Bee Endorses Three For School Board

A few weeks ago, the Vanguard analyzed the school board race and concluded that at that time it was essentially a race for third. Nothing has happened to change that view and the question will become, in the next few weeks, who will emerge as the third candidate.

This weekend, it appears that both the Sacramento Bee and Davis Enterprise have or will announce their endorsements. The Bee announced on Friday that they were endorsing Tom Adams, Barbara Archer and Madhavi Sunder for the school board.

The Bee writes, “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,” the Bee writes. “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,” the Bee continues.

“Seven candidates are running. All have impressive credentials and solid service histories,” they write. “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.”

The question is, of course, why those three: “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.”

Barbara Archer: She, “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.”

Tom Adams: He “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.”

Madhavi Sunder: She “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.”

Why not the others?

The Bee writes: “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.”

The Bee continues: “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,” the Bee writes.

Without quibbling with the Bee choices, it is curious that they would focus so heavily on volunteerism. Certainly the problems of Nancy Peterson were not avoided by her extensive involvement in the school district – if anything, they were exacerbated by it.

The questions we received from our audience at the candidates’ forum moved away from service to the schools and toward substantive issues. If anything, voters will be looking away from those who have ties to the existing system and toward new voices that can offer solutions to longstanding problems.

Again, we are not criticizing the choices so much as the methodology and rationale for those choices.

—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.

Related posts

31 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    David

    I can see a couple of possible reasons for the heavy emphasis on volunteerism especially involving different aspects of the schools.
    1. Volunteering is usually done at a fairly basic level which provides a hands on
    ground level view of how things work.
    2. Volunteering by definition involves a strong personal commitment to the institution
    and can be seen as a level of devotion to the enterprise.
    3. While volunteering can be seen as a positive in having allowed the candidate to build strong relationships and alliances, it also may be seen as having the downside of possibly having become too close to groups promoting their own best interests. I will use an example from the current candidates. I am a supporter of Madhavi Sundar.
    Having said that , I have a hard time seeing how she can truly be objective and impartial in matters concerning the Gate program. Will she recuse herself, or will she justify to herself actions that favor this group thinking that after all, her advocacy for this program was well known and she was still elected ? These are the kinds of issues that can arise when one has been and remains very intimately involved with the schools.

  2. wdf1

    Vanguard: Without quibbling with the Bee choices, it is curious that they would focus so heavily on volunteerism.

    Why not value volunteerism in deciding whom to elect? Volunteerism is a common activity among parents in the schools. There is a good argument to make that through volunteering one gains a better view for how a school operates, what the culture of the school is, and maybe who key people are at the school site(s) or in the district as a whole. For a new school board member it might save on the need for a good amount of on the job training. It lends a certain credibility to what the candidate says during the campaign.

    1. DavisVoter

      In general, the school board’s basic purpose is oversight and governance. Excessive emphasis on volunteerism rewards candidates who may have been captured by particular views or attitudes in the course of dutifully working their way up through an insider-dominated system largely controlled by the administration. Relatedly, overemphasizing volunteer activities can disfavor candidates who might take a more independent and critical view toward administration and prior board policies.

      In particular, we saw how well the volunteerism-first argument panned out for school fundraiser par excellence Nancy Peterson. Because I reject the idea that school boosterism is the critical qualification for school board candidates, I didn’t endorse or vote for her. By the way, did you endorse Peterson? An answer to this question would help us evaluate your judgment.

      1. wdf1

         DavisVoter:  By the way, did you endorse Peterson? An answer to this question would help us evaluate your judgment.

        I’ve said here before that I supported Peterson, and I regret it in light of the volleyball scandal.  If you want to make an issue of it, then there are a number of public officials who supported Peterson and who are now endorsing Sunder.  Is evidence of their past support of Peterson reason to question their judgement, too?

        Brett Lee: Peterson will make smart choices

        Delaine Eastin: 3 candidates are impressive

        other endorsers of Peterson & Sunder

        Dan Wolk

        Lois Wolk

        Gina Daleiden

        Sheila Allen

        Helen Thomson

        Rochelle Swanson

        Jim Provenza

        1. Don Shor

          Quick: remind us who the alternatives were. I don’t recall anything during that campaign that would have led anyone to expect the inappropriate behavior that followed.

        2. DavisVoter

          Some responses from the Adams camp come two days late, some come three days late, and some come 12 days late.

          You continue to overvalue volunteerism after Peterson so I question your judgment.

          I see no evidence that that’s true of the people you mention.  They may well be giving volunteerism some weight, but not overwhelming weight, and supporting Madhavi based at least in part on considerations other than volunteerism.  It’s not surprising given Madhavi’s many strengths that she attracts support from all quarters.

           

        3. wdf1

          DavisVoter:  I see no evidence that that’s true of the people you mention.  They may well be giving volunteerism some weight, but not overwhelming weight, and supporting Madhavi based at least in part on considerations other than volunteerism.  It’s not surprising given Madhavi’s many strengths that she attracts support from all quarters.

