Can the 2016 LASD Board Election Vote End the Paralysis?

Way too many trustees own homes within a half mile of Covington School. And, very weird thing, so does a newcomer City Council candidate.
Way too many trustees own homes within a half mile of Covington School.
Written by lalahpolitico

Oct. 10, 2016 — We look at the LASD Board Election candidates for LASD trustee and briefly at a single-issue candidate running for Los Altos City Council. Those of us who voted YES on the $150 million LASD Measure N Facilities bond in 2014 were expecting that those new funds would expedite planning and implementing a “solution for enrollment growth. But instead we have decision paralysis. Voting for an independent candidate might help.

Covington Neighborhood Dominates on LASD Board

Come December 2016, 4 of the 5 seats on Los Altos School District Board will have been filled by people who live in the City of Los Altos near Covington School and  3 of whom are or have been parents of Covington School students. This 2016 LASD Board election provides only one contested seat to allow “hope and change”.

Trustee Sangeeth Peruri who lives near Hillview Park is half-way through his first 4-year term. Five-year incumbent Trustee Steve Taglio is uncontested in 2016 for his second 4-year term. He often has to recuse himself because he lives within 500 feet of Covington. Newcomer Trustee-to-be in 2016, Jessica Speiser, who lives about halfway between Covington and Springer School , is the current Covington PTA President and is uncontested in 2016 for her first 4-year term. Trustee Vladamir Ivanovich, half way through his first term, lives in the Orange-University neighboorhood. He is closer to the Covington Rosita Park than to Hillview Park. [Map home location markings are intended to be very, very approximate.]

Figure: Bright Yellow City of Los Altos map
overlay on multicolor LASD attendance areas map

map of City of Los Altos and Los Altos School District

Students in the Cupertino School District in the City of Los Altos cannot attend Bullis Charter School. Is it fair to use City land for a school these people cannot attend? In the spring of 2016 City Council said No, it’s not fair.  Plus, we have much less land per user than LASD. Red/pink is outline of City of Los Altos and is colored with heightened Yellow..Black is the outline of LASD: include parts of LAH, county, Mountain View.

Is there nothing to be done about this excess concentration of  “Covington Neighborhood Power” on the LASD Board, unrepresentative of the broader LASD community?  To remind the reader, about 37% of students living within the LASD boundaries or attending LASD, actually live in Mountain View, LAH, County and some in Palo Alto or out-of-district. Looking at it another way, of all City of Mountain View students, around 20% attend LASD, while 80% attend MV-Whisman.

Actually you can do a little something to reduce the imbalance – vote for the independent LASD Candidate, Tanya Raschke, who lives in the North of El Camino (NEC)  part of Mountain View. See the Town Crier Endorsement. She won’t stop a board majority, but at least we will hear another perspective.

The 2 Uncontested Four-year Board Seats

Trustee-to-be Jessica Speiser. Uncontested for a 4-year LASD Board seat

Trustee-to-be Jessica Speiser. Uncontested for a 4-year LASD Board seat.

Trustee-to-be Jessica Speiser has been a loyal and hard worker for LASD. Besides being Covington PTA president, she drove the YES on Measure N campaign in 2014, that squeaked by the 55% yes threshold with almost 58% YES. She is active in the current YES on Measure GG 2016 parcel tax campaign. She has shown up at a variety of LASD board meetings to advocate for acquiring land for a 10th site to place the Charter. Agreeing with board strategy of acquiring land, she applauded the pursuit of City of Los Altos land, especially the Hillview site. She had low enthusiasm for the option of sharing the City’s Rosita Park for Charter school PE during the day. Save Los Altos Parks! [Actually save parks next to Covington; it’s ok to diminish parks at the City’s civic center.]

Steve Taglio LASD trustee

Six-year incumbent Trustee Steve Taglio is uncontested for his 2nd and final 4- year term.

