Monday Morning Thoughts II: SB Race Primed for Intriguing Match Up, Potential AIM Referendum

School Board Stock

In general, I prefer elections with more, not less, candidates.  But the school board election, with potentially as few as three candidates, could prove to be among the most interesting in recent times.  With both incumbents in the race, this Friday is the last day to file.

So far, only Susan Lovenburg and Bob Poppenga have officially filed, according to the county elections website.  However, Alan Fernandes sent out a press release late last week which we ran on Sunday, indicating he will seek a second term (or a first full term).

That makes for an intriguing matchup.

Susan Lovenburg is seeking a third term and she has been on the board for nine years already, having been elected in 2007, and getting an extra year when the board moved their elections to the even year cycle to save some money a few years ago.

Two years ago Gina Daleiden, Sheila Allen and Tim Taylor, all of whom were elected first in November 2005, all exited the board together after nine years.

In our time covering the school board, no one has served three terms.  In fact, three consecutive times is fairly rare in Davis to begin with.

In 2012, Susan Lovenburg ran for reelection and finished first – well ahead of second place Nancy Peterson and third place Alan Fernandes, who would two years later be appointed to fill the remainder of Ms. Peterson’s term.

We have three other recent examples of incumbents running for a third term in Davis races – all them city council races.  In 2008, Sue Greenwald ran for a third term.  In her previous run in 2004, she finished first and became mayor in 2006.  However, in 2008, she finished third, narrowly placing on the council over fourth place Sydney Vergis.

Four years later, she ran for a fourth term and finished fourth behind Dan Wolk, Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee.  That same year, Stephen Souza finished fifth, running for his third term.  In his previous election he placed a strong second.

Part of the problem with running for a third term is that you end up making tough decisions while in office that inevitably may anger some constituencies who previously supported you.  We saw this with Sheila Allen in 2014.  She had served two terms on the school board, but when she ran for city council, some of her previous decisions caught up with her and she ended up finishing fourth.

Alan Fernandes has only been on the board for two years and this will be his first full term, having finished third in 2012 behind both Ms. Lovenburg and the person he eventually replaced, Nancy Peterson.

Meanwhile, Bob Poppenga finished a solid fourth in 2014, in a race where the top three vote-getters were elected.  He comes back for a second bite at the apple and figures to be competitive in a race with two incumbents.

The other key question will be whether this becomes a referendum on AIM.  Certainly there are other critical issues facing the school district, but it is not clear where the lines of demarcation will be on other issues.

With AIM, you have three very distinct points of view.

Susan Lovenburg is possibly the most outspoken critic of what had been the current AIM program.  It was she who led the way on reforming the program.  It was her motion last spring that led to the fall changes to the program.  It was Ms. Lovenburg who pushed for the non-renewal of Deanne Quinn’s contract.

Alan Fernandes has attempted to be a middle-broker on AIM.  He joined with three of his colleagues on the initial motion to direct the superintendent to make changes to the AIM program.  However, he supported staff recommendations to renew Deanne Quinn’s contract.

He joined with Madhavi Sunder this spring on a compromise motion to keep three strands of AIM pending further investigation, but that motion died for failure to receive a third vote and, ultimately, he voted against Susan Lovenburg’s motion that created a two-strand program.

Finally, Bob Poppenga has been a consistent supporter of the AIM program and seems most aligned with Madhavi Sunder on the issue.

In the Vanguard’s June interview with Bob Poppenga, he responded as follows:

“Well, it’s been very controversial in Davis and I think it’s really unfortunate that the community has not been able to come to some sort of common ground, at least, or come up with some sort of compromise on that. It seems to be very polarizing. My view is that there are children that learn differently and that their needs need to be addressed. I think maybe even the University can help in that regard, providing maybe some challenging opportunities for the kids that are academically advanced. I firmly believe that every group, whether you’re talking about at-risk kids – there’s [such] a lot of at-risk kids that it’s hard to identify them because they haven’t had the opportunities to excel but they’re there, so I think really one of the challenges is to provide really the best available ways to identify those kids and give them opportunities to excel. I think if you go to the Healthy Kids Survey, and you dig down into some of the numbers there, that there are a significant number of kids that don’t feel challenged. I think that’s something that I would certainly be interested in – trying to find ways to challenge every kid, no matter what their background is.

“In the past, it (AIM) was a pretty good reflection of the diversity of the community and this past year that’s changed. I just don’t think that we can overlook the kids that really need to be challenged in our public education. We need to obviously offer opportunities for the kids that don’t have opportunities, but we can’t hold any kids back. That’s the bottom line.”

