Incumbent Shounak Dharap, business specialist Ingrid Campos, former teacher Shana Segal and entrepreneur and lawyer Nicole Chiu-Wang are running for two open seats on PAUSD’s school board for elections on Nov. 8.
Dharap said he is running for a second term on the board to continue his role on the board, hoping to continue the SWIFT plan to close the achievement gap and expand mental health resources.
“I was president for one year while we reopened schools,” Dharap said in a Sept. 20 candidates forum. “I have been heavily engaged in the committee process. I have tried to get on every committee I could to be a part of those working committees and be involved in the creation of things that get to the board agenda.”
On the board, Dharap chaired the Systemwide Integrated Framework for Transformation Plan to close the achievement gap. He said he hopes to continue developing the plan to support academic achievement.
“(The SWIFT plan) has a number of different initiatives that are in progress,” Dharap said. “They’re all aimed at this question of equity, of the academic achievement gap. In the area of curriculum, for example, there’s a focus on standard aligned curriculum, early literacy and instructional strategies that take into account how students learn — universally designed learning — which is a change from traditional instruction in the past.”
Dharap said he has voted to expand the district’s mental health resources and supports expanding social and emotional learning programs.
“(During COVID-19), kids were isolated. They were in front of their screens. They were in a stressful environment,” Darap said. “We noticed there were huge staffing shortages of therapists that we usually have. In spring of this year, I voted along with the rest of the board to allocate over $16 million to building an in-school mental health support system.”
Parent and business specialist Ingrid Campos said if elected to the board she hopes to improve communication between parents, students and administrators, build a strong math curriculum and emphasize traditional family values.
“People are looking for a bridge,” Campos told The Campanile. “I think people need to be heard, and I think a lot of parents feel like they’re not heard.”
Campos said she wants to improve the board’s responsiveness to community feedback and strengthen the district’s math curriculum by offering higher-level advanced math courses.
“I absolutely agree that Algebra should be offered early on in middle school, and I absolutely agree that advanced math should be offered,” Campos said in the Sept. 20 candidates forum. “In fact, why can’t schools also offer an elective of advanced math for those students who are far beyond Geometry and Algebra 2? I think we really need to focus on math.”
Campos also said she thinks existing school-offered therapy and wellness have not been effective for student mental health. Instead, Campos said providing parents with better resources and focusing on traditional family values would help more.
“The parents have to be part of the equation,” Campos said. “They just have to be. I think parent resources, parent get-togethers, and just knowing that you’re in the same boat as that other person helps. It could be a community effort.”
Parent and former teacher Shana Segal said she is running for the board to improve differentiated learning at the middle school level and strengthen early learning support programs to reduce the achievement gap.
“I care about public education, and I have a track record of public service for schools and public education,” Segal told The Campanile. “I feel strongly that the board would benefit from having someone with a background in K-12 education in PAUSD, having taught high school here and having two kids in the district.”
Segal said one of her priorities is improving the de-laned middle school math curriculum by providing teachers with more support to implement differentiation effectively.
“More support could come in the form of professional development with a TOSA, a teacher on special assignment, to really help implement differentiation within the classroom,” Segal said. “It could be an aid in the classroom. It could be looking at class size for middle school math and thinking of making the class size smaller.”
Segal also said making sure the district is closing the achievement gap early with strong support programs would be one of her goals to improve equity.
“What can happen is, in kindergarten, there could be students who need extra support,” Segal said. “But with the staffing issues, we might not have the teachers to stay after school to work with them. I want our district to commit to hiring. We have to commit to hiring professionals to work with kids who are struggling because early intervention is key to closing the achievement app, whether we’re talking about reading, writing or math.”
Parent and entrepreneur Nicole Chiu-Wang said she is running for the board to improve community collaboration, provide need-based differentiated learning and strengthen diversity in the district.
“I know how important team culture is, and in this case the team of the district is our parents, our administrators, our staff, our teachers, our students and all those people in our community and those members of our community need to be heard together,” Chiu-Wang said in the Sept. 20 candidates forum.
Chiu-Wang told The Campanile she prioritizes meeting the needs of all students by providing universal preschool and differentiated learning. In addition, measuring student progress with less emphasis on standardized tests and using teacher evaluations and grading based on the learning process are important issues she said she would tackle.
“Equity means serving all our students, meeting them where they are, whether that is differentiated learning within a classroom or extra support in other ways,” Chiu-Wang said during the forum. “We need to be serving all of our students. I would look for programs that would support differentiated learning within the classroom and also measure progress in terms of the whole student.”
Chiu-Wang said she would try to improve diversity with more social-emotional learning programs, including ethnic studies, and a more culturally-aware curriculum in classes like history. For Chiu-Wang, maintaining a diverse and inclusive community would be a priority.
“I would bring much-needed diversity to the board,” Chiu-Wang said. “We have not had an Asian American woman on the board in over a decade, and there’s only ever been one. Our district is 40% Asian American. We need to set an example. Representation does matter.”