Three candidates are vying for two seats on the board of Petaluma’s largest school district. Another three candidates are seeking seats on a large east side school district in the Nov. 8 election.
In the Petaluma Joint Union High School District, which operates the 7,500-student Petaluma City Schools, incumbent board member Mary Johnson is facing challengers Ellen Webster and Frank Lynch. Three newcomers — Heather Burton, Marilyn Cohoe and Jonathan Lenz — are competing for two vacant seats on the five-school Old Adobe Union School District board.
Elections in all other publicly elected boards in the Petaluma area have been canceled due to a lack of candidates.
Johnson, a mother of three boys with a background in business, has been serving on the district board since March, when she replaced departing board member Mary Schafer. She said her former career as a vice president of sales for a large company has provided her the experience to handle district finances. She also has an MBA from Dominican College.
“I love it. I’ve been super excited to serve the Petaluma school community for the past six months,” Johnson said. “I’m running because I’m qualified and I have the time and energy to do it.”
Webster, 61, an English and drama teacher at Tomales High School for the past 27 years, said she would like to see the district focus more on students and classroom activities and less on administration. The mother of two grown children and a grandmother to two, she has served on a number of hiring and budget committees in her career in education.
“I put students first,” she said. “I can bring a point of view to the board that is more realistic, and I can be a good conduit between teachers, students and the administration.”
Lynch, the former principal at Petaluma High School, has had a long career in public school administration. He was principal at Petaluma High for nine years before leaving in 1995 to become superintendent of King City Joint Union High School District in Monterey County.
He also worked as superintendent of West Sonoma County Union High School District for two years, the interim principal at Berkeley High School, the district and county superintendent of Del Norte County for four years and the superintendent of Lompoc Unified School District for four years. In 2011, he returned to Petaluma High School, becoming co-interim principal for one year.
“With 36 years of service in public education, I want to give something back to the community that I love,” Lynch, 69, said in an email. “Additionally, I have two grandkids who will be going through the school system.”
Key issues the district faces include spending proceeds from a $21 million bond measure in 2014 and technology in the classroom. The district’s $1.4 million initiative to provide each student with an iPad using bond proceeds last year met resistance from some parents, who were concerned about children’s access to the internet and questioned the safety of using Wi-Fi.
Troy Sanderson, the other incumbent on the Petaluma Joint Union High School District board, did not file papers to run in this election.
In the Old Adobe Union School District, incumbents Jennifer Ann Cusimano and Marlene Abel are not seeking reelection, opening up two seats for the three challengers.