The Dublin Unified School District welcomed its newest board trustee last week as Niranjana "Nini" Natarajan, a finance professional and parent volunteer, was appointed to fill the school board's vacancy for Trustee Area 4.
Natarajan, who took her seat on the dais after the board voted 3-1 to select her over one other applicant Dec. 11, said her priorities will include helping the district focus on a balanced approach to educating Dublin students.
"While good grades are important, there is so much more to developing an intelligent, curious and emotionally well-balanced child," Natarajan said in a statement. "I want my children, well, all children, to learn in an environment that embraces a sense of community and that strives to provide experiential, interactive learning experiences that foster skills like communication, collaboration and compromise."
Natarajan fills the unexpired term representing Area 4, a wide swath of land in the northeastern part of Dublin, left vacant when Trustee Joe Giannini resigned abruptly in October after just under two years on the board, citing the time commitment and fractious Dublin politics creating a hostile service environment.
The remaining board members opted to make a direct appointment to complete the remainder of Giannini's elected term, which ends December 2020, as opposed to calling for a special election.
Natarajan was one of two residents who live within Area 4 that applied for the open trustee position.
The other applicant was Gabrielle Blackman, a mother of three school-age children and 2016 school board candidate who served on the Community Review Committee and as a school volunteer. She said her goals on the board would include improving the district's communication and strategic planning.
After reviewing the applications and interviewing the candidates, trustees Amy Miller, Dan Cunningham and Megan Rouse voted to approve Natarajan, while Trustee Dan Cherrier dissented in support of Blackman.
"I believe Nini will bring new perspectives and fresh ideas to our board," said Miller, the board's president. "Not only does she bring valuable professional expertise, she also changes the complexion of our board to better represent the diverse and growing community in Dublin."
"As a parent in the community, facing the challenges of growth on the eastern side of town, her insight will be extremely valuable in shaping the direction of our district and the educational experience of our children," Miller added.
A resident of Dublin for over four years, Natarajan is a native of eastern India and graduate of Madras University with a degree in commerce and accounting.
She married and moved to the United States with her husband in 2004, and she became a U.S. citizen in 2013.
The family initially settled in the Silicon Valley. While her husband worked for a Bay Area semiconductor company, Natarajan earned her public accountant certification. She now works as head of finance for a growth-stage startup in San Mateo.
Natarajan has two daughters who enrolled in Dublin schools after the family relocated to the city in 2014. They now attend Cottonwood Creek K-8 School.
As a volunteer, Natarajan became heavily involved with Destination Imagination as a parent mentor to teams for multiple years.
"Destination Imagination has been a wonderful experience for my children and myself. The program provides the type of hands-on learning I feel is essential to stimulating the minds of our future leaders," she said. "As a board member, I will push to expand programs of this nature for our children."