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Santa Clara County Board of Education candidates discussed

Original post made by Palo Alto Parent on Oct 19, 2008

Web Link

Palo Alto Weekly's Town Square have an interesting debate going on which may interest Mountain View Voters.

Comments (14)

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Hardly a debate. The MI comedy in Palo Alto is of little interest to Mtn View (where the district is considering taking up the MI challenge for our kids), and the anti-Mah sentiment expressed on the board you linked to is directly related to that whole farce.

The only "qualification" you mention for your candidate is a desire for more "transparency"-- to what end? Where is the need for transparancy? What are the education issues at the county level, and is there a real need for additional transparancy? Where is your candidate on the actual issues? Is your support issue based, or simply revenge on Mah?

Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2008 at 10:56 am


It appears that you have quickly scanned this debate and not read all the posts. There are many posters asking relevant questions and there are links to both candidates web sites. There are supporters of both candidates and although some do talk about the Mandarin Immersion issue, many posts are thoughtful and unbiased. I suggest you read them again.

I enclosed the link here as I feel that this is a County election and there has been very little mention of it on the Mountain View Forum and since we are included in the same race, that Mountain View readers and voters may like to look into this situation for themselves before deciding who to vote for.

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Fair enough. I will re-read. My opinion of that thread was tainted in advance because of the strong anti-Mah sentiment within the MI crowd in PA. I was frankly surprised when she was appointed ahead of two candidates of Rose Filicetti and Barb Sprengs caliber, but Mah has been endorsed by some people whose opinions I respect.

There are too many local things that matter more- to me, at least- to give that particular election too much notice. Our local district has impressed me so much over the past few years, I have a hard time worrying too much about the limited role of the County board.

Posted by Resident of P.A., a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2008 at 11:30 am

Eric, Thank you for agreeing to reread the posts. I would like to mention having followed the MI debate last year that P.A. parents only became anti-Mah after Mah herself did things that warranted that sentiment. Briefly, she continued to go before the board for about 5 years with the MI proposal. Many parents felt that it would be good to have languages in elementary schools - but for ALL students not just a small number of students which was the proposal. And then a Feasabiltiy Study was done funded by Grace's proponents. This meant that this time was only being focused for 2% of our students. After the board voted down MI. Grace presented a threatening letter that said if you vote in MI and do it well, they will not petition a charter school. The community was outraged by this threat. There have never been any charter schools in P.A., and for good reasons. The board felt that the threat of a charter would be worse than a MI program. And so they reversed their vote. Grace was quoted in the paper saying that she knew that the board had said we should not have any more new programs because of the reduction in our budget, but she was still hoping that MI would get in.
BUT- talking about the county board both for you and other Mountain View residents this county board does oversee several things- one is the charter schools, once the local school board rejects the petition. Grace did in fact vote for a charter school that came before the county board this year. Also -this board hires and oversees the superintendent. There was a problem with the former superintendent- Colleen Wilcox that went on for quite some time. And now this new superintendent that Grace has on her website that she is proud she hired. I just read an article by Sharon Nhagosi that he hired a deputy superintendent for about $197,000. who worked with him in Ventura county. Some employees are outraged that this new position was just given to a friend and not opened up to other persons. Sounds like there already are some problems with this new superintendent- who Grace helped hire.
I agree that Barb Spreng and Rose Filicetti had more experience- this upset us as well.
So now- please take some time to visit Ellen Santiago's website and ask her any questions that you might have. I believe that Ms Santiago would be an excellent board member. She is a bright, thoughtful person who would consider the pros and cons of a charter school. She is a certified teacher and knows the issues that come up for teachers,and students. She is also a certified accountant and so knows a lot about finances and budgets. This board oversees about $285,000. Her experience would be extremely useful.

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2008 at 12:08 am

You just changed my mind. The 'debate' between the hilarious factions in Palo Alto would make me laugh but would have little bearing on an informed decision on an election that I care little about.

$285K? How many elected officials do we need to oversee THAT?

