The Mountain View-Los Altos High School District kicked off the first week of school Monday by greeting its biggest freshman class yet -- 1,165 students -- along with new administrators who will lead the district through a busy six years of construction to accommodate the growing student body.
New and returning students had precisely one day of class before demolition and construction activities began at Los Altos High School on Tuesday, Aug. 20, for a new two-story classroom wing. It's the first of many projects in a six-year plan that will replace and fix up large portions of the Mountain View and Los Altos high schools, the last major expansion before both campuses run out of space.
The district, for its size, is the fastest growing in Santa Clara County at a time when public school enrollment is largely on the decline, with total enrollment now at 4,462 students, according to district officials. Although previous enrollment figures greatly exaggerated growth projections, the budget passed in June was nearly flawless -- it anticipated 4,464 students.
The school year also marks a big transition in leadership, with Superintendent Nellie Meyer replacing former Superintendent Jeff Harding in July. Meyer hails from Mt. Diablo Unified School District where she served as superintendent for six years.
Though she presided over a much larger K-12 district, Meyer said her passion has always been for high school. In an interview with the Voice in June, Meyer said she was a high school teacher and administrator in San Diego, where she spent many years working on college and career readiness programs.
Meyer said the high school district was already on her radar after a valued employee from Mt. Diablo switched to Mountain View-Los Altos, and that the description given by the recruiter soliciting applications for superintendent felt like the right fit.
"They started to describe the community and the students, and I thought, 'Okay, I think I can bring something to this,'" she said.
When asked whether she sees herself as a visionary or a steady hand on the tiller, Meyer opted for the former -- always looking at the "big picture," big ideas and bringing people together, she said. Meyer said she planned to be mindful of the district's good work to date, and avoid inadvertently replacing programs and services that ought to be preserved.
"What I've learned with already having experience as a superintendent is to be humble about what you don't know and to kind of come to understand the good things that are happening without imprinting your ideas right away on top of something," Meyer said.
Meyer will be joined by several new staff members this year, including Mountain View High School Assistant Principal Daniella Quinones, who replaces Carmen Gomez. Quinones, introducing herself to the school board at a meeting last week, said she had a bilingual, bicultural upbringing in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, and relocated to the Bay Area seven years ago. She played several roles in the San Mateo Union High School District including as Spanish teacher, instructional coach, technology coordinator and data assessment coordinator.
She was part of a team that in 2015 received a $30,000 grant to rebuild a Spanish for Native Speakers (SNS) program, which previously lacked textbooks, training and curriculum to meet the needs of traditionally underserved students. The grant was an important tool for recruiting underrepresented students into AP classes, Quinones told the board, which has been a priority in Mountain View-Los Altos for years.
Also joining the district office this year is Sumita Gosala, the new assistant director for special education, who comes to the district from Jefferson Elementary School District in Daly City. Her expertise includes working with students with moderate to severe learning disabilities, and she has credentials for working with special needs students with traumatic brain injuries, orthopedic impairments and neurological and physical disabilities.
The district also hired a new IT director, Bob Fishstrom, who previously worked in a similar position at the Sequoia Union High School District. Before that, he served as a principal and vice principal at Carlmont High School in Belmont.
Los Altos High School, now over 2,200 students in size, will see the first groundbreaking project of the $295 million Measure E bond, which was passed by voters last year. Mountain View's equivalent, a two-story classroom wing, was postponed after California's Division of the State Architect (DSA) delayed construction permits due to a "significant work backlog," according to a recent update by the district.
Construction updates are available at mvla.net/page/5191.