News

School board elects president for second year, breaking precedent

The Mountain View Whisman School District took the rare step last week of electing its board president for a second term, a break with tradition while the board is amid complex deals to handle student growth, contracts to construct teacher housing and other major endeavors that will carry into the new year.

Trustees voted to appoint Tamara Wilson to be board president next year on a 5-0 vote at the Dec. 12 board meeting. Board member Devon Conley was elected to serve as vice president, and board member Jose Gutierrez was elected as the clerk. Though the leadership role typically lasts a year and rotates between board members, they agreed that continuity was more important than holding to tradition.

The idea was first floated last month, with board member Ellen Wheeler arguing that it would be helpful to have "familiar faces" during negotiations with other agencies. The school district has been working with the city of Mountain View and private developers to prepare for a huge increase in students caused by residential development, negotiations that have proved challenging in recent months. If development were to cease today, district officials say they would still have to find ways to house an estimated 1,000 additional students in the coming years -- a roughly 20% increase in enrollment.

In planning for enrollment growth caused by major residential zoning changes in the North Bayshore and East Whisman areas of the city, Mountain View City Council members adopted a so-called Local School District Strategy, requiring developers of large projects to provide funding, land or other resources to Mountain View Whisman to offset the impact on schools. But implementing those plans requires the school district to broker agreements with private developers, which has been a challenging task outside of the typical purview of a school district.

The school district launched a three-way agreement earlier this year with the city and developer Fortbay to build a 716-unit apartment complex on Middlefield Road, which will include a building with 144 units that would all be leased to the school district for use as subsidized teacher and staff housing.

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Wheeler said the best way to avoid disrupting the multifaceted cross-agency collaboration would be to "freeze" the board officer roles for another year, even if it is a little unusual.

"I don't want to become a board that normally has two-year terms for the president, but I'm also somebody who believes in exceptions," she said at the Nov. 21 board meeting.

Wilson told the Voice in an email that she was surprised by the decision to re-nominate her as president, and had no idea it was coming. It does entail a lot of extra work and doesn't have quite the allure that others might think, but she accepted the nomination last week.

"I am humbled and honored that the trustees chose to support a second year with me in this leadership role," she said.

In addition to speaking on behalf of the school board and working with staff on board agendas, Wilson has been a frequent face as a representative of the school district at City Council meetings, advocating on behalf of the district's interests as council members approve large-scale zoning changes promoting new residential construction. Most recently, she raised concerns that zoning for 5,000 residential units in the primarily commercial East Whisman area of the city would be a mistake without a clear plan for financing schools for the children who will live in the area.

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Wilson pointed out that the district has done its part for planning -- urban school visits, hiring architects and planning for dense schools on minimal acreage -- and that what the district needs now is a joint-session meeting with City Council members and a sense of surety that schools won't be left out as the city expands.

Wheeler said the board has not had a president serve two terms in at least 17 years, though it's not unheard of. Other school districts in the county have two-year presidential terms, and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors had two of its members, Dave Cortese and Joe Simitian, serve two-year terms as president. The justification for county supervisors was largely the same -- greater continuity in tackling complex problems and minimizing the "start-stop, about-face changes" that come with a major leadership change.

Unlike the county, however, the change of pace is not intended to be permanent for Mountain View Whisman.

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School board elects president for second year, breaking precedent

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Sat, Dec 21, 2019, 11:08 am

The Mountain View Whisman School District took the rare step last week of electing its board president for a second term, a break with tradition while the board is amid complex deals to handle student growth, contracts to construct teacher housing and other major endeavors that will carry into the new year.

Trustees voted to appoint Tamara Wilson to be board president next year on a 5-0 vote at the Dec. 12 board meeting. Board member Devon Conley was elected to serve as vice president, and board member Jose Gutierrez was elected as the clerk. Though the leadership role typically lasts a year and rotates between board members, they agreed that continuity was more important than holding to tradition.

The idea was first floated last month, with board member Ellen Wheeler arguing that it would be helpful to have "familiar faces" during negotiations with other agencies. The school district has been working with the city of Mountain View and private developers to prepare for a huge increase in students caused by residential development, negotiations that have proved challenging in recent months. If development were to cease today, district officials say they would still have to find ways to house an estimated 1,000 additional students in the coming years -- a roughly 20% increase in enrollment.

In planning for enrollment growth caused by major residential zoning changes in the North Bayshore and East Whisman areas of the city, Mountain View City Council members adopted a so-called Local School District Strategy, requiring developers of large projects to provide funding, land or other resources to Mountain View Whisman to offset the impact on schools. But implementing those plans requires the school district to broker agreements with private developers, which has been a challenging task outside of the typical purview of a school district.

The school district launched a three-way agreement earlier this year with the city and developer Fortbay to build a 716-unit apartment complex on Middlefield Road, which will include a building with 144 units that would all be leased to the school district for use as subsidized teacher and staff housing.

Wheeler said the best way to avoid disrupting the multifaceted cross-agency collaboration would be to "freeze" the board officer roles for another year, even if it is a little unusual.

"I don't want to become a board that normally has two-year terms for the president, but I'm also somebody who believes in exceptions," she said at the Nov. 21 board meeting.

Wilson told the Voice in an email that she was surprised by the decision to re-nominate her as president, and had no idea it was coming. It does entail a lot of extra work and doesn't have quite the allure that others might think, but she accepted the nomination last week.

