As a mom, educator, and advocate, Susan has dedicated her life to strengthening our community and ensuring that all children have the chance to succeed. Susan was successfully elected as 4th District Supervisor for the County of Santa Clara in November 2018.
From a young age, Susan knew that her passion and lifelong commitment would be to children and families. She always enjoyed working with and tutoring children. She learned to address differences in learning styles and understood how children’s backgrounds often impacted their ability to be successful.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Susan went to an all-girls high school and received her BA from Barnard College. She graduated from Columbia University School of Law and excelled as a lawyer, but in her heart she always knew she had another calling. She longed to be an educator and advocate for her community.
Susan not only has a strong vision for Santa Clara’s future, she also has the organizational skills and work ethic to get the job done. When Susan sees a challenge, she steps up to solve it. When her children’s elementary school was poised to expand from a K-5 to a K-8 model, Susan helped develop what later became the school’s flagship social justice curriculum. She worked tirelessly to ensure that the school’s growth was successful. She educated herself in the details of school governance, attended conferences, and, after working for years from a board perspective, stepped in to teach social justice to 6th to 8th graders for six years.
When Susan’s youngest daughter was a freshman at Lincoln High School, a controversial policy regarding graduation requirements pushed Susan to join others in advocating for rejection of the proposed policy. When the policy was approved anyway, Susan decided to be the leader that she had encouraged her students to be for years. She ran for San Jose Unified School District Board of Trustees and won.
Since Susan was elected, the school district improved outreach to parents and the community, set up protective guidelines for students with undocumented parents, secured $5 million in additional annual funding, approved the district’s first gender-neutral student restrooms and began providing free SAT tests to all juniors and $5 AP and IB exams for all students enrolled in those classes. She continues to support innovation in the classroom and a strong connection with teachers and administrators.
When asked in a panel discussion on education what businesses could do to better support students, Susan suggested that the business community offer summer internships and job shadow opportunities for high school students. Her suggestion inspired STRIVE San Jose, a program that works with two of San Jose’s largest high school districts to provide students with paid internships and job shadow opportunities. The program continues to give teenagers valuable hands-on training and creating a much-needed job pipeline.
While at her role at The Silicon Valley Organization’s Foundation, Susan created and facilitated programming designed to raise awareness of local social and economic challenges. She facilitated civic, service, philanthropic and political engagement through programs such as the signature Leadership San Jose cohort and salon-style Women Engaged.
In addition, Susan is an appointed member of the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women, where she works with other community leaders to advance opportunities for women and minimize inequities that disproportionately impact women, such as equal pay. She is an American Leadership Forum Senior Fellow, a Rotarian, and a member of Children’s Vision Council, advocating for programs and services to support vulnerable families in an effort to break the cycle of poverty. Susan is also a mentor for five high school students through Lincoln High School’s Future Visions Program.
Susan strives to be the change she wants to see in the world. As a School Board Trustee, she has seen that there is more that needs to be done to make our community safe and healthy for everyone. Now, as Supervisor, she will lead efforts to support vulnerable families and individuals, including seniors; advocate for reform in our criminal justice system; work to expand access to early childhood education; promote gender equity; fight to protect the availability of quality health care including mental health services; lead efforts to increase the availability of low-income and affordable housing; and ensure every dollar spent maximizes impact in all of these areas.
Susan lives in San Jose with her husband, Steve, who is a partner at Ellenberg & Hull, and their two rescue dogs, Lacey and Peaches. They have three young adult children: Zach, Molly and Naava.