          Fair enough.  Everyone I listed is also endorsing Archer.  Perhaps it’s not surprising, given Archers many strengths that she attracts support from all quarters?

      2. DavisVoter

        It seems you’re abandoning the “volunteerism is critical” argument in favor of an “overlapping endorsers” argument.

        I understand why candidates pursue endorsements.  If some voters want to await a seal of approval from say, Sheila Allen before deciding to support a candidate, that’s their privilege. and apparently many voters will exercise that privilege.

        But endorsements don’t mean much to me personally.  For example, an endorsement in and of itself doesn’t tell you why the person gave the endorsement.  If someone endorses Madhavi for reasons I agree with and endorses Tom Adams for reasons I disagree with, then I would agree with one endorsement and disagree with the other.

        1. wdf1

          DavisVoter: It seems you’re abandoning the “volunteerism is critical” argument in favor of an “overlapping endorsers” argument.

          Not really.  Just following up to point out that key endorsers (public officials) often use volunteerism, involvement, or community service to justify their support to others.

          Brett Lee:

          I am very impressed with the many years of service that Barbara Archer has volunteered to the Davis school system. These years of experience have provided her with an in-depth understanding of the challenges the schools face.
          ….
          I am also very impressed with Madhavi Sunder…. She has experience volunteering in our community in a variety of areas and currently works as an educator at UCD.

          Lois Wolk:

          I would like to recommend Madhavi Sunder, Barbara Archer and Bob Poppenga. All have been active in the schools.

           

          Don Saylor, endorsing Archer, Sunder, & Adams:

          Please take a look at these three to see their amazing professional backgrounds and records of community service.

        2. DavisVoter

          Two of the three people you mention, Brett Lee and Lois Wolk, have endorsed Bob Poppenga and not Tom Adams, so apparently they disagree with the Bee’s assessment that Poppenga’s volunteerism isn’t “comprehensive” enough.  Saylor didn’t state a specific reason for preferring Adams to Poppenga.

          I’d expect some basic level of volunteer service as a qualification for office, and all the leading candidates have met that threshold, as the Bee acknowledges.  I wouldn’t automatically turn to the amount of volunteer service as the deciding factor among otherwise qualified candidates, as the Bee appears to have done and as you seem to be urging us to do by defending the Bee’s analysis.   Indeed, the Peterson situation indicates that it’s dangerous to pass too quickly from “tons of volunteerism” to “great candidate.”

          Apparently the “key endorsers” you mention agree with my analytical framework more often than not at this point, but I’m personally not too concerned with that.  For example, I certainly wouldn’t expect all of Madhavi’s hundreds of endorsers to agree on all the reasons they support her or the weight to be assigned those reasons.

  3. Anon

    Personally I’m looking for candidates with fresh ideas, and no ties to former school board members or administrators. I think we need a new perspective that is not necessarily in lock step with the old way of doing things.

    1. wdf1

      I find it interesting how “little experience” and “no ties” seems to be subtly framed as “fresh ideas”. I hear a number of things from the endorsed candidates that are fresh ideas to me.

      1. Frankly

        It is similar to the Stockholm Syndrome. You would need to be out of captivity for a while to be deprogrammed so you can function objectively.

        Education needs Chief Destruction Officers.

        What is a CDO?

        In every organization, lots of hard work goes into getting it to the top of its particular hill. Hopefully, that effort pays of, and indeed the summit is reached. It is at that point you realize that, to progress, the organization needs to climb to a new, higher peak. But, as every mountaineer knows, to get from one peak to another, you have to go down before you can go up. And the only way you can do that with an organization is to disassemble it, than rebuild it better and stronger – a job for, yes, you are ahead of me, a Chief Destruction Officer.

        1. Tia Will

          Frankly
          “he only way you can do that with an organization is to disassemble it, than rebuild it better and stronger – a job for, yes, you are ahead of me, a Chief Destruction Officer.”

          One thing that you are missing is that in a school system, to first destroy and then rebuild would mean that you would have to “sacrifice” the educations of those in the system during the “destruction” phase. If I still had children in the system, this would be totally unacceptable to me.

          Fortunately, you are in error. Destruction is not necessary prior to rebuilding. There are a number of different options.
          1. You could choose to run program changes sequentially letting those that are doing well with the current curriculum proceed through it as they are while moving to the new system grade by grade.
          2. You could choose to run program changes in parallel in each grade by assessing the individual learning styles of each student and tracking them by learning style.
          3. You could keep the best elements of the current system while incorporating the best elements from the new system.
          4. You could run the two systems in tandem for
          “X” amount of time to assess which provides for the best outcomes and then gradually wean off the less effective program.
          Progress can and should be made without destruction.

          1. Frankly

            One thing that you are missing is that in a school system, to first destroy and then rebuild would mean that you would have to “sacrifice” the educations of those in the system during the “destruction” phase.

