Meet the newest MVLA board member-elects


Photo by Naina Srivastava

Siona Mohan, Print In-Depth Editor

Thida Cornes, Esmeralda Ortiz, and incumbent Catherine Vonnegut were elected to the MVLA school board, and will be joining board members Dr. Phil Faillace and Sanjay Dave. Cornes, Ortiz, and Vonnegut will serve on the board through 2026.

Vonnegut, Ortiz, and Cornes finished with 25.09%, 24.7%, and 17.13% of the votes respectively.


Thida Cornes

Cornes has served on multiple Mountain View and Mountain View Whisman School District committees. She has two children who attended MVLA schools before transferring out.

Cornes said her top priorities are improving student mental health, promoting academic achievement for students of all backgrounds, and increasing fiscal transparency.

(Courtesy MV Voice)

Cornes said it would also be helpful to increase the amount of people who read the school board updates newsletter. To do so, she said she is looking to implement a system where community members can sign up to be notified of approaching school board meetings. 

“That newsletter really describes what’s happening at the district level,” Cornes said.

Cornes said a large focus of hers is ensuring that the wellness centers currently in construction are as welcoming and effective as possible.

“I would really like MVLA to work with Santa Clara County to use their expertise and resources to set up really great mental health and wellness centers,” Cornes said.

According to Cornes, many students are aware of the wellness resources available on campus but don’t feel comfortable accessing them.

“They’re getting pushback from other students,” Cornes said. “I would like to create a school climate where everyone understands that different people have different needs and that’s okay.”

As a long term goal to increase equity, Cornes said wings on campus should be separated based on subject rather than support needs.

“For example, a remedial [intended for students with learning difficulties] English class being in the same wing as all the others, so students aren’t separated out by the students that need more help from the students that don’t need help,” Cornes said.


Esmeralda Ortiz

Ortiz is the vice president of high school and postsecondary programs at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula. Her husband is a tenured English teacher at MVHS. 

“I was excited that so many voters were able to hear about my experience and desire to serve the community,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said her top priorities are supporting students’ social and emotional wellbeing, expanding post secondary education options for students, and increasing communication with families in the transition to high school.

Since freshman year classes can significantly impact the post secondary options students are eligible for, Ortiz said she supports more education surrounding particularly math and English sequencing.

Ortiz said she would also like to increase resources for students who want to pursue trade school, vocational training, or community college.

(Courtesy MV Voice)

Ortiz said it is important to work toward destigmatizing community college since associate degrees can expand job opportunities and act as a stepping stone to four year institutions.

“I want to ensure that we’re not talking about it [community college] as a lesser-than option and contrasting that against four year institutions,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said she is also interested in learning more about ELD programs at MVHS and LAHS in order to assess areas for improvement.

“[ELD] continues to be a population of students who both need services in the classroom but also need to feel more part of the larger community at each of the high schools,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said she values effective collaboration with other board members to increase the school board’s impact.

“It all requires a lot of listening and relationship building, both with the current board members, as well as continuing to have conversations with various community members,” Ortiz said.


Catherine Vonnegut

Vonnegut was first elected to the board in 2018 and currently serves as board president and as a member of the finance committee. Vonnegut is a graduate of Mountain View’s leadership, CERT, and Citizen Police Academy programs. 

“There’s consistency in having some more of the board the same as before to train the new people and also incorporate their ideas at the same time,” Vonnegut said.

Vonnegut said simultaneously maintaining academic excellence and student wellbeing is her top priority.

Vonnegut said the district may need to build a new school in the future due to construction near Shoreline. Vonnegut said the prospect of a new school continues to be a priority for the district.

Vonnegut said she is “excited” to add more Career Technical Education options, such as hotel and restaurant management and nursing assistance, to the district’s course catalog.

(Courtesy MV Voice)

“Students want to have a trade or experience so they can get a good paying job in our community,” Vonnegut said. “You can get quite a head start with a profession.”

Vonnegut said she will continue to implement “iterative refinement,” to make improvements within the district. Iterative refinement is a process engineers commonly use in which they pilot with a simple system and tweak over time to increase functionality.

“Nothing is set in stone since it can always be changed to some degree,” Vonnegut said. “We’ll have feedback and then we’ll improve.”