Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Six running for Pleasanton school board

PLEASANTON — The Pleasanton school district has had many changes in trustees over the past five years, but voters have not had a choice on who holds the positions.

The Nov. 4 school board election will be the first time in five years that voters will have a say on who takes a seat on the school board.

With three seats up for election, a new board majority may be elected. Six candidates are in the running.

Chris Grant, 43, senior vice president at Kaiser Permanente is the only incumbent in the race. He was appointed by other board members to the position last year to fill the spot of a member that resigned.

The other candidates are Valerie Arkin, 44, a community volunteer; Jeff Bowser, 46, a client director for AT&T; Jamie Yee Hintzke, 46, a health consultant for Alameda County; Stephen Page, 51, an optometrist and educator; and Prasad Rallapalli, 52, a principal database architect for Yahoo.

All candidates except Page say the current board is doing well. Page, who has said he is running an unorthodox campaign to make himself stand out, declined an in-person interview for this story, instead submitting written responses to questions.

Page expressed unhappiness with the district board, citing a variety of conflicts of interest without naming anyone. However, he did praise incumbent Grant, saying he "seems to be well-trained to make decisions in the best interests of children and families."

All other candidates Advertisementsay they believe the district is running well and that they want to be part of continuing that excellence. They all have varying involvement with the school district.

Arkin, a Pleasanton library commissioner with a variety of other public service experience, said because she does not work full-time she would be able to put her full effort into the board.

"I have the time and dedication for this," she said. "I would consider a school board position a full-time job."

Bowser said that before working in the private sector, he was a teacher and administrator in local school districts, including Pleasanton.

"That combination of skills would be important for the district," he said.

Grant cited his time on the board and his previous service, such as working with the Excellence Committee to come up with ways to improve the district, as ways he helps the district. He also said he brings important financial skills.

"I have a deep knowledge and experience within our school district," he said.

Hintzke also talked about her work in the schools, which includes being on the Excellence Committee and leadership on the Pleasanton PTA Council.

She cited her "experience and involvement," when asked about what distinguishes her.

Rallapalli said he can bring the experience of the many places he has lived. From India, he has worked in different parts of the country and world. One of his focuses is to increase student achievement in science and engineering, in which he said students elsewhere are bypassing American students.

"Somehow they develop a phobia of it," said Rallapalli, who co-founded the Pleasanton Science League.

The school board has seen much turnover since its 2003 election, when Stephen Pulido and incumbents Juanita Haugen and Kris Weaver were voted in. After that vote, the school board changed its elections to even-numbered years, with the next election scheduled for November 2006.

Previous to that one, Jim Ott was appointed to fill the seat of a board member who resigned, and he and trustee Pat Kernan ran unopposed in 2006. There were two other changes after that, with Grant appointed to take Pulido's seat in January 2007 and Steve Brozosky appointed after long-time board member Haugen died.

In addition to Grant's seat, those of Weaver, who is not running for re-election, and Brozosky, who is running for mayor, are also open.

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