Five DJUSD Board Candidates File Financials; Sunder Leads the Way with $18,000 Raised

Barbara Archer holds up her paperwork after filing at the Yolo County Elections Office.  Her filing show she raised over $5000 for the reporting period ending June 30.
Barbara Archer holds up her paperwork after filing at the Yolo County Elections Office. Her filing show she raised over $5000 for the reporting period ending June 30.

There are currently five candidates who have filed for the DJUSD school board race, and the Vanguard has received the filings from each. Thus far, Barbara Archer, Bob Poppenga, Madhavi Sunder and Chuck Rairdan have filed for the three open four-year seats, while appointed incumbent Alan Fernandes is the lone candidate for the two-year seat that he was appointed to in May to replace Nancy Peterson who resigned in March.

Mike Nolan, who ran in 2010, has yet to file to be a candidate, however, he told the Vanguard at the event on Thursday night that he will be running.

At this stage, the candidates are in various stages of their campaign finance activities.

Madhavi Sunder, a professor of law at UC Davis for 15 years and a long time volunteer in the Davis schools, announced early last week that she had already raised over $16,000 in contributions – more than some councilmembers. Her filing lists $18,018.82 in total, with $17,087.82 in monetary contributions.

In her statement to the Vanguard she said, “My very first endorsement and contribution came from the Honorable Cruz Reynoso, former Justice of the California Supreme Court and winner of the Presidential Medal for Freedom. Carolyn de la Peña, UC Davis Interim Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, observes, “Madhavi raises the level of thinking every time she joins a discussion. She is a dynamic leader. This, combined with her passion for public education and its teachers and her on-the-ground-experience working for change in our district, makes her my choice for Davis School Board.”

She added, “A first-time candidate for public office, I have also won the endorsement of many of Davis’ leading public figures, including Senator Lois Wolk, Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, Supervisor Jim Provenza, Mayor Dan Wolk, Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson, and County Clerk-Recorder Freddie Oakley.”

She lists monetary contributions from 81 individuals in excess of $100. The filings are uploaded below for all candidates. Among those contributions are: $1000 from North Raleigh Gastroenterology, $500 from herself, Chander Harish, Sanjay Sunder, Cori Meltzer, Mark Lemley, Jyothika Panchagnula, and Sinantha Songseng, along with numerous others.

Barbara Archer, a longtime community volunteer and PR professional, was the first candidate to file.  She “was recently endorsed by the Davis Teachers Association, and has also been endorsed by Senator Lois Wolk, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, Mayor Dan Wolk, Davis City Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, Yolo County Public Guardian Cass Sylvia, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, former Yolo County School Board member Davis Campbell and former mayor and Davis Citizen of the Year 2013 Ann Evans.”

Ms. Archer has raised $5220 for the period ending on June 30, 2014. Ms. Archer received $1000 from Lindsay Weston, a local attorney, $500 from realtor Claire Black Slotton and retired professors Irwin and Leigh Segel, $300 from Pam Pacelli and Helen Hadani, $250 from Judith Schreider and Kathy Archer, $200 from Melissa and Tobin White, among others.

Bob Poppenga is a professor of veterinary toxicology at UC Davis; he joined the UCD faculty in 2004. His career as a university educator, which began in 1987, includes six years at Michigan State University and 10 years at the University of Pennsylvania. He has held leadership positions in a number of professional organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Mr. Poppenga has raised $2950, including $1750 from himself, $500 from fellow Veterinary Medicine Professor Amy Kapatkin, another $300 from Fred and Selma Kapatkin, and $100 from Chien He, Bruce Wolk and Eric Hays.

Chuck Rairdan does not report any monetary contributions at this point. Mr. Rairdan filed papers on July 25, and he is an administrator with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at its regional headquarters in San Francisco. Rairdan began his career with the Corps in 1996, and previously worked in the Los Angeles and Sacramento district offices.

