Editorial: It’s time to get on Board with voting!

On Nov. 8, three of the five seats on the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) Board of Trustees will be up for election on Marin County’s general election ballot. Two incumbent members, Cynthia Roenisch and Kevin Saavedra, are re-running, as their four-year-long terms are set to expire in December 2022. Current trustee Dan Oppenheim’s term also expires at the end of this year, but he has decided against running for another term. Meanwhile, Renee Marcelle, Barbara McVeigh, Damian Morgan and Emily Uhlhorn will also campaign for the three open seats.

The TUHSD Board has the power to vote on district-wide policies and the responsibility to listen to the district’s needs. These policies include allocating funds to extracurricular programs such as the drama, music performance and fine art departments, student newspapers, athletics and more, allowing them to make decisions directly affecting the day-to-day operations of TUHSD’s five schools. Even Superintendent Tara Taupier cannot vote on Board-regulated policies and is actually employed by the Board; they can choose to remove her if they want. Thus, with significant decision-making power in the hands of only five trustees, this election’s outcome holds considerable weight for the future of our district.

Recently, students, teachers, faculty and community members have raised concerns regarding the current Board members’ detachment from the student body and voice. Last June, the Board discussed a district-wide anti-racism policy created by the Racial Justice Task Force. The policy establishes guidelines to mitigate racism, improve the experience for students of color and express a zero-tolerance statement for microaggressions and macroaggressions. After discussing the policy twice and listening to emotional testimonies from students and community members, the Board postponed voting. It took the Board over a month to pass the policy after the initial proposition. The day after the vote was delayed, students at the meeting arrived at school confused as to why, despite only positive feedback and pleas for the approval of the policy from community members, the vote had not commenced. The Board did not listen to the community they were meant to serve. Given the inconsistency between the district’s needs and the Board’s responses, many are questioning how equipped the Board is to make decisions on behalf of this district’s students, parents and faculty. 

While many are unhappy with some decisions of the Board, few know how to take action. The Board offers open forums in their meetings for any interested party to attend. All concerns and suggestions can be expressed to the Board during this time, yet few take advantage of the forum as an opportunity to voice their opinions and learn more about district regulations. This leads to a disconnect between students and the Board, causing frustration on both ends, as witnessed in the anti-racism policy discussions. Students must attend Board meetings when they have issues they want to resolve or give input on decisions that impact their schools directly. To further mitigate the aforementioned friction, it is vital that students of voting age and adults in the community vote for the candidates that best represent their values.

For voters unfamiliar with the candidates, it can be a difficult decision to choose which candidate to vote for; some may choose to refrain from voting altogether because of this struggle. Nonetheless, multiple important measures and candidate selections on the general election ballot affect students’ daily lives. For many Redwood seniors, this will be the first election they can vote in. The student body has the power to directly influence the outcome of the Board and other policies impacting their day-to-day learning and lives at school.

To learn about each candidate and their campaign, read our candidate profile on page nine or go to the TUHSD website’s Board of Trustees tab and view the recording from the candidate forum.