By most measures, the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District is a well-run, high-achievement district. It has made great strides in closing the achievement gap in student performance, and offers some innovative programs, such as the Freestyle Academy, for students seeking alternative paths to high school education.
Two incumbents are among the candidates for three seats on the high school board, with five challengers asking voters to give them a shot at helping to lead the district. Current board member Judy Hannemann has decided to step down after her term ends this year.
With the district in good shape academically and financially, the Voice believes that incumbents Debbie Torok and Joe Mitchner deserve to be returned to the board for another term. With several strong contenders for the third seat, we support Fiona Walter.
A seven-year member of the board, Mitchner had been an active volunteer in the district and its schools before taking on the board role, including service with the PTA, school site council and the education foundation. His community experience includes coaching youth baseball and soccer, and serving on the board of Friends of Stevens Creek Trail.
A financial manager by profession, he has been well positioned to keep an eye on district spending and financial planning. If re-elected, he said, his top priorities would include improving academic achievement at all levels; ensuring that financial plans are "responsible, sustainable, and aligned with district goals;" increasing support programs and outreach to under-represented students and families; and continuing to be open to innovative approaches to enhancing student learning.
The Voice endorses his bid for re-election.
Torok also volunteered in the schools before joining the board four years ago; among other roles, she was a board member of the MVLA Scholars and the Los Altos Education Foundation, and was co-chair of two parcel tax campaigns in the Los Altos School District.
She supports granting waivers to ninth-graders who participate in athletic programs and want to opt out of PE -- an area of contention between some parents and the board, which as a whole has not supported exemptions.
If re-elected, she said her priorities would include ensuring that every student "is equipped with the same tools for enhanced learning at school and home," and overseeing a balanced budget.
We support Torok's bid for a second term.
Fiona Walter knows what serving on a school board is all about, having spent eight years on the Mountain View Whisman board. Before that, she volunteered extensively, including service on three executive boards for parcel tax campaigns and on the elementary school district's Budget Task Force.
Regarding the district's expansion of its advanced placement (AP) course offerings -- a subject of contention among some members of the school community because of the potential for creating even more stress for students -- Walter said she's concerned that the expansion is leading to the elimination of regular classes. For example, she said, the regular physics class at Los Altos High School was eliminated, with two AP physics classes replacing it. "Not every student wants to take AP classes and those motivated to do so can become overwhelmed when every class they take is an AP course," she said. "I want to be sure that we are not eliminating strong core offerings."
If she's elected, Walter said, priorities would include engaging parents more "on issues directly affecting their students;" expanding programs and curriculum for students at all levels; and enhancing communication to parents and the greater community.
The Voice endorses Fiona Walter for a seat on the high school district board.