strong representation. But that representation needs to be paired with some experience in the community, experience with our schools and with our students. To be fair, Shounak grew up in Palo Alto and went to Gunn so yes, he understands Palo Alto better.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2022 at 5:07 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

It concerns me when a candidate says our schools in Palo Alto are excellent without any type of qualifier. This sounds to me much like the local realtors say to potential buyers rather than anything else.

I fail to see that our schools are any more excellent than various others around the Bay or indeed the State and most definitely are not excellent compared to the rest of the world. The caliber of the schools is more likely due to tutoring and paying for college preparation specialists rather than those who are depending on PAUSD education alone to get into top tier colleges.

I would like to see a candidate who is concerned about education for the brightest and also about education for those who are not college bound. I would like to see them be just as enthusiasting about the vocational programs as they are about the STEM programs. I would like to see that students are not a one size fit all group of anonymous students, but individuals with differing abilities and differing goals.

The only candidate that seems to get anywhere near this has to be experienced as a teacher, a parent and alum who understands that we have to do better than we are doing particularly as the aftermath of the pandemic becomes better understood in terms of what lockdown and poor socialization has done to our children at all ages.

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 20, 2022 at 5:39 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

[Post removed; excessive and repetitive posting]

Posted by Gramen
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2022 at 6:34 pm

Gramen is a registered user.

I totally agree with Red. Nicole Chiu-Wang and Shounak Dharup are my choices for the school board. Nicole, is a female Asian - whose work background and service work have given her experience in how both adults and kids learn, how mental health affects learning, and how to run a business . This experience will will serve her well on the PAUSD board. Shounak deserves a second term to complete his work on the board's Equity Oversight Committee and implement the plan he developed during his first term. Both will focus on mental health issues so needed for today's youth.

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 20, 2022 at 8:19 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by GreatPumpkin
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 20, 2022 at 8:56 pm

GreatPumpkin is a registered user.

I am not for or against Dharup's re-election. He has done a suitable job. He has not improved equity as much as he claims. He did not "add" $16 million for mental health. Some of that $16 million went to employee benefits and bus drivers. Some of it was double counted under both old funding and new funding. Changing mental health providers from contractor to district employees is more expensive in the long run. Employees-only present their own risks. Since the school district now controls the mental health providers, they are no longer independent and cannot put the interests of children first, only the district. The school district controls evaluations of employees.

For complete non-Equity, Special Education started a new school campus at Cubberley and Greendell and is using litigation to fill it. Special Education attorneys target mentally ill high school students to remove them from therapeutic schools to place them at at Greendell. Because of the reasons some of the students are attending therapeutic schools, this must be hidden from the Pr-eschool families at Greendell. The district hides this is by calling the new campus Cubberley instead of Greendell and not publishing a Cubberley class schedule. No one can know how many students are at Cubberley or why they are there. Special Education alone controls these student's lives, and can hide them away in separate classrooms. The hidden Cubberley campus allows Special Education to exempt itself from meeting WASC accredidation requirements.

This reduces district equity by bleeding services from the public high schools. There are fewer opportunities and classes that would allow Special Education kids to join general education classes at regular campuses. Special education took advantage of Covid to reduce graduation standards, and allow Cubberely/Greendell to use lower graduation standards for disabled children to save money.

The new Special Education process is: Separate. Segregate. Graduate.

Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 20, 2022 at 9:31 pm

PA Parent is a registered user.

[Portion deleted.]

I also feel like one should live in town for at least a school year before running for school board. There's a big learning curve to this town and district and she should take time to do her own research. What's the rush, especially when your kids are so young?

Posted by Concerned Neightbor
a resident of Triple El
on Sep 20, 2022 at 10:52 pm

Concerned Neightbor is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

Shana Segal is the best candidate - she has the experience of an educator and supports student success.
Considering how education has degraded in the past few years, especially with the math curriculum debacle, it is probably time to elect someone new, so I am not as keen on reelecting Shounak Dharup as others seem to be.

