The Mountain View Whisman School District is poised to hold its first contested election since 2004, as five locals have announced their plans to run for three open seats on the district's board of trustees this November.
Priscila Bogdanic, Peter Darrah, Bill Lambert, Steve Nelson and Jim Pollart have all said they intend to run for one of the seats to be vacated by trustees whose terms expire this fall. All three incumbents say they will not seek re-election.
"Fiona (Walter), Ed (Bailey) and I wanted to let you know that all three of us are not planning to seek reelection," Steve Olson, president of the MVWSD board, wrote in a July 6 email to the Voice.
The period to file the necessary paperwork to run in local elections in Santa Clara County opens on July 15 and runs through August 10.
With two children currently enrolled in Monta Loma Elementary School, the bilingual Bogdanic has lived in Mountain View for more than 10 years and been involved with Monta Loma's English Language Advisory Committee since her youngest began kindergarten in 2008. The position led her to get involved with a similar district-level committee a year later in 2009.
Bogdanic, a stay-at-home-mom, has been generally pleased with the direction the district has taken of late. She supported the $198 million school bond, Measure G, and said the trustees have done "amazing work" since she has been attending school board meetings -- something she does as often as she can.
If elected, Bogdanic said she would work to increase involvement of Hispanic families -- a large group she believes to be underrepresented in PTAs around the district. She would start by increasing the amount of information that is pushed out to these families, who she believes simply don't know enough about how to access their neighborhood schools.
In addition to reaching out to MVWSD's Spanish-speaking community, Bogdanic said she would use what she has learned volunteering for Mountain View-based Bring Me A Book -- a nonprofit focused on literacy issues -- to help parents help their children make reading a regular part of their lives. "As long as we read to the children, all the windows and doors are open," she said.
Darrah first moved to Mountain View with his family in 2002. The computer engineer at Advanced Micro Devices has two children in MVWSD schools, and his wife teaches at Landels Elementary School.
He and his wife have been involved in the Landels community and he currently serves on the board of the Mountain View Education Foundation.
As a supporter of Measure G, Darrah is interested in making sure the money collected for the bond is "spent wisely."
"One of my highest priorities as a board member would be to make sure the Measure G funds are spent appropriately," Darrah wrote in an email to the Voice. "The community has committed the funds to upgrade the current facilities, but it will take hard work to determine which projects to fund to ensure our schools are top-notch for generations to come."
Lambert is a Bay Area native and decade-long Mountain View resident. A former chemist and material scientist with a doctorate in chemical physics, Lambert decided to go to law school during the telecommunications crash and now works as a patent attorney in Menlo Park. His daughter, who recently graduated from college, attended Mountain View's public schools, including Monta Loma. He said he has become increasingly involved in the district since moving to Mountain View -- attending MVWSD board meetings and writing a monthly digest piece for the League of Women Voters' newsletter, The Voter.
A "scientist at heart," Lambert said he would work hard to push science, technology, math and engineering -- STEM -- in the district.
Additionally, Lambert said he would like to see better communication between the school district and City Hall. He would propose regular meetings between the trustees and city officials to increase communication between the two agencies perhaps one every other month, since, he acknowledges, "everybody is really busy."
Three of Nelson's children have attended Bubb and Graham over a 16-year period. His youngest is currently enrolled in the local middle school. He is a regular at MVWSD board meetings and often offers his comments.
Of late, Nelson has taken issue with the district board and administration. Chief among his complaints are that there was not adequate planning and community input leading up to the Measure G vote.
"I didn't like the plan and I didn't like the poor community input and communications," he said. As a strong supporter of the district, he said he would have endorsed a similar plan, had the district tightened up its list of projects to be paid for by the bond, and if district administrators had put together a panel of community members to decide what those projects ought to be.
According to the long-time Mountain View resident, the district has not done a sufficient job communicating with the public, and he said if he were elected he would make increasing community involvement and communication a priority by pushing the district to adopt a system of public outreach similar to that of the Mountain View City Council.
Since 2006, Nelson has been a substitute teacher in the district and has taught at all of the district's campuses. "I have classroom-level experience with all the school sites in the district," he said.
Pollart has lived in town for about 15 years, has one daughter at Mountain View High School and another at Bubb Elementary School. He said he has been involved with the district for approximately 10 years -- working as a member of the school site council for Graham Middle School and coordinating the Share Shoreline group, which ultimately led to millions of dollars being funneled into MVWSD and the high school district. Pollart was also a supporter of Measure G, and served as the fund raising chair for the campaign in support of the bond.
"I've just found that I'm interested in education issues," said Pollart, vice president of land acquisition and forward planning at O'Brien Homes in Foster City. "I believe that educating our kids is the single most important investment we can make to improve our community."
In Pollart's opinion, the most important factor governing the success of a given school is the quality of the teachers. "I think if somebody is asking what specifically I will do on the board, I would say I will focus on making sure that there are quality teachers in our schools," he said.
Pollart said he is also interested creating a system of benchmarks, so the district can easily compare itself to other comparable districts, and thus "understand where we're strong and where we need to improve."