Greg Palatto

Greg Palatto is one of nine candidates vying for three spots on the Bonita Unified School District Governing Board. Photo: Rommel Alcantara

  • Father of two BUSD students
  • School Psychologist for Charter Oak Unified School District, specializing in autism

What inspired you to run for School Board?
What inspired me to run for the school board is to give the board a professional perspective for our students who don’t fit the traditional academic mold, whether it be kids who can benefit from mental health, improving our special needs culture of acceptance and inclusion, and for kids who have goals that may not be solely college.  The main trigger was my daughter, who started out Kindergarten crying the first day.  After some time, she was not calming down and sent to the office. She fell asleep crying. After a pep talk, we gave day two a shot, but the same thing happened again. This occurred for two weeks straight, and as soon as a tear came, she was sent to the office, where she cried and fell asleep. This was before our mental health professional investment, and she was not provided any significant support. It felt like she was seen as a problem and was moved to the side and forgotten about. I wanted to bring more support to other students like her, who may have other concerns that could use support.  Currently she is doing great and continues to see one of our mental health professionals. I am grateful for the investment made in this area by Bonita and want to ensure it is not temporary but sustaining.

What experience do you have that would make you a good board member?
My experience that would make me a good board member and for my perspective to be valuable is my training and experience. I have been in education my entire life and educational leadership for the past eight years. I understand how to work with administration and associations for the best way to meet common goals. I understand the roles of governance versus administration. Board members are elected by the community to give the citizen oversight of the community’s concerns to set policy for the administration to roll out. I have in-depth training specifically in School Finance and understand the different budgets and the impact of every decision. I am easily accessible and very transparent in all my decisions.  I understand the classroom of public schools, as I work in them daily, and have a good grasp of what benefits our students.  

What do you think we can do to keep our students safe and savvy in a more digital and technological environment?
I would love if all of the Chromebook Zoom accounts had automatic virtual backgrounds for the school logo or mascot, so people don’t see into students’ rooms, and that they all have the same thing.

I appreciate my own daughter’s teacher for creating a video before school started about each website and program they will be using, and teaching that before anything else. In too many other districts, I see a significant portion of the day being taken up as tech support, and the curriculum pace suffers.  

What milestones would need to be reached in order for you to be comfortable with schools reopening and staying open?
The milestones to reach a reopening are really getting the OK from the county. We have to work with our associations to agree upon and set the classrooms and precautions to enable them to work effectively with our students. Once we get the green light that we are allowed to open, then we can do so. By then, we will have many other districts in other counties [that have] been reopened for some time. We look at what works and what their mistakes were, and make sure our roll out is done where the mistakes are accounted for, and do so better and permanently. 

What other top issues do you care about?
Obviously one of my top issues is mental health, which I went into. We can also do more to prevent these concerns by intervening earlier with activities that promote social emotional learning.  Having after school programs such as the fine and performing arts, sports and service clubs can help kids make those connections early and learn how to work with others and work through emotions in an environment with adult supervision. My other main priority is that we have and encourage a path of success for all of our students. We do great academically.  Our graduation rates are good, and most kids go to college after they graduate, about 70% of them.  However about 38% of them earn any type of degree after 6 years, and many drop out to pursue work. I have kids who keep in contact with me years after and tell me first hand about the difficulties and what led them to drop out and start work. I would like us to have a variety of trades and career pathways we can start our kids on early if they choose to, so they can get skills and a head start after high school and be on a track to lifelong success ahead of the game. I would like to support our college-bound kids with zeal but also show that same zeal to kids who choose the military, trades or career pathways as their option. My goal is for lifetime success of our community more so than anything else.

What is an interesting fact about yourself that your supporters may not already know?
I love a good challenge. I never liked running, then challenged myself to run a race. Soon after, I completed different marathons, triathlons, Ragnar Relays, and a Spartan Trifecta. I like to run up and down Bonita Avenue before sunrise and through Bonelli Park as training, but never run Bonita during October, as I have freaked out a couple with the surprise Halloween decorations and sounds.

I’m in San Dimas Masons and La Verne Rotary, but my favorite work is all behind the scenes. When my kids are in the Grace Miller Harvest Fest at Halloween–it’s a huge event. I will take a day off from work. I’ll set up, grill the hot dogs–a lot of behind the scenes. I don’t do this for a title, but I do this for the kids.

Interviews were edited for clarity.

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