Three seats are open on the Santa Clara Unified School District board of trustees this year: two in Trustee Area 2 (Old Jefferson School District) and one in Trustee Area 3 (Old Santa Clara).
Albert Gonzalez – Area 2
Incumbent Albert Gonzalez (albertgonzalez.org), currently SCUSD board president, was first elected trustee in 2008. Born in Los Angeles, Gonzalez grew up in the Bay Area, has a degree in electrical engineering from Cal Poly and works in the tech industry. His wife teaches at Wilcox High School and he has three children enrolled in SCUSD schools.
Gonzalez is a native speaker of both English and Spanish, and he has put that capability to work since he was a college student. He has tutored and mentored at-risk students in Central and Southern California, as well as at SCUSD’s Wilcox High School, and organizing college campus visits for high school students. He has been active in both the Millikin Elementary and Peterson Middle School PTAs, and has coached for Homestead Little League and Santa Clara Youth Soccer League.
Currently he serves on the California School Boards Association Legislative Committee and the Santa Clara County League of Women Voters Educational Committee, chairs the Santa Clara County Children’s Health Initiative School Outreach Collaborative, and is treasurer of the Santa Clara County School Boards Association.
The board has been through turbulent times, Gonzalez recently told a Chamber of Commerce panel (youtu.be/yx1YKWcOrfQ). In the last decade it’s faced conflict spawned by two divisive and controversial board members, and fallout from drastic budget cuts.
Now the budget picture is brighter, and economic growth, the shutdown of redevelopment agency property tax diversion, and last year’s bond measure have provided much-needed funds for restoring programs like music, as well as adding teachers and classrooms, renovating and reopening existing schools, and building new schools to serve a growing population. Gonzalez also emphasizes the need to provide the support services and interventions for at-risk students and those who carry the extra burdens of learning disabilities, poor speaking fluency in English, or poverty.
“All children must be provided with the opportunity to receive a quality education,” he says on his website. “Their opportunities today, or lack thereof, will directly influence their future, as well as the future of our community as a whole.”
Gonzalez most recent campaign filings show that he has received $5,125 in campaign donations, $5,000 of it self-donated.
Ashish Mangla – Area 2
Library Trustee and electrical engineer Ashish Mangla (www.ashishmangla.com) is running for SCUSD board for the fifth time. He and his wife, who is a teacher, have three children who have attended SCUSD schools. Mangla didn’t participate in any forums or candidate interviews, and has rarely done so in his past runs.
Mangla’s greatest impact on the district may be as a spoiler. In 2008, his top vote-getting year, he took 13.5 percent of the vote, which could have put third place candidate Noelani Sallings in the winners’ circle. In 2010 his 8 percent would have put any one of the three losing candidates ahead of the two winners, Christine Koltermann and Ina Bendis. In 2012 he took 12 percent of the vote, more than the margin that put Christopher Stampolis on the board.
“Most bureaucratic people consider the business of education…hiring and awarding contracts rather than books and SATs,” he says on his website. “I am running to change this imbalance and give people of Santa Clara a revitalized school administration and a focus on children of Santa Clara in the heart of Silicon Valley.”
Mark Richardson – Area 2
A native of San Mateo, Mark Richardson (www.richardsonforschoolboard.com) owns a real estate business and has worked with students in one way or another for more than 20 years. Residents of Sunnyvale, Richardson and his wife, a preschool teacher, have two children, both of whom attend SCUSD schools.
Richardson has worked with young people in diverse ways that include teaching karate and boxing – and launching these programs – and serving on the board of an education non-profit providing education grants for at-risk teens.
He has been treasurer and a fundraiser for the Ponderosa PTA, and served as a volunteer at Fremont High School’s School Site Council and AVID program, and worked with students in Advancement Via Individual Determination; a program for students who are the first in their families to attend college. He has also served on the Sunnyvale Citizens Advisory Committee.
He is the founder and president of the Lowell Slater Richardson Foundation, which he established 20 years ago in memory of his father to support at-risk students and help them graduate from college. To date the foundation has awarded over 80 students with approximately $100,000, according to his website.
Richardson’s special interest is students in danger of falling through the cracks, students who are underserved – whether because they have special challenges or need additional attention. Richardson says he would bring to the SCUSD board both policy insight and personal experience to meeting the needs of these students.
