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November 8, 2016 — California General Election
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Poway Unified School DistrictCandidate for Trustee

Photo of Darshana Patel

Darshana Patel

26,713 votes (20.79%)Winning
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Focus on high-quality education through excellence in curriculum, finances and staff.
  • Balance classroom resources between STEM, arts and whole-child (social emotional learning)
  • Advocate for collaboration, transparency and reform to rebuild trust with the community and district.



Profession:Scientist and Community Leader
Land Use Committee Member, Rancho Peñasquitos Planning Board — Elected position (2015–current)
Executive Vice President, VP of Science and Technology, Park Village Elementary School Education Foundation — Elected position (2015–current)
Board Member, SDPD Northeastern Division Police Captain's Advisory Board — Appointed position (2015–current)
President, Health and Safety Chair, Fiesta Chair, Education Chair, Web, Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council — Elected position (2011–2016)
Vice President Legislation and Advocacy, Reflections Chair, PTA Park Village Elementary School — Elected position (2014–2016)
Project Manager, Genentech, Inc. (2006–2010)
Post-Doctoral Scientist, Genentech, Inc. (2002–2006)


University of California, Berkeley Certificate in Project Management, Biotechnology (2010)
Univerisity of California, Irvine Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Biophysics (2002)
Occidental College Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Biochemistry with minor in Religious Studies (1996)

Community Activities

Farmers Market Committee, Rancho Family YMCA (2015–current)
Science Field Day Team coach, Park Village Elementary School (2015–current)


I am a believer in effort. As a first generation American, I quickly learned that success comes primarily from effort, coupled with ability and planning. Consistently, it has been a combination of these three qualities that helped me achieve my goals, even during very challenging times.

I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1974; the only daughter of Urmila and Ramesh Patel. At an early age, my elder siblings, Bimal and Anand, taught me how to be tough and face challenges head on. My mother would remind me regularly, that because I was an American, I could be anything I wanted to be, as long as I put in the effort. Although she passed away when I was 14 years old, her words continue to inspire me to this day.

I received a scholarship and grant to attend Occidental College (Los Angeles, CA), where I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry with a minor in Religious Studies in 1996. During my undergraduate education, I studied abroad for a year at the University of Sussex in England. Following graduation, I interned at Monsanto (St. Louis, MO) and then earned an intramural training award at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. I was awarded my Ph.D. in Biophysics by the University of California, Irvine in 2002. I joined the Department of Protein Engineering at Genentech, Inc., (South San Francisco, CA) as a postdoc and then received a Project Management Certificate from UC, Berkeley. I continued at Genentech, Inc., as a Project Manager in the Department of Translational Oncology managing therapeutics moving from research into development. By the time I left the biotech industry, I had eight years of professional experience.

I love learning and challenging myself in diverse settings. My experiences have given me a unique breadth and depth of knowledge that I use to turn my effort into excellence. My interests in civic responsibility started in Girl Scouts, continued through Key Club, and matured into leadership roles in organizations in college, graduate school and my professional life. Since moving to Rancho Peñasquitos with my family in 2010, I have served on:

•    The Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council – President, and Chairs of Education, Web&Print, Fiesta and Safety Committees

•    The Rancho Peñasquitos Planning Board – member of the Land Use Committee

•    SDPD Police Captain’s Advisory Board – Northeastern Division

•    Park Village Elementary School Foundation – Executive VP, Science and Technology Director

•    Park Village Elementary School PTA – VP Legislation, Reflections Chair

•    Poway Unified School District Advisory Committee, School Site Council

While serving as VP of Legislation on our PTA and on the District Advisory Committee, I realized that I could better serve my community by ensuring that PUSD fulfills its mission for Excellence in Education. I decided to run for Poway Unified School District Board of Education.

I am married to a very supportive husband and we have three daughters in 6th, 4th and 1st grade. I am invested in PUSD for years to come. Let’s work together to ensure that our children are given the resources they need to pursue their dreams.

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • Poway Federation of Teachers
  • Poway School Employees Association
  • San Diego County Democratic Party

Organizations (2)

  • Run Women Run
  • Coalition for Effective School Board Leadership

Individuals (2)

  • Dr. Alan Gin, Economist
  • Michelle O'Connor Ratcliff, PUSD Board President

Questions & Answers

Questions from League of Women Voters of California Education Fund (1)

A recent law made major changes in the way that the state allocates funding to schools. What will you do to ensure that the public understands your local control formula for school spending and your plan to measure outcomes?
Answer from Darshana Patel:

Our district has genuine challenges with its current financial status. Because of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), our district does not receive the same supplemental categorical funds that neighboring districts receive due to our demographic profile. While I was PTA VP of Legislation/Advocacy (2-year term), I wrote a weekly column in the school paper educating the community on local, state and federal education legislation and policy, engagement opportunities and public notices directly impacting children and families. Several of my columns explained how LCFF works and how to participate in Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) community forums. I participated in the forums each year and have seen first hand the strengths and challenges. There are ways we can improve our community understanding of our LCFF.

During the LCAP community input period, our district offers a few forum time slots, including one in Spanish, and has an online survey. In the months before the forums, the district should put out a series of educational or instructional videos on what LCFF is and why we need an LCAP. Partnering with a non-profit organization like that already does this would better prepare and guide the participants. This type of outreach will help ensure a high quality of input from the public and provides multiple sources for understanding our LCFF, especially in context of state requirements. Also, our district has to do a much better job with inclusive outreach with our community through communication in multiple languages and multiple formats.

