Jim Ott, a member of the Pleasanton school board since 2006, has announced that he will not seek re-election to the board in November "in order to give others in the community an opportunity to become part of this board."
"Serving in this important leadership position has been a challenge and an honor," Ott said. "But it's much like a relay team. It's time to pass the baton on to the next person."
Ott becomes the first of two current school board members whose terms expire in November to announce his intentions. Pat Kernan, the longest serving school trustee, whose term also expires this year, told the Weekly that he has not decided if he will seek re-election.
Referring to the current school budget deficit that now totals $8 million, Ott said: "It's certainly a challenging time to be on the board. But I want to be able to provide an opportunity for other people in the community to become part of the school board."
"We've had a lot of people come to our meetings who obviously have interest in our school district and have been making many contributions to it," he said. "I've had my chance and would like to see others run for a board seat and then participate directly in making decisions as well. I've had my chance and enjoyed it."
Ott, who is the chief executive officer of UNCLE Credit Union, was first appointed to the school board in May 2006 to replace board member Gloria Fredette, who resigned. He ran for election to a full four-year term of office in November 2006 along with Kernan, who was seeking to be re-elected. Since nobody else that time, the two were declared inners in the uncontested race without ever facing voters.
Ott recalled that in his first few years on the board, ample budget dollars made it possible to increase programs in the school district and to hire more counselors, reducing the ratio of the number of high school counselors-to-students significantly. Today, with a budget deficit in the current school year and a much greater one for next year, the board's challenge is just the opposite: finding ways to trim expenses without major cuts in programs and services in the schools.
"I'm not going anywhere for now, however," Ott said. "I still have another eight to nine months to serve. During that time, we'll approve a new fiscal year budget and hire a new school superintendent."
Superintendent John Casey has announced his retirement effective at the end of June, ending eight years at the helm of the Pleasanton district. An executive search organization is now interviewing prospective successors to his position, with the decision to be made by the school board in May.
Ott said he is announcing his decision now to give time to those who might want to run for his board seat ample time to prepare their campaigns.
"I wanted to make the announcement to give people an opportunity to pull their resources together and start to think about it," Ott said. "It takes time and effort to run a campaign."
Besides his executive responsibilities at UNCLE, Ott also teaches English in the evening at Las Positas College and hosts a regular book review program on community television TV30, called "In a Word."
He is a board member on the Las Positas College Foundation and the Livermore Chamber of Commerce, and has served as chairman of both boards.
Ott, who is 53, is married to Pamela Ott, director of economic development for the city of Pleasanton, and has two daughters: Melissa, 17, a senior at Amador Valley High School, and Kelsey, 14, who is in eighth grade at Harvest Park Middle School.