Analysis: Battle for Third For the School Board?

Barbara Archer (left) and Madhavi Sunder (right) appear to be the frontrunners for two of the three four year spots.
Barbara Archer (left) and Madhavi Sunder (right) appear to be the frontrunners for two of the three four year spots.

We are a week away from the Vanguard’s DJUSD School Board Candidates Forum, which will be a week from tomorrow (Wednesday, September 17) at 6:30 at the Fellowship Hall at Davis Community Church, and which is co-sponsored by Davis Media Access, who will be recording and replaying the forum over and over again.

We have passed the crucial Labor Day marker and are now less than two months from the election. It is quiet; however, despite the large volume of candidates, it may just be that we know who three of the four winners will be.

There is of course no suspense whatsoever as to who will win the two-year seat and that is because Alan Fernandes is running unopposed. Again, nothing against Mr. Fernandes, but that is most unfortunate. A lot of candidates probably wagered that it would be easier to run for the three open seats for the four-year terms rather than opposing an appointed incumbent (albeit a strong one even without being appointed) for a two-year seat.

However, and this is our first handicapping, it looks right now like there are two very strong candidates for the four-year seats.

They took different paths to get there, but Madhavi Sunder and Barbara Archer look like near locks to win seats. Madhavi Sunder was relatively unknown a few months ago, but she has assembled a campaign team second to none, she parlayed her position as finalist in the appointment into a strong campaign that hit the ground running and has picked up endorsements from what appears to be a majority of voters.

However, Barbara Archer, who has spent years working as a parent volunteer at all levels of the school district, is running just as strong. She looked like she might have had the edge for the appointment because she was a bit better known, but the school board, figuring they had three very strong candidates, opted for consensus (all four had voted for Alan Fernandes in the first round) and electoral experience.

Both candidates have the support of the Davis Teachers Association and the Yolo County Democratic Party.

Both have the endorsement of Senator Lois Wolk, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, and both Davis Supervisors Jim Provenza and Don Saylor.

Both have the support of all five councilmembers. The one difference may be that four school board members endorsed Barbara Archer, but only Gina Daleiden and Tim Taylor endorsed Madhavi Sunder.

But it is pretty even, and Madhavi Sunder adds Cruz Reynoso and School Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

While I probably have Madhavi Sunder as the leader at this point, Barbara Archer figures to be a close second.

But that leaves us with a big question mark: who finishes third? And that seems wide open. It has been pretty quiet so far. Each of the five candidates has some edge.

For Mike Nolan, he ran before in 2010, losing to the three incumbents and he has, like the two ladies, picked up the endorsements from the Davis Teachers Association and Yolo County Democratic Party. However, we have not heard much from him in terms of a campaign thus far.

Then you have Tom Adams. Mr. Adams was actually the fourth place finisher when the board appointed Alan Fernandes. He received two votes, falling just shy, and only four candidates received votes. He has a strong background in volunteering in the district.

Bob Poppenga is more of an academic, but he has gotten some exposure, writing a few columns in the Vanguard.

Chuck Rairdan is a parent and served on the strategic planning committee.

Finally you have Jose Granda, who has been the vocal opposition to every parcel tax. While that is clearly a minority view, if he can land a similar number of votes – around 6000 – as he did in 2012, he could end up placing third.

The bottom line, from our perspective, is that we believe we can safely pick three of the winners in this most important school board election. However, the third place finisher for the four-year seats is wide open and we can make a credible case for any of the five.

Right now, if we had to guess, the edge would be with Mr. Adams, Mr. Nolan and Mr. Granda, but that is really speculation and could change rapidly.

Make sure to join us next Wednesday at the candidates forum and find out more about all of the candidates.

—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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35 Comments

  1. wdf1

    Vanguard: But it is pretty even, and Madhavi Sunder adds Cruz Reynoso and School Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

    I think Torlakson’s endorsement is very recent. I also understand from reliable secondhand info that Torlakson endorsed Sunder, Archer, Nolan, and Adams. Yes, 4 candidates for 3 seats.

  2. DavisAnon

    I’m glad to see you write on this subject. Sunder, Poppenga and Archer seem to be getting out there to learn about the issues and what people in our community have to say about them. Adams, on the other hand, seems to be treating this as a “pro bono consultancy” in which he is offering to share his beauracratic “expertise” making state policy in Sacramento. Does he not realize that as a school board trustee, he needs to be serving us (the public) and not pushing his own agenda? He would be a public servant but doesn’t seem to understand that is his job. I don’t see him making an effort to educate himself about the issues at hand – it’s as if he feels his work experience is all he needs.