He and his wife Xin, who is a lab supervisor at Genentech, moved to Davis in 1999 and have two daughters in local schools, one entering the eighth grade and the other entering the sixth grade this fall.

Mr. Rairdan was a participant in the school district’s recent strategic planning process. He lists supporters including Deborah Nichols Poulos, a former Davis City Council member and retired teacher; John W. Poulos, professor of law emeritus at UCD; Bonnie Gieschen, M.D., a special education advocate; and Koren Motekaitis, director of the Davis AquaMonsters and a radio talk show host.

School Board Trustee Alan Fernandes lists total contributions this period as $200 with $100 contributions from David Sommers, who is the Director of Public Affairs in Los Angeles County where Mr. Fernandes works, and Heidy Kellison.

Mr. Fernandes has $1514 cash on hand as holdover from his 2012 campaign. He noted to the Vanguard that he has not begun fundraising. His first event is scheduled for August 24, but at this point he is also not challenged for the two-year seat.

On Friday,  Mr. Fernandes announced his decision to run for the remaining two years of the seat he was appointed to earlier this year.

“I am running for the trustee position to continue the work of rebuilding the district for a sustainable future that I have undertaken over the past few months,” said Mr. Fernandes. “Our district is at a cross roads with the implementation of the Common Core, the enactment of the Local Control Funding Formula and the recent adoption of the strategic plan.”

He added, “I believe it is important for there to be representation on the school board from someone who was a part of the important work of the strategic planning committee. This will ensure that the recently approved mission statement and five-year strategic plan is implemented as intended by the broad cross section of our school community that created it.”

On Monday, May 5, 2014, the Davis School Board unanimously voted to appoint Mr. Fernandes to fill the vacant trustee position. According to state law and board policy, the appointed person must stand for election at the next regularly scheduled election to complete the remainder of the term.

Full Filings:











—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Mr. Toad

    The outsized fund raising is but one example of how much harder Sunder works than anyone I have ever known. We will be lucky if she is elected and focuses that energy into making our schools better places for our kids.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i didn’t do the math, but it looked like a lot of her contributions and most of the big ones were from out of state. that’s fine because she has a lot of local support, but it is interesting. why do you need $16K to run for school board when it only takes about that to run for council?

      1. DavisVoter

        I threw the Vanguard’s numbers into a spreadsheet and came up with $7,430 in individual contributions to Madhavi’s campaign from people giving Davis addresses. Note this includes only contributions of $100 or more, as no addresses are given for smaller contributions. So it looks as though she’s winning the fundraising race even if we exclude all those out-of-state dollars.

        1. Davis Progressive

          fair enough. i don’t think it matters that much, it’s not like a bunch of people from out of town are trying to buy an election out of some ill-intention.

        2. Ryan Kelly

          Too much of Sunder’s money comes from out of town sources (<50%) – from people who cannot vote for her. The video link that wdf1 posted was interesting. She comes off as way more articulate and informed than her articles, which makes me wonder if someone else is writing them for her. We run in different social circles, so I've had to rely only on what I've read in the paper and on the Vanguard. I'm looking for more substance on what she does and doesn't support, which might give an indication on how she would handle budget issues. I am impressed with her endorsement from Jim Provenza.

          From her financial report, Archer seems to have built a solid base of support from the Davis community and is running an efficient campaign without many frills. I have seen her at community events and gatherings, so I've had the chance to actually talk to her one on one.

          It is hard to gauge the others and I feel I definitely need to hear more from them.

          1. DavisVoter

            Again, it appears that Madhavi’s raised *significantly* more money from *within* Davis than any other candidate so far.

            She also appears to have many more individual donors from within Davis than Archer does. Archer seems to have 30-something donors, and that includes donations of under $100. Madhavi has 50+ individual donors who have given over $100 and who gave Davis addresses, *plus* many more donors under $100.

            The others are not even close at this point, as Greenwald notes in the article.

          2. Mr. Toad

            Its not like her out of district money is coming from Michelle Rhee, Reed Hastings or other “reformers”. Its coming from friends and family. One interesting donation is that of Spencer Overton who is a voting rights champion and law professor.

