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Letters to the editor: Mountain View Whisman school board election, vehicle dwellers, Prop 15

Original post made on Oct 11, 2020

Letters to the editor on the Mountain View Whisman School District board election, Prop 15, the Foothill-De Anza district board race, supporting Anna Eshoo's reelection campaign and advocating for better data on vehicle dwellers.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, October 11, 2020, 7:53 AM

Comments (19)

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 11, 2020 at 11:16 am

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

Perhaps incumbant MVWSD Trustee Laura Blakely is more and less than she seems. As President, she oversaw and helped plan Board meetings that clearly violated the Brown Act (no required description of Closed Session items). She participated and acquiesced in the Teach To One “fiasco” and did not hold the administration accountable. Lately, she has again participated in ‘keeping things secret’ like the settlement with Velasco January 9th (she let it slide that it was not “reported out” as Brown Act requires of settlements that are already signed).

Lately incumbent Blakely has given the Superintendent a 14% salary raise - and zero cost healthcare (that now all senior administrators contract require that). This administrator healthcare benefit - now exceeds all teacher benefits! And - there continues to be no teacher contract. Teachers are this year, as for the last several Working Without a Contract. That is a good Board Member’s job. The Teachers are the most valuable employees of an organization helping students learn.

Laura Blakely is a nice lady and has been a great school volunteer supporter. But she achieves blandness by never pushing anything back against the administration. She does not advocate Public Policy, she accepts “recommendations” from the administrations she oversees, and she is not holding them accountable. And “How to Lie With Statistics”? For an increase for just ONE YEAR (by 10 teachers) in the new teacher retention rate (3rd yr) she ‘seems’ to claim bragging right in her campaign postings = But the AVERAGE TEACHING EXPERIENCE among all teachers - is still static under Blakely - and less than the county and the state average by many years.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 11, 2020 at 11:44 am

Gary is a registered user.

Thanks to all for the input. Sometimes selecting candidates for whom to vote will involve a process of elimination. Are there candidates who should NOT be selected? In her lead letter, outgoing Mountain View- Whisman school board member Tamara Wilson recommends 3 candidates she favors. But she also warns about other "candidates" (plural) spreading "misinformation" online. Which candidates? What misinformation? There are only 2 other candidates for the MV-Whisman board.. One won't reveal his dispute with this very district or district superintendent that led to his forced resignation as an employee. He's eliminated from my list. But the other candidate is Christopher Chiang who seems quite informed and civil and dedicated. So maybe Tamara Wilson could be more specific about what Christopher Chiang is "spreading" online that is not correct.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2020 at 5:18 pm

Parent is a registered user.

I highly recommend Laura Blakely. She is highly competent, informed, and collaborative. And she truly, truly cares and works very hard in her role. I have seen it first-hand over and over again for many years as an active school parent.

And I don't give Steve Nelson's any credence as he single-handedly caused chaos, extreme dysfunction, and considerable harm as a past trustee. So much so that former trustee and board president Chris Chiang actually resigned in his 3rd year.

For more info, Check out:
Web Link

... Nelson's behavior at school board meetings was the main point of contention between [Chiang], other board members and the community at that time. Those actions were cited by board President Chris Chiang in his decision to resign from the board on June 22, 2015.

Chiang described Nelson's behavior at the board's meeting on June 11, 2015, saying that Nelson "insulted and harassed district staff, teachers and members of the public...." It was reported that Nelson had "chastised" district parents and facilities committee members at that meeting. In response, Nelson described district parents as "pushy" and as expecting "their point of view to be ascribed to.

Fellow board trustee William Lambert described Nelson, saying, "Trustee Nelson is incorrigible. He believes he received an electoral mandate to behave the way he does." He further described Nelson as "disruptive, erratic, abusive and even dangerous." It was reported that Nelson threw papers in Lambert's face during the latter's term as board president.[1] The other board members previously censured Nelson for his behavior in the fall of 2013.

===> So what Steve "Mr. Colorful Personality" Nelson describes as "bland" is actually the sound of someone respectfully, maturely, professionally and collaboratively working hard with the district staff and fellow trustees to get things done!

Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 11, 2020 at 6:57 pm

Gary is a registered user.