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 20, 2022 at 11:03 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

@Gramen can you elaborate on what experiences specifically give Nicole expertise in child learning or mental health issues for students? Working at Google or owning a small business or Law do not give expertise in child mental health or learning issues.

Nicole is not a health practitioner or teacher and has no experience in a classroom or school setting. She also has no experience with middle or high school students. Please give specific and verifiable data for your claim of experience in tackling these important issues.

Posted by Parent of Two
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 21, 2022 at 7:56 am

Parent of Two is a registered user.

Why are there so many deleted and censored comments?

It’s heavy handed and makes me question the integrity of this paper when anyone questioning qualifications claims made by a candidate or their obvious anonymous supporters is removed. Voters deserve the full and accurate picture.

The deleted or edited posts reflect removal of content that is either repetitive of earlier posts, a speculative or unsupported assertion about a candidate or disrespectful. Repeated comments by the same poster will be removed, regardless of content, as they inappropriately and unfairly attempt to dominate the discussion. Please focus campaign postings on the positions or policies that cause you to support your candidate and avoid questioning the motives or offering your own theories about the motives of other candidates. Above all else, treat other commenters and the candidates with the respect they deserve. It's not easy for someone to run for public office and your anonymous comments denigrating one or more candidates doesn't contribute to meaningful discussion of the important issues facing our school district.

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 21, 2022 at 9:08 am

Resident10 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by CalAveLocal
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 21, 2022 at 11:45 am

CalAveLocal is a registered user.

Shana Segal is absolutely most qualified to be on the board, and I believe her experience - as an educator, as a parent in our school district as well as a student going through K-12 - is invaluable. Focus on mental health and individual approach to all aspects is, in may opinion, also extremely important.
Shounak clicks all the right boxes but we are yet to see anything of substance from him. He is going to be my second choice, reluctantly.
Nicole has no relevant experience, at least at this point. Her children are very young, she has not grown up or lived in Palo Alto for any reasonable amount of time, and she has no background in education or childhood development or any such thing. Maybe in a few years could revisit.
Ingrid is a very definitive NO.

Posted by toransu
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2022 at 11:35 am

toransu is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Parent of Two
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2022 at 12:37 pm

Parent of Two is a registered user.

I’m concerned that the disparaging comment about Ms. Segal’s endorsements is allowed to stay. It reeks of a direct hit from another campaign. Let’s use facts and let’s play nice, please. The adults model for the students and children in our community. I hope those working to support whoever is running is holding their own team and supporters up to high standards of integrity. Voters will need to do their own research beyond the Weekly.

Posted by Freddy
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 22, 2022 at 1:12 pm

Freddy is a registered user.

Critiquing endorsers seems like fair game, especially for a candidate who has no public track record.

Caswell, Townsend, and Emberling (Segal's only ex school board endorsers) were leaders during the "reign of error" period, starting with Skelly's hiring in 2007 until McGee's being shown the door in 2017. No period in PAUSD history had as much controversy, scandal, and just plain incompetence (remember the Six Million Dollar Blunder? OCR investigations? 1am board meetings?). They are all among the very few incumbents that the Weekly declined to endorse for reelection (Townsend twice I think).

I don't know any of the candidates, but we can often judge people by the company they keep.

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 22, 2022 at 2:39 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

@Freddy Critiquing endorsers is not the same as asking them to back up their claims written in these comments. If they are making claims about a candidate's skills or qualifications for the job, asking for some evidence of that is not the same as attacking them.

As an Asian person, I was deeply offended by the words of @Red, including "learning styles of children from the Far East". I am sorry but that statement is quite offensive and shows a lack of understanding of Asian students or Asians themselves. Also, as an Asian woman (double minority according to @Red), I do not need someone so completely unaware of my feelings or thoughts telling me who is the best person to represent me.

Posted by Michelle
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 22, 2022 at 3:11 pm

Michelle is a registered user.

I can’t be the only one who actually audibly cheered when Nicole Chiu-Wang stated without hesitation that her own family values are inclusive and progressive in response to Ingrid Campos’s coded language around being “color blind” and “family values”. It was not surprising to me that the other candidate who felt compelled to respond to these comments was Mr. Shounak Dharap and I look forward to casting my vote for both.

