In this election cycle, recent M-A alumnus and former editor-in-chief of the M-A Chronicle Sathvik Nori is running to represent Area D on the Sequoia Union School District Board of Trustees. Nori graduated from M-A in 2021 and is currently a sophomore at Stanford University.
He is running against Redwood City Education Foundation’s first Executive Director, Jo-Ann Byrne Sockolov, who has over 20 years of experience in community development.
Nori’s campaign is centered around three primary goals: promoting academic excellence, supporting our educators, and increasing community engagement. If elected, he pledges to offer a wider course and elective list for students, in line with his belief in “tracked” classes. He also pledges to work towards compensating teachers adequately, and creating a parent advisory commission.
The M-A Chronicle spoke with Nori about what inspired him to run, how he balances school and work, some of his core principals, and his agenda if elected.
M-A Chronicle: “What inspired you to run for the SUHSD board?”
Nori: “During the whole year where everything was online I really saw how the board struggled to represent all students and how much more the board could be doing to serve the needs of all of its students. I intend to bring a fresh perspective to the board, one that is accountable to parents, teachers and community members, and students.”
M-A Chronicle: Could you expand more on your background in the Sequoia Union High School District, and why you think you would best represent Area D?
Nori: “I’m currently a commissioner on the San Mateo County Juvenile Justice Commission as a public watchdog, or the oversight body, for youth detained in San Mateo County. Through that work I have been interacting with and gotten to know the youth at a county juvenile hall and the vast majority of them are Latinx. A lot of them actually come from SUHSD schools, and I see how they have had a completely different experience with our school system that I was fortunate enough to have. I know personally what it’s like to be able to take advantage of a lot of the opportunities that the District offers, but through this and through my other role as commissioner, I see a completely different perspective on our school system.”
M-A Chronicle: As the youngest candidate, could you expand more on the process of running and any obstacles that you encountered due to your age?
Nori: I was wondering the same thing before I officially decided to run, but what I found right from the beginning is that a lot of people were excited to support me. At the end of the day, students have to live with the end results of our public education system, but they still have very little to no say in the actual device-making decisions that are directly affecting them. So, I think a lot of people have been very supportive of the idea of having someone younger, and someone non-traditional, run for this position.
M-A Chronicle: What is your school life like at Stanford?
Nori: “I haven’t decided on a major yet. But it’s kind of hard to describe. I think I’ve managed to balance my time as a college student and running a campaign pretty well. I also don’t really know what my post-grad plans are. But as I said before, I am committed to staying on the seat for all four years, so whatever they are, they will involve SUHSD if I’m elected.”
M-A Chronicle: As you’ve voiced your opposition to the removal of honors courses in the “detracking” debate, how do you intend to change pre-existing policy, or shift away from homogenous classes? Or, more generally, how do you think we as a district should respond to the push to “de-track” classes?
Nori: “Even though I do not agree that the answer to equity is bringing everyone down, I firmly believe that students benefit from more options and that we should have high expectations for all of our students, no matter what middle school they went to. But what I’d say is no, I believe I’m humble. I hope to be humble enough to say that if the data proves me wrong, and if it’s convincing and not just from some random national study but from our own neighboring districts and shows that this change is actually benefiting students and getting more students to take AS II, I’d be happy to support. So I do agree with the angle that we should have more students from East Palo Alto and students of color taking honors and AP courses. But I firmly believe that we should make a data-driven decision and see how the data lays out. But from the inquiries that I’ve gotten, I’d say that it hasn’t been effective so far.”
M-A Chronicle: What are your views on the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) being implemented into teaching at Sequoia schools?
Nori: “I think it’s been implemented very well. I like the model of how we focus on certain kids who struggle, or need extra support with interventions. But what I’d say is I think I’d bring a unique perspective and that I actually understand the user and experience of what it’s like to be a student.”
M-A Chronicle: What do you bring to this position that your opposing candidate doesn’t?
Nori: “I’m the only person in this race who actually went to school in this District. I’ve actually served on more public boards and agencies than Sockolov has and I’m the only person in this race who currently has a family member currently attending school in SUHSD. One more thing that I really emphasize is my unique perspective as a student. The Sequoia Union High School Board currently has around 45 years of school board experience. So the board has no shortage of experience, but what it doesn’t have is someone who actually knows what it’s like to be a student and actually go through this District’s school system. I think that’’s a really unique thing that I bring that my opponent doesn’t have.”
M-A Chronicle: At this point in the electoral process, how confident are you going into November 8th?
Nori: “Elections like this are very hard to poll. You almost have no clue where you stand. I also respect my opponent, so it’s hard. I could see it going either way. Like, there’s no clear ‘I hope I win,’ but I don’t really know. I mean, no one really knows, that’s the thing.”
Sathvik Nori and Jo-Ann Sockolov will be listed on the ballot to represent Area D for Sequoia Union High School District. You can refer to Jo-Ann’s website and our article on the PTA Open Forum for more information on her platform.
Make sure to register to vote and show up at the polls on November 8th!