Additionally, I would advocate for a mid-year review where the district can solicit feedback on progress towards meeting LCAP goals from all key stakeholders including community, staff and students. With a mid-year report, the district can make adjustments to our plan and improve overall outcomes on meeting the LCFF goals, which are measured with a standard rubric including a combination of test scores with student, teacher and parent feedback.

Questions from League of Women Voters of San Diego (1)

What is the most significant challenge facing the Poway Unified School District, and if you are elected, what steps will you take to address it?
Answer from Darshana Patel:

Essentially, the most significant challenge falls under the broad category of resource management. Our district is facing challenges with finances, personnel and oversight. With finances, we need to redress the fallout from the capital appreciation bond, seek new funding opportunities due to budget shortfalls and rebuild fiduciary trust with our community. With personnel, we need to hire top-level administration and implement effective succession planning for staff nearing retirement age. Finally, there are serious flaws with internal controls and the processes currently in place are not sufficiently robust to capture mismanagement and need updating.

We need a board that will work collaboratively to address the resource management challenges in order to advance our mission of academic excellence. The current, visible, lack of trust and cooperation among board members hampers decisive board action and presents a controversial picture to the district and community. Additionally, there is an unintended consequence of demoralization of teachers, staff and administration. If elected, I would strongly advocate for a solution-focused board that takes into account all perspectives and strives for collaborative problem solving. As an experienced civic board President, competing interests have tested my consensus building, communication and ethics. While I respect that not all matters will be decided unanimously, the interest of our children’s education, the taxpayers’ dollars and the district’s employees should be foremost. This will be my guiding principle and it is time for positive change.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

PUSD has a proven reputation as an exemplary school district, serving its community by delivering a high quality of education despite financial pressures. Our community has legitimate concerns that this outstanding quality of education is approaching a point of inflection.

  • There is a divided voice on the Board of Trustees
  • Residents don’t have a complete grasp of the rationale of board actions
  • Our top-level administration and significant number of staff are nearing retirement
  • Teachers are looking for training and support in transitioning to new education standards

I’ll work effectively every day for PUSD:

  • Excellence – Prioritize education, staff and finance
    • Our district has historically performed well based on mutual respect for all aspects of the education system. PUSD not only provides high quality education for our children but also is a responsible employer to several thousand residents. We need to work cooperatively to maintain this successful model of education.
  • Resources – Balance STEM, arts and whole child
    • Due to our current financial landscape, we must more effectively use our available resources to balance the education needs of our students. I will use a sensible approach in addressing education resource issues under board purview.
  • Advocacy – Seek funding, collaboration and reform
    • As a member of the board, I will explore funding options, keep open lines of communication and work with community groups. My years of community and school volunteerism have given me the right experience to focus on putting education first.

I am inherently a problem solver and consensus builder. I can use my strengths to guide our district in the right direction:

  • Needs of students – having three young children in the system, I have a vested interest in high quality public education
  • Era of STEAM – my formal education and training gives me the necessary background to support both science and arts
  • Respect for professionals in the district whose passion for education is proven with their dedication
  • Ability to objectively analyze data and priorities to develop strategies for success

* I am qualified: I have a PhD in Biophysics from University of California at Irvine, have a Bachelor of Arts from Occidental College, and have worked at the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, MD) and Genentech, Inc. (South San Francisco, CA). I am a strong advocate of public education and have a genuine interest in the education experience. I am capable of digging into the weeds, but not getting stuck in them. My science background brings valuable STEM expertise to the Board. My Certification in Project Management, combined with extensive experience working on civic boards, makes me an objective problem-solver who can manage budgets and resources.

* I am dedicated: I have served on the Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council (serving as President, and Chairs of Education, Web&Print, Fiesta and Safety Committees), the Rancho Peñasquitos Planning Board (appointed member of the Land Use Committee),
the SDPD Police Captain’s Advisory Board (Northeastern Division), Park Village Elementary School Foundation (Executive Vice President, VP of Science and Technology), Park Village Elementary School PTA (Reflections Chair and VP Legislation), Poway Unified School District Advisory Committee and School Site Council.

* I am trustworthy: In every role I have stepped into, I have fulfilled my responsibilities, held organizations to higher standards and have had the strength to voice my concerns. I am committed to ethically fulfilling my board responsibilities. I will continue to work collaboratively and effectively with teachers, administration and the community. Our children’s education is my top priority.

I am the strong leader PUSD needs to build consensus and restore education excellence as the top priority. I respectfully ask for your vote - electe Patel4PUSD!


Videos (3)

— October 8, 2016 Craig Sewing, The American Dream

Poway Unified School District Board of Education Candidate Dr. Darshana Patel interview excerpt by Craig Sewing on The American Dream. Full show aired on October 6, 2016.

— October 8, 2016 Candidate video release

June 3rd Hilltop Community Park. Patel4PUSD Launches Campaign for Poway Unified School District Board of Education.

— October 8, 2016 Candidate campaign video

Poway Democratic Club's PUSD Candidates Forum, scheduled on 8/18, 6:30 pm, at Templar's Hall, in Old Poway Park.

Questions were gathered from PDC members and randomized. Candidates were not given access to the questions prior to the forum.

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