Davis has had a tumultuous couple of years, school-wise.
First there were budget cuts. Then uproar over the gifted student program. Then a school board member resigned during a feud with the volleyball coach who cut her kid from the team.
Small-town drama, maybe, but with potentially big repercussions. More than most school districts, Davis’ relies on the confidence of voters. About a tenth of its funding comes from temporary parcel taxes that won’t be renewed if the community doesn’t trust the school board.
That’s why, with three open seats on the five-member board, and a fourth – the “Volleyball-gate” replacement – filled by unopposed Alan Fernandes, Davis voters have a real opportunity.
Seven candidates are running. All have impressive credentials and solid service histories.
It’s a close call, but we recommend longtime district volunteer and public relations manager Barbara Archer, state curriculum expert Tom Adams and UC Davis law professor Madhavi Sunder.
All have put in serious volunteer time in classrooms and on district committees, all have kids in the schools, and all bring special skills that the district will need.
Archer, for instance, has granular knowledge of the district’s budget. She chaired one parcel tax campaign and consulted on another, and understands the district’s real financial options and needs.
Adams is uniquely qualified to help the district ease into the state’s new Common Core academic standards. As director of curriculum framework and instructional resources at the state Department of Education, he has spent 22 years steeped in the issue. He also runs the commission that advises the state Board of Education on curriculum and textbooks, so he knows how boards work, and how to manage reasonably.
Sunder has been involved in the community since 2005, when she led a campaign to name an elementary school for civil rights hero Fred Korematsu. Active in the push to preserve the district’s GATE program, she brings positive energy and broad community connections, particularly to UC Davis, which she correctly views as an underutilized resource.
Also good on this front is veterinarian Bob Poppenga, another UC Davis faculty member. He, too, gets the need for outreach, but his volunteerism isn’t as comprehensive as with some of the others. Chuck Rairdan, too, needs more seasoning, though he makes strong points about the need to better serve non-college-bound students.
Longtime volunteer and public interest lawyer Mike Nolan knows the district, but his independence from local politics could limit his influence. Jose Granda, an engineering professor, is right about Spanish-speaking families needing better access but opposes the parcel tax that voters support.
Most importantly, however, this year’s choices give Davis a chance to tone down the tumult, which, for parents, kids and teachers, will surely be a relief.