Since graduating from Gunn in 2008, Board of Education Candidate Shounak Dharap has always been a mediator in the community: both as a lawyer and a former board of education member. Now, he is running for a second term on the board of education.
According to Dharap, Palo Alto United School District’s (PAUSD) reputation is being a college-prep district. Having first-handedly experienced mental pressures, Dharap’s solution is to advocate for universal screening and encourage discussions, shifting the culture of a rigorous district. “[As] our community changes, that institutional knowledge [won’t affect] our community as it had in the past,” he said. “I ran to be part of those conversations [and] push forward on changing how we address mental health.”
Dharap aims to ensure equity in students’ achievement. As chair of the Equity Oversight Committee, he laid out the System-Wide Integrated Framework for Transformation (SWIFT), one of Dharap’s programs that implemented measures to promote and evaluate equitable experiences. “You hold the district accountable for all the granular additions,” he said. “The step for the next four years is to make sure that all those things are being implemented, that we continue to access oversight and follow through with what we set forth.”
Good governance via increasing school board-community connection is another one of his targets. During Dharap’s last term, he motioned for resuming public virtual participation in board meetings. Dharap also anticipates active involvement with liaisons, listening to rising concerns. “This [is a] very feasible way to get input,” he said. “Board members can report those conversations [as] inputs the district uses to decide what goes on the agenda and what changes get made.”