Candidates for the McK school board in their own words

The Union invited the three candidates running for two seats on the McKinleyville Union School District Board of Trustees to answer questions. The district oversees Morris, Dow’s Prairie and McKinleyville Middle schools. Below are their unedited responses. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.


Nicholas A. Som

NicholasSom1.Who are you? Give us a mini-bio

I’m a happily married father of 3 (ages 8, 5, and 2), and we all love the community we’ve established here in McKinleyville. Professionally, I’m a statistician for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at HSU, and an adjunct professor in the HSU Fisheries Biology Department.I spend my play time enjoying the North Coast’s incredible natural beauty – fishing, mountain biking, surfing, etc.

2. One of the biggest issues the district has faced in the last couple of years is realignment. What are your views on this?

The imbalance between the two elementary schools was getting worse and needed addressing. I believe that realignment was probably the most prudent choice to create equitable classrooms for McKinleyville children regardless of their language experience. As I’ve said publically, I do have concerns with how the board communicated with the community during their deliberation process. Also, there are currently ongoing issues associated with the realignment that need to be addressed.

3. What is the biggest challenge facing the school district and how would you deal with it?

I’m concerned that too many families choose other districts because they’re dissatisfied with their child’s education at MUSD sites. Our district can’t accommodate the needs of all families, such as those seeking unique environments (e.g., schools with a specific charter or full-day language immersion), but we should directly communicate with willing, open-enrolled families to look for commonalities among responses, and create a forum effectively seeking solutions for families with concerns grave enough to consider open-enrollment.

4. Do you think vaccinations should be required for children to attend school?

Yes. But, I’m uncomfortable restricting a child’s access to quality education based solely on their parents’ beliefs. I understand the need to evaluate exemptions based on specific and legitimate religious and family values reasons.

5. What’s the best of your qualities that you can bring to the board? What’s the worst?

Best: I take the responsibility of serving the community very seriously. I’m a logical, thoughtful, and patient decision maker. I efficiently complete individual tasks and enjoy working on teams. As a federal statistician, I have vast experience balancing data information with societal needs to help inform public-level decisions.

Worst: I’m quickly frustrated by a lack of punctuality.

6. Is there any additional information, ideas or opinions that you would like to share?

Though the areas of study for my Ph.D. (ecological statistics) and M.S. (statistics) were more mathematically oriented, as an undergraduate I studied both mathematics and education. I serve on the Dow’s Prairie School Site Council, volunteer to coach youth softball and soccer, and participated in the community member assessment of MUSD superintendent candidates. I want to have an active role in creating the best educational experience for my children, and the children of McKinleyville.


Sara Alto

 

Sara Alto

Sara Alto

1. Who are you? Give us a mini-bio.

I am a parent of two MUSD students and have been part of the McKinleyville Union School District Board of Trustees, since 2010. I have lived my entire life in this community and graduated from McKinleyville Union School District, McKinleyville High School and Humboldt State University. I have a working background in business, finance and economics and have been active in the schools as both a parent and a board member.

2. One of the biggest issues the district has faced in the last couple of years is realignment. What are your views on this? 

I, along with another candidate was part of the unanimous Board decision to realign the District’s schools. I was in support it then and I still back it today. As the District enters its second year under the new alignment, significant progress has been made and positive results achieved. Areas still exist that need strengthening and I would like to be part of finalizing them and is why I am running for another term.

3. What is the biggest challenge facing the school district and how would you deal with it?

At this point I wouldn’t call them challenges but rather working goals: using the current strategic plan to strengthen our schools, re-financing the remaining Measure C Bonds and continuing to effectively educate our students, teachers & staff given California’s ever changing budget.

4. Do you think vaccinations should be required for children to attend school?

Requirements on vaccines are important BUT a parent’s right to choose needs to remain ONCE they have received thorough education concerning their choice. I learned first-hand last that proper education isn’t happening but rather people’s political opinions being exchanged. My choice would be to put requirements on the types of education that must be obtained before a parent could opt out of a vaccine rather than taking away a parents right to choose.

5. What’s the best of your qualities that you can bring to the board? What’s the worst?

I have been part of the MUSD Board since early 2010 and feel that this working knowledge and experience gives me an advantage when making decisions related to the District and our schools. I am perfectionist and while it is often a benefit, I do sometimes see it as a downfall as I tend to be one not willing to look at new ways of doing things.

6. Is there any additional information, ideas or opinions that you would like to share? “Committed to families living and learning on the North Coast in McKinleyville,” the motto for our district.  I have learned invaluable lessons from being part of the good times and the challenging times within the District.  I am excited for parents, teachers/staff, the students and community to experience the new leadership and opportunities that lie ahead.  I want the chance to be part of that commitment AND see through what I helped transform.


Brian Mitchell

Brian Mitchell

Brian Mitchell

1. Who are you? Give us a mini-bio.

I am first and foremost a father of four beautiful children between the ages of seven and twelve who attend each of the three schools in the District. Additionally, I am a Certified Public Accountant with a background of working with local school districts on financial accountability and compliance issues. I attended California State University, Sacramento and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting.

2. One of the biggest issues the district has faced in the last couple of years is realignment. What are your views on this? 

The reconfiguration, and the issues that led up to it, were some of the most disruptive and challenging matters that the District faced recently. It would be a terrible mistake to assume that a reconfiguration was a panacea. The issues that plagued the District still partially remain; continuous monitoring and discussions are needed to ensure that ALL students receive a quality education and that we have the support systems in place to help students succeed.

3. What is the biggest challenge facing the school district and how would you deal with it?

The District is facing a loss of institutional knowledge at various levels of leadership. There are several new faces in critical leadership positions in the District, which is one of the reasons why I have decided to run for re-election. I provide some much-needed continuity and bring background, context and historical perspective that is needed to understand current challenges. My experience gives me in-depth knowledge of the issues, policies, and programs of our schools.

4. Do you think vaccinations should be required for children to attend school?

Vaccination has been a hot topic for many parents recently and the health and well-being of students should be of paramount importance to those charged with the governance of our schools. I feel that the role of the school system is to provide information to parents regarding their rights and responsibilities so that they can make an informed decision for their family.

5. What’s the best of your qualities that you can bring to the board? What’s the worst?

My best quality, which is also one the qualities that can cause challenges at the same time, is my inquisitive nature. I ask a lot of questions and like to thoroughly debate and consider both sides of an issue before I come to a conclusion. This helps me make the most informed decision but can take me a considerable amount of time in preparing and planning for school board meetings.

6. Is there any additional information, ideas or opinions that you would like to share?

Our public schools are facing significant challenges caused by inadequate funding. It’s disgraceful that California consistently ranks near the bottom in per-pupil spending compared to other states. As a local CPA, I understand the complicated state and federal funding programs, including the requirements that go with them. Additionally, as an incumbent, I bring knowledge and leadership to the board. I am honored that the board has elected me to serve as Board President six times.

 

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One Comment;

  1. Joe said:

    Nick Som is not only an honest, stand-up guy — he’s also wicked smart. I have a child about to enter the McK school district and while I question the wisdom of many decisions made by the current School Board incumbents, I am convinced that Nick will help turn things around.

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