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February 9, 2023

Meet the candidates: MHUSD Trustee Area 1

Incumbent Sullivan faces retired educator Altman-Palm

Vying for one of four Morgan Hill Unified School District Trustees’ seats that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot are former educator Nancy Altman-Palm and incumbent Wendy Sullivan. 

Altman-Palm’s experience in education spans more than 25 years with MHUSD as a parent and educator, she said in response to a list of questions from this newspaper. She taught at Britton Middle School for 17 years, then served as the school’s assistant principal for four years. She retired from MHUSD in June 2021, then briefly returned as assistant principal at Sobrato High School earlier this year. 

“While Assistant Principal at Britton, student safety and behavior were the main parts of my job,” Altman-Palm said. “During my tenure, discipline greatly improved using specific strategies and consistent follow through, with bullying incidents decreasing by over 50%.”

Sullivan was first elected to the MHUSD Board of Education in 2018. Over the years, she has “been a dedicated district parent supporting our students, teachers and staff in almost every way possible,” she told the Times. During this time, she has been involved in Home and School Clubs and School Site Levels before she was elected to her current office in 2018. 

Sullivan also currently serves as Vice President of the Santa Clara County School Boards Association, Director of the Asian Pacific Islander School Board Members Association and a delegate to the California School Boards Association Delegate Assembly. She is also a “proud parent” of a current high school student and two MHUSD graduates, she said.

The Times sent both candidates a list of questions to help readers get to know them better before the Nov. 8 election. Their answers are below. 

Nancy Altman-Palm

Why are you running for a seat on the MHUSD Board of Education?

I’m running for MHUSD Board of Education because I have a passion for helping all students and this allows me to continue this work in my retirement. Having served on the negotiating team for teachers, I have a thorough understanding of district funding and teacher needs. As a site administrator and teacher, I’ve worked directly with students and families for over 23 years.  My leadership background, professional experiences and work with a diverse range of students gives me a strong background to effectively address policy needs to support staff to help all students reach their full potential. 

Nancy Altman-Palm

What are some of your ideas for improving school safety and eliminating bullying and student violence in the schools?

In order to improve school safety and campus climate, schools need to have supports for students to deal with emotional and mental health challenges that impede their ability to function within a classroom. In addition, students are more successful at school when they feel some connection to the school, which includes engaging opportunities such as elective classes, extra curricular experiences and caring adults. We can continue to improve student engagement in our schools by increasing interesting programs, connecting with parents and community members to volunteer at schools to help student connectedness and providing an array of extended day opportunities for all students.  

Cyberbullying is a huge issue and school boards need to work in a coordinated manner to pressure social media platforms to address this worldwide issue. As an Assistant Principal, we were able to shift the campus culture using contemporary approaches such as catching students making good choices and using restorative practices to help change behaviors. 

What do you think are the top two to three issues for MHUSD, and how would you address these as a Trustee?

Currently, I see the top issues for MHUSD as attracting and retaining quality teachers and providing appropriate instruction for all students. The teacher in the classroom is the main factor in a child’s educational experience and we need to make sure all students are with excellent teachers. Teachers are constantly assessing students’ wellbeing and connectedness to school.  

Student access to quality curriculum and instruction are also essential for student success. Are students being challenged when appropriate, supported when necessary and at the end of the day, successful? This is such an art, meeting students where they are and moving them forward. We need to be sure that adequate systems are in place so that all students reach their fullest potential.

Wendy Sullivan

Why are you running for re-election to the MHUSD Board of Education? 

I have a deep understanding of the challenges that families and students across our community  face, and over the last 14 years, I have made it my mission to ensure our students are prepared  to succeed. We’ve started the process of transforming our district, but our work is not done. I  want to continue working to ensure that ALL students have access to a high-quality, rigorous  education. I remain committed to putting our students first, and if re-elected, I will continue to  fight to enhance the education of each and every student, every single day. 

Wendy Sullivan

What are some of your ideas for improving school safety and eliminating bullying and  student violence in the schools? 

School culture affects campus climate. Further enhancing our efforts to create positive school  cultures will result in positive school climates, which fosters safety and encourages trusting and  caring relationships between students and adults.  

To cultivate positive school cultures, our sites have implemented PBIS (Positive Behavioral  Interventions and Supports) practices to promote positive behavior and school safety. This  proactive approach focuses on positive reinforcement and preventing unwanted behavior, not  punishment. Not only can we deepen these efforts, but we can also incorporate best practices  from the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. I would also be open to adding an additional  School Resource Officer (SRO) to support our district.

What do you think are the top two to three issues for MHUSD, and how would you  address these as a Trustee? 

Recovery from the effects of the pandemic—in terms of academics and social-emotional/mental health—continues to be a priority. We will need to deepen our academic and social emotional supports to ensure student success.  

Retaining and attracting highly-qualified teachers and staff is also essential. Not only do we  need to provide competitive compensation and benefits, but we also need to ensure that our  employees feel supported and valued. 

As a trustee, I will work with the rest of the Board (as a governance team) to address these  issues and continue to support the efforts of our Superintendent and District staff in this critical  work.

Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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