            Looks at the stats Dr… kids are being “sacrificed” every day because the system is too crappy to keep them engaged and meet their education needs.

            You can foster destruction and reformation in a more orderly way with vouchers and privatization. Because this will create the incubator of ideas that will result in the best working new models… instead of entrenched education system operatives coming up with the next set of one-size-does-not-fit-more-than-a-few standards that have the primary goal of perpetuating and increasing the adult jobs program that education primarily is in its present form.

          2. Don Shor

            Davis schools aren’t crappy.

            I don’t think anybody would get far running for Davis school board on a campaign platform of “vouchers and privatization.” We all realize that is the ultimate goal of most uber-conservatives. But it isn’t what people here would support.

          3. Frankly

            Davis schools are mediocre which based on current need means they are crappy. Just less crappy than most other communities.

            I don’t think anybody would get far running for Davis school board on a campaign platform of “vouchers and privatization.”

            I think you are correct… for the moment… and that really is a shame.

          4. wdf1

            Don Shor: Davis schools aren’t crappy.

            Yeah, but to quote George Costanza from Seinfeld,

            “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” 😉

        2. wdf1

          Frankly: If you don’t see how the system works up close, then you are less likely to be able to identify the specific weaknesses. Volunteering is one way to see how the system works up close. Such experience is likelier to inform how to make changes with a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer.

          You have had very much a “tear down the whole system” approach, even while acknowledging that system in Davis serves a majority of the students reasonably well. Not all students, mind you, but a majority.

          To adopt a music analogy, which you seem to appreciate, musicians in a concert band or an orchestra have to compromise consistently to make things work together. Even while compromising as a musician, one can still have personal opinions as to how to direct the music group better as a conductor. The same thing might apply to an athlete on a team sport vs. being a coach. It isn’t succumbing to Stockholm Syndrome.

          1. Tia Will

            wdf1

            “Such experience is likelier to inform how to make changes with a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer.

            Now you are talking ! Maybe I should apply. I am quite proficient with a scalpel !

          2. Frankly

            If you don’t see how the system works up close, then you are less likely to be able to identify the specific weaknesses.

            And if you are an insider, you will likely not be able to see the big picture and you will be vested in defense of that which defines you… meaning you will be naturally resistance to criticism and change that you perceive negatively affects you.

            It is all a matter of perspective, vision and goals. And today they are too narrow, too limited and too low.

  4. DurantFan

    A Question for All School Board Candidates:

    Poverty and lack of opportunity can negatively affect achievement in young (elementary school) students among others. As you know from recent developments, many young students living within the Royal Oak Mobile Home Park area continue to face a variety of adverse real life conditions that clearly reduce their ultimate potential to achieve academically.

    Fortunately for them, It appears that the Marguerite Montgomery Elementary (MME) School trachers and support staff are doing an excellent job in reducing the achievement gap by maintaining a loving, personable, welcoming, and learning “oasis” for the young children from the Park. Even though the Park may not technically be “withiin” the City of Davis, MME certainly “is”. As such, this situation is certainly within the jurisdiction of the School Board, and resource allocation should be an issue (among others*) during the current School Board election.
    ______.
    * Should these students be offered the option to attend Pioneer Elementary School, for example?

    Please provide your thoughts/ concerns regarding this matter if you desire. Thank you.

    1. DavisVoter

      Nancy Peterson: Site council! Davis Bridge! Advisory committees! Fundraising!

      And lo and behold, the Enterprise came through on 10/28/12:

      “PETERSON IS the perfect blend of experience and heart. She has demonstrated through her many years of service at school sites, on district advisory committees and as president of the Davis High School Blue & White Foundation that she can learn, understand and lead.

      But her passion for the needs of all of the children of Davis is what sets her apart. We’re impressed with her ideas, and with the intellect and work ethic she’ll draw on to guide our school district through the challenges ahead.

      Peterson has garnered rave reviews from those who have worked with her on numerous school initiatives, from the Montgomery Elementary School Site Council to the Davis Bridge Educational Foundation. They talk about her energy, enthusiasm, listening skills, leadership, courage, dedication, analytical skills, wisdom and fairness.

      We would add “heart” to that wonderful list. We feel confident that Peterson can make the tough decisions a school board member must be prepared to make, but she’ll do it with the best interests of all Davis schoolchildren in mind.”

  5. Southie

    I’m completely confused as to why either newspaper endorsed Tom Adams. He tells us he’d be a great board member because he knows how to run meetings effectively and he’s a ‘consensus builder.’ That sounds to me like a school board member who would avoid conflict. I don’t want a candidate who’s spoiling for a fight, but neither do I want a candidate who seems afraid of conflict. Occasionally the board may have to seek out conflict in order to get direct clear answers on issues like the budget or the implementation of Common Core or personnel. That does not seem to fit Adams’ political skill set or his personality.

    I could see Archer and Sunder asking tough questions and standing up for what they think is right for our schools. I’m still seeking a third candidate.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for