The midterm election on Nov. 6 will determine which of the 4 candidates will fill the 3 open seats on the MVLA school board. The school board oversees district policy and finances, and appoints district superintendents.
Fiona Walter is a current board member running for her second term. She has served on the Mountain View Whisman board. In order to familiarize herself with both Mountain View and Los Altos, Walter is a graduate of both the Leadership, Education, and Advancement Program (through the Los Altos Community Foundation) and the Leadership Mountain View Program. Walter said she decided to run again in order to ensure the success of long term plans and current plans like the Measure E facilities bond. Walter said she strives to support teachers, especially through the introduction of new technology and curriculum. Walter emphasized the importance of mental health as an education priority, adding her hope that the upcoming student services building will improve the school’s ability to meet this need.
Steve Nelson has worked as a middle school teacher and long term substitute and served as a member of the Mountain View-Whisman school board. If elected, Nelson aims to ensure that public policy is being set and implemented efficiently. Nelson said he wants to allocate money to economically disadvantaged, ELL students, and fostering these student’s growth by increasing tutoring opportunities so students can catch up, for example, summer school programs that focus on math. He believes the board must adopt a good neighbor policy based on the California Environmental Quality Act, which applies to ambient noise, school traffic, offsite parking, and light trespass. This will help set distinguished board guidelines that will mitigate disagreement over the field light debate. Nelson’s term on the MVWSD board is a source of controversy that follows him to the current election. MVWSD Board President Chris Chiang resigned citing Nelson’s harassment of district staff, parents, and the public during board meetings as cause. In addition, community members started a petition in 2015 to recall Nelson from the board in response to his behavior, although the effort was later abandoned and failed to become a ballot measure.
Debbie Torok is a current board member running for her third term. Torok previously served on several Parent Teacher Association and bond measure boards. She said that if re-elected, she hopes to ensure the success of Measure E ,. In addition, Torok said she intends to focus on decreasing the socioeconomic achievement gap, by offering more classes and securing opportunities for all students post graduation. If elected, Torok said she also plans to work toward WASC accreditation (Western Association of Schools and Colleges), something she helped the board accomplish six years ago. Finally, Torok said she believes that consequences related to social media must be emphasized more, especially as students begin to apply for college or gain work experience.
Catherine Vonnegut has worked as a substitute teacher at elementary and middle school levels, served as the PTSA president at Mountain View High School for two years, and held the position of PTA council representative, representing all 18 schools in Mountain View and Los Altos. Her degree in computer science from Purdue University and software engineering job have helped her in past technological positions for the MVLA district. Vonnegut said she aspires to expand academic curriculum, prioritize mental health by accommodating students’ economic situations and home life, and ensuring that modern technology used in the classroom is appropriate, effective, and worth the cost. Vonnegut helped with the introduction of the SIS portal and said she hopes that she can use her knowledge to aid parents, staff, teachers, and students while transitioning to newer technology.
*Photos of Debbie Torok, Fiona Walter, Steve Nelson, Catherine Vonnegut (L-R) courtesy of Debbie Torok, Fiona Walter, votersedge.org, and Catherine Vonnegut