Two incumbent members re-elected to the Board with an additional new member

On Nov. 8, people throughout Marin voted in national midterm elections, as well as in the general election. On the ballot, there were six candidates running for the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) Governing Board, three of which were elected to a board position. Cynthia Roenisch, Emily Uhlhorn and Kevin Saavedra were elected to these spots, with Roenisch and Saavedra as incumbent members. Emily Uhlhorn, though new to the Board, has held various other leadership positions in the Mill Valley School District. Elected student representative for the Board senior Jack Haubold commented on this addition. He provides student insight at board meetings and shares the proceedings with the Redwood student body at Associated Student Body (ASB) meetings. There is one representative for each school in TUHSD.

Participating as a student body representative on the TUHSD Board, Haubold voices student insight. (Photo courtesy of Jack Haubold)

“I think it’ll be really good to get a new perspective on the Board. I think [it’s] always good in any governing body to get new viewpoints,” Haubold said.

Uhlhorn has four kids who have gone through and are going through the Mill Valley School District and into the TUHSD. She additionally served as the president of the Mill Valley School Board and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at Tamalpais (Tam) High School. Uhlhorn noted that being the Tam PTA President at the same time as the Mill Valley School Board President gave her a unique lens, allowing her to see how decisions made in the feeder school districts affect students when they enter the TUHSD. 

“As I thought about what I wanted to do next, I really wanted to think about where I could have the biggest impact on students, and [I wanted to] move to the [TUHSD], where it’s bigger, more diverse and where students really are at the point where they have a voice and agency. [This] was a great next step to be able to continue to have an impact on our students and families,” Uhlhorn said.

The first moves in her campaign were to reach out to community leaders for support — leaders with whom she had worked and built relationships with in her prior involvements in county boards. She noted that the campaign was a positive experience, and with additional endorsements and engagement with the community, Uhlhorn built her campaign.

Running for her first term as a TUHSD board member, Uhlhorn campaigns at an event at former Tam Assistant Principal Tenisha Tate Austin and Paul Austin’s house. (Photo courtesy of Emily Uhlhorn)

“Each of our communities is unique, [and] all of the high schools are unique. Because I am more steeped in what’s happening at Tam High, it will be very important for me to reach out and learn more about Redwood, and about Archie Williams, San Andreas and Tamiscal during my first year in office,” Uhlhorn said. 

Saavedra, in his second 4-year term on the Board, said his role is like an overseer to the administration. He noted that it takes time for a board member to understand how the school operates as well as the specifics of his job as a trustee. 

“The trustees don’t define curriculum or pass judgment on programming; they support initiatives and communicate on the Board to [the] superintendent what the community wants and what seems appropriate relative to our budget and state mandates,” Saavedra said.

Both Saavedra and Uhlhorn mentioned the importance of the Facility Master Plan, which is working to repair and upgrade the schools in the district. According to Saavedra, this process includes defining the plan, getting resources to execute it, including financing it, relaying the plan to the community and executing the plan. Saavedra notes that it is important to adapt the buildings to the way that staff teach since the facilities are old.

“The district has done the Facilities Master Plan, and it identified over $200 million of facility needs across all of the sites. Beyond that, there will be additional money that can really enhance community, teaching and learning [spaces] for students to come together. When it comes to the teaching and learning part, I think we really need to look at our educators and hear from them about what potential upgrades they would want to see that they feel would enhance their ability to teach and then for our students to learn,” Uhlhorn said.

Uhlhorn additionally spoke about addressing learning and improvements in the schools in her three main goals. These include continuing work on racial equity, the process of passing a bond in 2024 and “deepening our collaboration with other school boards across the county.” The bond will work to improve maintenance and enhance teaching and learning at the schools.

Exercising his musical interests, Saavedra prepares for a performance at the San Francisco Conservatory. “I’m a musician and I want to focus some attention specifically on music education in our district, within Marin county generally,” Saavedra said. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Saavedra)

As he mentioned in a previous interview for the Bark, Saavedra also places importance on targeting “social, emotional and educational learning loss” in the district due to the pandemic. 

After observing some of these changes made last year, Haubold said that one of the most memorable events as a student board representative was the passing of the Racial Equity Policy at the end of last semester.

 “I think the election shows that the anti-racist work that the district is really trying to do, and the equity work, is going to continue,” Haubold said. 

The most immediate goal for Haubold is “trying to increase student engagement in the classroom and across campus and [increase] student achievement.” In correlation with this goal, he hopes the district continues “reaching out and connecting with students that are struggling in the classroom.”

Reflecting on his own goals for the Board, Saavedra said that there are initiatives that they should focus on in the coming years. However, Saavedra said as a whole, he is happy with where the Board is, specifically in the operational and fiscal areas. 

Saavedra also emphasizes the importance of voicing opinions on a local level to make a difference.

“I’m not concerned about the people that didn’t vote for me. I’m concerned about the people that voted and didn’t bother to spend the time to vote for a school district trustee. I think that is inexcusable,” Saavedra said.

Haubold also addressed the value of voting and utilizing that platform to make change, even for eligible students at Redwood.

“Starting at 18 or 19, I think [voting] is really important to staying civically active later in life. Even though sometimes, since we’re in California and particularly Marin County, people think that their vote doesn’t really matter that much, there’s still local elections that can be close, like the Board race. So I think it’s really important that everyone exercises their right to vote,” Haubold said. “It’s a right that not everyone has, and the people that do have it should use it, especially as we go on to [college] and across the country.