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Politics on Tap: 09/01/2016

Upcoming elections for local education, school boards

Elections for school boards typically aren't hotly contested, but they are important to the future of education and offer one of the few places where everyone can have a say on education policy.

All our readers may vote in the County Board of Education election, but only for the local school district where they live: either the Santa Rosa, Kenwood or Sonoma Valley Unified school districts.

Kenwood Board of Trustees
Pat Alexander, Virginie Boone, Diane Cupples, Susan Reiter, and Fran Threewit are the current members. Alexander is running unopposed and Robin Stoecker will replace Diane Cupples, who opted not to run again.

Sonoma County Board of Education
The main contested race will be the county seat, with incumbent Gina Cuclis seeking re-election and challenger Jason Carter looking to replace her. This race has an unusual origin in that Cuclis fully intended to replace sitting supervisor Susan Gorin this spring and thus give up her place on the county Board. When things didn't work out as expected, she chose to run for re-election.

Meanwhile, Jason Carter, 38, an advocate for at-risk youth, was persuaded to run for the job by his future brother-in-law, Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees president Salvador Chavez.

The Board consists of members from each of the county's five supervisorial districts, although they do not exactly coincide, due to the vagaries of local school district boundaries. Three of the five are up for reelection this year, with Cuclis holding the First District chair.

“This race is about who actually has an understanding of what the job is and has a track record and goals for the future,” Cuclis said in an interview on Aug. 25. She is currently president of the Board of Education, a rotating position, and has been advocating for more interaction between Board of Education members and local school districts.

Cuclis wants to continue improving school attendance, citing a six percent increase during her term. She says alternative schools are a top priority, closely followed by fiscal responsibility and improving communication and visibility with local school boards.

Carter grew up in a disadvantaged neighborhood in Santa Rosa and readily admits to being an at-risk kid.

“My entire life has been personally and professionally about youth development,” Carter said. “I grew up in poor neighborhoods in Santa Rosa. A big part of SCOE [Sonoma County Office of Education] is to oversee alternative schools. I dropped out and finished through an alternative program. I've seen it from first hand. My entire career has been educationally based. I have worked with elementary, middle school, high school, impacted youth, alternative education youth, as director of Community Action Partnership, and creating my own high school diploma program for 16- to 24-year-olds.”

“My professional and personal world is all about youth development and helping our families,” Carter said. He was recently appointed head of Santa Rosa's gang prevention program.

County education board duties are set by state law to provide oversight for local school districts for spending, and appropriate policies conforming with state and federal mandates. While the Sonoma County Board of Education does not directly oversee regular school districts, they do oversee the county education superintendent's salary and budget, and closely direct the county's alternative education programs.

The candidate's websites are and

Cuclis said she intends to spend less than $2,000 on the campaign, to avoid having to register and report full campaign funding information. Carter said that he will spend $20,000.

Sonoma Valley Unified School District School Board
Nicole Abaté Ducarroz has represented the Dunbar school district for three terms and is unopposed for a fourth. Her website notes that, “I am a wife, a mother, a software engineer with considerable business experience, and a community volunteer with extensive experience in public-school governance.” She has three children and lives in Glen Ellen. Visit her website at

Santa Rosa City School Board
While most Oakmont residents vote for the Kenwood School District board, some are in the Santa Rosa City School District boundary. Four of the six sitting board members are up for re-election this year and six candidates have filed. The candidates are Jenni Klose (incumbent), Laura Gonzalez (incumbent), Laurie Fong, Evelyn Anderson, Caroline Banuelos, and Ed Sheffield.

Information on these candidates is scarce at the time of this writing. The website is


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