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Two candidates join the race for Mountain View Whisman school board

The Mountain View Whisman School District office in Mountain View on December 10, 2019. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

The race for the Mountain View Whisman school board is heating up this week, with two new candidates vying to lead the school district through turbulent times and uncertainty over when, and how, schools can reopen.

Former trustee Chris Chiang, who served on the board from 2012 to 2015, said he wants to return to the school board to improve the district's implementation of remote learning and seize the opportunity to improve education technology rather than feel forced to live with it.

A second candidate, Laura Ramirez Berman, has also announced her bid for the school board, saying her 20 years of experience as a teacher and administrator put her in a qualified spot to help lead the school district. Monta Loma parent Patrick Neschleba and incumbent Laura Blakely have previously announced their intent to run this November, making it a contested race.

Board president Tamara Wilson, whose term ends this year, said she has yet to decide whether to run again and incumbent Jose Gutierrez is running for Mountain View City Council. In all, there are three seats up for election on Nov. 3.

Chris Chiang.

Chiang served his first, albeit partial, term on the board at a dysfunctional time, when quibbling and lengthy arguments -- sometimes even shouting -- became an expectation at school board meetings. At one point, trustees voted to censure former board member Steve Nelson, who often was the source of conflict. It was ultimately that dysfunction that prompted Chiang to resign while board president.

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Chiang said he hasn't agreed with all of the decisions the school board has made since his departure, but that the real reason he is running is firmly rooted in making sure the district effectively uses education technology during and after the shutdown. Schools will be shuttered at least through the fall for in-person instruction, and he said teachers need time to foster a "culture around technology" and learn to use it as they see fit, rather than have the district office call all the shots.

"For the most part the district has been focused on assessment software, and it will be content and testing as a digital platform -- that's what worries me," Chiang said. "The way they've used technology in the past has largely been to occupy kids."

Given the difficult circumstances caused by the coronavirus, Chiang said he would also be interested in bringing back the district-supported homeschooling program, the Independent Study Program, to give parents another option for teaching their children while in-person instruction is prohibited or not safe. From his point of view, learning from home will likely be the regional norm into 2021.

"My gut experience tells me we're going to be remote learning through the semester," he said.

Berman, a Mistral parent with two kids in the Dual Immersion language program, came to the Bay Area after growing up in Southern California. A daughter of Mexican immigrants, she pursued a career in education and joined Aspire Public Schools, a charter school network with campuses in California and Tennessee. Between 2008 and 2011, she served as principal of East Palo Alto Charter School, where the vast majority of the students qualified for free and reduced-price meals.

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Berman later served as an instructional coach, helping teachers adjust to the launch of the Common Core State Standards. More recently, Berman said she has been a parent leader at Mistral as the School Site Council president, and helped campaign to pass Measure T, Mountain View Whisman's $259 million school facilities bond. The measure passed with a large margin earlier this year.

Berman said she did groundbreaking work folding social-emotional learning into academic instruction while working in East Palo Alto, and that she feels the same could be done in Mountain View Whimsan. She also worries that COVID-19 may have only worsened the achievement gap, and that there needs to be a concerted effort in the coming years to help underserved students.

"We’re going to get through this crisis together, but recovering doesn't mean reverting to the status quo," she said. "I want to make sure teachers and school leaders have the tools they need to engage all students and parents, such as culturally responsive teaching practices that will result in rigorous and engaging instruction for all students."

Neschleba, who announced his candidacy last week, has for years been an active parent and community member in the Monta Loma neighborhood, and was deeply involved in the tricky debate over how to spend the district's Measure G bond measure funds. District leaders for years struggled to find a fair and equitable way to split the budget between schools without picking winners and losers, all while a groundswell of support was pushing for that cash to spent on an entirely new campus.

With his experience on the District Facilities Committee, along with multiple terms as chair of Monta Loma's School Site Council, Neschleba said he feels he has the credentials needed to lead on the school board.

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Two candidates join the race for Mountain View Whisman school board

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 23, 2020, 1:04 pm

The race for the Mountain View Whisman school board is heating up this week, with two new candidates vying to lead the school district through turbulent times and uncertainty over when, and how, schools can reopen.

Former trustee Chris Chiang, who served on the board from 2012 to 2015, said he wants to return to the school board to improve the district's implementation of remote learning and seize the opportunity to improve education technology rather than feel forced to live with it.

A second candidate, Laura Ramirez Berman, has also announced her bid for the school board, saying her 20 years of experience as a teacher and administrator put her in a qualified spot to help lead the school district. Monta Loma parent Patrick Neschleba and incumbent Laura Blakely have previously announced their intent to run this November, making it a contested race.

Board president Tamara Wilson, whose term ends this year, said she has yet to decide whether to run again and incumbent Jose Gutierrez is running for Mountain View City Council. In all, there are three seats up for election on Nov. 3.

