Hinshaw selected for Menlo school board

By Barbara Wood

Special to the Almanac

Scott Hinshaw, co-president of the Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation and an investment banker, was unanimously selected by the board of the Menlo Park City School District on Feb. 10 to serve the remainder of retiring board member Laura Rich's term.

"How lucky our district is to have five so highly qualified people applying for this position," said school board president Joan Lambert. "I feel like any one of you could do this job and do it well."

Ms. Rich resigned in January after serving on the board for 15 years. That term and those of Terry Thygesen and Joan Lambert end in December.

Mr. Hinshaw has three daughters in the district in kindergarten, 4th and 5th grades. Fellow board candidates Stacey Jones, co-chair of the MPCSD District Council and co-chair of the recent bond campaign, has three children in district schools and Caroline Lucas, an educator at La Entrada School, has two children in the district's middle school.

The other two candidates to replace Ms. Rich do not have children currently in the school district -- Carol Cunningham, whose two children are still in preschool, and Jim Eakin, who served on the board from 1996 to 2000.

All five candidates were interviewed at a public meeting on Feb. 10, and the board conducted all its deliberations in public as well.

Board members appeared to be impressed by Mr. Hinshaw's time on the foundation's board, where he worked with parents as well as the community, school board and district administration.

"That on-the-job training is the best vetting that individual can get," board member Maria Hilton said. "I appreciate that he is interested in wanting to take that next step."

"Our family's going to be here a long time," Mr. Hinshaw told the board. He lives close to the school, and said he cares about "what this district will look like 10 to 15 years from now."

He said the Menlo Park district can serve as a role model for other districts and "I look forward to helping our district become a leader in the state."

When asked how he sees the role of the board and board members, Mr. Hinshaw said, "Most importantly, board members should be advocates for the students."

Board member Terry Thygesen nominated Mr. Hinshaw. "I could work very happily with any of these candidates," she said. However, she said, for the specific tasks the board is facing, including the construction of a new school, "as hard as it is to select one person, I think that the person who would bring the most immediate 'hit the ground' and the ability to help with the things we need to get done, is Scott."

After the vote Superintendent Maurice Ghysels congratulated the board on its process. "This was an astounding feat of team building," he said.


Posted by stunned, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 11, 2014 at 12:31 pm

I would never have guessed!Business as usual for the MPAEF board.

Posted by There's a Surprise!, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 11, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Oh! I would never have guessed! Wish someone had taken my bet on this -- I'd be rich now. There was never a doubt that Scott would be the choice -- he chaired the MPAEF so he was all but coronated. This is why no one bothers to run for the school board. It's like running for president in Russia. Hilarious that these private-clubby board members and superintendent think they represent progressive, enlightened education.

Posted by Diane, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 11, 2014 at 7:07 pm

"That on-the-job training is the best vetting that individual can get," board member Maria Hilton said. Seriously? How is MPAEF president on the job training? If you had wanted someone with experience of being on the school board, why didn't you select the person who was ACTUALLY on the school board before?

Posted by Scott Lohmann, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 11, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Congratulations Scott, well deserved! Also, thank you for volunteering for over 3+ years for our Foundation, and thanks for your leadership. Without the $3M+ annually, that you have helped the organization raise, our school district would be in dire straits. I'm sure your continued volunteerism, while being a member of the School Board, will enable our school district to continue to be one of the best in the state!

Posted by Claude "Louis" Rains, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 11, 2014 at 9:48 pm

The District is more than the Foundation. The MPAEF is an important part, but a small part of what makes this community and our schools great. Last I checked, the MPAEF is a fundraising organization. Since when is raising money the criteria for board membership? It's not a shock that Mr. Lohmann, a past president, and Ms. Hilton, another past president, think serving as president of the MPAEF is the only qualification required to be an effective member of the board. The big surprise is that the Almanac felt the need to send to send Ms. Wood to cover the meeting - the implication being that someone at the Almanac actually thought "news" might occur last night. Rubber stamping the pre-selected "applicant" isn't exactly surprising, and certainly isn't newsworthy. I feel for the other applicants who served as window dressing for the board's political theatre.

Posted by stunned, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 11, 2014 at 10:10 pm

(Correction to prior post -- meant MPCSD, not MPAEF! Shows how closely aligned those two boards seem to be.)