"Parent" Thanks for your comment. But it does not respond to my post asking what current Board President Tamara Wilson is referencing when she states in her online letter that she has witnessed "candidates" (plural) she is not endorsing "actively spreading misinformation online." The necessarily includes former trustee and current candidate Christopher Chiang. What "misinformation" does Tamara Wilson claim Christopher Chiang is spreading online? Last chance to explain.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2020 at 10:32 pm

Parent is a registered user.

"Gary": thanks for giving a "last chance to explain," however, I don't have any interest nor feel the need to provide an explanation to you - someone I don't know - about someone else's views. My post was simply a reply to Steve Nelson's post, not yours.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 11, 2020 at 10:59 pm

Gary is a registered user.

And my provision of a "last chance to explain" was directed to the author of the lead letter: Tamara Wilson - not you. I suppose that should have been made clear. So, where we are, is that the current school board president has endorsed 3 candidates she likes and has accused a former school board member and current candidate, Christopher Chiang, of presenting online unspecified "misinformation."

Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2020 at 8:28 am

Jennifer Bestor is a registered user.

There is so much damage in Ms. Morrison's incorrect statement, which implies that Mountain View schools are not property-tax funded and that Prop 15 would help them. First of all, MV schools have a chance to cope with the local cost of living only because local property taxes provide $48.9 million to MV Whisman and $75.7 million to LA-MV HSD, compared with the state's allowances of $43.3 million and $40.9 million, respectively. Proposition 15 will hurt, not help, Mountain View schools. It moves all commercial property tax under its own distribution mechanics. Then it hands the legislature the right to decide what 'existing' property tax to leave in a district, each year, and what 'new' revenue to pool and redistribute statewide. Thus, the elementary district in Mountain View would lose control over the commercial property tax whose growth has allowed them the local cost toehold they currently have -- while the high school district's $18,800 per student funding (adequate nationwide, but high for California) is the perfect excuse to redistribute $35 million of wealth statewide. The MV schools would get $100 per student, until they were down to the state funding allowances. The proposition campaign's dishonesty with its supporters -- and the public -- is heartbreaking. For the district data, please go to the state department of education website ( and look for the "Local Control Funding Formula - Funding Snapshot" and select the districts. For an overview of Prop 15 in Santa Clara county, please see my Palo Alto Weekly Viewpoint at Web Link .

Posted by MVWSD Parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 12, 2020 at 1:52 pm

MVWSD Parent is a registered user.

@Gary, Chris Chiang has made multiple posts and comments per week for the past several months in several different Facebook groups of thousands of MV parents and residents. His posts and comments are nearly always highly critical and/or suspicious of the MVWSD board and district employees, as well as uninformed since he is not and has never been a parent or employee in the district he wants to lead. There is nothing wrong with oversight and criticism; however, anyone who has successfully led other people to collective action in the long-term knows that it’s important to balance criticism and ideas for change with encouragement and genuine efforts at collaboration. Some of his ideas are interesting and visionary, but also highly impractical. He also constantly compares MVWSD to our neighboring districts even though the challenges we experience are quite different from those neighbors for a variety of reasons. When other community members call out his innaccuracies, impracticality, or ignorance of what’s happening (he has sometimes complained about something during the same week that parents were emailed about it by the DO), he whimpers that he is being attacked. I can not imagine him being effective on a school board with the other highly qualified, experienced, positive, professional leaders who are on the board and whom Ms. Wilson is endorsing.

Laura Blakely had several children in the district in the very recent past. She speaks and understands Spanish, like ~ 35% of MVWSD families. And she very clearly keeps the entirety of the broad range of families served by our district in mind as she does her job to guide and recommend policy (not dictate and micro-manage) the professionals in our district office.

Posted by Middle S Parent
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 12, 2020 at 3:46 pm

Middle S Parent is a registered user.

Laura Blakley and Tamara Wilson have abdicated their duty to provide any oversight over Rudolph and the School District, leading to disasters like Teach-To-One and the dismissal of five principals two years ago.

How has that gone? Let's see, Graham is already on its second replacement. The person hired to run Vargas quit before the school ever opened, see Web Link The newly appointed Mistral principal resigned this year, see Web Link

They (along with some posters here) seem to feel that the questions Chris Chiang asks are inappropriate. I disagree! He asks valid and insightful questions and often provides innovative suggestions. Oh dear, sometimes he even looks at how other districts have solved problems -- of course there are an unnamed "variety of reasons" why that shouldn't be done! If you find this approach threatening, he might not be the candidate for you.