Chiang served his first, albeit partial, term on the board at a dysfunctional time, when quibbling and lengthy arguments -- sometimes even shouting -- became an expectation at school board meetings. At one point, trustees voted to censure former board member Steve Nelson, who often was the source of conflict. It was ultimately that dysfunction that prompted Chiang to resign while board president.

Chiang said he hasn't agreed with all of the decisions the school board has made since his departure, but that the real reason he is running is firmly rooted in making sure the district effectively uses education technology during and after the shutdown. Schools will be shuttered at least through the fall for in-person instruction, and he said teachers need time to foster a "culture around technology" and learn to use it as they see fit, rather than have the district office call all the shots.

"For the most part the district has been focused on assessment software, and it will be content and testing as a digital platform -- that's what worries me," Chiang said. "The way they've used technology in the past has largely been to occupy kids."

Given the difficult circumstances caused by the coronavirus, Chiang said he would also be interested in bringing back the district-supported homeschooling program, the Independent Study Program, to give parents another option for teaching their children while in-person instruction is prohibited or not safe. From his point of view, learning from home will likely be the regional norm into 2021.

"My gut experience tells me we're going to be remote learning through the semester," he said.

Berman, a Mistral parent with two kids in the Dual Immersion language program, came to the Bay Area after growing up in Southern California. A daughter of Mexican immigrants, she pursued a career in education and joined Aspire Public Schools, a charter school network with campuses in California and Tennessee. Between 2008 and 2011, she served as principal of East Palo Alto Charter School, where the vast majority of the students qualified for free and reduced-price meals.

Berman later served as an instructional coach, helping teachers adjust to the launch of the Common Core State Standards. More recently, Berman said she has been a parent leader at Mistral as the School Site Council president, and helped campaign to pass Measure T, Mountain View Whisman's $259 million school facilities bond. The measure passed with a large margin earlier this year.

Berman said she did groundbreaking work folding social-emotional learning into academic instruction while working in East Palo Alto, and that she feels the same could be done in Mountain View Whimsan. She also worries that COVID-19 may have only worsened the achievement gap, and that there needs to be a concerted effort in the coming years to help underserved students.

"We’re going to get through this crisis together, but recovering doesn't mean reverting to the status quo," she said. "I want to make sure teachers and school leaders have the tools they need to engage all students and parents, such as culturally responsive teaching practices that will result in rigorous and engaging instruction for all students."

Neschleba, who announced his candidacy last week, has for years been an active parent and community member in the Monta Loma neighborhood, and was deeply involved in the tricky debate over how to spend the district's Measure G bond measure funds. District leaders for years struggled to find a fair and equitable way to split the budget between schools without picking winners and losers, all while a groundswell of support was pushing for that cash to spent on an entirely new campus.

With his experience on the District Facilities Committee, along with multiple terms as chair of Monta Loma's School Site Council, Neschleba said he feels he has the credentials needed to lead on the school board.

Comments

Groundhog Day
The Crossings
on Jul 23, 2020 at 1:58 pm
Groundhog Day, The Crossings
on Jul 23, 2020 at 1:58 pm
20 people like this

Sigh . . . is Chris going to quit again? No thanks!


Sloane P.
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2020 at 2:28 pm
Sloane P., Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2020 at 2:28 pm
19 people like this

Happy to see Laura running. She is very experienced and very collegial. I would trust her decisions and motivations. Not sure I'm happy to see Chris's name here again. I find him to be quick to judge, a tad hysterical and not particularly collaborative. Quitting like he did is a strike against him.


SNK
Monta Loma
on Jul 23, 2020 at 2:34 pm
SNK, Monta Loma
on Jul 23, 2020 at 2:34 pm
18 people like this

Patrick is thoughtful, calm, and fair. He would be an asset to the board during this chaotic time.


Jenny
Monta Loma
on Jul 23, 2020 at 3:04 pm
Jenny , Monta Loma
on Jul 23, 2020 at 3:04 pm
14 people like this

Thank goodness that the school board will be a contested election this year! I'm relieved that we'll have a choice between the new candidates and the incumbent (s) running since I'm not a fan of all of the incumbents.


just_jay
Shoreline West
on Jul 23, 2020 at 3:52 pm
just_jay, Shoreline West
on Jul 23, 2020 at 3:52 pm
2 people like this

Wow, great candidates to choose from. It's a good problem to have; I'm just sorry I have to choose.


Christopher Chiang
North Bayshore
on Jul 23, 2020 at 4:42 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
on Jul 23, 2020 at 4:42 pm
11 people like this

One can learn more about why I am running and answers to the concerns in the comments above at chrisformv.com
Those criticism are fair. I am also happy to email or virtually met with anyone.