Posted by MV Voter, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 22, 2008 at 9:11 am

I just took a look at Ellen Santiago's website:

Web Link

I'm impressed that she's not only a credentialed teacher with teaching experience, but has a CPA as well as high-tech experience as a web content manager. To me, this seems like an excellent combination of backgrounds for the County Board seat. I don't think Ms. Mah's background is quite as applicable to the job. With the economic situation and schools fighting for resources, it would seem that Ms. Santiago would have the experience -- both academic and practical -- to oversee the county budget and be a watchdog for Trustee area 1's interests. With a $265 million budget, we need a CPA to make sure this money is properly spent and accounted for.

Posted by PA Voter, a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2008 at 4:20 pm

John Fensterwold of the Mercury News did taped interviews with Santiago and Mah. They are available in several parts on YouTube at the following links:

Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

These videos let you see the candidates and hear what they have to say.

Posted by Resident of P..A., a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Thank you! The relation of the MI mess to this race- is that a person who pushes their own agenda over and over again would not be a good representative. Since she did it in our district, she could do it at the county. And in one and a half years what has the incumbent done? Nothing from what I see. Even on her website she sites the things that those board members are supposed to do. She has no platform- only states again what the board focuses on.
MV Voter- Thank you! I agree that her work experience is totally appropriate for this position.
The problem is - she does not have as much name recognition. Pls talk her up to other voters in Mountain View.
The Mercury News just put them on Youtube. Here is the link:
Web Link

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2008 at 10:24 pm

Sorry to break this to you, Resident, but your side of this fight is every bit as hilarious.

Posted by Facts, please, a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2008 at 8:53 am

I'm not sure what you think is so hilarious. The idea that the county board of ed can impose a Charter school on a district whose own local school board has determined that such a school would be damaging to the district?

The fact that many Palo Alto residents opposed the Mandarin immersion program championed by Mah on the grounds that it gives foreign language instruction to a tiny percentage of our elementary students while the rest get nothing?

The fact that Mah threatened our district with a Charter school, prompting our school board to take the unprecedented step of reversing an earlier decision, thereby undermining the governance of our district?

Yeah, all that's hilarious. You'll be laughing too when you get a Charter school in your community, sucking resources away from the district.

A vote for Santiago is a vote for a more measured approach to the Charter school appeal process that the county board executes. I support Santiago for this position.

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2008 at 1:28 pm

and just as many residents supported her plan, and every bit as vocally. The hilarity has nothing to do with the charter school portion of this-- it was amusing long before.

Posted by Reisident of P.A., a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2008 at 11:20 pm

MV Voter, I agree with you that Ms Santiago's work experience would
be excellent for this board for all of the reasons that you mentioned.
Eric,You say you find this whole thing hilarious but do not explain what you find funny. The MI issue splintered P.A. very seriously. I can not imagine anyone with any empathy finding that process hilarious. You then said that it is an election that you care little about. stop posting about it since you care little about it...
But for other Mountain View residents and readers: I have spoken to many people recently who are now starting to see that this election is more important than they first realized. This board oversees about $265 million of our money. It oversees several special schools and has the power to vote in or out Charter schools. It hires the superintendent. Mah on this board this year was quite non responsive during the meetings, and only once all year and a half reported back to the Palo Alto school board. Most people do not seem to know what this board does. I think that it is the responsibility of the board including Mah to get out the word on what are their duties.
I am ready to give Ellen Santiago this seat. I believe that she will, amongst many other things, be more communicative with her constituents.

Posted by Facts, please, a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Please note that Ellen Santiago has posted some comments on Palo Alto online. To see them, go to Web Link
and scroll down towards the bottom.

Posted by not so hilarious, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 29, 2008 at 10:10 pm


The MVLA high school district had a charter school that failed within 2 school years. Fortunately, the high school district didn't have any dire issues to deal with in conjunction with the opening of the charter school. I agree with you that the district continues to be impressive. Obviously PA has a lot more issues other than the MI battle.

The county board oversees 285 million, not 285k as you stated. I don't know how many officials need to oversee the millions but maybe someone that has an accounting background would help.

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