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Sequoia school board: Thomsen, Sarver win

Original post made on Nov 4, 2009

Chris Thomsen and Alan Sarver won the election Tuesday for two seats on the board of the Sequoia Union High School District.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 8:58 PM

Comments (23)

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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 4, 2009 at 11:57 am

Mr. Sarver, having been elected needs to be given the message that staus quo is not acceptable. Unfortunately, having the support of trade unions and teacher's unions does not mean that the direction will be the best for the students of the district. This is not about charter schools or non-charter schools but about improving the district. If one does not see a need for improvement, there will be no improvement. The attitudes reflected in Mr. Sarver's statements appear to indicate there are no issues. I can only hope that Mr. Sarver will in time prove to be more than a rubber stamp under the thumb of MR. Gemma.


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Posted by Simple Simon
a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Nov 4, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Good Luck to Both Elected Trustees

Mr Thomsen, please help guide us into the 21st century in education and present us with transparency you have promised. Also, we would like to know how much the Board is spending in legal defense and where it is coming from?

Mr Sarver, please keep your mind open and retain what is working without being reactionary. You have an opportunity to do a lot of good and provide rational leadership.

To all Trustees, the Everest lawsuit may be a very big deal and the BOT is responsible. The Charters are not going away no matter how much you wish it so. Rise above the pettiness that has typified this board in the past, build bridges and embrace what is good for all students.


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Posted by baffled
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 4, 2009 at 12:07 pm

I'm not sure what to make of the results--did the same people who voted for Thomsen also vote for Sarver? Evidently many voters were not aware of the issues.

Oh well. Not much to do now but hope for the best, and be glad we have one very strong new board member who will fight for the students.


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Posted by Max
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 4, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Well, I voted for Thomsen and Sarver. I'm sorry you're so disappointed in me.


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Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Nov 4, 2009 at 1:35 pm

David Boyce is a registered user.

A question: Why did Bob Ferrando end up 11 percentage points behind Chris Thomsen, with whom he campaigned and generally agreed on several issues?

Perhaps voters split their vote to elect one voice for the status quo, Alan Sarver, and another, Mr. Thomsen, for significant change.

Maybe voters didn't know where he stood because Mr. Ferrando did not pay to have a statement in the voter information pamphlet.

Another question: Mr. Sarver raised more and spent more than Mr. Thomsen and had all the institutional endorsements. Why didn't he come out on top?

Maybe there is a mandate for change out there. Maybe the pro-charter camp voted in force and Mr. Sarver's message didn't get through because it's an off-year election. Turnout for the district was 20%.


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Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 4, 2009 at 1:48 pm

The elected's statements consisted more of resting on past laurels than addressing specific issues going forward. In the vote count there was little reflection of the idea that past performance is not a guarantee of future results. There was none of the admired tradition of the unknown or the newcomer being given an opportunity.


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Posted by another voter
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2009 at 2:52 pm

I still do not understand how some of the posters equate only the charter school with the interests of the students and equate teachers and a parent volunteer at one of the district's comprehensive high schools with what is not in the interests of the students.

How much time have any of your spent in the classrooms and on the campuses or any of the district's comprehensive high schools? Or the charters for that matter? How much time has Mr. Thomsen, Mr. Sarver, Mr. Ferrando, or any of the candiates for that matter?

Go ahead and blast of on me if you must, but I am just asking a few questions out of honest curuiousuty.


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Posted by still baffled
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 4, 2009 at 3:06 pm

I haven't seen anyone state that charter supporters are the only people who care about the students. But I think a lot of us can agree that it is wasteful and inconsiderate of the students to continue to battle the charters legally and every other way. As Concerned Parent said, I hope Sarver realizes the folly of a fierce anti-charter stance and helps work to end Gemma's vendetta.

Also, though it is great that teachers and school volunteers are willing to run for the board, but their classroom experience does not make them inherently more qualified to administer district operations.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 4, 2009 at 4:48 pm

I wouldn't consider that charter supporters are the only ones who care about students. What has been pretty clear is that Gemma and the current BOT consider charter schools second class citizens in the district. All one needs to do is read what President Gibson wrote over the summer with regard to the Green Street site. It is clear that the district took the position that despite what the current law says, they choose to follow what they believe the law should be and are then confused that a lawsuit follows.
I find the attitude that transparency is a bad thing very confusing.
For the record, I have had children in both comprehensive and charter schools and have met with teachers in both settings and been in classrooms in both settings. I have also attended BOT meetings. The very fact that Gemma sent Sarver to do his bidding at the state level does bode well for a trustee who will provide true oversight. It may lead to easy meetings, but that means tough issues will not be addressed.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Congratulations to Mr. Thomsen and Mr. Sarver. I believe you both have the students best interests at heart or you wouldn't be embarking on this thankless assignment!

I would encourage each of you to show your independence. You are elected officials and we expect you to provide oversight of the Superintendent and the district's management. I hope you will not accept hollow answers and that you will insist on integrity and high management standards.

