Santa Clara County Voter's Guide On Children's Issues

Mountain View-Whisman School District

Patrick Neschleba

With years of experience volunteering in MVWSD at the school and district level, my goal is to bring the academic vision, facilities expertise, and operational know-how that our Board needs to help take our schools to the next level, with a strong focus on equity, inclusion, fiscal discipline, and transparency.

  1. Taking into consideration the profound impact of COVID-19 and the expanded movement for racial justice and equity, what do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?

    Improving Academic Outcomes: Our long-standing achievement gap is only getting worse with the impact that COVID-19 is having on families; our district will require a long-term strategy to overcome the damage the pandemic has caused, while doubling-down on proven methods like RTI to close academic performance gaps. I believe children are fundamentally capable of rising to the bar we set for them in school, and with a gradual raising of the bar for academic rigor and high school readiness, we can ensure all of our 8th graders graduate ready for success in high school.

    Ensuring Equity: Equity isn't just something for the classroom. It's something that matters across all facets of school operations. We need to look at the differences between programming at schools. We need to ensure one school isn't favored over another when it comes to facilities investments. We need to work with public and private entities to ensure access to everything from technology to the land needed for local neighborhood schools. Success will be when someone can move to Mountain View and have confidence that no matter who they are or where they live, they will have access to the same high-quality education that everyone else in our district can access.

    Promoting Diversity: Whether we're talking about race, gender, socioeconomic background, or special education needs, our schools have a great opportunity to show that all students are appreciated and included in our school communities and classrooms. I'd like to leverage years of experience as a steward of diversity and inclusion programs to ensure our district is a role-model for best practices, and has policies that ensure our special needs students are included in the everyday classroom environment to the maximum extent possible.

  2. How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?

    I view the budget process as an opportunity to closely examine the district operating budget for areas of efficiency and cost reduction, so that we can redirect funds towards the core academic mission of the District. With years of experience driving budget processes for large organizations, I know how to sniff out unnecessary spending and set goals for improvement. This frees up funds to expand academic programming and continue the push our district is making to improve teacher compensation and benefits. Furthermore, I believe it is only through strong fiscal stewardship that we can convince voters to trust us with any additional financial support that's needed for our mission - setting clear budget goals and then hitting them is critical in accomplishing this.

  3. What steps will you take to address the high cost and lack of availability of quality child care and preschool programs in our communities, especially for low-income children and English language learners?

    I support expansion of our district's Pre-K and preschool programming, as well as the leasing of unused school facilities to support child care for families in our district. These programs should be publicly funded, to ensure equitable access. We should continue to look for ways to expand on-site after-school programming at all sites, especially those with a high percentage of dual-income families.

  4. What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?

    Let me start off by saying that I've enjoyed knowing many parents of special needs students - and their kids - during our 9+ years in the District. Every family, every child, and every story is unique. More recently, I've come to more deeply understand parents' struggles, as my nephew was diagnosed with autism and sensory issues a little over a year ago; our extended family is learning how to adapt and continue to show him our love. It's a journey, for sure, and for every amazing day there are some tough, tough days as well - it's important that anyone in school leadership recognize this and be able to empathize with parents.

    My goals for special needs education have been posted on my web site since it launched & I'll expand on them a bit here:

    Ensure the District is ready to solve problems and create the right opportunities: Each student's need is unique, and our special education instructors AND principals need to be well-versed in how to address this. Not only having the right menu of solutions, but having strong relationships with parents. When we see turnover in instructors and principals, we lose the understanding of families' specific situations, and put parents in the difficult position of having to tell their story again. Opportunities should extend from independent instruction to appropriate assistance within the regular classroom environment; while it doesn't always work out, my bias is towards placing students in regular classrooms whenever possible, both in order to afford the students opportunities to work with others, and to help the rest of the class relate & understand how children with special needs are part of regular life. And please, let's not forget to make accommodations - I've built some of them myself at some of our schools!

    Periodically review District performance to legal requirements and standards, including timely processing of IEPs and other plans: I'm an engineer, and sometimes I think there's nothing like a good graph or control chart to show us how we're doing. I have yet to meet a special needs parent who has been 100% delighted with MVWSD's performance - so let's track a few important things and use the school board meetings to shine a spotlight on them. Time from issue identification to plan implementation. Dollars spent on litigation. Parent satisfaction. Compliance. Take some of the subjectivity out of the discussion and just be clear about how we're doing, and whether or not we're doing better. Sometimes that's all it takes to help teams perform better and do... well, what we're all expecting them to do.

    Keep recognizing special needs students as part of MVWSD's diversity: Diversity is something that sets our district apart, but diversity isn't only about race or socio-economic status, it's also about the diversity of our students' learning needs. Students with special needs can give us a different perspective on the world. Their gifts can help us see new ways of solving problems. When we look through this lens, we stop being preoccupied with meeting a minimal set of legal requirements for education - we start to see potential and exciting ways for kids to contribute to school and society. We need more of that orientation & I think we'll get more positive outcomes from it.

  5. Much of the student achievement gap has been linked to the "opportunity gap" that low-income children and children of color experience, including lack of access to healthy food, preschool, tutors and enrichment activities. If elected, what steps will you take to address this issue?

    Our district has done so much in this area already, much of the future is all about continuing what we're already doing: free meal programs leveraging our excellent food prep facilities (which I pushed for during our last round of facilities improvements), expanding preschool programming, and making additional after-school options available. I feel we can ask more from our educational foundation to help expand enrichment activities through additional funding, as we are blessed to live in a community that has the means to help more in this area. We can also do more to enable volunteers - both parents and grandparents in our district - to be there to support students with tutoring or other help either during or after the school day, provided we partner closely with teachers to determine what type of help would be most useful.