For the first time in 10 years, we have a contested race for every School Board Trustee seat on the ballot. Three seats are up for election. Area 1 has Ralph F. Anderson and challenger Kristin Trott. Area 3 has recently appointed incumbent Stephanie Chávez and challenger Joedy Michael vying for the remaining two years of the term. And Area 5 has incumbent Rudolph Muldong and challenger Everardo Zaragoza competing (Lisa Dennis was also in the race and remains on the ballot but she has since been hired as WJUSD staff and is no longer eligible to run).
If this is as far as you feel like reading here are my picks for each race: Area 1 – Toss up, Area 3 – Joedy Michael, Area 5 – Rudolph Muldong.
The candidate forum on Oct. 12 revealed a lot about the candidates. Area 1 Ralph Anderson and Kristin Trott both failed to impress me in knowledge and preparation for the forum. Neither seemed particularly well rehearsed or displayed any depth of knowledge that stood out for me. I assume Mr. Anderson has a fair bit of knowledge about the district since he is the incumbent, but I didn’t see it that night.
Area 3 for all intents and purposes has no incumbent. Stephanie Chávez occupies the seat but was appointed to that seat in March of this year due to a mid-term vacancy. She did not give off the impression that she was the knowledgeable incumbent during the forum, which would have given her an edge but she only has six meetings under her belt. Joedy Michael seemed very practical and common sense in his responses. Based on the candidate forum, if I lived in Area 3, Joedy Michael would be my pick.
Area 5 is the most important race of the three because losing incumbent Rudolph Muldong would be a terrible blow to the district. He is the only current trustee and only candidate running that has ever set foot in a classroom as an educator, a trustee perspective our students cannot afford to lose.
I only know Everardo Zaragoza from his candidate statement and listening to him in the forum. While he seems passionate and intelligent, I do not believe he is a good fit for the School Board yet. He has a background I like, but his recent experience with the district seems limited to the lower grades as evidenced by the ages of his children and him mentioning the need for a technology program that already exists in the district.
I am also concerned that he supports distance learning for the high school and below. The results of the student climate survey on distance learning detailed in the recent board meeting do not support that. The survey shows that 65-70 percent of the high school students are anxious, depressed, unable to manage their stress, struggling to keep up, and do not feel rested. I know from my time in the Army that all of those combined can be risk factors for suicide. Distance learning can be a valuable tool for mature college students, but I think it is inappropriate for young students.
Rudolph Muldong on the other hand is the current President of the school board. He has been on the board for eight years. His sons both grew up in Winters and graduated from Winters High School, and his wife has worked in the district 15 years. During the candidate forum he displayed understanding of the big picture regarding changes to policies and teaching techniques. He stated that often changes take years to show results and frequent changes do not help students or teachers.
While researching Measure W and asking about current outstanding school bonds, I learned Rudolph recently signed the paperwork to refinance existing district bonds for a net savings of $1M to taxpayers. From what I have seen, he is always looking for ways to cut costs without cutting services and support to teachers and students. I know the board has typically met their target of maintaining a 5 percent operating reserve, exceeding the required 3 percent. Having a wife who teaches at the High School, I have overheard teachers on more than one occasion saying Rudolph is the only board member who regularly visits the campus to check in. He is well liked and respected throughout the district.
In my mind there is only one candidate for Area 5, and I wholeheartedly endorse Rudolph Muldong for School Board Trustee.