Samantha Nichols contributed additional reporting.
Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) Board of Trustees President Leslie Harlander and member Karen Loebbaka were elected for a second term on Nov. 3. The candidates received 30 percent and 27 percent of votes respectively. They will both serve until 2024.
“I’m honored and grateful to have been elected to continue to serve on the TUHSD Board,” Loebbaka wrote in an email.
The Board of Trustees holds meetings twice a month on Tuesdays to discuss and approve agenda items pertaining to the district and to hear the concerns and opinions of community members. The board votes on an annual budget and approves budget cuts, resolutions, and policy changes, among other things.
Harlander and Loebbaka ran against Brandon Johnson, Tiffany McElroy, and Mandy Downing for the two open board positions. During the campaign, a forum was held on Sept. 23, by the Marin League of Women Voters to allow the candidates to discuss issues of local importance.
Both Harlander and Loebbaka listed fiscal responsibility as their top priority. McElroy focused on ensuring sufficient support for students during distance learning, and Downing promised to operate with “[students’] best interests in mind.” Johnson’s campaign focused largely on equity and restorative justice, an issue the current board has faced criticism for in the past. However, Harlander said she plans to advocate for equity in the district.
“As a board, we are holding board workshops with [racial equity consultant] Deborah Mcknight to help us dig deeper into what equity really means,” Harlander wrote in an email. “We as individuals need to understand it far below the surface, and how school policies can negatively impact our BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, people of color] students.”
Loebbaka agreed on the importance of ensuring equity for all students.
“2020 has shone a spotlight on racial and socioeconomic issues, and we are working hard on how to address them through training, policy, and strong teacher-student relationships,” Loebbaka wrote.
The newly re-elected board members expressed relief at the passing of parcel tax Measure M, which renewed $16.8 million in annual funding for the district for another nine years. However, Loebbaka added that the measure’s approval does not eliminate the district’s budget issues.
“While this provides a great sigh of relief knowing that the source of income is stable for the next nine years, the district will still have to make some budget cuts, as our enrollment has not yet reached its peak and, even then, will not go down by any significant amount in the next few years,” Loebbaka wrote. “Despite increased enrollment, the district does not receive more money from the state or other sources.”
Another issue facing board members is how to safely return to in-person instruction for district schools on Jan. 6.
“The community doesn’t see the huge effort all our staff have put into dealing with COVID-19 and developing new ways of teaching,” Harlander said. “Getting back to in-person learning is in the forefront of district work and it must be done as safely as possible for our students, staff, and families. At the same time, we need to address our students with special circumstances and health needs as well as those students struggling with remote learning.”
Board members Cynthia Roenisch, Dan Oppenheim, and Kevin Saavedra will be up for re-election in 2022. The board will hold an annual organizational meeting on Dec. 15 to elect a president and clerk, and assign members to various committees. The role of the president is to facilitate meetings, initiate the voting process, and preside over the board, ensuring all members have access to the necessary information and materials. The clerk, an elected position currently held by Roenisch, is responsible for approving meeting minutes and presiding over meetings in the absence of the president.
“I am very happy to have been re-elected to the board,” Harlander said. “I’m hoping we can collaborate more with our parents and community partners … One of the district’s goals is to foster a culture of respect and inclusion and equity.”