Most recently, per her Town Crier written Q&A submissions, she is at least somewhat OPEN to the idea of using existing Los Altos School District land as a solution for the projected “enrollment growth.”  Trustee Steve Taglio is not! Taglio seems hell bent on finding additional land.

The 1 Contested Two-year Board Seat

The only contested LASD board slot in this 2016 LASD board election season is for the remaining 2 years of the 4 year term of Trustee Tamara Logan. She will have resigned for “personal reasons” as of September or October. At first it appeared Jessica Speiser would run for that  2 year slot.

Bryan Johnson chosen by the incumbent LASD board

Bryan Johnson is the person chosen by the LASD board  for the 2 year term of exiting Trustee Tamara Logan

Incumbent Trustee Pablo Luther was expected to be willing to run in 2016 for a second 4 year term. There must have been doubt though, because the Santa Rita PTA President, Bryan Johnson started attending board meetings religiously, apparently to get up to speed. [It is common for a “chosen” board newcomer to undertake a crash course in Trusteeship by attending all board meetings 2 or 3 months before an election]

All existing and many former LASD board members ENDORSE Bryan Johnson. Rather than just appoint a replacement – a common LASD practice which was last used to seat Trustee Steve Taglio – the board decided to fill Logan’s remaining term by election. [Lalahpolitico: well hurray for that. But they’ve picked Bryan, a nice guy, but someone who will easily be molded into the board groupthink. Like Sangeeth Peruri 2014 was molded ….with some extra effort. ]

New Board, Same as the Old Board – unless Tanya

To recap: The race for two 4-year slots is uncontested. The LASD board “chosen” candidates – Taglio and Speiser – are the ones we get, end of story. No one stepped forward to oppose them. [Taglio was originally BOARD APPOINTED in 2011 when Margot Harrigan stepped down, and in 2012 Taglio ran as an incumbent!]

The race for the single 2-year slot is contested:

Tanya Raschke Los Altos city council candidate 2016

Tanya Raschke is the independent” LASD board candidate for the 2-year seat.

It’s LASD’s loyal PTA president guy Bryan Johnson, homemaker dad, kids still at Santa Rita – former Software developer, MS Stanford computer science VS. independent Tanya Raschke, a parent of two kids at Los Altos High, NEC Mountain View  resident,  long service on the LASD Facilities Master Plan Committee, now Stanford Neurosciences Research Operations Director, Phd Berkeley Computational biology.

“Lalahpolitico: Both Bryan and Tanya are nice and smart candidates, but I am tired of how LASD recruits nice, new board members,  and transmits brain infections from the established board members. Nice people are turned into robots spouting the party line of the moment. Only outsider candidates like Tanya Raschke stand a chance of staying true to their internal moral compass. If Bryan Johnson is elected, I suspect Bryan will bend to the will of the board majority and start spouting the party line.

In fact at the LASD Candidate Forum of Oct. 6, Johnson was already flip-flopping.  In the past few weeks he has already been heavily indoctrinated, er I mean coached, by the incumbent board. He has come around to the irresponsible idea that the 4 acres at 5150 El Camino — if not too, too expensive — could make sense for “land banking.”  At spring and summer 2016 board meetings, Johnson had previously spoken advocating solutions using existing land and eschewing land purchase. [Land banking is the idea that LASD would acquire land now, and have it unused for students, but held  in reserve for long-term enrollment growth. Presumably, LASD would be landlords collecting rent on the offices at 5150 El Camino? ]

LATC Endorsement of Tanya, bringing perspective, no special interest

LATC Endorsement of Tanya, “bringing perspective, no parental special interest.” Kids at LA High.

Lalahpolitico: In 2014, I  once hoped that free-thinking candidate Sangeeth Peruri might escape the pattern of brain infection. But within a year of vitually never being allowed to speak at board meetings by the former Board President,  Peruri learned to toe the party line. “The new board, same as the old board.” Unless we vote for Tanya. 

LASD Board Election Candidates
PAY FOR PLAY? Or Believers?

