Mountain View Voice

News - November 9, 2012

MV Whisman: Chiang, Nelson, Lambert win race

Results surprising to some candidates

by Nick Veronin

To the surprise of some candidates, Christopher Chiang, Steven Nelson and Bill Lambert will replace three outgoing trustees on the Mountain View Whisman School District's school board.

With all the precincts reporting in the district's first contested election since 2004, Chiang ended up with the most votes — 7,705 (24.38 percent) — with 7,058 votes (24.38 percent) going to Nelson, and Lambert coming in third with 5,224 votes (19.98 percent).

Chiang said he would like to see the district work to collect more data to better understand what its schools need. "What we measure — we end up doing all kinds of things based on that," he said.

Nelson seemed pleasantly surprised as he left an election night party hosted by local television station KMVT. Over the course of the night, KMVT personalities conducted on-camera interviews with all the MVWSD school board candidates, along with candidates running for Mountain View City Council and other local offices. When not on camera, the candidates, their families, members of the press and others milled about the station eating finger foods and sipping beverages.

In a prepared statement in the event that he was elected, Nelson said, "I appreciate the citizens of this district hiring me to be a trustee over this important community resources. I will work diligently over the next four years."

The early results seemed to surprise Jim Pollart and Peter Darrah, each of whom trailed the front runner Chiang by a significant margin. Darrah came in fourth place with 5,224 votes (18.05 percent) and Pollart was the furthest behind with 3,177 votes (10.97 percent).

Darrah seemed flabbergasted and dejected as he considered the early numbers on election night. "I thought I would do better than I'm doing," he said, noting that he was especially surprised that Pollart was so far behind. "That guy has done more for this district than anybody has," Darrah said, referring to Pollart's leadership in the Share Shoreline group to gain additional tax revenue for local schools.

"I'm concerned that having Steve on the board will be very difficult for the school district," Darrah said of Nelson. "He has a reputation for throwing a wrench in the spokes of the district. He opposed Measure G for no clear reason, he has gotten in front of the board and sung and recited poetry. It's going to be difficult for the district to attract new trustees members with him on the board."

"I won't respond to that," Nelson said when asked for a reaction to Darrah's statement.

Nelson said that he recognizes that some in the district see him as a gadfly. That is going to change, he said, pledging that he will not continue to resort to the types of tactics he used in the past.

"When you're an outsider there is a different way to attack political problems," he explained.

His strategy as a school board outsider was to be as loud as possible. When he begins working with the board, he said he will make a great deal of effort to mend any relations that may have been strained over the past couple years between himself and the district and promised to work more tactfully to accomplish his goals.

However, he did note, "I am not a rubber stamp." Nelson said he will challenge the district administration when he disagrees with them.

At the KMVT election night party, Pollart kept composed but occasionally betrayed his emotions with a somewhat dazed look.

"I don't want to give you a quote at this point assuming I'm going to lose," he said. However, he did say that he believed the campaign was very worthwhile no matter the outcome.

"This is the first time in eight years that there's actually been an election, and I think it was really good for the district," he said. "I think it raised awareness in the community about what's going on in our schools, which I think is great. I think all the candidates are well qualified. And so I think regardless of who wins I think it's a step forward for the district."

Pollart said he hoped to see contested district elections in the future, with more new candidates bringing fresh ideas to the district.

Both Chiang and Lambert shared Pollart's assessment, saying they were happy that a contested election had been held, as the coverage in the local press and the attention it garnered from residents would only serve to strengthen the district.

Lambert said he would like to see more attention paid to lower-income schools, such as Castro, Monta Loma and Theuerkauf. Pushing innovative programs at the schools in wealthier neighborhoods is great, he said, but it is more crucial to do better in the lower performing, lower income schools.

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