Editorial endorsement: Ackerman and Lucas for Menlo Park district school board | October 5, 2016 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Viewpoint - October 5, 2016

Editorial endorsement: Ackerman and Lucas for Menlo Park district school board

A common route to appointment or election to local school boards is that of the parent who is an active volunteer for the school district, often serving in leadership positions on school site councils and education foundation boards. Such experience can be valuable to those whose role on the school board is to help govern the district, a job that requires an understanding of how things work on many levels.

But if all board member emerge from a similar field of experience, the end result can be a governing board of like-minded thinkers in danger of discussing key issues facing the district in an echo chamber.

In many election years, voters who would like to see a governing board that brings to the dais a wider perspective have been frustrated because viable candidates haven't come forward; sometimes, such as in 2014 in the Menlo Park City School District, elections have been canceled because the number of candidates equals the number of open seats. This year is different.

In the race to fill the Menlo Park City School District board seats of Jeff Child and Maria Hilton, who have chosen not to run for re-election, we endorse David Ackerman and Caroline Lucas. They have come to their quest for governing board seats through untraditional routes and we believe they can offer valuable new perspectives as part of the district's decision-making team.

David Ackerman

Mr. Ackerman can hardly be called an outsider: He served in the district as Oak Knoll School principal for 15 years. Now retired and living in Menlo Park, he wants to stay involved in the district and offer, as a board member, a perspective gained from a 45-year career in education as both a teacher and an administrator.

From his position as a principal, he was able to observe firsthand the strengths and weaknesses in the district's leadership, and says he found that leadership lacking in inspiration.

As a board member helping to chart the district's way forward, he says, he would emphasize the importance of tapping into teachers' ideas and the valuable knowledge they have gained from on-the-ground experience. He rightly states that the board is at a disadvantage in having no member with a background in education.

Caroline Lucas

Ms. Lucas, a longtime educator and currently a Spanish teacher at La Entrada School in the Las Lomitas School District, also would come to the board with an educator's perspective, but with a broader community perspective as well.

She's been a school volunteer in the Menlo Park district and the Ravenswood elementary school district, which administers Belle Haven and Willow Oaks schools in Menlo Park and schools in East Palo Alto. Her children attended district schools and now attend Menlo-Atherton High School. She has also been a community volunteer — a Girl Scout leader and a translator for Spanish speakers in medical clinics.

One of her goals as a board member, she says, would be to improve the district's communication with the broader community and increase the public's participation in district affairs. Her ideas for doing so include more town hall-style meetings, conducting more interactive surveys, and posting videos of school board meetings, which are poorly attended.

She wants to change a process in board decision-making that she sees as backwards: The board arrives at consensus on issues, she says, then solicits feedback from the public. If elected, "I'm going to ask the public what they want, then bring that back" to the board as an important component in deciding the way forward.


3 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2016 at 10:50 am

I am shocked and horrified to read that the Menlo Park Almanac, a trusted publication, has endorsed Caroline Lucas for School Board.

[Portion removed. Hearsay.]

I have listened to her in board meetings as she insults teachers by suggesting they don't belong in our community, don't deserve scheduled raises, and don't deserve a voice in board decisions.

We have an opportunity to add two board members to open dialogue with real teachers, inspire the community to get involved in the education process, and build a trustworthy team that listens and evaluates the needs of our town. This is Menlo Park! We have a strong reputation that deserves a growth mindset. How can we make our growing district stronger? The other candidates (David Ackerman, Scott Saywell, and Alka Gupta) show respect for the teachers and the community. David Ackerman has an excellent reputation among educators as "strong and fair leader." Scott Saywell is a Menlo Park native who has interesting ideas and a positive contribution to the community's biotech industry. Alka Gupta shows strong understanding of finance and could positively contribute to the school board's apparent deficit.

I hope that the Menlo Park Almanac reconsiders their endorsement of this unqualified candidate.
Thank you for your time.

13 people like this
Posted by Publius
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Publius is a registered user.

​This is something to think about. The Almanac is a TRUSTED publication. It conducted interviews with ALL the candidates. Barbara sits at the board meetings to which you refer. I urge the community to think about ​why The Almanac made the endorsement that it made.

Is suggesting that there are ways to attract teachers other than "scheduled raises" an insult to teachers? I support teachers and also don't know why suggesting we look at alternative ways to compensate/attract/reward is "insulting".

The school board represents the community not the teachers. While listening to the voice of the teachers is important, it's not the constituent group to whom the board is responsible.

This is part of the problem. While the teachers are wonderful and the backbone of our terrific schools, the schools don't belong to them. They will teach and eventually retire. The residents are with the district for the long run and their desires for how schools are run, have to be given a heavy weight.

I'm sorry that it seems some feel that by not putting the top priority on the needs of the teachers feels like disrespecting them. The truth is the school board members would be listening to a special interest group if they allowed the needs of the teachers to rise about the needs of the community. At times these needs are the same (higher salaries will attract the kind of teachers that we want) but at times these needs may be in conflict and the board must listen to those who elect it. Hence the democratic process.