It is very common for non-profits to expect large donations from wannabe board members, especially wannabe top officers with “leadership” skills. And the LASD Board of Trustees, although it a governing body, is apparently no different. Hours of volunteering backed by big cash donations signal a person’s serious interest in the institution’s “mission” …and in a position on the board . [Lalahpolitico: Thank goodness one can’t donate money to City of Los Altos to get a leg up on being elected to Council!]


Figure: Chart of selected LASD Board Election candidate donations to LASD tax Measures

bar chart of candidate donations to LASD Measure campaigns

Speiser has donated over $7K.  She is getting an uncontested seat at the LASD board. Johnson donated less at $5,000.  He has to actually run for election. What a chore. But the $5k “bought” him all the endorsements of the local public school establishment.  Raschke the independent,  donated just $100, a normal amount to show support for the measure.

Let’s look at some of the donations history of trustee-to-be Jessica Speiser and candidate 2016 Bryan Johnson, both endorsed by current and former LASD Trustees and the CTA.

– Bryan Johnson: $2500 for N and $2500 for GG = $5,000K TOTAL

– Jessica (and husband) Speiser: $1700+$3520.5(forgiven loan)
for N and $2500 for GG = $7,720 TOTAL

Bryan and Jessica must be true believers in the LASD “mission.” For comparison, Trustee Sangeeth Peruri kicked in only $1000 for each N and GG, for a modest N + GG = TOTAL of $2000. Former Trustee Mark Goines kicked in a record high of $11,000 for N. Of course, we can’t see if trustees and candidates participate in PACs. Let’s assume not.

Figure: $5k worth of Endorsements for Bryan Johnson. Source Oct. 4 his campaign website.


The Board establishment endorsement is plain to see. David Casas is former board. Curtis Cole is long-time LASD Finance Committee member. Robin Abrams is a longtime mover on LAEF and recent member of LASD Finance Committee; also a downtown property owner and active in politics there. Elena Shea and Joe Siether are Covington area homeowners and parents and were big backers of the now disbanded Hutllinger Alliance for Education.

Tanya Raschke, the independent candidate for the 2016 2-year seat, donated just $100.This is just a typical donation amount simply showing support for GG. She was not buying endorsements of the Board establishment. For comparison you can see her endorsements in the figure below…lots of support from Mountain View and Los Altos Hills elected officials, areas where people have been shortchanged by successive, self-replicating Boards over the years. She lives in the City of Mountain View.

Figure: Tanya Rasche Endorsements Source: Her website as of Oct. 4

Tanya Raschke is not part of the self-replicating Board establishment., Her $100 donation did not buy Board endorsements.

Tanya Raschke is not part of the self-replicating Board establishment., Her $100 donation did not buy Board endorsements.


Fun Fact: Speiser and Johnson both contributed to Los Altos Chamber of Commerce this summer as their school board candidacy got underway. And who is the new chairman of that board? – LASD Superintendent Jeff Baier.

Lalahpolitico: Hey, it’s money in politics. Money is Speech. Spend it freely. It’s the American way. 

Figure: $7k of endorsements for Jessica Speiser. Source Oct. 4 2016 from her now unneeded campaign web site

Jessica Speiser endorsed by old LASD board

Yup, Jessica Speiser will be the same as the Old Board. The LASD Board establishment  all endorse her.

Reference: To look up campaign reports on donations & spending — Form 460s — you can go to this State of California web site page. One has to browse by committee name.  This is letter S.

Johnson Led Opposition to Senior Housing

Bryan John organized his neighbors to fight against more senior housing units.

Bryan Johnson organized his neighbors to fight against more senior housing units.

Originally candidate Bryan Johnson was proud of organizing his neighbors around Pilgrim Haven to fight its expansion of senior units.  He hasn’t touted this particular political/volunteer experience recently.

It’s ironic that Bryan’s home school — Santa Rita — exercised eminent domain on Pilgrim Haven in the past.  The senior housing has been there since the 1930’s or so.  When the Los Altos subdivisions started booming in the 1950’s, LASD started adding new schools.  To build the Santa Rita campus, LASD took about one acre from the Pilgrim Haven site. At about 11 acres, Santa Rita has more land than any other elementary school in the LASD system except Covington, which was originally built as a junior high with about 16 acres.