          3. Mr. Toad

            Why would a Harvard and Stanford educated law professor and author of multiple books and publications have a ghost writer? It simply preposterous.

  2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    Carolyn de la Peña, UC Davis Interim Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, observes, “Madhavi raises the level of thinking every time she joins a discussion.”

    I don’t know whether, if she is elected, Madhavi Sunder will change the level of thinking ‘every time she joins a discussion’ or not. I tend to doubt that, no matter how smart Ms. Sunder may be. It’s not as if we generally elect a bunch of dunderheads to the school board and one smart person lights up the room.

    If Sunder does win a seat, she will be the second UCD law professor in recent years to help guide our school board. The other was Marty West, who the Vanguard portrayed as ethically challenged a couple of times. The first was in terms of Ms. West’s financial relationship with the school district’s business director, Tahir Ahad, who, if I recall correctly, hired West for his consultancy. The second regarded a questionable independent expenditure campaign Ms. West directed on behalf of Sydney Vergis, who twice was the firefighters’ candidate.

    I don’t bring up the controversies regarding Marty West to say they have any direct bearing on Ms. Sunder. But I think, at the very least, they suggest that just because someone is a law professor at UCD, it does not follow that they will raise the level of the school board in any way. Given that so much of Madhavi Sunder’s support comes from her university colleagues, it appears to me that her campaign is trying to portray that as some kind of cause and effect.

    1. Davis Progressive

      ” I tend to doubt that, no matter how smart Ms. Sunder may be. It’s not as if we generally elect a bunch of dunderheads to the school board and one smart person lights up the room.”

      yeah it kind of is. whenever i hear sheila allen talk, i’m always waiting for the pom-poms to come out. for my money, only tim taylor is a deep thinker on that board and he’s disengaged most of the time.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Well, if you are saying that you don’t think Sheila is bright, then I disagree with you. I might not agree with her on various issues–which is not unusual for me and those well to the left or right–but I found Sheila quite sharp. If she has a blind spot, I think she was excessively trusting of those she personally liked. That led her to mistakes like the pizza parlor party celebrating the departure of Steve Pinkerton. (Oh, by the way … Pinkerton’s Davis house has still not sold. They reduced the price. I saw a week or so ago a moving van taking the last of his family’s belongings out of there.)

    2. DavisVoter

      If you read the last paragraph of Rifkin’s comment carefully, you see that he actually concedes the irrelevance of his point, except to a strawman argument that no one is actually making.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        It’s probably good that your writing is so daft that I cannot figure if you are trying to insult me or if you are just a light weight who is hiding behind his little pseudonym.

        1. Mr. Toad

          If you admit that Marty West’s history is not relevant to Sunder why bother to bring it up? As for Marty West, whatever failures occurred on her watch they seem overshadowed by some of the failures in the recent past. Perhaps this is because time makes us forget or perhaps its because time gives us perspective. One thing is certain that Marty and her board put together a fantastic deal to sell the surplus Grande property. Those who came after unwound that deal and ten years later the district still is sitting on that stranded asset. So in fairness to Marty she did some things right. In fairness to Sunder let’s evaluate her on her own merits.

        2. DavisVoter

          Rich Rifkin —

          I’m certainly not trying to insult anyone.

          I’m simply pointing out that your point (Marty West was controversial)

          …is irrelevant (“I don’t bring up the controversies … to say they have any direct bearing”)

          …except as to an argument that no one is making (that there is a conclusive “cause and effect” relationship between being a UCD law prof and “rais[ing] the level of the school board”).

          If I can further clarify this for you, please do let me know.

          Please try to adhere to the standards of civil discourse observed on this forum. Thank you.

    3. wdf1

      From what I know of the history of the DJUSD board, it’s unusual right now that there isn’t currently at least one UCD faculty/affiliate occupying a seat. At present there are now two candidates — Sunder & Poppenga — who are UCD faculty.

