Within the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, one challenger and two incumbents will face off for two board seats up for election in November.
Laura Teksler, a civically involved parent and environmental commissioner in Los Altos, will be running to unseat either 24-year board member Phil Faillace or Sanjay Dave, who is completing his first term on the board.
Teksler has been involved in a number of local school and community organizations that have provided her with experience to run for the school board, she said. She has been involved in the parent-teacher associations where her children attended school in Los Altos – at Almond Elementary School, Egan Middle School and Los Altos High School. She is currently executive vice president of the Los Altos High School PTSA and a board member of the Mountain View Los Altos High School Foundation.
As parent to a senior at Los Altos High School and someone whose friends are also parents in the community, she said she feels close to what's happening on campus and has insights into what's happening for students.
She is also currently co-chair of the Los Altos Community Foundation, where she has been involved with grant-making work, and vice chair of the Los Altos Environmental Commission. She holds a bachelor's degree in environmental science from University of California at Berkeley, according to an online bio, and has worked with local environmental nonprofit efforts, including serving on the board of Acterra and volunteering with GreenTown Los Altos, a fiscal project of the Los Altos Community Foundation. She has also volunteered in the Los Altos School District and on a bond oversight advisory board there and has insights into how budgets work, and is interested in helping the district figure out how to emerge from the economic downturn, she said.
Teksler says she understands the role of a board member and would prioritize "asking the questions that drive the district in the right strategic direction" if elected to the high school board.
She said she'd be interested in figuring out new ways to communicate with residents. Being responsive to community input can be difficult under the Brown Act, but she said she favored more discussions and open forums to get help disseminating information to families.
"Families are confused and they have so many questions," she said.
The district should work toward assisting students who need additional help and support a return to campus as soon as possible, she said. "We have to really focus on students who need extra support and ensure that they're successful."
Sanjay Dave said he's running for a second term for many of the same reasons he ran the first time four years ago – he's enthusiastic about wanting to create the best educational opportunities for all students.
He also hopes to use some of the knowledge he's picked up in his first term, like how to run a meeting, how to negotiate with the teachers association, and the mechanics of how the board works.
In his first term, he's worked with city and district leaders to explore the possibility of a third high school. In June, the Mountain View City Council passed a strategy to shape funding and possible locations for a new school as the city expands.
He said he also focused on initiatives like expanding the Middle College program, shifting to a later start to the school day and expanding the district's AVID program, which offers in-school academic support to prepare students for college.
Now, the district is facing new challenges as it adapts to long-term distance learning amidst a global pandemic. Looking to the new year, he said, keeping kids engaged in school will be a priority, and then figuring out how to reopen schools, especially for small cohorts who most need in-person learning.
Dave holds a bachelor's degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder and a master's degree in biochemical engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He has worked in the semiconductor field for more than 30 years and is a director of engineering at TSMC, a semiconductor manufacturing company, according to his online bio. He is also a longtime member of the Mountain View Rotary Club and a volunteer and former board member at Hope's Corner. He has also served on the board of the Los Altos Community Foundation and on a scholarship committee for the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
Phil Faillace was first elected to the board in 1996. Under other conditions, he said, he might have considered taking a break. But with the current challenges facing the district as it adapts to the new constraints of the coronavirus pandemic, he said, he feels he needs to stay on the board and put his experience and know-how with the district to use.
"This is not the time for me to abandon the district I love," he said. "I'm hoping the voters give me a chance to stay on."
His main concern, he said, is making distance learning work before going back to in-person learning under mitigated circumstances.
Normally, with the district, he said, big projects require a lot of planning time – like an airplane, heavier loads need a longer runway. For instance, he said, the board has been working for years now on a project to install stadium lights at the district's football fields. From the first meeting in 2018 to now, the district had time to negotiate with stakeholders and figure out how to get everyone most of what they want.
But with the pandemic, the district had no runway and was forced into distance learning suddenly, he said.
"It's a big challenge," he said. "I don't know anybody who's getting it right."
What "getting it right" would look like to him, he explained, would be a learning system where students are engaged, active, enthusiastic and feel like they belong.
In recent deliberations over how to offer online learning, he said, he would have preferred to see more minutes of live video or "synchronous" learning required, as well as a greater number of required instructional minutes.
One of his goals is to figure out how to continue to educate children at the same high level that was offered before distance learning began, he said. Figuring out how to support students who are school avoiders is also critical, he said.
Faillace is the board chair at CHAC, the Community Health Awareness Council. He served for 13 years on the board of the Los Altos School District and was a founder of the Los Altos Educational Foundation. He holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Princeton University, a master's degree in mathematics from Stanford and a Ph.D. in mathematical logic from Oxford University. He has worked teaching math at Stanford, as a consultant at Intel, at his own company offering technical and management expertise in computer science and as an expert witness in intellectual property disputes, according to an online bio.