The Menlo Park City School District school board chose former member Mark Box as the board's new member at a public meeting on Monday, Sept. 23. Box takes the seat left vacant by Caroline Lucas, who resigned in August.
The board voted 4-0 to appoint Box, after interviewing four candidates in open session and having about an hour-long public discussion. Box then took the oath of office; the term ends in December 2020.
Box, who has lived in Menlo Park for 18 years, served on the district’s school board from 2008 to 2011, according to his application for the board seat. A startup investor and adviser, he is currently chairman of the district finance committee and is a former district parent.
Box said he will not run for the seat in the November 2020 election.
Board member Stacey Jones said that Box could come up to speed quickly on district issues and contribute immediately, given his past and current experience in the district.
During the next 14 months, the district will evaluate its finances and potentially plan for a parcel tax or bond measure to put on the November 2020 ballot. “Experience rises to the top” for this short-term consideration, she said.
The district will require "additional funds that are not part of the current budget planning," to support its recently passed teacher compensation philosophy, according to a district staff report. The philosophy is part of the district's efforts to hire and retain the "most qualified and exceptional teachers and staff" given that the district is located in an area of "extreme" high cost of living and has a budget dependent on local revenue sources, according to the district.
“Here’s our opportunity to get Mark’s last year of service on the board and really take advantage of his knowledge,” she said. “We’re going through a difficult time as a district." A person without any school board experience would require training and mentorship by a superintendent "who has a lot of his plate," she said.
The three other candidates were:
• Jonathan Carpenter: Carpenter’s five children attend district schools, according to his application for the board seat. After 22 years of public service, he returned to the Bay Area, so his children could attend district schools. He is a guest teacher and plans to run for the seat in November 2020.
• Eunyun Park: A district parent, Park is a human resources consultant and organizational development and analytics expert, according to her application for the board seat. She is not certain whether she will run for the open seat next year.
• Francesca Segré: A district parent, Segré serves on the site councils at Encinal School and Hillview Middle School, according to her application for the board seat. A former journalist, Segré worked as an education policy specialist for former state Assemblyman Rich Gordon. Segré now works in communications at LinkedIn. She plans to run for the seat next year, she said.
Board President David Ackerman argued that Box was the safe choice, given that he “was one of the best board members” the district has ever had. Yet the district’s strategic direction states that taking the safest choice doesn’t lead to innovation, he said.
“Francesca just impressed the heck out of me,” he said. “Her journalistic career, research on educational issues, working with Rich Gordon with the public. I think she would bring a whole lot to the board about understanding issues and being able to work with the public.”
Two people expressed support for Segré during the board's public comment period.
Ultimately, the four board members agreed to appoint Box, with board member Scott Saywell noting that Box was qualified for the specific job and that there will be an election for the seat next year to fill a four-year term.
Board member Sherwin Chen said that he found Segré’s background impressive and that she gave “such an emotional and moving set of statements.” Yet, he also felt a sense of urgency to have someone more experienced in the district on the board who fully understands the district’s budget and financial situation.
Box served on the school board until 2011, when he resigned to move with his family to Barcelona, Spain, for the 2011-12 school year. He formerly served as president of the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation.
Lucas was elected to the board in 2016. She resigned from her post on Aug. 1 to take a part-time Spanish teaching position at Hillview Middle School. California law prohibits school district employees from simultaneously serving on their district's board.
Before joining the district as a teacher, she most recently taught Spanish and English language development in the neighboring Las Lomitas Elementary School District for six years.