I know that I will be voting for him and I suggest everyone take a closer look before voting!

Posted by ML Kyle
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 12, 2020 at 3:56 pm

ML Kyle is a registered user.

Jennifer's quibble about Prop 15 is the most nonsensical argument I've ever heard. A massive political movement has carefully thought out reforms to Prop 13, and you're claiming that schools will actually get less money because it gives the CA government theoretical control over the proceeds? Seriously?

We have elections every 2-years. Rest assured, if the money is carted away and dumped in the ocean instead of going to schools, we'll know about it and will vote accordingly. But the idea that we should vote against this measure because of that is so incredibly stupid that I don't even know where to begin. If the picture frame on the wall is slightly crooked, do you burn your house down and start over? Eesh.

Posted by Steven Goldstein
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 12, 2020 at 4:12 pm

Steven Goldstein is a registered user.

“You want more money for our schools and cities? Put school bonds on the ballot or increase sales taxes - don't pass the buck off to another person thinking you won't be affected, because you will.”

Bonds are not revenue but increased public debt. Which right now would be not possible, the COVID economic great depression has burned up all reserves, and no economic balance ins on the horizon.

Sales taxes are regressive as well, because the wealthy simply buy what they can in locations with the lowest sales taxes. Or NONE at all. As far as the state revenues it only comprises very small part of the total revenues CalMatters reported here (Web Link that in 2015 $419B were collected from all sources, the State taxes collected were only 40% of that and the local taxes were another 40%, the rest was federal tax distribution.

This report did say this regarding taxation:

“Of course, there’s some variation:

California has the highest statewide sales tax rate, at 7.25 percent, and is ranked ninth by the Tax Foundation in combined state and local sales tax rates.

If you want to depend on sales taxes, it would likely require a sales tax increase to as much as 11-12% for the state, and the counties would go even higher. The reality is sales taxes are not a means to depend on for educational and other service expenses.

Those taxes would result in the same problems described by the opponents of prop 15. In fact if these sales taxes hit, you would see the people leave California so fast, these businesses would close even faster.

The 2015 breakdown of property taxes were $20.9B for Primary Residence Property, $20.7B for Rental and Vacation Property, $11.7 for Commercial/Industrial, and $5.5B for other. That means the share of property taxes are 36% for Primary Residences, 35% of Rental or Vacation Residences, 20% is Commercial /Industrial, and 9% other

WE can easily estimate that as much as 20% of usable land is Primary Residence, 20% is Rental or Vacation land, 35% of usable land is Commercial/Industrial ,and 10% is used by Governmental or Public use and the rest is unusable. Now to normalize this because the total usable land use comes to 85% then these parity rates should be 23.5% for Primary Residences, 23.5% for Rental or Vacation Residences, 40.1% for Commercial/Industrial, and 11% for other land use

If the taxes were in parity, the property tax revenue should drop from 36% to 23.50%s for Primary Residence, from 35% to 23.5% for Rentals and Vacation, from 20 to 40.1% for Commercial/Industrial and 9 to 11% for other.

Since Prop 15 will start this off, it looks like Primary Residences and Rental or Vacation Residences will see a significant drop in taxes. That would likely offset any cost increases that the commercial sector wants to pass through to the customers.

Simply put it is time to pass Prop 15

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 13, 2020 at 11:02 am

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

Proposition 15 is much more than it seems! And @Bestor very well explains some of those "quibbles" that ML Kyle does not understand! The extra education money that it brings in IN Mountain View will not all go to Mountain View (or MVLA). It is distributed state-wide according to a formula that seems to shift more to Southern California (that has the majority of votes).

I don't know how I feel about THAT POLICY! Poor districts will be getting some of MVWSD's revenue for increased Commercial ASSESSED VALUATION increases. Maybe it Is a good wealth re-distribution tax/revenue scheme. Down at Shoreline (Googleville district) that extra property tax money will go? To the City? Is the 1969 Special District immune from this commercial property tax change? Real Complex!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2020 at 8:59 am

Parent is a registered user.

Hey Middle S Parent:

Do you guys really want to re-elect Chris Chiang (basically based on the fact because he very frequently and publicly criticizes the school district on every little thing?!?) How about you decide based on his actual time as board member!?! Is this really what you want to go back to?? Be careful what you wish for.

