Thursday will definitely go down as one of the stranger days since I have been covering the news in Davis starting in July 2006. The upshot: we have a race for school board (sort of), a new appointee, I’m no politician, and my office almost burned down.
When I went to bed on Wednesday, I did so believing that no one had filed for the school board and was prepared that the three candidates would be seated: incumbent Tom Adams and challengers Cindy Pickett and Joe DiNunzio. But just after 9:00 am, I got a message stating that there was a fourth candidate.
The name: Chris Legal. His listed profession is “minister” with the description: “retired from ministry, preacher, writer … inspire souls to think about their creator.” Address: “General Delivery, Davis CA.”
I will go out on a limb and state: I believe that the three winners will be Tom Adams, Cindy Pickett and Joe DiNunzio. Little did I realize that this would be the least strange thing that happened on Thursday.
I had this brilliant idea, I would apply for the vacant school board seat. Not that I had any illusions that I would be selected. Rather I felt there were important issues that needed to be raised. Plus, while I wouldn’t want to campaign, raise money, and serve for four years, getting appointed and serving for four months seemed okay.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one to think that way. Seven people applied. A most impressive list that you would only find in Davis. Off the top of my head, you had a former DTA President, a former president of the Davis High PTA who served in a statewide capacity, a former principal in other school districts, an educational administrator at the California Department of Education, a retired chief counsel for the state auditor’s office and a soccer mom who served on about every committee you can imagine in the school district.
As I said last night, the board really could not go wrong with any of the possibilities. But really, in four months, what could one do?
The case I tried to make is that we have great schools, but we are now in funding trouble. And what we need to do is educate the public on the challenges that lie ahead for this school district.
A key point: we need to think outside of our silo – the problems facing our schools mirror those facing our community. Right now, things are good, but they won’t remain that way if we do not act soon.
The teacher compensation gap is the canary in the coal mine. It demonstrates that we face a tough choice now between great programs and great teachers.
We are disadvantaged by the LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula), we face the potential of declining enrollment, and we have basically survived for the last decade by increasing the parcel tax. Polling now suggests that it is going to be more difficult to pass those parcel taxes.
The problems we face in our schools, as stated above, mirror the problems that we face in this community. We are facing a very real crisis of quality of life in this community on all fronts, not just school related
We have a tendency to view issues of our schools in one silo and issues of the city in another silo. Many people who do not have kids in schools do not necessarily follow the district that closely. But schools are a key to the quality of life in this community. Schools increase property values – one broker told me by as much as 40 percent.
We talk about thinking outside of the box, but what we really need to do in this community is to think outside of our silo.
The city is struggling too. Its roads are badly in need of repairs, but its roads tax fell short of the two-thirds we required. We cannot pay in the city for things like roads, parks, greenbelts, city buildings.
The public sees great schools and a great community, but they don’t see the danger that lurks ahead.
I was under no illusions that this would not be the message that resonated with the school board – but I was hoping to at least raise it. I will say, I am a little disappointed in the process itself because there was really very little opportunity to raise issues to the board itself. We filled out a seven-question application, spoke for three minutes and answered less than two minutes of questions.
However, before I even got a chance to deliver my comments, around 6 pm, I am sitting in my office, and suddenly I hear loud voices in the hallway and the sound of a radio. Before I could wonder what was going on, there were three members of the UC Davis fire department in my office telling me that the building next door is on fire and I need to leave.
Apparently there was a small fire in the kitchen ducting in the not-yet-opened BBQ House restaurant. There was a lot of smoke, and one firefighter was injured. It was pretty close to being on the other side of the wall from my office.
That was right before the board meeting.
The voting itself turned into a fiasco. I was quickly eliminated having only received a vote from Alan Fernandes in the first round. Eventually there were four candidates who received one vote each – Lea Darrah, Ryan Galles, Joy Klineberg and Donna Neville. After three rounds of that, they went back to two votes each and were able to get it down to Joy Klineberg and Donna Neville.
They then had several rounds where it was 2-2. They even had them answer additional questions, but it was comically still at 2-2 after the question round but two of the voters (Tom Adams and Alan Fernandes) switched their votes.
Finally, in round 10, Joy Klineberg received 3 votes to one for Donna Neville and was seated as the interim board member.
—David M. Greenwald reporting