June 2016 – January 2017
During the six months that the LWV LAMV newsletter was on hiatus, the Mountain View-Los Altos high school board operated smoothly with few surprises. Long-time board member Susan Sweeley retired after 16 years on the board. Only one candidate, Sanjay Dave, filed to run for her seat so there was no need for an election. In January, Debbie Torok became board president, Fiona Walter Vice President, and Joe Mitchner Clerk.
A major focus for the board over the last six months has been determining how to make room for the expected increase in students over the next five years. In the short term, Los Altos High School needs three additional classrooms for the 2017-18 school year, which will be provided by converting the weight room into two classrooms and adding a portable classroom. District enrollment at the end of the 2015-16 school year was 3,993. This number is expected to grow to 4,576 in the 2021-22 school year, according to a Demographic Analysis presented at the June 2016 meetings. Results from Facilities Assessment, in which engineers assessed the condition of buildings (including heating, A/C, plumbing, electrical, etc.) to identify improvements needed, were reported at the October 2016 meeting. The assessment concluded that the district takes remarkable care of its facilities compared to other school districts, but still found buildings that need repairs, especially the Freestyle Academy buildings. The development of Education Specifications is currently underway, which will document what facilities current and future educational programs need, including requirements for classroom loading, student safety, etc. The final deliverable, the Facilities Master Plan, will combine information from the Demographic Analysis, the Facilities Assessment, and the Education Specifications to create a proposal for the board that includes drawings and site plans.
The meeting on December 5 drew a big crowd of students and parents who attended to voice support for history teacher Frank Navarro, who had been temporarily put on paid administrative leave on November 10. The student newspaper, the Oracle, had reported that “Navarro … said that his leave was prompted when the parent of a student… sent an email [that] said that the student was upset by Navarro’s statements which equated Donald Trump with Adolf Hitler.” Speakers at the board meeting defended Navarro, who is an expert on the Holocaust, and supported his right to draw fact-based historical comparisons. Because it was not on the agenda the board was not allowed to discuss the matter, but Superintendent Harding said that the administrative leave was due to a confidential student safety issue. Mr. Navarro returned to his classroom on Monday, November 14.
A new part-time position, Director of Assessment and Evaluation, has been created to continue the investigation into why test scores have declined recently and to prepare an action plan to remedy the situation. Brigitte Saraff retired at the end of December from her former position as Associate Superintendent to take this new position.
Jeff Harding, now in his second year as Superintendent, has commenced a detailed review of all the board policies. This year the board has been having more working sessions and fewer formal meetings (once a month instead of twice). Over the past six months the board has, among other things, held annual reviews of all the schools, reviewed summer school results, discussed progress in broadening access to AP classes, supported expansion of student wellness programs, and monitored the district budget.
—Sally Ahnger, Observer