Pilgrim’s Haven has changed its name to The Terraces.

Jean Mordo and Jan Pepper meed with seniors to reestablish a suspended City Senior Commission

Now that he is running for election, Bryan Johnson is probably more “empathetic” to seniors. Jean Mordo and Jan Pepper meet with seniors to discuss reestablishing a City Senior Commission [shortly after is was suspended in December 2015].

MATRIX: LASD Board Election Candidates positions & qualifications

This past week Sangeeth Peruri has been doing some negative campaigning about Tanya Raschke. He sent an eblast to his contacts…

‘If you didn’t know any better, tonight’s event [ League’s LASD Candidate Forum, Oct. 6] might have given you the impression that both candidates are devoted to LASD, but this is not the case. Bryan has worked tirelessly for years serving our children, and has been attending board meetings for longer than I have. His opponent, despite the impression she tries to convey, has no recent experience in LASD schools and little familiarity with the curriculum, our children’s education or the issues we face.” – Sangeeth Peruri

Lalahpolitico: OMG! Ha. Ha. Peruri says Bryan is more “devoted” to public school students than Tanya? Bryan is better prepared to guide facilities decisions than Tanya who was appointed and served over a year on the VERY RECENT Facilities Master Plan Committee? . [This committee was charged with exploring options to address enrollment growth with the Measure N bond.]

Facilities is the No. 1 BIG FAT issue before the Board. Bryan Johnson brings no special qualifications to make facilities decisions. Tanya’s job at Stanford includes delivering complex facilities for research scientists. And she was very devoted to the VERY RECENT work of the LASD Facilities Master Plan Committee.

The LASD senior staff — Jeff Baier and crew — ably guides curriculum issues. And let’s face it – a lot of that is dictated by the State Board of Education and CTA work rules.  The board should almost always just rubber stamp LASD staff curriculum expert advice.

No LASD board member is going to figure out how to “close the achievement gap for English Language Learners, special needs students, the autistic, etc.” Any Trustee who says he is/ “we, the board are working on that”  is just posturing, and stealing credit from the LASD staff. 

Tanya Raschke LASD Board candidate 2016 at a mtg. of the LASD FMPC

Here is Tanya Raschke on left at a FMPC meeting. With this experience, Tanya is well-prepared to guide decisions about spending the LASD Measure N $150. She favors more Board discussions about facilities in OPRN meeting, not in CLOSED session as is happening now.


Several existing Trustees like Peruri are apparently not inclusively devoted to the LASD area at large, but rather are especially devoted to the Covington School area residents.  The self-replicating Board establishment have been disregarding Mountain View students and LAH students – depriving them of neighborhood schools, while “protecting” Covington. The self-replicating Board establishment have been disregarding the many district-wide parent curriculum requests for things like Mandarin immersion, individualized learning and specialized math for 6th graders … for way too long. This pattern of devotion is not good for the larger community that includes LASD parents.

By the way, here is some of  Tanya’s volunteering inside LASD run schools:

  • At Loyola, Santa Rita and Bullis Charter,  she  joined the PTA/Parent Teacher Organization, volunteered in each of her sons’ classrooms regularly
  • At Santa Rita, she co-chaired Hot Lunch. Teamed with her Co-Chair, coordinated 5 different vendors each week and was responsible for all ordering, billing and lunch distribution

Here is some of Tanya’s other volunteering with kids:

  • She served as Den Leader for several years for Cub Scout Pack 74, currently is an activity coordinator and board of review member for Boy Scout Troop 33
  • For Bullis Charter’s parent teacher organization (BBC) she:  volunteered at Walkathons, Junior Olympics, Fall Family Dinners, chaperoned field trips, and supported many choir and drama productions; was Cookie-Dough fundraising Chair; moved the organization to new website and email system

Tanya vs. Bryan: the Score on Volunteering

There is no significant difference between Tanya and Bryan when it comes to volunteering for the rewarding grunt work of teaching, feeding and raising kids! See bullets above.

