The Las Lomitas Elementary School District (LLESD) governing board appointed two new members during a meeting last week.
On Oct. 6, the board interviewed six candidates before selecting Heather Hopkins and Gautam Nadella to fill the openings left by board President Dana Nunn and trustee John Earnhardt. Hopkins and Nadella, who will serve until December 2022, will be sworn in at the Nov. 17 board meeting.
Hopkins said she has worked in the education space for 20 years. She co-founded the Community Equity Collaborative, a Menlo Park-based nonprofit that facilitates partnerships between organizations to expand educational opportunities for Silicon Valley youth. She also founded the nonprofit My Red Shoes in 2006, which has helped clothe over 90,000 children, she said. Nunn said she appreciated Hopkins' "depth of knowledge" on education.
She's lived in the district for 13 years and her children attend La Entrada Middle School and Woodside High School, according to her application. She said during her board interview that she's throwing her hat in the ring now because she's very interested in the district's strategic plan. She served on the district's Strategic Plan Task Force and noted that social and emotional learning, equity and inclusion are areas of the plan she's excited about.
"Though I only have 2 years left as a parent in the district, I'm applying for this role because I'm interested in exploring running for a full, 4-year term in 2022," said Hopkins, who holds a bachelor's degree in history from Princeton University, in her application. "I also believe diversity of a school board is enhanced by having one or more trustees who are not current district parents." She'd like to see the district pursue "bold and thoughtful" anti-racism work and continue to create inclusive policies for LGBTQ members of the community.
Nadella's two sons attend Las Lomitas Elementary School and he has served as a board member for the Las Lomitas Education Foundation (LLEF) for two years.
He is an operating partner at venture capital firm EQT Ventures and has lived in the district for 10 years, according to the firm's website and his board application. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard University. Nadella said that he offers a unique perspective as a parent to a special needs student.
"I can bring a point of view for families whose children have either special or extra needs in terms of their education," he said. "I have been able to learn quite a bit about the financial needs of the district through my work on the LLEF and appreciate the many hard choices and tradeoffs the board often must make with the superintendent."
He also believes the district needs to strengthen its finances because of the "unsettling" lack of funding from the state for local schools.
Nunn resigned her post because she is moving out of district boundaries this fall and will no longer be eligible to serve as a trustee, she said. Her last day on the board will be Oct. 29 so she can help with the appointment process.
Earnhardt stepped down last month and explained he believes that board members are more effective when the decisions they make impact their own children. (He doesn't have a child in the district anymore since his son graduated from La Entrada Middle School in June.)
The board interviewed four other candidates: Rimmy Malhotra, an investor and parent to two children who attend district schools; Brian Ross, a district parent and municipal financial advisor; former La Entrada teacher Mimi Sabo; and district parent Adrianne Wonnacott.
Sabo, a 29-year resident of the district who is now retired, said in her application that she had a "long-term, profound dedication" to LLESD. She noted that she would not be representing teachers' interests, but said her years of experience in the classroom give her a "wealth of knowledge and insight" to contribute to the board.
Board member Jason Morimoto said the decision didn't come easily.
"I would be honored to serve with all six of you," he said. "I rewrote my list four times in the course of 15 minutes, and I ended up almost every single time with a different twosome to talk about."
The board voted at the Sept. 8 meeting to appoint replacements. The board chose the provisional appointment process as opposed to calling a special election because this approach is "significantly less costly," according to the district website. A special election would cost between $365,000 and $438,000, according to county counsel.
Last November, the district made national news when its former board president stepped down over his wife's racist and misogynistic tweets about Vice President Kamala Harris.
Earnhardt was the subject of an attempted recall started by parents who said his comments in a local newspaper reacting to Mehredith Venverloh's insulting tweets about Harris lacked sensitivity and warranted his removal. (The recall was proposed on Change.org and an official recall petition would have required signatures from a quarter of the district's registered voters in order to move forward.)
The board also filled a seat left vacant by Jody Leng, who was elected to the board in the Nov. 3, 2020, election. She informed the district she would not take her seat. Trustees voted to pursue an appointment process at that time too, selecting former candidate Molly Finn and Cynthia Solis Yi.
Voters have 30 days after the appointments were made to gather signatures to call for an election. It would require 1.5% of district voters to sign a petition calling for the positions to be put on a ballot.