From voice article
Web Link

"Chiang served on the school board from 2012 to 2015, during arguably one of the most challenging times for the Mountain View Whisman School District. Labor negotiations with the teachers' union had soured, the Measure G facilities bond had been precariously planned, the superintendent resigned and the district's achievement gap, data later revealed, was among the largest in the country.

School board meetings were also notoriously contentious, with frequent arguments, drama, raised voices and even the occasional walk-out. Chiang quit while serving as board president in 2015, more than a year before his first term ended..."

Sounds like a keeper to me!!

Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Oct 14, 2020 at 11:45 am

Christopher Chiang is a registered user.

Anyone running with a record deserves to have that record examined. I welcome that, and we should judge past and present administrations to the same standard. There is also a difference of guilt by association and one's record.

I did vote for the past superintendent's severance. Fair to have debates on the justifications to give severances, I believe his long career and cost-savings (him doing in-house legal work) earned him his severance.

In judging both past and present by the same standard, do you know of the severances that have been given to some staff members who've been released during this administration? Web Link

The current board has presided over 14 changes in principals over the last two years for a district of a 11 schools. Web Link Many of these new principals are wonderful, some weren't and left, many of the ones we lost were wonderful too, some weren't, and the scale of these changes chill diverse thinking within the district.

The past administration I was on was chaotic, embarrassing, I own as much responsibility for that as the three other board members who were trying to manage how to troubleshoot that crisis. I also own that it was a mistake to leave that last year.

If you wish to speak of records, there's positive work from those years as well:
1) We streamed board meetings online, first district in our region to do so. When I piloted the process to stream meetings, many people said it was not possible, yet once we did, it became standard across many local districts. Web Link
2) We created an equity-based site controlled funding model to send more hundreds of thousands of dollars to students most at-risk, before LCFF was created. Web Link
3) We created community facility and school growth committees to ensure input was given early, not just the back end.
4) We built the performing arts centers, upgraded classrooms, expanded preschool facilities, and fiber optic upgrades and de-prioritized non-student facing projects like a new district office and board room upgrades.
5) We canceled our food contract with Sodexo, built fresh prep kitchens, and hired a district chef Web Link
6) We studied other school districts, sending board members, district leaders, principals, and teachers to visit leading schools like High Tech High, along with networking leaders with high performing educator networks like Innovate Public Schools. These last two examples, I arranged and facilitated for the district.
7) We held several retreats on the future of learning which led to our 1-1 laptop program for the middle schools.

The current administration has done many wonderful things too.
The current board/administration's:
1) Support to pay teachers more.
2) Execution of getting teacher housing moving, when many others districts are stuck in the abstract discussion of this pressing need.
3) Courage and eloquence in addressing issues of diversity and inclusion.
4) Leadership in helping unhoused students and families facing food scarcity.
5) Success in completing the boundary adjustments that have made more balanced and safer boundaries.
6) Articulation and support for teachers' concerns of reopening when many districts have not.
7) Success in passing both the new parcel tax and facilities bond, which are essential to addressing the systemic funding inequities seen in Mountain View. The board I served would not have been able to make the case for additional funding, while those governance issues remained. This current board has done many important things.

We should notice the work of the current board and administration, likewise, we should notice the good work done by the past, and we should examine both equally, let's debate policy (free of personal attacks) in pursuit of a better school district.

Posted by MVWSD Parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2020 at 1:18 pm

MVWSD Parent is a registered user.

Well, there Chris goes again, posting misleading data. The chart of principal turnover he points to conveniently pulls all the 2018 changes into 2018-19 school year and all the post-2019-20 school year changes into 2019-20. The table makes it look like Ms. Dagar just spent one year at Theuerkauf. Ms. Higgins was at Monta Loma thru the end of 2019-20 school year, but it looks in the table like she left earlier. Never mind that a bunch of these people got promoted into bigger roles. But hey, it lets him say “14 principals in 2 years” and shock us all. This is the kind of stuff he’s been pulling on community forums for the last year. Oh and he will go back and change or delete social media posts when they aren’t popular (bet that web link gets edited too). And - just like in the last comment - imply that people who point this out are making personal attacks. Anyone who pays attention on the school Facebook groups already knows this. Is this what Mountain View wants?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2020 at 2:07 pm

Parent is a registered user.

