No matter the results of the upcoming Nov. 3 election, the trustee representing the Santa Clara County Board of Education’s Area 5 will be an Asian-American woman and proponent of public schools.
Ultimately, voters will decide whether to stay with 20-year incumbent Anna Song, after her unsuccessful run for the state legislature, or opt for new perspective with Victoria Chon, a public school teacher hoping to impact students beyond her own classroom.
The two candidates are vying at a chance to represent students within a majority portion of Santa Clara Unified, Milpitas Unified, Orchard, Berryessa Union and a portion of East Side Union High school districts.
The two candidates, Song and Chon, represent opposite ends of the spectrum in experience: one offering institutional knowledge of the board’s history and operations, while the other boasts a fresh, on-the-ground look at education’s needs and day-to-day challenges. Each is campaigning to make decisions regarding:
- Equity in distance learning
- Public school funding
- Culturally comprehensive education reflecting diverse Bay Area
Anna Song has served as a Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee for two decades, after first getting elected in 2000.
She did not return several interview requests ahead of publication. Residing in the city of Santa Clara, she decided to run for reelected after a second unsuccessful bid for the California Assembly during the March 3 primary.
According to her campaign website, which still appears as “Anna Song for Assembly District 25,” she brings experience in counseling, youth education, domestic violence intervention and fair housing enforcement to the role. Song was selected as Board President three times throughout her five terms. She now serves as the Vice President.
“I consider myself a progressive, and my policy perspective would be coming from being a single mom of color,” Song wrote online.
Song has served as a member of the California Democratic Party State Central Committee, board member of Democratic Activists for Women Now, and is a past president of the City of Santa Clara Mission City Democratic Club, according to her site.
Song, a New York Life insurance agent, touts being not only the first elected Korean-American in Santa Clara County, but also the longest serving Korean-American elected official in the United States.
According to her website, she earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University in Ohio in 1994, minoring in mental health and human services. She is a single mother to two young sons who attend public schools.
Victoria Chon is a sixth-grade teacher at Parkmont Elementary, a public school in Fremont. While this is her first run for elected office, she said she thinks the person making decisions for classrooms should have spent time in those schools.
“With everything going on this year, I kept thinking, ‘How much more of an impact can I make to my students?’” Chon said. “I worried, ‘Do I have enough experience to be in public office?’ But to me, running for school board – that experience is going to come from being a teacher.”
If elected, she plans to continue teaching and serving on the Fremont Teacher’s Union executive board. The San Jose resident wouldn’t be making choices for her own school district, which resides in Alameda County.
Chon said it’s time for a fresh perspective to serve as trustee. She said having experience on-the-ground will allow her to consider the feasibility and reality of decisions the Board makes, while listening to community members directly about outside concerns.
“Bringing that to the board and making sure people understand that, yes it is hard, but you don't know what it's like until you're actually there,” she said.
Chon said her outgoing, talkative personality would lend itself well to governing, pursuing respectful relationships and collaboration to best advocate for students. She also said given Area 5’s diversity, she will prioritize listening to community stakeholders and emphasize transparency in decision making to firmly understand what the districts are each battling.
“I just hope that with every student that goes through our schools in the Bay Area, they're able to have a positive outlook on their schooling,” Chon said. “My experiences in and out of the classroom make me a strong, passionate advocate for giving students the education that they deserve.”
As of the most recent candidate fundraising disclosures, filed by Sept. 24, the two candidates for Santa Clara County Board of Education Trustee Area 5 have raised a combined $6,175. Below is a breakdown.
Victoria Chon: $6,175; endorsements include the California Teacher’s Association, Santa Clara County Board of Education President Claudia Rossi and Assemblyman Ash Kalra.
Anna Song: $0; endorsements include former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzalez, former Assemblyman Jim Cunneen, and Santa Clara County Board of Education trustees Joseph Di Salvo and Grace Mah.