But it’s only Tanya, not Bryan,  who has the working relationship with a City Council [her work at San Antonio Resident Association means she keeps up with Mountain View long-term housing planning and knows MV Council]. It’s only Tanya, not Bryan, who has deep knowledge of LASD facilities needs and possibilities. [As an appointed member, she attended ~20(?) meetings of the 2014-2015 of LASD Superindentent’s Facilities Master Plan Committee]. It’s only Tanya, not Bryan, who has been trusted  by Stanford University to work to drive a $250 project to build and staff a new 235,000 square foot research complex for the Neurosciences Institute and ChEM-H communities, collaborating with tens of teams of research scientists.  It took 2+ years of planning. Now the construction drawing are under review, while groundbreaking is anticipated in 2017. For Tanya, figuring out how to spend LASD’s $150M Measure N money on facilities improvements and collaborating with 10 school communities will be simple by comparison.

Here’s the LASD Board Election MATRIX…

A matrix of Bryan John and Tanya Raschke positions LASD Board Election 2016

Los Altos Politico has highlighted some of the salient differences…





Now for Conspiracy Theory…

Sometimes candidates have agenda's we don't understand

Sometimes candidates have agenda’s we don’t understand

Smiley – The Manchurian Candidate for LA City Council?

Did someone at Covington School perhaps nudge Steve Smiley to run for LACC?

Like Sangeeth Peruri, Smiley has been an active Covington parent volunteer. The two men are perhaps acquainted through their volunteering at the school. Although Smiley ran for City Council about 20 years ago as a single, ~26 year old, he has not ever been active in any City Commissions or City committees. His community involvement has been through his local school – COVINGTON –  and also his church. He is an executive and lawyer at an established tech company – Level 3 – and trains others in ethics.

Steve Smiley for City Council 2016

Steve Smiley for City Council 2016. Single issue candidate, protecting the Covington neighborhood.

So suddenly, out of the blue, this past June, Smiley wants to offer his “leadership” more broadly to the City community. His top three goals as a council person includes this one…wait for it… “improving city relations with the schools.” Lalah observed that when he explained that one,  he did not seem to realize the the City includes residents who go to that other school district – Cupertino Union. Faux pas.


And what is wrong with City relations with “the schools” that needs improving? Lalahpolitco: NOTHING is wrong with them. There is a long standing, for year and years, joint City-LASD Schools committee that meets quarterly and discusses mainly traffic safety issues. The City has undertaken many road and sidewalk improvements to enhance LASD school safety over the years. In my North Los Altos area around Egan, Almond and LA High, I have seen big safety changes — sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, speed reading signs. The City built the gyms at Egan and Blach around 2000. The City has also made traffic improvements around Montclaire elementary in the Cupertino Union School District.

Lalahpolitico: So what could Smiley mean when he says LASD-City-school relations could be improved? Oh yeah, he means “the LASD community” or more narrowly, the Covington parents — and the LASD board which will have 3 out of 5 members from the Covington attendance area as of Nov. 2016 – don’t like that the City refused to provide Hillview Community Center land for a school site, aka for Bullis Charter School. Also Trustee Ivanovich from Gardner Bullis doesn’t like it either.  4 of 5 LASD Trustees have not accepted the City’s NO! for an answer.

Figure: LASD site plan for 900 student BCS on Hillview

HilliviewThree x600

Inn winter 2016, LASD proposed cramming 900 students onto Hillview, with tiny blacktop, reducing sports fields, cramming in a Community Center too.


Back in March 2016, the current Los Altos City Council members explained to LASD Trustees that the City has barely 60 acres — and 10 of that is parking lots — while LASD has almost 120 acres. So go away LASD and explore using those many acres of yours. Where is the burning need to take our City Land? The City will help you manage traffic around your new school. [Dear Voters: Please realize that the schools are NOT a department of the City. The boundaries of LASD and the City of Los Altos differ significantly. They are independent entities. See map above.]

