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School board candidate Palmer stands by careful planning

Incumbent joins school board race, advocates for conservative approach to district issues

It's an exciting time for the Mountain View Whisman School District. School funding is coming back, bond measure construction is in full-swing and a new campus may be on the horizon for the Whisman neighborhood.

But to school board incumbent Philip Palmer, going forward means conservative, data-driven decision-making to avoid any unintended consequences.

Palmer was the last of four candidates to jump into the race for Mountain View's elementary school district board, filing for candidacy on the final day of the county filing period. He said the timing wasn't because of any hesitation on whether or not to run -- he had just been out of town on a business trip.

Other candidates include incumbent Ellen Wheeler, Huff Elementary School PTA President Hafsa Mirza, and Slater Neighorhood Association President Greg Coladonato. More information on Wheeler and Coladonato can be found in previous issues of the Voice. Mirza could not be reached for an interview.

As an employee for Bay Area tech company Symantec, Palmer has a background in technology and IT management. He said he's been in favor of new computers and other devices in the classroom, provided that it's part of a program implemented at the rate needed.

"I've always been an advocate for more tech in the classroom, but always at the right pace," Palmer said. "We don't need to replace the computers every year."

He said he's proud of the school district's track record for fiscal responsibility going through the recession, but as the economy improves, he said, the district needs to stay frugal in what it spends on school supplies.

"During the good times it's always tempting to go out and spend on things like new textbooks," Palmer said.

During board meeting discussions on whether to open a new school in the Whisman and Slater neighborhoods, Palmer supported an in-depth demographic survey of the district to see how a new school in the northeastern region of Mountain View would affect the rest of the district.

His worry was that a new school could change enrollment in neighboring schools to the point where they would have to close another school five years down the road. He said the decision to open up a school should be backed up by "proper" fiscal and long-term planning.

"We don't want to cannibalize one school to open up another," he said.

Palmer said he also advocates for fiscal responsibility on bond Measure G spending, which recently went over budget in the planning phase for new middle school auditoriums.

Measure G is a $198 million bond measure designed to repair, improve and construct facilities at all nine of the district campuses. As of last June, the planning phase for middle school construction went millions of dollars over budget due to high construction costs in the Bay Area. Palmer said that can't keep happening.

"We're in a building boom, and moving forward we're going to keep that in mind," he said. "We're counting on our project managers and the firms they hire for accurate cost estimates."

Palmer said he's aware the board has a reputation for confrontations between trustee Steve Nelson and other board members, as well as Superintendent Craig Goldman, and said it's something they need to continue to work on.

"It's distracting for sure, and not necessarily productive," Palmer said.

Palmer indicated that the district needs to foster a "collaborative spirit," and said things have improved in the last few board meetings.

"There's no 'I' in 'board,' and no 'I' in trustee," Palmer said. "It's really about teamwork."

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