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

Mountain View Whisman School District

Ellen Wheeler

When we help young children we're investing in our future. Helping families learn how to help their children and to advocate for them helps all of us. We believe our diversity is our strength. All of us pitching in together for healthy, educated kids is why we love living here.

  1. What do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?

    1. We need more spaces for high quality early learning (preschool, TK, and all day kindergarten), and those spaces need to be affordable to all families who need them. We've made an excellent start in our school district with affordable, high quality preschools, TK offerings, and extended day kindergartens. 2. Closing the achievement gap. Offering high quality early ed. BEFORE children start kindergarten helps. 3. Affordability of housing and health care are things we work on in Mountain View. We need to work with regional leaders on these complicated and necessary issues.

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

    We "put our money where our mouth is" in Mountain View Whisman School District by putting hundreds of thousands of dollars towards our high quality preschool programs. We were a leader in utilizing the state pilot money for switching from the lower preschool-funded rate of Head Start to the more realistic higher rate of State Preschool income levels. Now all of our low-income children have a space in our top-scored preschools. Additionally, we work with the city and county to try to make housing more affordable, and work to advertise health care offerings in the city and county.

  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?

    See my answer above for what we do in Mountain View. Additionally, what I do personally is participate in the "Strong Start" coalition of educators and local leaders that meets every month at the Santa Clara County Office of Education to discuss and work on these issues. I also am a member of the Vision Council of Kids in Common where we also work on these issues. And, for the past three years I have driven to Sacramento to lobby our state legislators to encourage them to vote for legislation that helps young children and their families.

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

    We have a very active, informed group of parents of special needs children in our school district. I am a member of their committee, so listen and communicate with them about what we should do to help their children. We've instituted a co-teaching model in many of our classrooms so that children with special needs get the in-class help they deserve, which includes training the classroom teachers on this model. Our Director of Special Education is very approachable and active, and I'm glad our superintendent hired him. The board hires the superintendent, and I'm pleased with his diligence.

  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?

    Again, see my answer to question 2. Regarding access to healthy food, we have a dynamite Food Services Director whose mission it is to make sure our children get healthy food before, during, and after school, including during school holidays and summer. She utilizes school gardens to teach children about fresh food and to appreciate how good it tastes. We have enrichment programs during school and after school for all of our children which are paid for by our parcel tax and Mountain View Education Foundation. We've had a thriving set of summer school programs available to our students.