    I am also concerned that the only surviving Board trustee from the volleyball fiasco, Susan Lovenburg, may be trying to hand-select who she serves her remaining term with. I have still not forgetten her horrible management of the Coach Crawford issue where she would only list unspecified “factors” as the reason she voted as she did. That was followed up by a condescending letter to the public telling us to calm down and move on. That letter jettisoned Sheila Allen’s campaign, but Susan was the co-author and has suffered very little fall-out. Unfortunately it will be 2 more years before the last incumbent in that disaster can be voted off the Board.

    It appears that Lovenburg is trying to stack the deck so her votes go through (which they rarely do at this point). Now Lovenburg is endorsing Archer, Adams and Nolan and supporting their runs (even standing with Adams and Nolan at Farmer’s Market). Lovenburg, Adams, and Nolan all donated to Archer’s campaign. While Archer has mounted a campaign, Adams and Nolan seem to be running simply based on the support of Susan’s political ties. Neither of them have even made webpages for people to go and read what they support and their views on the issues facing the schools. Nolan stated in the Enterprise when he ran the last time that he was running “against” the panel/slate of Allen, Daleiden and Taylor. This time, however, it looks like he is running as part of Susan’s bloc.

    If Lovenburg, Archer, and Nolan are on the Board, that will be THREE former Willett PTA presidents voting at once (a majority). The representation of trustees in our community needs to be distributed more equitably than that. We need some people who represent other parts of town, especially South Davis which has dealt with all the difficulties at Montgomery Elementary.

    Now is the time to get some new and independent voices on the School Board, not to simply vote elect new trustees who don’t even seem to value the community enough to want to hear our views, learn about the issues or mount a real campaign effort and will simply cast their votes in lock step with the incumbent trustee who got them elected.

    1. ryankelly

      Isn’t your complaint really that she isn’t endorsing your preferred candidate?

      There are many people in town that support Lovenberg and view her as a practical, steadying voice on the Board. Your insertion of negativity into the election is wholly unappreciated.

      1. anonymous

        Coming from “Ryan Kelly” that is a bit rich.

        Here is a typical Kelly complaint about Sunder: “Her campaign is a little strange – an arts and crafts event for kids at the library and a coffee to meet with teachers.”

        By the way, is Ryan Kelly a pseudonym?

    2. Barack Palin

      “I have still not forgetten her horrible management of the Coach Crawford issue where she would only list unspecified “factors” as the reason she voted as she did. That was followed up by a condescending letter to the public telling us to calm down and move on. That letter jettisoned Sheila Allen’s campaign, but Susan was the co-author and has suffered very little fall-out. Unfortunately it will be 2 more years before the last incumbent in that disaster can be voted off the Board.”

      Well said and I totally agree.

    3. wdf1

      DavisAnon: Nolan stated in the Enterprise when he ran the last time that he was running “against” the panel/slate of Allen, Daleiden and Taylor. This time, however, it looks like he is running as part of Susan’s bloc.

      When Nolan ran in 2010, he did not mount any serious campaign, I don’t think he figured he would win a seat on the board. I was unaware of any campaigning that he did. I sensed that his purpose was likely to make the incumbents run a serious campaign and talk to the voters, otherwise their names would not have even appeared on the ballot. I appreciated it. It would have been nice if such a person would have filed for Fernandes’ seat for the same reason, but it does cost time and money even to file. I don’t know how serious a candidate Nolan is this go around.

      I don’t think Lovenburg endorsed Nolan. Where did you find that info, especially because as you say, Nolan doesn’t even have a website up. Did you ask him or Lovenburg?

      1. wdf1

        DavisAnon: If Lovenburg, Archer, and Nolan are on the Board, that will be THREE former Willett PTA presidents voting at once (a majority).

        Also, I’m unaware that Lovenburg was ever Willett PTA president. Where did you learn that?

    4. wdf1

      DavisAnon: Adams, on the other hand, seems to be treating this as a “pro bono consultancy” in which he is offering to share his beauracratic “expertise” making state policy in Sacramento. Does he not realize that as a school board trustee, he needs to be serving us (the public) and not pushing his own agenda? He would be a public servant but doesn’t seem to understand that is his job. I don’t see him making an effort to educate himself about the issues at hand – it’s as if he feels his work experience is all he needs.

      Meaning what? He’s not campaigning seriously? What agenda do you think he’s trying to push? I think he’s tabled at the Farmer’s Market once or twice. I think he’s delayed in gearing up a campaign.

      There was an informative article about Tom Adams in the Enterprise from Dec. 17, 2009. It was about how his day job with the California Dept. of Education connected to his volunteer work on the Chavez Elementary site council at the time when he had a child going there.

