Two new members have taken their seats on the Las Lomitas Elementary School District governing board: Parents Dana Nunn and Jon Venverloh began four-year terms on the five-person school board on Dec. 12.
Nunn, a nonprofit executive, and Venverloh, an executive at Google, took out candidacy papers to run for the board, along with incumbent John Earnhardt, in the Nov. 6 election. (Incumbents Rich Ginn and Christy Heaton did not run for re-election.) But since they were the only candidates for three open seats, the election was automatically canceled.
Nunn and Venverloh join Earnhardt, who begins his second term, Diane Honda and Bill Steinmetz on the board.
The district has two schools -- La Entrada Middle (4-8) in Menlo Park, and Las Lomitas Elementary (K-3) in Atherton. There are 1,259 students in the district this school year, according to Sept. 12 enrollment numbers. The district includes neighborhoods in the western part of Menlo Park and Atherton and small sections of Woodside, plus nearby unincorporated areas including Ladera.
District voters passed a $70 million bond measure in June. It is set to go toward administration and parking lot fixes, repairing/replacing obsolete building systems (roofs, security and fire alarms, lighting, etc.), restore fields, create a science room, demolish portables and more.
Nunn, 47, works as a consultant at Friends of the Children, a nonprofit youth mentorship program. She was a member of the district's Las Lomitas Design Team, which looked at shifting school day schedules.
Nunn has a bachelor's degree in economics and government from Dartmouth College, a master's degree in economics from Stanford University and a doctorate in business from Stanford Graduate School of Business.
She has three children -- two high schoolers and a third-grader at Las Lomitas Elementary -- and lives in unincorporated Menlo Park.
Nunn has a unique perspective on persistent district issues because her children have grown up through district schools, she said.
She emphasizes the importance of having women on the board, noting that it benefits the decision-making process to "have lots of different voices at the table."
"If we're all talking to our daughters about women stepping up," it's important to actually do so by running for elective positions, she said.
Nunn said she brings to the board her background in business and youth development, and her governance experience.
Nunn said a key goal as she begins her term as a board member is to make sure the district spends money prudently. "It's a lot of money; we need to make sure we're spending it well," she said.
Now that she's on the board, she's impressed with how well-run and organized the district is, she said. The budget is in good shape. "It's a good foundation to build off of," she said.
Classes in the district's schools have tended to be more traditional, Nunn said, and she wants to see more innovation in classrooms, with an emphasis on project-based learning and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.
"Our district will need to update its strategic plan in the next couple of years, which we can leverage to strengthen our approach to innovation," she said.
The board's job, she noted, is to create a culture and framework supporting innovation, and to set long-term goals. Teachers and administrators, on the other hand, are the experts in specific standards and curriculum, she said.
Nunn said she would like to see parents, teachers and administrators collaborate more. "I think what I saw from the design team was that working together collaboratively is the best way to understand the district from multiple perspectives," she said. "We can build that muscle by doing more of that collaboration."
Venverloh, 46, has four daughters -- a preschool student, a third-grader, a seventh-grader and an eighth-grader. He served on the Las Lomitas Education Foundation's executive board from 2010 to 2016 before he and his family moved to Zurich, Switzerland, for his job with Google, where he is director of operations for Google Shopping product management.
Venverloh chose his Atherton home 12 years ago so that his kids could attend district schools. He has a bachelor's degree in advertising from Southern Methodist University and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he was a Sloan Fellow.
He said he is excited to oversee how the district is preparing for the future and said he's "well-equipped" to serve in this capacity. He is knowledgeable about the district itself from his work on the foundation, he noted. And professionally, he has worked on projects that involve organizing people, businesses and contracts, while encouraging innovation.
"That's a lot of what the school board is tasked with -- construction projects, contracts with teachers, maintaining high standards in the district," Venverloh said.
He is personally invested in the district's future, given that he has four daughters who attend, or will soon attend, Las Lomitas schools.
Venverloh is also interested in computer science education. The district has had a good start on 21st-century technology education, he said, but there's room for improvement. Since the state has strict curriculum requirements, he'll push for more extracurricular activities in the district that involve learning computer programming. A good start? A recent Hour of Code event in the district, which introduced students to their first hour of computer science.
He believes the district is in good shape, but said he also wants to make sure to spend revenue from bond measures responsibly.
Venverloh said he plans to work out more of his own priorities for the district in the coming months. In the meantime, he'll focus on items already on the district's plate: tackling issues springing from recent flood damage at La Entrada that resulted from breaks in municipal water mains, renovations, and setting the school calendar, among other things, he said.