Editorial: Vote Dharap and Segal for school board

The Paly Voice Staff

Another school board election, and another array of options. Still, the questions remain: Who should you vote for? Why should you care? 

The candidates running for the two open seats on the Palo Alto School Board of Education are Ingrid Campos, Nicole Chiu-Wang, Shounak Dharap and Shana Segal

Over the past few months, The Paly Voice conducted a series of virtual interviews with the candidates and published features (linked above) on each one. 

Among these candidates, The Paly Voice urges voters to choose Shounak Dharap and Shana Segal for the school board as they will use their extensive experience with the district to best represent the interests of Palo Alto families. 

Here are The Paly Voice’s thoughts on each of the candidates: 

Ingrid Campos

As a business owner and parent of high schoolers in the district, Campos said she brings an important perspective as a parent and will help address the prevailing issues at high school level. Campos has recently been under fire for statements regarding banning LGBTQ+ authors and content within schools, particularly at the middle school level. Additionally, Campos has been pushing back against social-emotional learning in schools, arguing that this kind of education should take place at home, and that SEL classes are taking away from the “academic excellence” of the district. Campos has also noted that the hot issue of student stress is one that the district cannot solve since it originates from home and “family values.” As students who value the LGBTQ+ community, we stand against what we see as an anti-LGBTQ+ stance by Campos and feel that her view against expanding mental health services is misguided. We believe that the district has the responsibility to foster a healthy and safe environment for students physically and mentally, and as a member of the board, one should aim to propose solutions to address these prevalent issues.   

Nicole Chiu-Wang

Attorney and PAUSD parent, Chiu-Wang is running on a platform of equity in early education and improved mental health resources. Chiu-Wang said investment in Early Childhood Education and programs like the Every Student Reads Initiative are key in helping reduce the achievement gap. Despite recently moving to Palo Alto from San Francisco in April, Chiu-Wang said she will bring a “fresh perspective” that will allow for greater diversity in opinions on the board. If elected, Chiu-Wang would also be the only Asian-American woman on the board. We feel that Chiu-Wang is a strong candidate, but unfortunately lacks the experience that Dharap and Segal have when it comes to familiarity with PAUSD. The Voice believes that the school board should consist of individuals with a strong connection to the district. We will gladly consider endorsing Chiu-Wang once she gains more experience with the district. 

Shounak Dharap

Incumbent and PAUSD alumnus Dharap said his insight from his time on the board is essential to ensuring further progress in existing plans going forward, such as the System Wide Integrated Framework for Transformation plan. The plan is a detailed process for upholding the PAUSD promise of diversity, equity and inclusion. SWIFT will ensure that every single person receives the needed support for academic success through additional training of teachers, which includes anti-bias and certificate training. 

Additionally, in June, Dharap supported a measure to allocate $16 million to fund a more comprehensive mental health model at each elementary, middle and high school in the district. We feel that mental health is an issue that needs to be acknowledged and addressed within PAUSD. Although Paly is home to a Wellness Center and coordinators, we feel that students could greatly benefit from additional support for mental health and on-site therapists. 

During his time as president of the school board at the height of the pandemic, Dharap created the Equity Oversight Committee that outlined SWIFT, which the Voice believes is a hopeful step in the right direction of addressing the persistent issue of achievement gaps in the district. Additionally, Dharap’s push for virtual access to school board meetings was helpful towards increasing accessibility for participants as well as transparency.  

We believe that Dharap has built an impressive track record and demonstrated that he is a strong candidate for the election. 

Shana Segal 

Former teacher and PAUSD alum and parent, Segal said increasing transparency and improving communication between the board and families is a top priority. Segal strongly believes that the board’s decisions should be based on the data and feedback from teachers and families. To reduce the gap in achievement, Segal proposes differentiated instruction, tailored teaching for each student based on their individual needs, which will promote learning and equity. 

We believe Segal’s experience teaching and time both as a student and parent in the district gives her valuable insight into making informed decisions for the benefit of the district. With over 10 years of experience as a teacher in the San Jose Unified School District and substitute at PAUSD, we believe the experience and unique teacher perspective that Segal brings would greatly benefit the district and the board. 

Segal said introducing greater mental health support for students early on will help students build connections that will carry into high school. Segal plans to familiarize younger students with mental health support early on, which she believes is key to helping young students develop healthy relationship skills. Destigmatizing mental health care is a crucial first step towards ensuring a safer and more inclusive district, which is also a part of Segal’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals. 

Ultimately, Segal’s motto “Experience Matters” encapsulates her credibility, which stems from her intimate knowledge of the district and Palo Alto community, and we believe that she will bring a well-informed perspective to the board.

Our stance

The Paly Voice endorses Dharap and Segal because of their comprehensive experience with the district and dedication to students. We urge voters to elect these candidates on Nov. 8 as they will bring the most positive change to the district.