"I am humbled and honored that the trustees chose to support a second year with me in this leadership role," she said.

In addition to speaking on behalf of the school board and working with staff on board agendas, Wilson has been a frequent face as a representative of the school district at City Council meetings, advocating on behalf of the district's interests as council members approve large-scale zoning changes promoting new residential construction. Most recently, she raised concerns that zoning for 5,000 residential units in the primarily commercial East Whisman area of the city would be a mistake without a clear plan for financing schools for the children who will live in the area.

Wilson pointed out that the district has done its part for planning -- urban school visits, hiring architects and planning for dense schools on minimal acreage -- and that what the district needs now is a joint-session meeting with City Council members and a sense of surety that schools won't be left out as the city expands.

Wheeler said the board has not had a president serve two terms in at least 17 years, though it's not unheard of. Other school districts in the county have two-year presidential terms, and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors had two of its members, Dave Cortese and Joe Simitian, serve two-year terms as president. The justification for county supervisors was largely the same -- greater continuity in tackling complex problems and minimizing the "start-stop, about-face changes" that come with a major leadership change.

Unlike the county, however, the change of pace is not intended to be permanent for Mountain View Whisman.

Comments

Christopher Chiang
North Bayshore
on Dec 21, 2019 at 1:42 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
on Dec 21, 2019 at 1:42 pm

The reason for the tradition of rotating board members into the role of president is that the role is not meant to have more power than their equally elected colleagues. The rotation allows each board member a year to build closer and more effective relationships with the superintendent and to reduce political posturing among trustees.

The community deserves to know that this board prevented two elected trustees from ever rotating into that position during their four years (Coladonato and Nelson). This no doubt, contributed to the lack of trust between these board members and the superintendent. While it may be debatable if a censured trustee should be the face of the board, there is no reason Mr. Coladonato was denied other than the board felt it knew better than the voters.

Board President Wilson is an outstanding board trustee; these questions are about institutional norms and not the merits of her tenure.


Standing Ovation
Old Mountain View
on Dec 21, 2019 at 1:47 pm
Standing Ovation, Old Mountain View
on Dec 21, 2019 at 1:47 pm

Chiang is correct, but Wheeler has always exercised way too much influence on the Board. Here now again she is the explainer-in-chief, breaking silence after months of a smug attitude whenever the public dare criticize the district's poor performance her poor decisions and constant backing of charlatan superintendents. She is a clear sign of the Deep State even here on our local school board. Thanks to Wheeler we have had mediocre schools in a city surrounded by stellar ones. Wilson is nothing but a puppet now, particularly after the disastrous tenure of Gutierrez who was appointed by Wheeler to replace Chiang when he resigned. We already know that Blakley has no spine to stand up to Wheeler, and it looks to be the same with Conley. So it's only natural now that Wheeler freeze the Board in place. Time to drain the swamp and either recall them all or vote them out next election.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Jan 2, 2020 at 3:25 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Jan 2, 2020 at 3:25 pm

It is entirely fine and legal for Trustees Wheeler and Blakely to motion and second Wilson to be Board President for a second consecutive term. As Wheeler reported in a previous Minutes of the MVWSD, she and Blakely had a meeting together a few weeks before. Two trustees, deciding together - who they would jointly support? Entirely within the Brown Act!

Ellen Wheeler knows how to multiply her one-vote power! And usually, she does not run afoul the law limiting elected officials.

I depended on Wheeler to be 'the third', that magic legislative majority number, that I depended upon to get a square deal for my constituents in the North East Quadrant of MVWSD. A neighborhood K-5 school, like all other Quadrants. I could not have done that with just Coladonado and then Wilson help. Wheeler was necessary.


Joel Lachter
Registered user
North Whisman
on Jan 6, 2020 at 12:00 am
Joel Lachter, North Whisman
Registered user
on Jan 6, 2020 at 12:00 am

@Standing Ovation. I am wondering why you are so disappointed with the MVWSD schools. I was under the impression that test scores pretty much tracked demographics. I took a quick look at the overall CAASPP scores for MVWSD vs Sunnyvale and Palo Alto. Sunnyvale seems to have about the same % economically disadvantaged students as MVWSD, and notably worse overall scores. Palo Alto has a lot fewer economically disadvantaged students, and better scores, but the economically disadvantaged students don’t seem to be doing all that much better than at MVWSD. I don’t have a lot of time right now to do a careful analysis but if you could point out where you are seeing these differences, I would like to take a look.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Jan 6, 2020 at 1:24 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Jan 6, 2020 at 1:24 pm

thank you Joel for being another voice of Reason - but when a poster ends with "recall" or throw ALL the bums out! Out! I am not quite sure calm reasoning will follow.

MVWSD Common Core (Math and English Language) testing [CAASP report or Dashboard report in 'ed speak'] shows that the District is and has been leading comparable districts. We are above state comparable districts in Both White and Hispanic student sub groups.

However: ACADEMIC GAP (White - Hispanic) is worse than almost all such "positive outlier" districts in the state (recent research report*) and in The Nation (Dr. Reardon/Stanford). By 3:1 in a statistically based metric, MVWSD Whites are doing Much Better than Hispanics in relative improvement above the state averages. (fig. 4)*

* from Dr. Linda Darling-Hammon/ now Calif. Bd. of Education President
Web Link



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