Mr. Sarver, regardless of what people may say or believe, I hope you will insist on transparency in the district and that you will show that during board meetings. We elected you to represent us and, hopefully, stop spending money on lawyers and start spending money on students. Remember that Mr. Gemma works for you, not the other way around. We elected you to do this.

Mr. Thomsen, we are counting on you to voice those concerns that have not, to now, been represented on the SUHSD board. You won the most votes, you have a mandate and you must be heard. Insist on it - you only answer to the electorate.


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Posted by former Menlo-Atherton parent
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 4, 2009 at 6:18 pm

In response to David Boyce who asks:

A question: Why did Bob Ferrando end up 11 percentage points behind Chris Thomsen, with whom he campaigned and generally agreed on several issues?

Perhaps voters split their vote to elect one voice for the status quo, Alan Sarver, and another, Mr. Thomsen, for significant change.

Maybe voters didn't know where he stood because Mr. Ferrando did not pay to have a statement in the voter information pamphlet."

I think that voters DID know what Ferrando stood for and voted against it. He is pro-charter but most importantly, he has never been involved in the SUHSD schools in any capacity - not as a volunteer nor has he had a child attend. The same can be said of Kiraly. Thomsen, although a Charter advocate, has a child in the SUHSD and is an educational professional. That is why he got votes by both sides.

Sarver got votes because of his experience and involvement in the SUHSD.


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Posted by Virginia Chang Kiraly
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 4, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Dear Menlo-Atherton Parent:

I normally do not respond to blogs like yours, but quite frankly, I am tired of the incorrect information that has been spewed out about me. Therefore, I must say that you do not have the facts of my voluntarism within the Sequoia District. I have been a member of the Sequoia High School Education Foundation Board for about the last year and have been on the District's CTE Steering Committee for the last two years as a Commissioner on the CA Commission for Economic Development. My involvement with the individual high schools is based on where I think I can help the most, as Sequoia is not naturally the high school my children will feed into.

Although my children do not attend high school yet in the district, as a candidate, my volunteer experience has been second only to Alan Sarver's. Therefore, before you make incorrect statements, please check your facts. Misleading the public is wrong.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2009 at 10:29 pm

" He [Ferrando] is pro-charter but most importantly, he has never been involved in the SUHSD schools in any capacity - not as a volunteer nor has he had a child attend. " -former Menlo-Atherton parent

To set the record straight, Bob Ferrando has a daughter attending Summit Preparatory. Though some people object to the notion, Summit is a part of the Sequoia Union High School District.


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Posted by Concerned voter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 5, 2009 at 11:20 am

I did not realize (until after I had voted absentee) that there was a fee to have your statement included in the election material. I did not consider anyone who did not have a statement in the material because I (erroneously) considered that a lack of interest and commitment on the candidate's part. I think it is absurd to make candidates pay to be included -- there must be a better way to pay for it.


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Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Nov 5, 2009 at 11:32 am

David Boyce is a registered user.

The fee to submit a ballot statement for the Sequoia high school district was $1,500 this time around, according to one of the candidates who did pay it.

Fees are not uniform across the spectrum of races and are perhaps based on the size of the constituency, I was told by another Sequoia district candidate.

The Sequoia district has 120,000 registered voters, each of whom receives a voter information pamphlet with campaign statements included. Or not, if the candidate so chooses. The fees probably help subsidize the cost of printing and distributing the pamphlets.


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Posted by Joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 5, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Another example of how difficult if not impossible it if for people who aren't at least moderately wealthy to be elected to public office. And this is a democracy?


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Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Nov 5, 2009 at 4:09 pm

David Boyce is a registered user.

A snapshot of fees charged by the San Mateo County Elections Office to have a ballot statement published in the voter information pamphlet. Note the correlation with the number of registered constituent voters.

Sequoia Union High School District: $1,479
Number of registered voters: 119,021
Estimated cost per voter: 1.2 cents

Menlo Park Fire Protection District: $547
Number of registered voters: 37,346
Estimated cost per voter: 1.4 cents

Portola Valley Town Council: $158
Number of registered voters: 3,182
Estimated cost per voter: 5 cents

Woodside Town Council: $129
Number of registered voters: 3,696
Estimated cost per voter: 3.4 cents

Caveat: I am a reporter, not a mathematician and not an arithmetician.


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Posted by Parent volunteer
a resident of La Entrada School
on Nov 6, 2009 at 10:55 am

Another loss for Virginia Chang Kiraly. Voters, take note, as she will probably run for another position in the future. She can put out a long and impressive list of community volunteerism and a few appointed or rinky-dink elected positions. BUT, can she show actual positive impact?