Not surprisingly, Smiley endorses the Los Altos Community Coalition [LACC] quest for a Joint Downtown – Civic Center visioning and planning effort. The idea is that all of the Downtown Triangle and all of the City’s 18 acres at the Civic Center/ Hillview could be simultaneously explored for rearrangement of uses. For example maybe the Los Altos Stage Theater and the whole Santa Clara Library could move across San Antonio into the downtown triangle. Tear those civic center buildings down and that could free up a lot of acres for a … wait for it … a school, aka Bullis Charter School. [This is exactly the mantra of the current and former LASD Trustees. To be fair, almost all City council Candidates in this 2016 race do endorse joint visioning of Downtown and the City Civic Center. So Smiley is not alone in this regard. Recently current council persons Pepper and Mordo apparently have jumped on the joint visioning bandwagon too. ]

So we see that LASD leadership is “in bed” with those certain downtown property owners and businesses who believe the City should move some of its civic center uses to downtown. Doing so would drive shopping traffic downtown benefiting…wait for it… downtown property owners and businesses. The key point is us resident schlumps will likely pay for all  it. Maybe we’ll get stuck paying for massive underground parking under a new City Hall/Community Center Facility that will provide “overflow” parking for downtown business…for free! Or maybe that private partner in a public-private partnership will split the bill with us resident schlumps. There is no Parking Assessment/Improvement District to pay for it.

Figure: Planning for a PAC that would support Johnson and a TBD Council Candidate…

Photo of email proposing a PAC to support a pro-LASD City of Los Altos city council candidate 2016

This PAC may try to pretend that Smiley is not the LASD Board’s “manchurian candidate” on a hush, hush mission to get City of Los Altos land. Now you know what’s up.

Here’s email evidence of planning for a PAC to support an TBD candidate for Los Altos City Council {wink, wink} who is part of a“recommended pro-LASD slate.”  That’s really funny. I was originally going to title this post – Sangeeth’s Slate.

Lalahpolitico Bottomline on Smiley:

Smiley strikes me as smart, able, personable and ethical. [A candidate can’t stop PACs or parties from endorsing them.]

I can see and hear that he has been working hard to learn more and more about City issues since June. [As a parliamentarian and lawyer, this newcomer is well-prepared to abide by the pesky Brown Act.]  However without City committee experience, he sounds too much like a candidate driven by a single issue – a special interest in protecting his Covington School neighborhood. Plus the council candidate field is very crowded with talented candidates.  I invite Smiley to join a City Commission and gain more experience there. Starting in Design Review is good experience. Parks and Rec seems to be another good one.  Run again in 2018?


Pray We Won’t Get Fooled by LASD Again! 

Sing these new lyrics to the tune of, THE WHO, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
Hear the tune at

OR hear it by clicking the embedded video above.

I’ll tip my hat to the new school trustees,
Take a bow for their new facilities tease
Smile[y] and grin at the “change” all around
Pick up my pen and say…
[it’s] “Just like yesterday”

Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We won’t get fooled again

No, No!

Meet the new board
Same as the old board

Photo: promo 2010.

The LASD Trustees pick their successors...don't get fooled again...

Don’t just sit there and let the LASD Trustees pick their successors again…don’t get fooled again…



Can we ever change the dynamics of the LASD Board of Trustees?


For the only contested LASD Board Election…

VOTE FOR TANYA RASCHKE, unless you are a tool of the LASD Board and their allies

VOTE YES ON GG parcel tax, unless you are always a NO on taxes voter

DO NOT VOTE FOR STEVE SMILEY for LA City Council…unless you believe in “Grab Hillview Park to place BCS”.  Steve seems like a super nice, funny, smart guy, but he looks like a single issue candidate at this time.  Let’s consider putting him on the Design Review Commission instead.













About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.

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