Totally agreed - I follow all of his threads and find Chiang to be very extremely disengenous and hypocritical and most importantly uninformed which is ironic because he was a past trustee and should be able to desipher info better. He will dig up info that is old or misleading and make a huge deal of it on various groups and get everyone worked up for no good reason - well maybe the reason is that he in the middle of major campaigning and want to say "see how much they all suck - you need me!!". LAST THING WE NEED during a crisis. Many times the parents have to set him straight - I have seen it!

He was part of creating the dysfunction of the past, and now is rabble rousing on a daily basis and spreading misinformation disguised as some stats, and creating divisiveness and negativity.

Can't we do better than him, guys?!? There are some solid choices who don't come with his baggage and a trail of unfounded criticism and negativity. He is already garnering a bad reputation amongst many parents and will CONTINUE to be polarizing. I mean just look at this comments section as small proof. I know he has a chip on his shoulder and maybe something left to prove, but there are better choices.

I mean who would want to work for him or with him at this point? I wouldn't. Would you want Chiang to be YOUR boss or YOUR team member? Nope. Let's set up the district and board for success.

We have seen the dysfunction in Washington , let's not bring it to our local community.

There are better choices!!

Posted by Accountability for MVWSD
a resident of Rex Manor
on Oct 14, 2020 at 3:01 pm

Accountability for MVWSD is a registered user.

What the district needs is school board members who will provide accountability for the superintendent. He uses outside consultants who are his friends, still needs a coach when he is in year six of this job, and has created a culture of fear among the employees of the district. He keeps the Board insulated from what is really happening in the district so they only hear his version of what is happening. Chris Chiang definitely has his issues, but the current board has bowed to the superintendent in every way. Time for some new faces who will hold him accountable and really working for the students of this district, not just giving them lip service to stay in favor with the Board.

Posted by Middle S Parent
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 14, 2020 at 7:13 pm

Middle S Parent is a registered user.

@MVWSD Parent

Or are you really a parent? Doesn't seem so from your comments: "she does her job to guide and recommend policy (not dictate and micro-manage) the professionals in our district office".

Sounds like someone from the District Office fearing we actually elect someone who provides appropriate oversight. Nice try also blaming Chris for the chaos caused by Steve Nelson. Yes, I remember these times and Chris did as well or better than the other Board presidents who served along with Nelson.

And you fault him for attributing some of the principal changes to the wrong year? No worries, 14 principals in 3 years is just as bad. Let's take the one who was hired to run Vargas before it opened and left right before it did. Or the fact that Graham is now on its second principal.

No need for District oversight there!

Same goes for @Parent. Are you really one? Looks like a rehearsed spiel to me! "He was part of creating the dysfunction of the past", no Steve Nelson was responsible for that. Or do you want to also blame Ellen Wheeler who served on the Board at the time?

"and now is rabble rousing on a daily basis and spreading misinformation disguised as some stats, and creating divisiveness and negativity", no not really. Look at his post above.

Look at your own words. The negativity is coming from you not him!

I guess the District is really worried about this election. Or perhaps one of the other candidates?

Posted by Steven Goldstein
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 14, 2020 at 8:29 pm

Steven Goldstein is a registered user.

This situation is very bad.

But here is some observations.

First, no one without any education or experience in administrating a school system should be brought into the job. Why? Best example Donald Trump. He had no governmental experience, and all he did was try to use business practices in areas where they do not work. And even worse, uses the idea of if something goes wrong, it can't be his problem. But if anything luckily goes right, he takes all the credit. Business practices DO NOT WORK in public services like medicine or education public policy or administration. Finally, the candidate Manny Velesco has not produced any "Educational Plans" or "Educational Strategies" As a small businessman, his is aware that you usually need a "Business Plan" to offer investors or work in to establish a "Value" that the markets will demand?

Second, the idea that to get your candidate to win you have to use any trick to denigrate the work experiences of your opponent is not the right strategy. To me, if a candidate has a "platform" or "plan" you don't win by simply trying to criticize it. You win by producing a better alternative.

If our politics has become the game of if you can out criticize the opponent you can win, the public will simply be guarantied to lose. In many ways that has been what a lot of public offices have become. This is more terrifying than COVID, because the people are setting themselves up for more disasters.

On argued that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg were successes without a college education. BUT they were "pioneers" in completely undefined and unlimited areas to CREATE a market or a new product. Public Education simply is not the same thing. There are rights and rules that cannot be ignored. For example the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

I hope that people will vote and choose their vote well, I support whatever choice they make.

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