I am confident that if we stay focused on the issues facing the district, the community will elect the best individuals to address those issues. The structural deficit is expected to hit about $5.4 million by 2021 if left unchecked. Options: 1) pass a parcel tax for the full amount needed to close this gap without any reductions on the part of the district. This would require about a $800 per parcel tax. Good luck getting that passed.
2) Ask the voters for some reasonable parcel tax WITH AN EXPIRATION given there are already 3 PERMANENT parcel taxes that DO increase ever year AND also make expense reductions to bring the finances into balance.
3) Cut $5.4 million over 4 years. Probably not the solution either.

Hopefully teachers won't be offended if the primary issues facing the district get addressed in a way that simply meets the needs of the community.

13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 12, 2016 at 2:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

With three insider Board members not up for election hopefully the taxpayers who are not insiders will finally get someone who represents their interests elected to the two open seats.

The insiders have had a great deal - just keep the insiders in power and hold stealth elections and then everyone else will pay for their children's education.

We all want very good schools but there is a limit to how much the non-parent taxpayers can and will pay to educate other peoples children. We already have THREE permanent parcel taxes.

The deficit spending shows that the school district is already living beyond its means. And it has already promised ALL of the new dollars that would come from just replacing the current soon to expire FOURTH parcel tax to the teachers - not to programs. Were will the unavoidable cuts come from? The teachers contract protects them. Who will protect the students?

Lucas represents a voice of both sanity and educational experience who would add a critical perspective to the school board.

Lucas is the only candidate that is willing to address these hard facts:
1) District Revenue – Why It’s Impossible to Keep Up with the Joneses

2) Why Deficit Spending hurts Teachers, Students and the Community

3) How to Balance the Long Term Budget

The Establishment views Lucas, who has super professional credentials and who has had first hand experience with children in the MPCSD, as a real threat to their closed cabal and then are organizing to attack her and discredit her.

Fortunately the non-parent taxpayers have finally awakened from a long sleep and we are no longer willing to allow this cabal to simply keep sending us the bills for limitless increases in the cost of their children's education.

As was clearly demonstrated in the rejection of the last two parcel tax proposals the taxpayers have reached their limit.

There will be no new parcel tax until the non-parent taxpayers can be assured
that their hard earned dollars will be spent wisely and not used to just pay for commitments that were already made and made assuming that the taxpayers would pay the bills.

2 people like this
Posted by Scott Lohmann
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 12, 2016 at 11:05 pm

Scott Lohmann is a registered user.

I agree with Member. Hands down, Alka Gupta, Scott Saywell and David Ackerman, are MUCH better choices. Each of these individuals have had experience with the District on many different levels. They are not "Insiders", and bring with them their own personalities, their own experiences, their own skill sets and are passionate about helping the District. "Establishment", "closed cabel", "stealth elections", "organizing to attack her and discredit her"....c'mon Peter, don't you think this a bit over the top? NONE of this is true, if it is, provide some FACTS.

Like this comment
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 14, 2016 at 12:16 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

"With three insider Board members not up for election..."

There are two, not three, open School Board seats. Jeff Child and Maria Hilton, both of whom have done outstanding, tireless work on behalf of MPCSD, are not running for re-election. I and many other people are very grateful for their years of service.

Scott Saywell, Alka Gupta, and David Ackerman are all top-notch candidates who would make excellent Trustees. I implore everyone who visits Town Square to push away from the screen and go speak with District leaders ~ parent volunteers, administrators, and teachers alike ~ to get the facts. Think about the future you envision for MPCSD and who can best carry out that vision, then cast your vote for 2 of these well-qualified candidates: Saywell, Gupta, and Ackerman.

4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2016 at 6:40 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"With three insider Board members not up for election..."

Note the NOT.

5 minus 3 = 2

I recommend that you vote for Lucas and Hinshaw.

Like this comment
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 14, 2016 at 7:15 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

Peter and everyone: Scott Hinshaw dropped out of the race a couple of weeks ago.

13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2016 at 7:25 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

My ballot offers me 5 choices.

I strongly recommend voting for LUCAS and HINSHAW.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2016 at 7:38 am

Menlo Man is a registered user.

Peter, you're eroding your own credibility and reputation as an intelligent person when you encourage people to vote for a candidate who has dropped out of the race ...

4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2016 at 8:02 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Menlo Man - you do not understand the math. Too bad.

2 people like this
Posted by Richard Hine
editor of The Almanac
on Oct 14, 2016 at 9:39 am

Richard Hine is a registered user.

I'm closing this thread because it doesn't seem to be going anywhere productive.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.


Meet the winners!

The results are in. Check out The Almanac readers' favorite foods, services and fun stuff in the area.

View Winners