There figure to be clear implications for the AIM program’s future, depending on who wins.  If it is Susan Lovenburg, the district will have three votes to continue down its current path.  If it is Bob Poppenga and Alan Fernandes, Mr. Fernandes would appear to have the votes to carve his more moderate path.

It is possible another issue will emerge with that kind of clear-cut alignment, but at this point, the race could very well shape up to be a referendum on the AIM program.

—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. ryankelly

    I dislike the implication that this election is about all things GATE.  This may be the single issue for some voters, but I feel that there are many other issues that we should be addressing.  I don’t think I’m alone in this.

    1. hpierce

      KNOW that you are not alone… ‘special ed’, of any stripe, and education of each child, preparing them for life and finding their unique place in contributing to the community are core missions…

      A “one trick pony” approach is NOT what will serve the DJUSD nor the community…

  2. Marina Kalugin

    actually, many children are not happy being called “aimless”….time to change that stupid pc moniker….perhaps that could be a good start…

    and, too bad for you ryankelly, … is not only about GATE but it is about parent’s rights and children’s rights being overturned…you know, Civil Rights….those kinda rights….

    1. ryankelly

      Unpleasant as always.  I’m guessing that GATE is a single issue for you and you care less about anything else.  Now that the Office of Civil Rights is looking into the Davis program, we should have a decision on if civil rights have been violated.

    2. hpierce

      What if “parental rights” are enforced, contrary to the ‘best interests of the child’?  Some confuse “rights” with privileges  and/or responsibilities.

      “Parental rights” might be deemed to include:  refusing innoculations and still wanting to have their children freely admitted to schools; withholding minor, yet life-saving medical treatment for their children (based on ‘beliefs’); rights to ‘discipline’ their children in any way they see fit, including the use of physical and/or psychological abuse; the right to neglect children…

      As a gentleman said at the DNC, I have a copy of the Constitution you may borrow… show me where “parental rights” are even mentioned…

      1. Sulla

        “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” U.S. Const. Amend. Art. IX

  3. Marina Kalugin

    Now, I wish Gina [Daleiden] was back, as at least things were not quite so skewed that there is now even a group called PAGE>>….Parents Against Gifted Education…really?????
    Back in the 80s/90s and even into the early 2000….we had a parents group called PACE>…I was one of those who started it and helped lead it…and it was Parents Advocating for Children’s Education…..and we advocated choice…
    [moderator] Edited. Please stay on topic. Off topic posts will be edited or removed.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        are they an “official” group…do they have a board, a list of members, and contact info???

        or is that “hidden” like other such groups, edit
        PACE was open about our membership….

        1. Marina Kalugin

          I see…it was offtopic to compare the members of PAGE to other groups that hide their membership….like the KKK?   they kinda came to mind as they are also so extreme….

          but, is the membership posted somewhere?  may I at least get an answer to the true question?

  4. Marina Kalugin

    ha ha… Deann said it stood for Parents Against Gifted Education….I didn’t realize that she may have been joking?????oh well…

    but, were they proposing to can GATE?????

    they proposed and got rid of the name, correct?

    1. hpierce

      Deann said it stood for Parents Against Gifted Education

      If true, at least one reason for not renewing her contract… dismissive/rancorous and/or uninformed statement.

      If untrue, you denigrate your ‘friend’… and lie.

      Which is it Marina? (he he)

      1. Napoleon Pig IV

        Parents (or perhaps primates) Against Gifted (or perhaps good) Education is true whether or not that was the official name of this group. Thus, your terms dismissive, rancorous and uninformed do not apply. And, therefore, your attempted semantic trap is hereby sprung without capturing anything.

      2. Marina Kalugin

        in the efforts to set this record straight, when Deann finally got through to me, it was several hours past my bedtime…and that is what I heard….can I swear on a stack of bibles if that is what she said, no….and I don’t lie, HP – that is never something I do …am mistaken sometimes, yes…confused, sometimes yes…and yet, I don’t out and out lie…

        did you hear the Hendrix song ever….you know -where he says  ‘”scuse me while I kiss this guy?”

        well, maybe that might explain something also…

        your insinuations about my character or Deanns are very inappropriate, but of course, there will not be any moderator around to clean up your character assassinations…..

        your garbage will stand without a single “off topic” reprimand….  or “don’t attack other posters”….right?   lessee…

  5. Napoleon Pig IV

    This SB election is not going to be mainly about AIM. Rather, it’s going to be about integrity, intelligence, and commitment. I look forward to seeing that tapestry behind the SB in public meetings being about the sun rising on DJUSD rather than setting.

    1. Sulla

      Am I wrong to think that to many of the local political elite who have already endorsed candidates, the School Board election represents nothing more than a means to “pay back” those who who were on the “wrong” side in the June Democratic Primary campaign for State Assembly?

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