        1. wdf1

          DV: No, Davis Enterprise links to their online article archives go back to about 2011. I have access to a database that lists articles earlier than that, but it isn’t publicly accessible. I gave the date so that anyone who wants can look it up on microfilm at the Davis public library or at the Shields library. I remembered when the article came out originally.

  3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    “They took different paths to get there, but Madhavi Sunder and Barbara Archer look like near locks to win seats.”

    In my travels around Davis, mostly on bicycle, the only campaign signs I have seen for school board candidates are for Sunder and Archer, with far more for Sunder. Not that it will matter at all, but Sunder’s signs–a sort of washed-out mustard yellow with white writing–are the worst I have ever seen in Davis politics. They are very hard to read. There is no contrast between the ugly background and the script. Again, it won’t hurt her. She will win a seat. But I do have to question the visual acuity of her approving that design.

    Speaking of campaign signs: Not so much in Davis, but elsewhere in our Assembly district, I am seeing new, large format signs for Charlie Schaupp and Bill Dodd popping up. The first Dodd sign I saw was on Lincoln Street in Dixon, near Ron Dupratt Ford. The first Schaupp sign on Winters Road, just south of the new bridge. Both Assemblyh candidates have fine designs for their signs. … And finally, along Putah Creek Road, west of Winters, just west of the Lake Solano diversion dam, there remains one old (still hard to read) Joe Krovoza for Assembly sign (small format), which was apparently forgotten by Joe’s campaign. I’ve seen it there for months, as I often, like most cyclists in our region, ride that route back to Winters from Pleasants Valley.

    1. DavisVoter

      It’s funny. When I saw first saw Madhavi’s signs, I thought of an Enterprise column by someone named Rifkin that concluded:

      “It’s surprising, then, how many campaigns fail to express what seems so simple: first name, last name, office.”

      http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/opinion-columns/whos-winning-the-lawn-sign-war/

      So I’m a bit surprised that you find Madhavi’s signs (“Madhavi Sunder Davis School Board”) to be “the worst I have ever seen in Davis politics.”

      Are we perhaps looking at different signs? The ones I see are more a “vibrant orange” than a “washed-out mustard yellow” …

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Vibrant orange? You need to get your eyes checked. I love the color orange. I wear a lot of orange. I know orange. Those Sunder signs are not orange or any variation of the color of the Dutch nation.

        DV, in the same piece, I was critical of Joe Krovoza’s signs, because they were hard to read on a drive by:

        “But that is also a big negative. Lawn signs are not about artistry. At just 25 feet it is very hard to read them.”

        Sunder’s mistake had nothing to do with wording or artistry. They win on simplicity and so on. However, the faded mustard does not contrast with the white in the sunlight, which makes them hard to read as you quickly pass by. This could have been solved by outlining the white lettering in Davis High blue. … On the other hand, since she has far more signs than her competitors, anyone paying attention will likely come to realize that faded mustard and white represents Madhavi’s campaign, even if they cannot make out the letters.

        Oh, and by the way, I spotted a couple of Poppenga signs today. One was on Anderson Road, as it turns east amid the bird streets. It was readable: blue and white, the colors of my old Davis High football team.

        One more sign spotted: A Bill Dodd sign on the south side of Covell Blvd, just east of Sycamore Lane. I am not sure if the owner of those apartments puts up signs there–earlier this year Rochelle Swanson’s signs lined that stretch–or if campaign volunteers just presume it is okay.

        1. DavisVoter

          “I wear a lot of orange.”

          Now that I believe. It is the new black, after all. And you’re clearly not averse to sporting a delightful shade of canary on occasion either. I see on sunderforschools.org that the candidate has orange and yellow in her wardrobe as well. It’s those little things in common that build support … maybe you’ll consider a donation soon? Or even a lawn sign?

          With all these candidates, working blue and white into every single sign could get tiresome. But then again, only Sunder, Poppenga, and Archer seem to have active campaigns at this point…

        2. Matt Williams

          Rich, it isn’t hard to verify what the color actually is. All one has to do is look at Madhavi’s ad here on the Vanguard (to the right of and above this comment). Do you think that ad color is orange or washed-out mustard yellow?

  4. Peabody

    Although Alan Fernandes is currently running unopposed on the ballot, there is the possibility that a write-in candidate could win the 2-year seat. According to the Yolo Elections Office, all write-in candidates must file their statements of candidacy with the county Elections Office during the period September 8 – October 21, 2014.

      1. Matt Williams

        It would be practical if it were practical, but it isn’t practical. Practicality only comes in one flavor. Practicality only happens when there is a legal prohibition in effect that makes non-practicality impractical.