I am dedicated to bringing the best of 16 years of public and independent school experience to MVWSD, so that every school in the district fosters teacher and student creativity. This remote learning crisis is really an opportunity to empower our teachers and students.

If I may add to the chorus that Patrick Neschleba would be an outstanding addition to the board. From the early days of Measure G, he asked essential questions, and always worked with open mind and kindness.


Standing Ovation
Old Mountain View
on Jul 23, 2020 at 5:18 pm
Standing Ovation, Old Mountain View
on Jul 23, 2020 at 5:18 pm
27 people like this

Great news. I will gladly vote for any of these candidates. I am absolutely thrilled to see Gutierrez leave and looking forward to seeing Blakley roundly defeated as both were responsible for getting rid of half our valued principals only to bring in an endless line of temporary ones. Hopefully Wilson does not seek reelection as well, particularly after all the raises she's been passing out coupled with the supe's $1.2 million home loan.

So I'll say it again. Vote out the current board and fire the superintendent.


Homer Simpson
The Crossings
on Jul 23, 2020 at 8:12 pm
Homer Simpson, The Crossings
on Jul 23, 2020 at 8:12 pm
10 people like this

If the principals brought value, dont't think they would have been replaced . . .


Eyeroll
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2020 at 9:50 pm
Eyeroll , Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2020 at 9:50 pm
10 people like this

Please please anyone but Chris Chiang!
All he can talk about is how masks should be made mandatory everywhere. I think he might even wear one when he is home alone.
Masks are his Carthago delenda est.


Jenny Coogan
Monta Loma
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:04 am
Jenny Coogan, Monta Loma
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:04 am
25 people like this

I am so relieved that Patrick Neschleba is running. I've long consulted him on school district issues because he's really well-informed and takes the time to study the issues in a way that most of us probably wouldn't have the patience or diligence to do. Even once schools reopen fully, there will be a lot of recovery work to do and we will need responsible board governance focused on problem solving. I trust Patrick to do that job.


Standing Ovation
Old Mountain View
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:30 am
Standing Ovation, Old Mountain View
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:30 am
21 people like this

@Homer Simpson
"If the principals brought value, dont't think they would have been replaced . . ."

Nice try, but Rudolph's (and the Board) have presided over an endless stream of principals that were terribly matched for their schools and community! The turnover rate has been astounding. Maybe both should start listening to the community more rather than assuming expertise in education.

Either way, glad to see Gutierrez going. He was appointed and never elected originally. He doesn't have an original opinion or idea. He was never elected on his own merit--only propped up as an appointment by Wheeler. He was then reelected for his only full term in a thinly contested election and even then only by a few votes. And not we thinks he's got the background and knowledge base to be on city council! What a joke. He's not even a familiar face at city council meetings. Just a hack. I cringe when he gets up on his soapbox.

Vote out the current board and fire the superintendent.


the 3 are enough
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 1:07 pm
the 3 are enough, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 1:07 pm
18 people like this

The Registrar of Voters indicate Laura Blakely has not yet pulled candidate papers. It would be good for the community if she and Board President Wilson just didn't! Let it go ladies.

A Latina with real teaching and administering experience, if willing to actually fight for politics ties helping the MVWSD's independently verified serious achievement gap would be refreshing!

P. Neschleba served the entire community well on the Facilities Committee - and not just his own neighborhood school constituency!

Even C. Chiang may be worth recycling. He does have much more education technology/web related direct teaching experience than any other candidate, and most of the administrators in the MVWSD.

Don't think the superintendent needs firing, just much much better educationally-informed and community-valued oversight. Blakely and Wilson have shown that they are incapable or perhaps unwilling to be deeply informed and serious (Conley seems the only trustee regularly submitting probing and deep written questions to the superintendent for most board meetings)


Cfrink
Willowgate
on Jul 26, 2020 at 2:31 am
Cfrink, Willowgate
on Jul 26, 2020 at 2:31 am
4 people like this

We are very fortunate to have such a deep bench of qualified and involved community leaders to assist our schools. This group have all been at it for many years. Best of luck to them all.


Thida Cornes
Shoreline West
on Jul 26, 2020 at 12:02 pm
Thida Cornes, Shoreline West
on Jul 26, 2020 at 12:02 pm
9 people like this

I'm thrilled to see Patrick Neschleba run. I worked with him on the MVWSD Facilities committee and found him to be thoughtful, pragmatic, and willing to listen to others. He worked hard to represent the entire community. He along with others was one of the main instigators who created the famous pie that showed MVSWD didn't have enough money for the plans they wanted to create. This pie made it into the papers and finally convinced MVWSD to take more sensible action. I'm excited he's finally decided to take the plunge.

I respect Chris Chiang. He's an innovative and very motivated teacher who really cares about his students. He served in extremely challenging times within the Board. We're facing extremely challenging times now worldwide.


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