FUHSD Board of Trustees: candidates preview

Dickson Tsai

The challengers present bold plans while the incumbents plan to maintain the status quo

This project relates to content in the October 20, 2010 El Estoque Print issue.

This Nov. 2, three incumbents face four challengers for three open seats on the FUHSD’s Board of Trustees.

The five elected members along with a student representative control both the superintendent and the district’s budget. Each member is elected to four-year terms, with three spots open every two years. There are no specified term limits.

The challengers consist of the Goldman family and Pradeep Jain, who is currently a parent of freshman Paras Jain. Bill Wilson, Barbara Nunes and Hung Wei are the incumbents.

The Incumbents

Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson is a father of four graduates, two from Fremont High School and two from MVHS. He is currently the president of the board, but his first term comes to an end this year.

Wilson founded Arca Systems and served as a board member from 1989-1999, later joining Recourse Technologies for three years. Now, he shares his business experience with both the district and several different start-up companies.

Since 2006, Wilson has focused on teamwork to smoothly synthesize the different ideas of each board member. Part of that emphasis comes from his experience in the Cupertino Little League. President of CLL for three years, Wilson faced situations that prepared him for challenges similar to those of the school board.

“One of the things about being president [of CLL] is [that] there are fans that have different opinions,” Wilson said. “They give me practice listening…and figuring out a way to come up with a very useful response.”

Currently, his platform includes smart spending that adheres to his two fundamental principles: offering students what they need and keeping a strong arts and music program. He does want to implement more programs into the district, but during these unfavorable economic times, the district does not have the money.

“The biggest challenge is definitely to meet the needs of the 10,000 diverse students…while keeping the district financially strong,” Wilson said.

Barbara Nunes
Barbara Nunes is the second of the three incumbents and is looking to retain her position this November as her second term comes to an end. She is a retired business teacher and administrator who served as the principal of Cupertino High School from 1987 to 2000.

Along with holding the school board position, she currently works for the California Department of Education and the Western Association of Schools and College to accredit high schools around the state.

Citing the poor economic conditions, Nunes, like Wilson, champions measures that would raise revenue and cut district spending. During her last four years on the board, she chaired the two campaigns for the Measure B facilities bond and the latest parcel tax. She also points out the savings from residency checks and solar panels.

“Those [programs] are the kinds of the things we need to do to conserve a comprehensive high school program for all students,” Nunes said.

Hung Wei
Hung Wei, elected to a short term in 2008, is the third incumbent vying for re-election. Wei, a mother of three MVHS alumni, is an active volunteer in the community, committing most of her time to the Fremont Union High School Foundation and other organizations.

Motivated by personal experience, Wei founded MVHS’ student-run publication Verdadera in 2005. She has advised the publication since then, helping the community talk about sensitive teen issues securely.

Through the publication, Wei understands the importance of communication with students. She looks to continue developing an extensive guidance system for students.

“I truly believe that every child needs a third adult in addition to their parents,” Wei said. "Someone that they can talk to, someone that will just listen, someone that will tell them, 'You're doing great.'"

She shares most of the views of Wilson and Nunes regarding the district’s finances. She also takes pride in the diversity of the current board, noting the cooperation that allowed for the smooth passage of the different measures such as the parcel tax renewal and the facilities bond.

“Divide and conquer is not what our district does and I just want to emphasize that,” Wei said. “We’re all together, community members, teachers, parents.”

The Challengers

Pradeep JainPhoto by Pradeep Jain.
Currently the Technical Projects Manager at ConsAid Inc. and a father of three, Pradeep Jain is one of the four challengers running against the incumbents. His daughter graduated from MVHS in 2007, and one of his sons is currently a freshman. His other is an eighth grader at Kennedy Middle School.

Jain presents an extensive platform, with ideas ranging from increased class options to a reevaluation of district spending. One of his ideas is to create an organized system of intramural sports. His idea came from his daughter’s inability to participate in the schools’ sports teams, which, Jain claims, are dominated by over-dedicated athletes spending hours a day practicing. According to him, universities and private schools have organized intramural sports, while the district’s high schools only have lunchtime activities.

Another part of his plan is to personalize education (see this for more information on the debate). Even though he acknowledges that the district does a satisfactory job with the average student, he points out that more can be done to support students with different needs. He proposes after-school tutoring with paid tutors to accommodate them that extends beyond the peer tutoring programs in the high schools.

“We don’t need to open a charter school. Extend ours,” Jain said. “Three more hours of school every day. How? Not by hiring more teachers [but] by hiring after-school tutoring.”

Jain will fund his programs by channeling money that would have been going to administrative spending, and unlike the Goldmans (see below), he is not opposed to field construction.

Michael Goldman
Michael Goldman is a self-employed consulting software engineer. and the father of two sons, including fellow challenger Monet Goldman.

He draws motivation to run from his own experiences starting from high school. After receiving high grades at his own high school in New Jersey, he was overwhelmed by the rigors of college and decided to drop out. He would later receive a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but he now considers AP classes extremely important. Now as a candidate, he plans to offer more AP classes in the five high schools.

“I was very concerned that [it would] happen to my children, not having adequate preparation [for college],” Michael said. “When you get to college, it’s all AP all the time…Getting in is not the difficulty. Staying in is hard.”

The part of his platform that has garnered the most controversy is his plan to redistrict the Cupertino and Sunnyvale schools based on the recommendations of the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury (see this for more information about the unification debate). Similarly, he wants to reopen some of the closed Sunnyvale High School, now occupied by The King’s Academy, to lower operating costs.

Overall, Michael Goldman wants more resources available to students. To fund everything, he plans to reallocate money going towards administration and field renovations while applying other cost-cutting ideas.

“What we should do is take the money that’s going to things like athletic fields and put a small portion of it into things like smartboards, which, as far as I know, are not anywhere around,” Michael said.

Monet Goldman
Monet Goldman is currently a student in Foothill College, who graduated from Fremont High School this June. He was on the wrestling team while he was at FHS.

His high school experience and expectations started, coincidentally, with the “no doubling-up” policy the new school board and superintendent implemented in 2006. He took classes at De Anza College, Foothill College, and online at Keystone National High School during his four years at FHS. By his senior year, he was taking half of his classes online.

“My only problem [throughout high school] was with the administration,” Monet said. “The teachers were great. It’s really just the admin that made my years in high school difficult.”

His focus is loosening the policies of the district, primarily expanding the variety and availability of AP classes here. To do this, he plans to take money from the facilities bond and administrative budget to achieve his goals.

“My only regret was having to sit down and think about which class I have to drop over the other,” Monet said.

Miyuki Iwata-Goldman
Miyuki Goldman, the final challenger, is a software engineer at an undisclosed technology company and the mother of two sons.

She entered the race for school board sharing the same frustration as her son, Monet, over the central administration’s regulations. She paid about an additional $1,000 outside the district to allow Monet to take the classes he wanted such as AP World History that were not offered in FHS — a cost, according to her, that should have been unnecessary.

“We’ve been paying taxes every year, and we’ve been living here, so why [are] we paying extra money [for classes] that are available in public schools in the different districts?” Miyuki said.

Miyuki shares similar views as Monet: in order to broaden the choices offered at school, more money needs to come from administration. With that money, according to her, the district can take on alternative methods of serving the students.

“One alternative is to have online AP classes,” Miyuki said. “That solves the problem for facilities and overcrowded classrooms.”

All photos, except for Jain's photo, are by Christophe Haubursin.

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