As the filing period to run for local school boards comes to a close this week, some Mountain View residents might be getting a sense of deja vu. The last time Mountain View Whisman School District incumbents Philip Palmer and Ellen Wheeler were up for re-election is was an uncontested race.
Fast forward four years to 2014 and they're both up for re-election and, once again, it looks like there will be an uncontested race. The key difference this year is that Wheeler will be running for re-election, but Palmer has not pulled or filed candidacy papers with the county as of Aug. 6 and has made no indication that he plans to run.
Instead, Huff Elementary parent and PTA president Hafsa Mirza announced she will run for a seat on the district board. As of press deadline, Hafsa was unavailable to speak to the Voice about her campaign.
Ellen Wheeler first joined the board in 2002. At the time, she was a part-time attorney who specialized in family law, and had a second-grader at Bubb Elementary School. Now Wheeler is looking to take a fourth term, and said the district has had a great financial track record during her time on the board.
"That's what's terrific about the school district -- we have had excellent financial stewardship and always budgeted conservatively," Wheeler said.
She said unlike other school districts during the recession, which had to lay off teachers, cut electives and faced "exploding" class sizes, the Mountain View Whisman School District managed to avoid all three.
"We never had to lay off a teacher due to financial reasons," Wheeler said.
Because of the recession, Wheeler said they also had to delay what would eventually be the Measure G bond, a $198 million bond to upgrade and fix school facilities at all the district school sites. She said they waited until the economy improved before putting it on the ballot in 2012, when it passed with nearly two-thirds of the vote. It needed only 55 percent to pass.
Wheeler said deciding how to improve school facilities through Measure G has been a "slow and cumbersome" process and that it takes a long time to get the process going, but construction has started at both middle schools. The board recently approved designs and budgets for the third phase of Crittenden and Graham Middle School projects, which includes new auditoriums.
"I'm very pleased with the Crittenden and Graham projects," Wheeler said.
Outside of the school district, Wheeler is the education chair for the League of Women Voters of Santa Clara, and secretary for the League of Women Voters of California. She said she's been involved with education her whole life, and thinks it's good to explore and research new ideas beyond the school district.
During the "communications" portion of board meetings, Wheeler said she often brings up what's going on in the education world, including education-related legislation. She said she's been keeping an eye on SB 837, a bill that would help to provide a transitional kindergarten so children from low-income families can start their K-12 education at less of a disadvantage when compared to children who have been to a high-quality preschool.
"Quality early childhood education is important," Wheeler said. "We can make a real impact."