The MPCSD board is nothing if not predictable. Read the article about the last special appointment -- Web Link -- and note how eerily history has repeated itself. That vacancy had Jeff's name on it, just as this selection was preordained.

Having served on the MPAEF board myself, I have to laugh at the idea that the presidency counts as a super qualification. All presidents are well-connected and politically astute, some are smart and skilled, others are not. Because the board comprises high-functionig volunteers, it always manages to raise those all-important dollars, whether or not the president is a competent leader.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:36 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Mr. Hinshaw - Thank you for being willing to serve the citizens of the school district and I will not presume that your first priority is to anyone else except those citizens.

Posted by Scott Lohmann, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 13, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Mr. Rains, I'm pretty sure my post did not say that being the Co-President of MPAEF is the "only qualification to be an effective member of the Board". And yes, I was a past Co-President, and I do know a little about the amount of volunteer hours it takes to help oversee the raising of funds for the school district. In that position you have the opportunity to work with the MPAEF Board Members, the Superintendent, School Board Members, teachers and principals. It's a fun job, a rewarding job, but one that requires many hours of work. So, if all of that hard work gives you a step into being the most qualified individual for a School Board position, so be it. So, to any candidate that is given this opportunity now, or in the future, you may want to think about volunteering for the Foundation, or PTO, or somewhere else that helps our kids directly. In my opinion, and just MY opinion, volunteering for these type organizations is a fantastic precursor to a board position, it shows that you are not afraid of hard work, and you are educated on the District, and it's needs.

Posted by Little of Both, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Feb 15, 2014 at 10:01 am

a bit of validity to all posts. A few thoughts:

1) There is not reason to assume that Scott Hinshaw is not qualified, just as there is not reason to assume that the other candidates were not qualified.
2) It DOES take a lot of work to be a good board member and having put in the hours at the foundation shows a willingness to make the effort. However, we should not have assume that others would have worked just as hard.
3) While there are some school-related commonalities between a foundation post and a board seat, they are really quite different so one should not assume that being a foundation chair is a meaningful advantage. In that role, fund raising is the key job, particularly from large donors. With the board, the charter is very different and the issues are far more substantive. One must be good at dealing with details, working across "party lines" and doing what your job requires, which is to be fully objective and to make the right long term decisions for the good of the district and all kids.
3) I feel that the board felt there were few options -- this was the safe choice. When their success hinges on the success of the foundation, to make any move that appears to be less than supportive a a foundation chair would have been seen as a risky move. I doubt, unfortunately, that there was much debate on real qualifications, sadly for the other good folks. That is a reflection on the board, not on Scott. Don't blame a guy for running, applaud him!
4) So, Scott enters the job with the perception from some that he was handed the role due to his foundation duties. It is just up to him to show that he is objective and focused on the job at hand.

Give the guy a chance. Help where you can.

Posted by stunned, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 15, 2014 at 10:35 am

No one is questioning Scott's ability to do the job or his commitment to the district.

The problem is the process. That the board is run by a clique who handpick their successors. It's efficient, but it means that only one small segment of the population is represented. Ideally, on a board with five people, you've got five different perspectives and the entire community is considered when you make your decisions. That simply doesn't happen with the MPCSD board.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 10:38 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

That is why we have elections - next time there is a school board election remember to vote and judge each candidate on his/her merits without regard to incumbency.

Posted by Little of both, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Feb 15, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Peter is right. That is the process. We can also go to school board meetings. I have been to a few and, in general attendance is very light and comment from the audience even lighter.

Posted by stunned, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 15, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Anyone who thinks there will be an election doesn't understand how the game is played.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There most certainly WILL be an election. The only question is will each citizen exercise his/her right to cast an informed vote and will some have the courage to enter into the contest as candidates - a much tougher job than being an anonymous critic hiding in the shadows.

Posted by stunned, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 15, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Peter, you aren't very familiar with the MPCSD board. Why not check the records? Oh, there COULD be an election, but there's a 90+% chance there won't be.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There is a 100% certainty that there will be a school board election. There is a very high probability that stunned will neither be a candidate or even bother to vote. Being a Citizen is the highest office in the land but, sadly, some people are not up to the challenge of either public service or personal responsibility .

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