Craig Goldman's first year

Mountain View Whisman superintendent draws praise, some criticism

Nearly a year after taking the helm of the Mountain View Whisman School District, Craig Goldman feels he has done a good job as superintendent, though he says there is plenty of work still to be done.

On June 13, Goldman sat down with the Voice to reflect upon the 2010-11 school year. He discussed what he has learned during his first year as superintendent, what he feels he has accomplished and outlined some of his plans for improving the district in the years to come.

Goldman acknowledged that the district has a long way to go when it comes to educating low-income students and English language learners. According to the superintendent, only about 18 percent of low-income eighth graders are performing at or above grade level in his district.

"That's an unacceptable number," he said.

It's something Mountain View Whisman schools have been struggling with since before his predecessor, Maurice Ghysels, took over the superintendent job six years ago.

"That still continues to be a challenge," Goldman said. "The difference between now and then is that we have a plan that we are already beginning to implement."

Goldman, along with administrators Phyllis Rodgers, director of the district's English language learners program, and Mary Lairon, assistant superintendent, worked with the Santa Clara County Office of Education and visited several similar school districts around the state to see how they were dealing with the issue.

Goldman and his team came up with a program they call "explicit direct instruction," or EDI. Over the next few months, Mountain View Whisman instructors will teach math to summer school students while simultaneously receiving instruction and coaching on their teaching methods.

"It's not a solution that comes overnight," said Goldman, who is particularly optimistic about the program. "But we think that EDI will transform our district, and, over time, we will drastically improve our outcomes, not just for low-income kids, but for all of our students."

Identifying himself as "an instructor at heart," Goldman said his primary goal is to ensure that every student leaves eighth grade equipped with the knowledge they need to succeed in college-track courses. He plans to have enough time to reach that goal; Goldman, 51, said he hopes to serve as superintendent of the district until his retirement.

Steve Nelson, whose three sons went to Bubb Elementary and Graham Middle School, is an active participant in local politics and regularly voices his concerns and opinions on issues impacting local school districts, including Mountain View Whisman.

While Nelson thinks highly of Goldman and credits the superintendent for pushing the City Council to give local schools their fair share of the revenues from the Shoreline Community special district, he disagrees with Goldman on some issues.

Nelson said he believes that Goldman should not have advocated for the Mountain View Whisman School District to drop Title I funding -- a move Goldman backed because he believed it was not worth dealing with the strings attached to the additional $450,000 in government funding for the district's neediest schools.

Ellen Wheeler, president of the Mountain View Whisman school board, believes in Goldman's ability and is happy to hear that he plans on staying with the district for the foreseeable future.

"I hope that Craig stays with us for a long time," she said. His background in education, his experience as a teacher, and then as a principal and chief financial officer for the district, make him an ideal candidate she said. She noted that the average turnover for a school superintendent in California is 18 months.

"Finding a new leader every 18 months is disruptive," Wheeler said. "I think he's doing an excellent job. He's a bright guy."


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Posted by Sean
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I met Mr. Goldman and chatted with him about 3 months ago. He is well spoken and intelligent, and I think will do a good job for the district, if he sticks around.

That being said, he seems largely focused on the improvement of ESL students. While clearly laudible, it concerns me that this could potentially lead to greater problems in the general student body. The Title I funding decision seems a bit dicey. But he deserves the opportunity to succeed and I hope he does.

Of far greater concern to me was his unwavering support for his predecessor, whose actions I personally found to be utterly reprehensible. By the numbers I was given by Mr. Goldman and his staff, the buyout of our former superintendent equates to roughly 1.5 years of funding for all extra-curricular activities in the district. I sincerely hope Mr. Goldman will recognize the horrible damage caused by misconduct of district administrators and disallow this brand of behavior in the future.

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Posted by jupiterk
a resident of Gemello
on Jun 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm

When was the last time you heard someone say they have done a bad job at something? He is perhaps saying this to get a nice $50K or $100K raise, perhaps or get a big pension payout , may be he wants to retire, because they all play the same game to rip tax payers. If things are not so good, he would have blamed the economy and everything else.[Portion removed, terms of use.]

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 16, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I think Mr. Goldman is very capable and can breathe new life into this district finally if he gets rid of the dead weight we've been carrying for years - the Associate and Assistant Superintendents. They have not performed well in the past years - as he has pointed out we've been struggling with issues for years . Time to get some new, energetic and innovative people at the top to help Mr. Goldman rather than carrying them. This district is sorely in need of good leaders at the top to set good examples for the rest of the Admin. This district is also in need of some good mentors for teachers and principals too.

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Posted by MVWSD Watchdog
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 16, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Wheeler, as I recall, had a hard time letting go of Ghysels and turned a blind eye to a lot of really underhanded tactics that went on under his tenure. Her opinion counts for very little in my opinion. Goldman would do well do drain the swamp that the district office has become. Lairon should know all about poor performing district since she spent most of her preivous years in Redwood City. I guess she learned nothing there. Assist Supe Totter needs to come clean on how much Polifrone was bought out for, since she remains the highest paid teacher in MVWSD in 2010, even though she never worked for the district.

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Posted by Someone who knows
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 17, 2011 at 8:18 am

@ Sean. There was no buyout of Ghysels so you could not have been given information from Goldman and his staff regarding a buyout. Ghysels resigned.

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Posted by MVWSD Watchdog
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 17, 2011 at 9:45 am

Well, Someone who knows, then maybe you could us about the buyout of Patty Polifrone which for 2010 was around $112,500, even though she never put in a day of work. Web Link How much was the total buyout for? How much was paid in 2009? How much will be paid in 2011? How many other buyouts and back room deals have been made? How about some transparency in the district? Why is Mizell, the principal who made up the other half of the Ghysels scandal the second highest paid elementary principal in the district? Please do tell if you know.

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Posted by Question for Sean
a resident of Willowgate
on Jun 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm


Just wondering about something here. So, in your first post, did you make up this part entirely?

"By the numbers I was given by Mr. Goldman and his staff, the buyout of our former superintendent equates to roughly 1.5 years of funding for all extra-curricular activities in the district. "

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Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm

There's a story about summer school on Bloomberg Edu (Jane Williams) show on Bloomberg Radio, says kids loose skills over the summer, particularly the less priviledged.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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