For nearly three decades, JPL engineering manager Chris Salvo has collaborated on multimillion-dollar projects that demand efficiency and consensus — and now he hopes to bring that level of scrutiny and solid decision-making to the La Cañada Unified Governing Board.
The 49-year-old father of two children at La Cañada Elementary School, sixth-grade son Diego and fourth-grader Violet, is one of five candidates competing for three open seats on the school board. He filed papers to run on Aug. 16 after learning current board member David Sagal would not seek reelection on Nov. 7.
Salvo decided to take his volunteerism as a Boy Scout parent, a JPLer who makes school appearances and a member of St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church a step further.
"It was a decision we had to come to as a family," he said of his conference with wife Leticia. "[But] I thought, I can do this."
Salvo came to La Cañada three years ago for the quality of its public schools and has not been disappointed. Still, he sees room for more discussion among board members on important matters requiring greater examination.
He cited two recent examples — adoption of the "Everyday Mathematics" K-5 textbook last summer, objected to by several petitioning parents, and the recent addition to the core literature list of the graphic novel "Persepolis," a book restricted in Chicago schools for its content — as cases where unanimous board votes halted rigorous discussion and debate.
"Having some debate or dissenting opinion on a choice the school board makes would be a healthy thing," Salvo said. "When does that occur? I don't think it exists in recent years, and I wonder why not."
He believes his experience as a leader and project manager on major missions would benefit the board and the school community, especially if the $149-million Measure LCF school bond passes and building projects need prioritization.
"Every organization needs to scrutinize itself, and not just think it's great because it's always been great," he said. "I'd like to bring the self-scrutiny I'm familiar with, the weighing of conclusions. It's about the process."
Other areas of focus include backing a Sagebrush territory transfer, supporting a well-rounded education that connects STEM subjects with the clear communication and presentation skills inherent in English and the performing arts, and allowing parents more chances to bring their professional talents into schools.
While Salvo believes his background would help the board, he understands there's a lot to learn.
"I don't think I have all the ideas," he said. "But I would be there to be a voice for people in the community and hear their ideas."