Sep 29 2016

ELECTION: Hari Titan is Running for School Board


Pictured are Hari Titan with his wife Roopal and his daughter.



I’m a member of the Havens Dads Club and recent board member of the Piedmont Makers group. I’ve also been a member of the Piedmont Neighbors and Newcomers group since we first moved to Piedmont.

I love the Piedmont community and enjoy connecting with fellow parents and showing my out of town friends the beauty of living in the Bay Area.

Both my parents were educators. My father was a high school math and science teacher and my mother was an elementary school teacher. However my parents insisted I did my own homework and made sure it was done. If I got questions wrong I had to understand why it was wrong. I think my parent’s focus on education led me to go for higher education myself. I was the first person in my extended family to get a PhD in any subject.

I earned a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo in Canada in 1993. While finishing my degree, I volunteered to join a search committee for selecting the Vice President of Academics at the University of Waterloo. Being a public university, that process had to be very rigorous and transparent. I learned the importance of a paper trail to accompany decision making. I see the same level of rigor in hiring for Fin-Tech and other Internet startups over the past 20 years of my career. These include a thorough job description with job requirements that materially impact on the job performance.

In 1993 I taught college level Computer Science courses at a small liberal arts school and experienced first hand the difficulties of teaching students with a wide variety of skills, interests and levels of commitment. I found most students unprepared to learn programming and were in the class because it will lead to a career. This is likely an artifact of teaching at a smaller college and should not be the case for good schools.

I spent most of my career working in California as a “Big Data Scientist”. This field is vital to financial firms and high tech companies. Huge volumes of customer data like from credit card and banking transactions or to online activies are analyzed to help firms predict risks and opportunities at an enterprise level. I also have a U.S. patent on using and explaining the behavior of advanced computer programs that are used to identify highly suspicious fraudulent activity on credit cards.

My wife, Roopal, and I moved to Piedmont in November 2008. We moved here because we loved the beauty of Piedmont, the feeling of a safe community, a very high performance school district and the comparative value we got for the home price we paid for at the time. My son briefly went to Piedmont High School and we have a daughter who is now in 5th grade at Havens Elementary.

I am still amazed at the performance of PUSD students on scholastic tests. This remained generally true during the 2008-2011 recession and is still true post-transition to common core (CAASPP) testing. I built an online app to view CAASSP test results(link is external) for all school districts in any county in CA. I believe student performance has a lot to do with being raised by high performing parents, good teaching methods in school and dedicated caregivers and tutors who provide abundant extra curricular support and learning opportunities.

In late 2013 I was at a Haven’s Club meeting where a presenter talked about renovating the Alan Harvey theater that would require no incremental taxation. I found this to be mathematically suspect and decided to investigate prior PUSD bond offerings. It felt like I was in uncharted waters. Most of the school board thought process was outsourced to bond consultants who had a hard time correctly explaining the details of what they were doing. Taxpayers were paying fees to these consultants for work that was not being done by salaried district staff. Like math, finance works in favor of whomever is crunching the numbers. If the district is not doing the math to maximize the benefit for the students and taxpayers, outside consultants were not going to do that for us unless the board knew exactly what to ask for. This is a general problem with any kind of outsourcing.

I was also questioning why performing arts was being emphasized over other fields of study that lead to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs. At first I was told most STEM jobs were off-shored and therefore not important to emphasize. This was troubling to me because I knew that scientific thinking and good critical thinking skills pay off in finance, healthcare and legal jobs that on the surface appear to have nothing to do with STEM. Later the Piedmont Makers group championed adding Arts to the list as a counter balance, leading to STEAM with an emphasis on shared facilities and shared maker spaces.

I also found that renovations were getting more expensive as building codes were being revised with increased regulation. I helped compare the Alan Harvey theater renovation (+ expansion) plan to nearby new theater construction, which the district did not do. I found that you could get greater design flexibility and functionality from new construction at almost the same cost as a renovation. This may be counter-intuitive at first until you look at the actual costs paid by nearby school districts.

Many of you might have seen one of my periodic surveys. I do this to take a pulse on what other parents are thinking and see if my ideas resonate. This helps me fight for things the public actually agrees with. The School Board should engage in more public opinion surveys to get ideas (with open questions) and gauge priorities before holding formal elections.

You’ll find a lot more details on my ideas on the “Campaign of Ideas” tab.

Click the “Contact Hari” link on my website to send me your thoughts. Website link is below.

Editors Note:  PCA does not support or oppose individual candidates for public office. 

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