‘Experience Matters’ to Board candidate Segal

Anna Feng and Carissa Tsui

“People often have perceptions that do not match what is actually happening in a school community,” Shana Segal said. “Our board sets policy and that policy needs to reflect the needs of our community.”

Increasing transparency between the board and families is one of the top priorities for Segal, a Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education candidate, PAUSD alumna and substitute teacher. Segal said her experience with PAUSD and education has given her intimate knowledge of the district and broader Palo Alto community. She is the only candidate with teaching experience and was the English language department chair at Lynbrook High School for seven of her 10 years teaching there, according to her campaign website.

Former English teacher and district parent Shana Segal is running for the Palo Alto Board of Education in this fall’s election cycle. Segal, also a PAUSD graduate, lists transparency and greater mental health resources as her top priorities. According to Segal, she hopes her knowledge of the district will provide her with the requisite experience to be on the board and aid her in connecting with families. “I can speak the language of educators, I can speak the language of parents who are in the system, and students,” Segal said. “I’ll work hard to create a strong bridge and respectful partnership between the board, teachers, administrators, parents, and students.” (Photo: Daniel Garepis-Holland)

“I feel like I know this community well, from being a student to being a teacher and a parent of two children in the district and being present during COVID-19,” Segal said. “I’m always listening, I’m always learning, and I’m always processing and growing,” 

Segal’s motto, “Experience Matters,” is the foundation of her campaign and what she says will help her meet the needs of the families and students in the district.

“Our board needs a vote from me,” Segal said. “This is a vote for experience for our children, for our parents, a vote for teachers and staff.”

To improve communication and build back a collaborative community, all decisions involving the board should be made with the focus on families and teachers, according to Segal.

“Let’s make sure that the decisions we are making are based on data of what our students are saying, what our teachers are saying, and what our parents are saying,” Segal said. “Decision making should be transparent and based on evidence and data and not on politics or expediency.”

According to her campaign website, Segal believes “PAUSD is not adequately addressing the achievable needs of all students.”

To help reduce the achievement gap and address said needs, Segal proposes differentiated instruction rather than the typical one-size-fits-all classroom approach. Differentiated instruction is the practice of teaching each student differently based on their individual needs as to best promote learning and equity, according to Segal.

“Educators know that equity and differentiated instruction are intertwined,” Segal said. “What that means is tailoring instruction within a class to meet the diverse needs of our students.”

For Segal, also key is introducing greater mental health support for students early on to help build connections at schools.

“It begins with having strong social emotional programs in the early years and continues into the high school experience by investing in mental health resources,” Segal said. 

The district recently hired 13 in-house therapists, 10 for the district’s elementary schools and 3 for the middle schools. Segal said the hiring of more mental health staff is a great start, but further measures need to be taken with the lens of student mental health in mind.

“It’s really important that district policies with respect to homework, bell schedules, decision making, and the communication of those decisions always be made through the lens of student mental health,” Segal said.

Segal’s own experience in PAUSD inspired her career in education and motivated her to run for school board to have a greater impact on the community. 

“I want to help improve public education for all,” Segal said. “I care deeply about PAUSD, I care deeply about this community. I felt like I wanted to do more, and what better way to do more than to try to get on the board and enact change?”

According to Segal, one way she aims to bridge the gap between the board and students is by becoming a school liaison – a committee composed of two board member representatives and two city council members – through which Segal hopes to become a familiar face on campus for students throughout PAUSD.

“What I found in my experience at Ohlone, JLS, and Gunn is that what kids need are trusted adults on campus that they feel like they can go to,” Segal said. “In addition to doing the other board roles, I would really look forward to being the liaison to the schools to be another trusted adult for kids.”

Ultimately, Segal looks to improve student equity and mental health as well as improve communication between school administration and families at home.

“I will be an ally,” Segal said. “I will lead with the integrity and the courage to stand up for what is right and with the experience needed to most meaningfully benefit the government.” 

Segal is one of four candidates running for two open seats on the school board. The other candidates are incumbent Shounak Dharap and newcomers Ingrid Campos and Nicole Chiu-Wang.