Editorial: Wheeler and Conley for Mountain View Whisman school board | News | Mountain View Online |


Editorial: Wheeler and Conley for Mountain View Whisman school board


It's a transformative time for the Mountain View Whisman School District, and voters may be asking themselves whether it's best to stay the course with the two incumbents, or react to recent missteps by supporting two challengers with fresh perspectives.

With two seats up for election, the I== Voice== recommends that voters split the difference, keeping the most experienced incumbent, Ellen Wheeler, and voting in the most promising newcomer, Devon Conley.

The district has been grappling with significant ongoing issues like teacher retention, a revolving door of top administrators -- due in part to the board's decision last school year to remove four principals with little public explanation -- and one of the largest achievement gaps in the country.

The new Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary is taking shape, and another new school to accommodate thousands of new residents anticipated in North Bayshore and East Whisman is on the horizon. New school attendance boundaries are rolling out soon and if Bullis Charter School gets its way, there's likely to be a new charter school opening in a year that's housed on district property.

Wheeler has served on the school board longer than any trustee and has lived in the district nearly three decades. Her institutional knowledge is an important asset and she has worked well with fellow trustees over the years. An advocate for early childhood education, she supports high-quality preschool as key to addressing the district's achievement gap. Wheeler was the only candidate to speak to the importance of a well-rounded education that includes subjects like art, sports and drama.

While she and fellow incumbent Greg Coladonato stood by the board's decision to remove four principals from their jobs last spring, she has acknowledged the district should have done more to communicate with parents. If Wheeler is re-elected, we expect as the senior member of the school board she will closely examine proposals that come before the board and use her deep knowledge of Mountain View Whisman to the benefit of the district and community.

Of the two challengers, Conley has the best education credentials and the most fully realized positions on the issues. A district resident for 12 years, Conley has experience serving on a public body as the vice chair of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. She has a unique perspective as both the parent of a child in the district and as a teacher who works in public education policy, with a big focus on closing the achievement gap.

Conley has scrutinized recent district decisions, telling the Voice that she is concerned that the district doesn't have a concrete, coordinated approach to English language development, particularly for young children. Conley's top priorities if elected teacher retention, strengthening the relationship between schools and families, and outstanding classroom instruction for all children -- demonstrate that she understands the biggest issues facing the district.

Compared with Wheeler and Conley, incumbent Coladonato and challenger Tamara Patterson came up a little short.

Patterson's energy and enthusiasm are appealing, but when asked specific questions about her priorities and issues facing the district, she mostly gave nonspecific answers. By taking some more time to learn the ins and outs of the district, she could run a much stronger campaign in a future election.

Coladonato, who was elected in 2014, gained a reputation as fiscal hawk who asks probing questions. His perspective has been both helpful and, at times, divisive during his term on the board. He's a reasonable choice for voters looking to stay the course and re-elect both incumbents.

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2 people like this
Posted by geiserob
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 19, 2018 at 6:56 pm

geiserob is a registered user.

It always amazes me, these days, that political campaigns and some newspaper endorsements are distributed/published AFTER voting has begun. While past experience has made me a bit skeptical of MV Voice endorsements, I still value alternative viewpoints in my decision-making at election time. This article is published a bit late for my liking.

Like this comment
Posted by @geiserob
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 19, 2018 at 7:21 pm

I agree. they still haven't revealed their council endorsements, though its pretty obvious who they will endorse. Has anyone read who the chamber endorsed?

13 people like this
Posted by badgolfer
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 19, 2018 at 7:49 pm

badgolfer is a registered user.

No incumbent is worthy of your vote.

26 people like this
Posted by so tired of MVWSD
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 20, 2018 at 11:14 am

Wheeler is seeking her 5th term. She has been on the Board for almost 2 decades and has presided over horrible, ill-conceived and incompetent decisions that has cost the district millions. It's time for new blood and new ideas. Anyone but Wheeler.

1 person likes this
Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 20, 2018 at 6:02 pm

Polomom is a registered user.

@@geiserob: Chamber chose to not endorse anybody this year.

18 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 21, 2018 at 10:47 am

The Voice's endorsement of Ellen Wheeler as "the incumbent choice" is problematic. Since both Coladonato and Wheeler have Board experience, we should look at what they've done and not just the number of years in office. Wheeler was the Board President during some of the major issues, and we can contrast what Ellen Wheeler has been doing with what Greg Coladonato has been doing.

For example, various emails from Board members Laura Blakely and Tamara Wilson to parents in March claimed that there was an "independent evaluator" from outside the District who reviewed the removals of the principals to ensure a fair process. Ellen Wheeler also picked up on this and encouraged it in an email to Laura Blakely and Superintendent Rudolf.

On April 5, I asked the Board about the "independent evaluator". It turns out, there was no such person. It also appears that neither Gutierrez nor Coladonato knew anything about this:

Trustee Gutierrez: "I have a question. Are we able to disclose who the independent evaluator was?"
Superintendent Rudolf: "There was no independent evaluator"
Trustee Gutierrez: "OK. John, did you hear that?"
Trustee Coladonato: "Why does the public think there was one?"
(Web Link)

Ellen Wheeler, Laura Blakely, and Tamara Wilson sat at the table and said nothing. They were the ones who promoted the idea!

Maybe this was all a miscommunication during a very rushed and high-stress time; everybody would understand that, if they just came out and said it. I'd appreciate Board members who would own up to mistakes. But, none of this was ever really resolved, just swept under the rug as we try to move forward. But if you want to figure out which incumbents are trying to solve problems and communicate with the community and which are, at best, remaining silent, it's not hard, if you pay attention.

7 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 21, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Please compare the article on the front page to the conclusion drawn in the editorial; they don't match:

"While she and fellow incumbent Greg Coladonato stood by the board's decision to remove four principals from their jobs last spring, she has acknowledged the district should have done more to communicate with parents."

BOTH of them said that -- and it's more than obvious. It's not fair to Coladonato to imply Wheeler is doing more to advocate for communication. This is based on the Voice's own reporting and the candidates' own words.

15 people like this
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 22, 2018 at 7:36 am

Current school board members blame everyone but themselves. Getting rid of Wheeler is a great start to turning the district around. Then go after Gutierrez and Blakley, two of the worst board presidents in recent history who have each presided over absolute chaos and double-speak while showing a complete disregard of parent concerns. New board members will then need to clean out the rot at the district office. Don't worry about Superintendent Rudolph, he'll be moving on anyway. Focus on his cronies and on the deadwood: Ghysels, Bauer etc. Until all this happens the achievement gap will never be solved. Never. New thinking and new approaches from the top is what is needed now!

And one more thing. Wheeler (who doesn't know the meaning of the word "respect") and Coladonato and the rest of the board have really been coy regarding how the principal shake up and turnover last year was justified only to find Superintendent Rudolph replace them with his former colleagues and friends from North Carolina while the district has been shelling out expensive contracts to his former boss Peter Gorman for "leadership training". How do such corrupt practices actually address the achievement gap? It's all just smoke and mirrors with these current board members.

8 people like this
Posted by Dump Wheeler
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 6, 2018 at 10:33 am

You state that "Her institutional knowledge is an important asset", but that is only true if she knows what to do with it. Despite that "knowledge" she allowed Teach To One to proceed despite the fact that its implementation was in direct contradiction to District Policies. (A "pilot" involving all of 6th grade???)

As the Board president at the time and a new superintendent with no prior job experience as a superintendent, she bears primary responsibility for allowing this to happen.

To this day, instead of accepting responsibility she blames parents for mis-understanding the program!

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