Board candidate Chiu-Wang stresses equity

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Sophia Yang, News Editor

Attorney and entrepreneur Nicole Chiu-Wang is running for two open seats in this fall’s Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education election. Her campaign centers around equity for students, improving mental health, as well as investing in early childhood education. According to Chiu-Wang, finding the root cause of mental-health related issues is critical to solving the overall problem. “I really think they’ve [the district] done a lot of the non-culture-based things for mental health and wellness, but we need to have those tough conversations,” Chiu-Wang said. (Photo: Daniel Garepis-Holland)

Although the rules of science state that intense pressure will create a diamond, Palo Alto Board of Education candidate Nicole Chiu-Wang says this fact does not apply to students.

“Pressure doesn’t always make a diamond,” Chiu-Wang said. “And doesn’t always equal successful [students].” 

According to Chiu-Wang, her main priorities are ensuring equity for students and maintaining mental health, both of which go hand in hand.  

“All of the things in my platform go to equity,” Chiu-Wang said. “You have to put mental health and wellness first because ultimately, I think we all want to have kids that come out happy and healthy.”

Chiu-Wang cites her experience as an attorney and manager as crucial aspects that make her qualified for the school board. 

“I feel that with my legal background, my startup background, my entrepreneurial skills, combined with my experience at a large company with a large budget and a lot of teams and employees is very unique,” Chiu-Wang said. 

Chiu-Wang said she hopes to solve issues regarding disparity in education that stem from lack of equity in early education. According to her campaign website, childhood education is “an early investment we can make to promote equity, close the achievement gap”. 

“I’ve always been passionate about education, and the early stages of education being the great equalizer [for later student success]” Chiu-Wang said. “If we’re not preparing all of our kids equitably in elementary school, or even before then, you can do a whole bunch of stuff to address it later on, but you’re going to be swimming upstream, and it’s a very hard thing to do.” 

Additionally, Chui-Wang said she wants to improve communication between every facet of the district, from parents to administrators. By ensuring proper communication, various individuals with differing opinions can work together towards a common goal for the sake of their students.

“There’s been a lack of communication, and we have factions and they’re very passionate about their viewpoints on what they want for their kids,” Chiu-Wang said. “We can work through some of our differences to see how it’s not people that are for social and emotional [learning] against intellectuals.” 

Chiu-Wang emphasized the need for a designated communications role, which is currently a position the district is looking to fill.

“We need to hire a communications person,” Chiu-Wang said. “This district is large, and each individual school and the principal are not particularly equipped to be a communication person to thousands of students.”

Chiu-Wang also highlighted the importance of identifying the driving cause of mental health issues, rather than merely remedying the effects. 

“The district set up all the centers and hired professionals to integrate mental health on campus,” Chiu-Wang said. “But now it’s time for us to have really tough conversations about the root cause; it’s easy to do things on the top of the iceberg, but the majority of the volume is down below the surface.”

Another priority for Chiu-Wang is nurturing students to pursue personal and intellectual interests. According to her campaign website, “No child should feel like there is only one path to a successful life or career. One of the most important lessons we can instill in our children is the importance of owning their own future.” 

According to Chiu-Wang, students should feel the freedom to be flexible with choosing the direction of their education, rather than conforming to outside or societal expectations.

“If you want to switch your major, switch your major, if you want to do an internship at something that sounds totally unrelated, do it, explore,” Chiu-Wang said. “You should start that exploration in high school, and even younger in age-appropriate ways.”

Chiu-Wang is one of four candidates currently in the running for the PAUSD Board of Education, alongside incumbent Shounak Dharap, and newcomers Shana Segal and Ingrid Campos.