Four candidates are seeking three open seats on the Old Adobe Union School District. The city’s second largest school district, it represents 1,900 students across five east Petaluma schools.
With a budget of $24 million, the district employs a staff of 150. The district is attempting to pass this November a $38 million school bond, Measure L, to upgrade its facilities.
The candidates seeking office include the three incumbents, Michael Fung, Patsy Knight and Anthony Bendik, and challenger Kimberly Shaver.
The Argus-Courier sent each candidate a questionnaire. The following is an unabridged version of each candidate’s responses, in the order they were received.
Name: Anthony John Bendik
Occupation: Lieutenant in the San Francisco Fire Department
Education: BA History, University of Californian Berkeley
Community Activity: My seat on the OAUSD board keeps me pretty busy. I am a member of the Knights of Columbus, but am not very active. I volunteer for the Casa Grande Boosters at the snack shack. I stay active in the sporting lives of my children. I officiate youth and high school baseball and softball.
Why I am running:
This election would mean a third term for me. I was appointed 8 years ago at the deepest part of our national and state recession. Funding was slashed across the board and we had to make some very difficult budget decisions that included lay-offs and furloughs. Declining enrollment forced us to close the Bernard Eldridge campus. In time, we were able to pivot into differentiated instruction at our various schools. As a result, we essentially created schools of choice in OAUSD, and were able to reopen Bernard Eldridge as Loma Vista. We have a Spanish Immersion Academy, a STEAM school, a Performing Arts school, and an Arts and Ecology school. We have stabilized our enrollment and have significant growth at some of our campuses. We strengtened our budget by forming charters at 4 of our schools and took advantage of the state’s new LCFF funding formula. We completed $26 million of renovations which included complete remodeling of classrooms with the integration of technology for every student. We were able to leverage grant money and developer fees into solar power at 4 sites and new playgrounds for all. Basically, we have turned things around.
We are transforming our district to ensure longevity with the flexibility to evolve. We are very close to the finish line for this initial push and I think we can have a solid foundation in place within the next four years. I want to help finish what we started.
We are fully integrated with 1:1 devices for all students. We have the necessary infrastructure in place to handle our current bandwidth needs and grow into the future. We have approached technology thoughtfully, examining our desired outcome before acquiring the device/program. I wouldn’t do anything differently, but we need to formalize a method to continue to fund upkeep and replacement.
We passed bond Measure G in 2012 in the amount of $26 million. At the time, we commissioned an engineering audit of all of our facilities. We were able to generate a “master plan”, that identified all of the brick and mortar improvements required to bring our facilities up to code and industry standard. The estimate for the required work was staggering at almost $60 million. Clearly, difficult decisions were made, but I am very proud of the impact we generated with less than a third of funds and escalating building costs. We leveraged state grants, matching funds, and a small amount of developer fees to remodel every classroom with associated technology improvements. However, we had to skip many projects and stretch the service life of many systems. We still have capital intensive work to do in security, roofs, HVAC, cafeteria equipment, libraries, and facilitate an expanding student population. I ardently support Measure L, to fund all of this critical work before inflation puts it out of reach.