      My reservation about both is that there are instances (mostly from the public interviews to fill the remainder of Peterson’s term) where I get the distinct impression that they have only just recently thought about or engaged key issues that the board and district face. Being teaching faculty can be an asset, but this is about policy governance and public accountability. I cringe at the thought of candidates leading too much with, “I’m a UCD professor.”

      1. DavisVoter

        Can you be any more specific about what gave you the distinct impression that Madhavi and Bob just recently started thinking about or engaging key issues?

        1. wdf1

          Poppenga didn’t make it out of the preliminary round, so I have a more limited view of him. He had some good points in his presentation, but I thought he lingered a little long on classroom policy/perspectives. Important, but he lost the opportunity to acknowledge and develop thoughts on some recent board issues — school budgeting, micro-management vs. broader policy oversight, strategic planning.

          Sunder’s response to Allen’s question at about 22 minutes on this video on the topic of school reconfiguration/closure. This question came after discussing what role she played in the strategic planning process. What I don’t think she realized was that board discussion of school district reconfiguration a little more than a year ago was the direct catalyst for the strategic planning process. Although she acknowledged the strategic planning process later in her answer, it is the strategic planning process that provided a ground up assessment, by community volunteers and school staff, for how reconfiguration might fit into a bigger picture for the district. It left me thinking that she only began engaging more fully in school board issues when she joined the strategic plan process.

          To Sunder’s credit, she’s a focused hard worker on her campaign, presents herself well in front of an audience, and can definitely raise campaign money. She may ultimately earn my vote, but I definitely need to hear more.

          For both candidates (and really every single school board candidate), I like to see evidence of being able to understand and talk about the district budget to the Davis community. This is a very tall order, because it is dry, complex, and often sleep-inducing, and even current board members struggle to explain the greater details to the public when the occasion arises. But this is one of the biggest responsibilities of board members if one wishes to get the community on the same page to understand why certain cuts were made, and why the board proposes to put up a school parcel tax for vote. We’re in better times now, fiscally, but odds are good that the newly elected board members will face leaner years.

          1. DavisVoter

            It sounded to me as though she was saying that there was some kind of initial discussion of reconfiguration that could have been framed better, and that both the strategic plan process and the election process are channels of communication. I honestly don’t see how you get from this that she wasn’t thinking about school district issues up until she participated in the strategic plan process. It seems like a total non sequitur to me; if anything, it suggests she was paying attention before the strategic plan process started.

      2. Mr. Toad

        I don’t think trying to appeal to four sitting board members is a good indication of anything more than trying to sell yourself to the incumbents. As an example, if she had a problem with how the district conducted the Peterson complaint against Julie Crawford spending over $30,000 by the time it was over, she wasn’t going to bring it up. Yet if you read her statements about the district spending money on lawyers and consultants you might infer that she has problems with the way things have been run in the recent past.

      3. Mr. Toad

        I have been having long, respectful and in depth conversations with Sunder about education and DJUSD for over two years since our kids were in first grade together. I’m sure she has been thinking about these issues for a long time. While teaching at the university is in many ways different than teaching k-12 good teaching is good teaching. Remember that best seller, “Everything I ever needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.” As for running a school district I think having teaching experience at any level is a plus.

  3. Mr. Toad

    I’ve personally spoken with 4 of the candidates 3 and Fernandes. They are all bright enough and idealistic enough but they also lack k-12 policy experience so they all lack depth. Still I have no doubt that they can learn. After all they certainly have the diplomas to prove it. For me the thing that sets Sunder apart is how hard she works and how well she listens to what people have concerns about. I think she will make an excellent board member.

  4. Ryan Kelly

    I base my suspicions on more than just the difference in how she speaks and how she writes. There was a typo in one of her articles on the Vanguard where she referred to “her” experience, rather than “my” experience.

    I still believe that having over 50% of her campaign funds coming from people who can’t vote here and won’t be impacted by her votes is too much.