Nicole is a whip-smart, biracial woman whose qualifications as a lawyer and extensive multi-faceted career are actually relevant to the role of board trustee. Nicole is also principled and big hearted, brings fresh eyes and a new perspective to old intractable problems, and she's a gifted communicator with an exceptional work ethic. And like the other three candidates, she’s also a parent of children who are both enrolled in PAUSD and will be for many years to come.

We've all been new to town, and for those who haven't because they happen to have been born and raised here please know it takes a lot for a newcomer to be willing to put up their hand up to serve. I look forward to the day when this narrative about being a 'native' (and please don't use that term unless you are Native American) ceases to automatically confer greater legitimacy. This is personal to many of us and sends a message about what it takes to belong and be accepted in the town that we have intentionally decided to call home.

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 22, 2022 at 5:21 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

@Michelle -thank you for your post. It was the most honest one about what Nicole brings to the table and I appreciate it. I did not see the word "native" used in any comments above. Anyway to address the issue of being new:

The issue comes in when you say someone new "represents" an existing group in PAUSD. The Asian community has dealt with a lot of subtle bias in this "tolerant" town. We have conversations about it and advise each other. Nicole is not a K-12 parent in PAUSD. She is not part of these conversations and to paint her to represent an existing community as a newcomer was wrong.

Both Nicole and Shana would be newcomers to the PAUSD board and could bring new ideas. I believe the candidate that is not already so closely aligned with existing board members is the one more likely to be independent and challenge current thinking.

I understand you appreciate Nicole's experience as a lawyer. I believe that we already have one lawyer on the board, as well as pay law firms lots and lots of money and plan to have another in-house counsel as staff or a consultant so we don't really need that skill as much as an educator. Additionally, it is Dr. Austin's office that negotiates teacher contracts - not board members.

I would like another person on the board that understands 6th-12th grades. This is where the majority of issues come up and I would like someone with experience as a parent or teacher in these grades. Currently we already have 2 board members with no experience as parents or teachers in our high schools. I don't think we need another person. Our high schools are our flagships in this town - driving property prices, reputation and enrollment. I want someone that can understand issues in the whole system k-12 and especially high school from first hand knowledge.

Both candidates are brave to run for the board. Both bring different things to the table and people can decide based on their own priorities.

Posted by Greene and Paly Parent
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 22, 2022 at 6:13 pm

Greene and Paly Parent is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]
Shana is running for school board because she is vested in this community and can see very clearly the places where our district can improve. She is a PAUSD graduate, parent of multiple years, sub teacher and volunteer. She is vested in students, and worked as a full time English teacher for a decade. Shana recognizes the deep divisions and the distrust in our community between parents, teachers, and district. She is concerned with families leaving the district because their students are not served. She is concerned with programs that boost political careers instead of students.

The "old guard" wants to hide and cover the problems they helped create and did not address. Make believes look better on political resume's. To them board role is merely a stepping stool for a political career. They line up their candidates, groomed, and endorsed early on, before even the lot is known.

It is puzzling how hipocratic "old guard" after years of demonizing Asian family values of academic excellence and suppressing priorities of Asian families, is suddenly (@Palo Alto Mom, @Red) praising a (carefully groomed...) Asian candidate for being Asian (!)

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 22, 2022 at 9:20 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

@moderator- don't nearly all of these posts contain "a speculative or unsupported assertion about a candidate"?

Posted by Observer
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2022 at 9:33 am

Observer is a registered user.


No matter how “whip-smart” she is, I'm concerned about the support and obvious prepping by the current board and the timing of it all.

A majority of Palo Alto parents did not grow up here like two of the candidates Shounak and Shana both did. The first thing most people do is actually experience the schools and community before throwing their hat in the political ring. People raising this have stated they also were new here at one time. It's a very valid question.

No matter her business and legal qualifications, I do not understand the rationale for choosing to run for school board ONE MONTH after moving to Palo Alto. I also cannot help but question what was promised by the school board members who are very involved in her campaign and why.

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