The Travis Unified School District is heading into its 2020 school board elections on November 3rd, which is right around the corner. The elections, which have 5 newcomer candidates vying for seats at the table, have 3 open seats waiting to be filled. This election marks one of the more diversified ranges of exciting candidates and brings the opportunity for new ideas in the district. This election season will have a lasting impact on the TUSD student body for the next 4 years to come and may alter both their academic and non-academic fates.
Travis Air Force Base. This seat often goes vacant or is abandoned midterm due to military orders, but candidates Meghan Thompson and Renell Travis are aspiring to be steady representatives for their community. Thompson comes from the angle of being a district parent, and can commiserate with their grievances, which may be appealing to other district parents. She is candid about feeling ”left in the dark” by the board, which is one of the main complaints of district parents, and promises to create an open dialogue for parents and board members
Ivery Hood’s platform runs on familiarity within the community, as this is his fifth-term running, and second as Board President. Throughout his time on the Board, Hood’s focus has been maintaining district relations with U.S senators to ascertain funding, as well as “preserve the quality and integrity of our education system at TUSD.” Hood believes that it is a Board member’s job to “give direction to our superintendent and provide oversight for the management of our district.” These familiar ideologies are what Hood is hoping to keep him in office, but the newer batch of candidates have a host of criticisms and new ideas to dole out.
The three newcomers to the political scene are: Dave Amar, Manveer Sandhu, and Christina Palmer. Each candidate is wildly different, but they do agree on a few things, namely: criticism of Superintendent Pam Conklin, and decreasing class sizes. This criticism comes from the controversies that have made Vanden and Golden West the target of public scrutiny, particularly the school board and superintendent. Each new candidate cited the supervision of Superintendent Conklin as a chief responsibility of the Board.
Amar’s focus and platform are rooted in closing the “achievement gap” and improving the quality of classrooms. The achievement gap is a common theme among a few candidates and refers to the gap between higher and lower-performing students based on their socioeconomic status and race. Amar also would like to make necessary improvements to classrooms, such as air filters, and cites the coronavirus and smoke from numerous fires as the reasoning behind this. Amar believes a Board member’s job is to be mindful and be a “reflection of the community.”
Sandhu is a former Vanden High School student from the Class of 2016 and brother to a Class of 2020 graduate. His immediate focuses are “getting students back in school” and “widening options for students who may not want to go to college.” By expanding Vanden’s Career Technical Education program, he hopes all students will “be sure about what to do after high school.” Upon being asked about a Board Member’s responsibilities, Sandhu states that trustees should “look to the future” and continue oversight of the annual district budget.
Lastly, for Area Two newcomers is Christina Palmer, a Vacaville businesswoman and parent of a Vanden Class of 2020 graduate. Palmer’s emphasis on diversity and inclusion hiring is a well-documented policy she’s working hard to implement, for staff and student unification. She also hopes to increase the per-pupil funding for students and the cost-of-living adjustments for teachers. Additionally, when asked about a Board member’s role, she emphasized they should be sure to “work together as a governance team,” to make sure “the attention is on students.”
The most coveted seats in this election, are that of Area Two, which encompasses the entirety of the district outside of the base. There are four seats on the board, two of which will remain held until 2022 by Board Clerk Janet Jackson Forbes, and Board Member Riitta DeAnda. The two seats up for grabs are that of Board President, Ivery Hood, and Board Vice President, Russ Barrington. Whilst Barrington will not rerun, Hood is the only sitting incumbent, and making an effort to hold onto his seat.