Teacher enters school board race
Christopher Chiang, a teacher with an passion for progressive educational methods, is the sixth person to confirm plans to run for one of three seats on the Mountain View Whisman School District board.
"There's real things we can do to fix our schools," Chiang said.
According to Chiang, there is a disconnect between teachers who want to push public education into the 21st Century and policy makers, both in Sacramento and Washington D.C., who are stuck in the outdated 20th Century model of passive learning. Learning multiplication tables and studying history is important, but schools need to be engaging students in hands-on learning, using computers and developing real-world skills, he said.
"We are undermining our kids' future if we are teaching them to only do rote memorization," he said. "If all they can do is repeat what is on a standardized test, we aren't preparing them for today's economy."
After running on a platform of education reform in an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate in June, Chiang said he came to the realization that he ought to seek change in his backyard first if he ever hoped to change things at the state level. Chiang said he is prepared to push the district to move away from old modes of teaching — not only to improve the education of students attending MVWSD schools, but in the hope that Mountain View might be a leader in the world of education.
"Policy makers need to see school districts experimenting," he said. "We're in a perfect place to really show that there is good policy that isn't happening in Sacramento."
Chiang is proposing tracking more than just standardized test scores — polling students, parents and teachers to find out what they like about their schools and what they think could be improved.
He said he would advocate for programs that would give financial incentives to teachers who pursue the administrative track. "I really believe we should be proactively going to our teachers and saying, 'We need you to be a principal and we will pay you to go to school.'" If there isn't state money to support it, he would pursue the option of asking local companies to help foot the bill — a cost he thinks firms like Google and LinkedIn would be willing to support, since they will ultimately benefit from better schools with better employees.
Chiang has taught in both public and private schools. Next year he will begin his new job as a sixth-grade history teacher at Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton. He has a two-year-old daughter he plans to send to either Castro or Bubb (he lives on the border between the two school's boundary lines).
In addition to running for the school board, he has started the MVW21: Mountain View Whisman School Study Group — a series of privately run seminars designed to help prospective "board candidates and school supporters develop a vision for Mountain View Schools for the 21st century," according to the website, mvw21.org. "This is not an official policy-setting organization, but an open space to exchange new ideas."
He said he has been working to contact leaders of each district school's PTA, as well as all of the declared candidates planning to run in the November board election. The first MVW21 meeting will be held on Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. at a yet-to-be-determined location. Chiang isn't sure which candidates will attend, but he hopes all will eventually attend the meetings, which he plans to hold regularly until the Nov. 6 election.
Chiang's candidate website is at whychris.org