      1. MrsW

        There is a national discussion going on that schools may be failing boys. Here is just one article from 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/09/how-to-make-school-better-for-boys/279635/. I recently read a book entitled “Teaching Boys Who Struggle in School: Strategies That Turn Underachievers into Successful Learners” that makes the case that the improvement we see in girls’ education has NOT been at the expense of boys, but US boys are struggling as a group, in an of themselves. There have been recent notable cases, where a judge or government personal experience or politics influenced their decision-making. Gay marriage, for example, has gained traction as people in power recognized their family members were gay. As our School Board makes decisions that affect our children, I hope they don’t assume boys don’t need their attention because, well, they’re boys. I think a person who is a parent to boys may “get it” better than one who doesn’t.

          1. MrsW

            Good catch. I should have said high school age. Of course all sons count. Very very much. But to represent me, I think a parent of younger children will not have as clear a view of this phenomenon.

        1. Frankly

          Boy, do I agree with this. And not only boys. But it just so happens that boys are over-represented in the population of students having wiring and development needs outside that shrinking box of what the education system wants to define as template learners.

  5. wdf1

    DavisAnon: We need some people who represent other parts of town, especially South Davis which has dealt with all the difficulties at Montgomery Elementary.

    Please elaborate on what difficulties you see at Montgomery?

    1. DavisAnon

      Years of falling enrollment and revolving door for principals and teachers. There is a marked difference in demographics between MME and Pioneer that at times has been problematic. Hopefully things are improving with dual immersion. Nancy Peterson got a lot of support in her campaign for her focus on school issues in South Davis. It’s important to continue supporting Montgomery (& all our schools) and to elect a board that will serve our whole community.

      1. wdf1

        A lot of that is attributable to DJUSD compliance with No Child Left Behind. Montgomery was the first school to go into program improvement (PI). This occurred when average student test scores at Montgomery for targeted sub-groups didn’t reach the yearly rising benchmarks.

        These are some of the things that NCLB requires for schools that don’t make those Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets

        Notify parents of PI status of school and school choice.

        Provide choice to attend another public school served by the LEA that is not PI.

        Replace all or most staff including principal.

        Implement new curriculum.

        Extend school year or day.

        When notices go out to parents inviting them to enroll their child in a school that isn’t in program improvement, then yes, you will see enrollment fall further at a PI school. MME now has dual immersion (new curriculum), but NCLB is still in effect. Even though the district is required to respond in this way, there is far more going on than NCLB can adequately address.

        There is a larger percentage of lower income families attending MME than any other Davis school. Calling the whole issue “difficulties at Montgomery Elementary” is really a euphemistic way of saying that there are dramatic income and education differences reflected in parents of kids at MME relative to other schools.

    2. wdf1

      DavisAnon: We need some people who represent other parts of town, especially South Davis which has dealt with all the difficulties at Montgomery Elementary.

      By the way, Tom Adams lives in south Davis. I guess that’s a reason to vote for him?

      1. DavisAnon

        It potentially could be. I don’t know where he lives or what he has done to educate himself on the status of The differing schools I Davis. I have not decided where all of my votes are going so I’m asking questions to help me make an informed decision. I can’t say I know what Adams stands for at all as I can’t find much information. I know he has worked for many years in state curriculum policy. I know he worked on part of the strategic planning process but I think all or nearly all the candidates did. I looked him up in the Enterprise and he mentioned serving as a 2 year trustee on an “a la carte” basis but it appears he decided to run for the 4 year seat instead. State policy experience may or may not be helpful. I am looking for someone who shows that they are in interested in hearing the views and concerns of the community, not just going with what the administration proposes. I have been so disappointed in Lovenburg’s actions as a trustee, that I have shifted from formerly supporting her to being wary about anyone she seems to be pushing as a candidate.

        These candidates need to earn my vote by showing me why they are running and that they are serious about doing the work to do a good job. If candidates don’t even make the effort to campaign, what does that say about how they will be as trustees? It’s all I have to evaluate them on at this point. I want critical thinkers, not glad-handing politicians. I’m still concerned that the administration were the ones who pulled Coach Crawford’s VSA, but it took months before the Board halfheartedly put a stop to it. If that behavior continues, we will see talented teachers and principals leave for other districts. We elect the Board, and I want to make sure the new Board is full of independent thinkers who will go investigate issues, listen to the community and come to their own conclusions, not just rubber-stamp what the administration puts in front of them. Obviously every voter will cast their own vote based on their own criteria. But with 2 months to go before 4 seats are elected, it’s time to look at these candidates or we will only have ourselves to blame.

        Ok, I’m off my soap-box now but felt I should at least respond to some if the questions raised by earlier responses.

        1. wdf1

          Susan Lovenburg is one of the more responsive school board trustees if you want to talk to her in person. She’d probably be just as willing to talk if you disagreed with her as she would if you agreed with her. Her district e-mail is slovenburg( at )djusd.net.

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