Poppenga Discusses Decision Not to Run for Re-Election

Davis – Bob Poppenga, a one-term school board member elected in 2016, announced last week that he would not be seeking a new term.  He becomes the second board member to announce they are leaving—last month Cindy Pickett announced she would be leaving partway through her term at the end of June.  There will be an appointment process to replace her.

That will leave an open seat on the board in South Davis as they have now gone to district elections.  Alan Fernandes is the other seat open this November.

Vanguard: Why did you decide not to run again?

Bob Poppenga: I first decided to run for School Board in 2013 for a 2014 open seat.  I wasn’t successful on my first attempt, but made a commitment to try again in 2016 and was successful.  So, in reality, I’ve been actively involved in DJUSD as a candidate or Trustee for 7 years. While the time and energy required to run a campaign and to serve in a local elected office is substantial, I’ve never regretted the time and energy I’ve spent over the years campaigning or serving. However, my priorities have evolved over the last couple of years and there are other activities that I want to be involved in that I currently don’t have the bandwidth to do. I’m hopeful that our move to Trustee Area elections will make it easier for a capable and diverse group of candidates to emerge in Trustee Area 5 (south Davis).  Watching our virtual graduation ceremonies this year, I was struck by the diversity of our graduating senior class and believe that, moving forward, it is essential that the Board reflect the diversity of our community.

Vanguard: What are your thoughts on the direction of the district?

During my term as Trustee, I have been impressed with the thoughtfulness and commitment of District administrative leadership and the Board. I believe that the District is well governed and we are truly blessed with a community that values and supports education as evidenced by passage of Measures H, G and M.  Because of capable leadership and community support, I’m optimistic that we will continue to be a high achieving District for the foreseeable future.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic disruption has made planning difficult and will have a negative impact on our schools. Despite what some believe, California does not fund education adequately and we were just about to dig our way out of the 07-08 recession when COVID-19 hit. So it always seems that it’s two steps forward, one (or two) steps back.

Vanguard: What do you believe you have accomplished in your term?

Bob Poppenga: DJUSD has been fortunate to have had a capable and collaborative School Board over the last few years.  So it’s not so much what I’ve accomplished as what we have collectively accomplished. Each of the current Trustees contributes a unique perspective to the work at hand and as a result of valuing each other’s opinions hopefully we reach the best decisions possible to serve all of our students.  Of course, it is not possible to please everyone with every decision – I’ve always told myself that if we’ve managed to annoy all stakeholders equally then we’ve probably been doing good work.  I could list many collective accomplishments since 2016, but the ones that I feel have had significant positive impacts are:

  • Parcel tax renewal (Measure H) – allows the District to offer programs that would not be possible otherwise.
  • Parcel tax for teacher compensation (Measure G) – to be able to recruit and retain good teachers and staff.
  • Facilities Bond Measure (Measure M for $150,000,000 – that has been enhanced by other monies and potential facilities grants to nearly a ¼ billion).
  • Development of a District Graduate Profile which helps focus our efforts on what attributes we want our graduates to have to ultimately be successful.
  • Revamping our CTE courses, in a cost neutral way, to offer multiple career pathways for our students.
  • Leading the region in programs to train teachers through the Yolo-Solano Teacher Credentialing Program – a significant but largely unreported DJUSD initiative.
  • Leading the region in Special Education – offering full inclusion classrooms and other services not widely available elsewhere.
  • Enhancing student voice – a work in progress, but student advocacy on climate change directly led to our solar initiative, which in the near future will provide at least 85% of our energy needs from a renewable, non-polluting source.

Vanguard: What is Your Biggest Regret?

Bob Poppenga: My biggest regret – not being able to engage UCD as an institution in collaborative efforts to support DJUSD. UCD uses our District as a recruiting tool to attract top faculty – in return it should have more interest in helping the District develop, implement, and evaluate innovative programs that could serve as models for other Districts.

Vanguard: What do you consider the most pressing needs going forward?

Bob Poppenga: Of course, long-term, we need adequate State funding – but we first need to weather COVID-19 impacts.  As a result of COVID-19, the most immediate need is to determine how our schools will re-open in August in a safe and effective way.  Uncertainty as to what the conditions will be next week, let alone in August, make planning difficult.

Longer term, the biggest threat to the District is declining student enrollment, which will have negative impacts on our programs.  And despite some opinions to the contrary, there is no way to “right size” without negative impacts.

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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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