While it’s typical for candidates to talk about cooperative, teamwork and professionalism, these words have special significance for Richardson’s candidacy because he will replace Trustee Christopher Stampolis, whose tenure on the SCUSD board has been marked by divisiveness and scandal. A middle school principal has a permanent restraining order against him for his threatening conduct to her, and the district has been prosecuting a conflict-of-interest lawsuit against Stampolis since late 2015.
“I’m one of seven board members,” he said in an interview with the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce. “I’m not the decision-maker. I want to be part of a board that works together at a high level. School board members are role models and children are watching them. Adults need to behave like adults.”
You can watch the Chamber of Commerce’s interview with Richardson at https://youtu.be/xRGO05TXE8o. Richardson’s campaign filings show that he has received $11,229 in campaign donations, most of it ranging from $50 to $250 from individuals.
Michele Ryan – Area 3
Incumbent Michele Ryan (ryan4board.com) was first elected trustee in 2012. She distinguished herself at her first meeting by voting against the verbose and abrasive former trustee Ina Bendis for the position of board vice president.
Instead, Ryan cast the deciding vote that put Trustee Albert Gonzalez to hold that office. Her independence made her a hero to many, and the target of considerable spite from Bendis and Bendis’ ally, scandal-plagued trustee Christopher Stampolis.
With degrees in international studies and history, Ryan has a credential to teach mathematics, biology, English and social studies, as well as an administrative credential, She is Curriculum and Instructional Specialist for Luther Burbank School District, and was Dean of Academics and subsequently Principal of Magnolia Science Academy until the county charter school closed last June, after an unsuccessful search to find a new location and a drop in enrollment precipitated by the uncertainty. Ryan’s husband is an electrical engineer, and the couple have three children, all of whom have attended SCUSD schools.
Ryan has been a District GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) Committee representative, sophomore class advisor, PTA member at Haman Elementary and has been a parent volunteer in the Laurelwood and Wilson preschool programs.
One of Ryan’s central concerns is offering a variety of programs to address what she sees as unmet parent demand – evidenced, she says, by the waiting list at back-to-basics Milikin Elementary School, as well as a documented drop-off in enrollment at the transition from elementary to middle school.
She is also concerned about achievement, saying that while achievement levels have increased in SCUSD, it hasn’t improved enough and district students still lag the county average (47 percent of grades 3 through 12 SCUSD students overall meet or exceed standards, vs. 54 percent county-wide per caaspp.cde.ca.gov).
“There are three key issues in this campaign: student achievement, community needs, and resource allocation,” says Ryan. “As the only credentialed teacher on the board,* I am running for re-election to continue advocating for students and the community. We need to improve student achievement, spend tax dollars wisely, and expand popular programs – like Millikin Elementary School’s Basics+ Program – to meet community demand.”
Ryan’s most recent campaign filings show that she has received $5,845 in campaign donations, $4,478 of it self-donated.
*Trustee Jodi Muirhead, who has served in several educational roles in the district, has a substitute credential.
Anna Welsh – Area 3
Although this is her first run for elected office, SCUSD school librarian Anna Welsh (annawelsh.com) is no stranger to leadership roles. She has served as president, VP, membership chair and Parliamentarian of the Washington Open Elementary School Parent Faculty Board; president and secretary of Buchser Middle School PTA; VP of programs and historian, Santa Clara High School PTSA; and VP of Santa Clara Unified Parents (SCUP). Welsh and her husband have three children, all of currently attend or have graduated from SCUSD schools.
With degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Nevada Reno, Welsh has worked in various roles in SCUSD since 1997 – including preschool, parent education and multi-media librarian. In the face of the district’s devastating budget cuts, she worked as the VP of SCUP to create new educational opportunities outside the four walls of school, at Full Circle Farm, Happy Hollow zoo, and the Triton and Tech Museums. Most recently she organized Screenagers, introducing high school students to documentaries that focus on teens and school.
Welsh strongly endorses ongoing teacher education and programs that foster collaboration among teachers, as well as policies and programs that allow parents to participate in education at all levels.”
“Based on my experience as a parent and educator,” Welsh says on her website, “I recognize people are motivated to learn from a broad range of interests: STEAM, music, art, organized sports, and feeling connected. I believe it is important to sustain the current student opportunities while exploring new ones so students feel connected at their schools.
Welsh’s most recent campaign filings show that she has received $25,138 in campaign donations, $7,500 of it self-donated, and the rest largely from individuals in amounts ranging from $20 to $250. There is one donation from a business, Sprinkler Fitters & Apprentices Local 483 in Sacramento of $250. Welsh’s largest donation is $1,000 from SCUSD Trustee Jodi Muirhead.