Petaluma schools’ Joanna Paun receives ‘Golden Gavel’ award

When Petaluma City School’s board president learned she would be Board Member of the Year, she “legit went into shock.”|

Petaluma City Schools board president Joanna Paun received a statewide honor this week for her work and dedication in the school district’s governance after being chosen as 2022’s Board Member of the Year.

Paun was selected to receive the “Golden Gavel” award by the California School Boards Association, and accepted the award on Thursday, Dec. 1 at the 2022 CSBA Annual Education Conference and Trade Show in San Diego, the largest education leadership conference in the state.

“When I received the news that I would be receiving this award, I legit went into shock,” Paun said, adding that the honor also belongs to the entire Petaluma City Schools Board of Education. “Nothing is more rewarding and challenging than advocating for and celebrating students.”

The award comes after Paun was reelected to the school board after running unopposed in the Nov. 8 election. She was first elected in 2018.

“It’s a big deal,” said Petaluma City Schools Superintendent Matthew Harris. “She was selected out of about 5,000 school board members in the state of California.”

While seeking her second term on the school board last fall, Paun said she looked forward to focusing on stability and sustainability in the district, including updates and maintenance to school facilities, environmental conservation action and practicing monetary accountability.

More recently, Paun spearheaded the launch of a study to identify equity and opportunity gaps among students.

“Joanna’s courageous and unflagging commitment to all students, and advocacy for the underserved, exemplify the difference school board members can make by confronting difficult issues that must be addressed to accelerate student achievement and close opportunity and achievement gaps,” said 2022 CSBA President Dr. Susan Heredia in a news release.

According to its website, the California School Boards Association selects a regional judge panel that identifies the top two nominations from each region, with a maximum of 21 nominations statewide. Regional nominations are submitted to the association for a second round of scoring, and judged by the Statewide Award Panel which then selects its Board Member of the Year.

Qualities that the state judging panel looked for when selecting their next Board Member of the Year included someone with a strong sense of dignity, following through on responsibilities and promises in the candidate’s respective district, respecting differences of perspective among staff, students and parents, and other traits.

“It’s easy to get jaded or bogged down by the bureaucracy; we have to continually remind ourselves that students are on the other end of every decision, and they deserve and need our voices,” Paun said in her acceptance speech. “I know this to be true, personally, because I was that kid. The student you’re all advocating for, the one who didn’t do well in high school and faced the possibility of not graduating, but did so because of my mom, teachers, and counselors who encouraged me.”

Amelia Parreira is a staff writer for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at or 707-521-5208.

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