    1. Mr. Toad

      Why? Are you suggesting there is some conflict of interest between Sunder and these donors? Also i don’t remember you raising such an issue with any other candidates for any offices in the past. Why now?

    2. Mr. Toad

      I tried to go back and find the typo you are referring to Ryan but was unable to locate it. What I did find was a long series of negative posts by you attacking Sunder. So what is the deal? What is the issue with her that has you so upset? I’ve known her personally for a number of years. I have no reservations at all about her serving. I don’t understand your attacks.

    3. anonymous

      Do you seriously suggest a supposed typo (that you don’t link to) between ‘her’ and ‘my’ on a Vanguard column as support for your claim that Sunder is not a strong writer? (Actually, have you looked at her credentials? Do you really want to insult people who are willing to enter public service on such a shaky foundation?

      You have said negative things without any substantiation about Sunder again and again–and offered praise for Archer. About Archer you write, “From her financial report, Archer seems to have built a solid base of support from the Davis community”–even though Sunder has 50+ local donors while Archer has 30+ local donors (as DavisVoter points out above).

      We should be grateful that individuals like Sunder and Archer–and the others–are willing to enter public service, instead of running them down.

  5. Ryan Kelly

    I am not attacking her. I am questioning her statements both past and present and challenging her to be more than a list of endorsements and a bank balance. We’ve made mistakes in the recent past when candidates were not vetted well. She still has not publicly changed her stance on GATE, which I do disagree with, but I am not a one issue voter. It’s a campaign. If she can’t respond to explain herself, but rather relies on others to be her bodyguards, I won’t vote for her.

    1. anonymous

      Have you put others to the same test? It doesn’t appear so from your comments on these forums.

      She has written numerous columns already–and you might use the Google to find tons more writing by her. You yourself concede that she comes off as “articulate and informed.” Of all the candidates, she has by far the most published statements.

      No one disputing you here is her bodyguard. But the numerous people who have spoken here have simply challenged the biased and unfair comments you’ve offered thus far.

      “I’m not attacking her” is entirely disingenuous. An article about Sunder on this forum or on the Enterprise without a negative comment by you is all too rare.

      1. Ryan Kelly

        I’m sure she has a solid base of supporters from the GATE community, who are interested in maintaining the status quo. So, what does it matter that I call her out on issues I feel are important to me? Though I am just as questioning with all candidates for public office, why do I need to prove that to the supporters of a particular candidate ?

      2. DavisVoter

        “Though I am just as questioning with all candidates for public office”

        I’m calling BS on that one. The record speaks for itself at this point.

        The obsession with attacking Madhavi at every turn, including on extremely frivolous grounds (“WHY hasn’t she turned in her candidate paperwork yet?”) strikes me as a little strange. I certainly hope it just reflects your idea of smart campaigning against someone you oppose, rather than something else.

        1. Ryan Kelly

          I fully expect her to sail into office with little challenge. Hopefully, she will be the Trustee that people say that she will be.

          I find it more than troubling that issues that people have in the past hammered candidates over such as campaign financing and endorsements from employee unions, are glossed over with this candidate. Now, that is BS.

          As for my so called record, I just don’t care what you think. I know the damage that can be done to a child who doesn’t fit into the idealistic world that is Davis schools with policies that are designed to push out troubled kids.

  6. Mr. Toad

    While I am a supporter of Sunder I am not a surrogate. I don’t know her exact position on gate but I’m sure that all the candidates will be asked about GATE so there is plenty of time for her to address that issue. What I do know is that with a large gate population it is going to be difficult to make any changes to the program without the parents of gate students feeling they have a voice on the school board. Thinking that shutting out large constituencies at the ballot box is the path to advancing change will not work. Only when the advocates of gate are at the table can any progress be made in changing the program. Only when gate parents hear from one of their own what is the best path forward will they listen. Currently it seems there is much smoke but little light on gate. The situation is quite polarized. If anyone can find the path forward it is likely Sunder.

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