At Las Lomitas, she wasted her year as PTA President trying to convince parents into changing from a PTA to a PTO. Why? I was told her ambition was to become the primary fundraiser for the school, undercutting the Las Lomitas Education Foundation. The LLEF does a phenomenal job of raising necessary funds, and works with the Superintendent, Eric Hartwig, on how those funds are allocated. But ultimately the decision on how to spend those donations rests with the school board, not the parents. Virginia told me that if we had a PTO, the parents could be very specific about how the money is spent. That might seem like a good thing, but parents have their pet projects and don't know the complex details of the district budget. The result could be that we would have beautiful landscaping, for instance, but not enough money for textbooks.

Virginia is a staunch Bush Republican and wants to take institutions this that are public or quasi-public and privitize them. Having a PTO would have put a lot more control in the hands of individuals instead of the elected and more transparent school board.

Virginia is also a Bushie in her use of partisanism and divisiveness. On the PTA, volunteers generally try to get along, a value that wasn't apparent in her work. Another example is when she was head of the board of the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo. She wanted to take that private, as well. I don't know the specifics of that case in great detail, but it became a huge and divisive issue in Palo Alto. Virginia tried to rally her extensive network to pull it off, but thankfully it was another of her failures. If she had succeeded, the employees would no longer be City employees and would have had salary cuts as well as benefit losses. Many were tearfully expecting to leave an institution they loved and had built into a treasured community asset. Virginia would have chosen new, inexperienced, cheap workers over the people who were the heart and soul of the Junior Museun and Zoo, so that she could concentrate on what she really wanted: creating an entirely different entity with what had been public assets. Another case of privatizing to further her own goals. Thank goodness it didn't happen.

She is very ambitious and will no doubt try again (although it would not be fair to compare het to Jack Hickey, the perennial candidate). I only wish she would use her resources and energy to do things that were for the good of the entire community, rather than for her personal glory and the kind of Republican partisan, divisive, and privitizing politics that failed the country so badly under Bush.

If you choose to respond, Virginia, I look forward to hearing of any concrete successes you've had in our area (particularly from elected, rather than appointed, positions, and in public, rather than political-party, issues). I'd love to have my ignorance pointed out; I was unable to find any reports of your public accomplishments when I was doing research into candidates before the election.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 6, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I would note that the election is over. If there are individual concerns with one of the candidates, there is free speech, but the real answer is to be involved yourself and get others involved. The sad truth is whatever one thinks of the slate of candidates, the voter turnout was less than 25%. The candidates have wandered into competing for what must be a thankless job and exposed themselves to the mercy of anyone who disagrees with them (I'm certainly in that category at times). If one can get elected with 20% of 25% (or approximately 5% of the electorate, it's not surprising that determined people can get elected independent of their qulaifications. I don't have any personal dealings with Ms. Chang Kiraly or any of the other candidates, but evaluated them on their stands on the issues and how I thought they would serve in the position they were running for. The answer to getting the best candidates elected is greater involvement whoever you support and for whatever reason. At this point, however, rather than trashing one candidate, wait for the next election and either run yourself or work to get the facts out and raise the important issues.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2009 at 3:56 pm

I agree with Concerned Parent... I think.

I didn't support Ms. Kiraly but I won't question her motives. I give her credit for being willing to put her name out there and go for it. Not many citizens are willing to take that step. Everyone has their own motives. I don't think there's a lot of glory to be had on the SUHSD.

I also didn't appreciate the "Bushie" comments and they detract from what may be honest and well founded criticism. Bush isn't President any more and our new President has his own fair share of problems and critics.

You can't please all of the people...


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Posted by Virginia Chang Kiraly
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 6, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Dear Parent Volunteer of the LE School Community:

I am sorry you feel this way. Perhaps, if you contact me personally, I can help clarify some facts and answer questions you may have. As the Las Lomitas Community knows, I am very accessible and am always willing to sit down, talk, and listen. My contact information is in the Las Lomitas directory. I look forward to talking with you, if you so choose.


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Posted by baffled
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 6, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I didn't vote for Virginia but have no doubt (having worked with her in a volunteer position) that she is a selfless, dedicated, and caring person who truly wants to do her best for the community. She has volunteered in many different capacities and has, from what I can tell, put 100% into her endeavors. I admire her for that and for her willingness to put herself out there.

Parent volunteer, I don't know what purpose you expected your post to serve, but from my perspective you have accomplished two things, neither of them positive:

* You have hurled hurtful and totally unnecessary barbs at someone who has repeatedly volunteered to take on thankless tasks for no pay.

* You have discouraged others -- perhaps candidates that you would like to see in office -- from running because no one wants to be the target of such an attack as yours.

Petty, nasty, unproductive, and just plain unkind. I'm glad you're in the LLESD because I know you won't be volunteering in my kids' classrooms.

By the way, the MPCSD switched to PTOs from PTAs a few years ago. It was a lot of work, but there were major benefits associated with the switch. Perhaps, parent volunteer, you need to take on a few more meaningful tasks yourself?


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Posted by Bushie lover
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 9, 2009 at 6:03 pm

[Post removed; off topic]


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