The pleasant buzz of light chatter filled the room as the few attendees waited for the event to start. The TUHSD School Board candidates forum was held on Monday, Oct. 8, from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Kreps Conference Room on the east end of the Redwood High School campus. The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Marin Promise. The four candidates, Barbara McVeigh, Cynthia Roenisch, Dan Oppenheim and Kevin Saavedra, are contending for three open spots on the board. Elections will be held on Nov. 6.
To start the forum, moderator Susan Stompe of League of Women Voters invited candidates to make an opening statement of three minutes, where they described their background and reason for candidacy.
McVeigh is an environmental enthusiast. She also has a daughter who attends Drake High School according to the Marin IJ, and hopes to spread awareness about the worsening state of the environment, notably ocean acidification, and empower youth to take a stance.
Oppenheim, a housing economist, whose daughter is a junior at Redwood, wants to use his financial expertise to help with the current deficit problem.
“I had absolutely no intention of running for the school board…the serious erosion of the district’s footing shows the acute need for board members with an understanding of school finances and I found myself feeling compelled to run,” Oppenheim said.
Saavedra is also involved in finance. He is a parent to a current junior at Drake, treasurer of the Measure J campaign and member of the Tam District Fiscal Advisory Committee. He strives to help the district’s current issue through necessary budget cuts in order to maintain current class offerings.
Much like Saavedra, Roenisch supports budget cuts and emphasizes the need for communication between the board and superintendent. She is a parent of two Redwood graduates, an English teacher and a former lawyer and long-time member of the Kentfield School Board. Roenisch believes her affirmative attitude will be beneficial in helping with the district’s problems.
“Lawyers ask questions and keep asking questions until they get answers. Lawyers, at least litigators, tend to have thick skins, so they’re not afraid to deliver bad news, or to tell people no,” Roenisch said.
After the opening statements were delivered, audience members were told to write questions they had on notecards. Topics varied from Measure J and the deficit, to diversity and substance abuse. Candidates had one minute and 30 seconds to answer the questions.
Regarding Measure J, each candidate advocated for the four-year parcel tax supposed to generate $5.1 million annually. The measure is to be voted on Nov. 6.
“Measure J is an essential component of the solution [to the deficit], because from [Redwood] to the other side [of the district], the alternative, an $8 million dollar cut, I cannot imagine what that would do to the district,” Saavedra said.
In terms of balancing both the deficit and offering a large variety of courses, Oppenheim believes intensive planning is central in keeping the current class offerings.
“I think the key is to plan proactively and to work so that we can deliver…the education that the students and community expect here. I think we can take steps to minimize the impact of the [deficit] and to keep the broad course offerings,” Oppenheim said.
Roenisch agreed with Oppenheim and stated that communication with the community would help the board outline the most valued aspects of the school.
“Hearing from the sites, hearing from parents, hearing from students; what do they really value, what do they really want to preserve? And then, taking that and going up against our budget,” Roenisch explained.
Once the time for questions elapsed, candidates ended the forum with two-minute closing statements.
“I think [the district] hired the right person for the job to lead the district, and now it’s up to you make sure that the board is the right board,” Roenisch said.