Former Pleasanton school board member Kathleen Ruegsegger, at one time an executive assistant to superintendents in both the Pleasanton and Palo Alto school districts, is seeking election on Nov. 8 to serve again on the Pleasanton board.
Ruegsegger formally filed election papers with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office on Monday. Her decision followed an announcement Friday by current board member Chris Grant to step down after serving eight years on the board.
Although Friday was the deadline for those seeking elective office to file the official election papers for the Nov. 8 General Election, the law extended that deadline to 5 p.m. tomorrow, Aug. 17, for new candidates if an incumbent drops out. So far, Ruegsegger is the only candidate to seize that opportunity to vie for the school board seat.
Ruegsegger moved to Pleasanton from Chicago in 1985 and became immediately involved in activities at Walnut Grove Elementary School and Amador Valley High School, which her three children attended. She became co-chair of CASA (Community Against Substance Abuse), secretary of PLACE (Pleasanton Legislative Action Committee) and a member of the Walnut Grove school site council and president of the school’s parent organization.
She also worked for unification, followed and lobbied regarding education legislation and for myriad fundraisers.
When school board president Earnestine Schneider died in August 1990, Ruegsegger was appointed to fill out the remaining 14 months of Mrs. Schneider’s term and until 1993.
Ruegsegger said that as a school board member, she will be able to leverage her nearly 20 years of experience working as a staff member in K-12 education and her three previous years as a Pleasanton school board member.
She believes the district can maintain its current excellence by increasing its connection with the community’s ambitions for its children. She supports transparency and specificity in district reporting and communications and will seek more collaboration between the city and district to find shared projects that maximize tax dollars while greatly benefiting Pleasanton residents.
She recently addressed the Pleasanton board pointing to the need for at least one new elementary school, noting their inclusion of 62 portable/relocatable structures as permanent classrooms.
“This is a pivotal time to serve as a trustee with a new superintendent and key staff members in order to expand the momentum of the past year,” Ruegsegger said. “This is a role I can easily step into, and I have the time to dedicate to the shared expectations of the governance team.”
She added: “There must be broader communication in order to maintain our status as a leader in K-12 education, bringing together students, teachers, and administrators with our entire community. The point where we reach for the next level of excellence, from curriculum to facilities, is while we are already at the top.”
Ruegsegger’s three adult children attended Pleasanton schools, and she currently has a grandchild in the district. Starting from her active involvement at Walnut Grove 30 years ago, her experience includes the three years on the PUSD board and 16 years’ experience working in the Pleasanton and Palo Alto K-12 public schools.
In 1998, Ruegsegger was hired by the Pleasanton district as executive assistant to work with newly-hired superintendent Mary Frances Callan. Four years later, she left Pleasanton to take the same position in the Palo Alto school district when Callan accepted the offer to become superintendent of schools there.
Callan retired in August 2007, but Ruegsegger stayed on, retiring from the Palo Alto school district in October 2015.
During that time, she worked with five superintendents, their key staff experts and more than two dozen board members, all of whom provided a variety of perspectives.
Three seats on the Pleasanton school board were up for regular election this fall. Incumbents Jamie Hintzke and Valerie Arkin were the only candidates to file for the race as of Friday.
Grant said that bowing out of the election was a difficult decision influenced by several factors. He said his professional responsibilities at Kaiser Permanente where he works have increased each year over the past decade and also that he believes change on the school board is good.
"I have a fundamental belief that public service is a privilege and am hopeful that I have created an opportunity for others to serve," Grant said.
"After meeting and speaking with hundreds of families who have shared their ideas and personal experiences, it is evident that there is a tremendous amount of talent and compassion throughout our community," he said. "I welcome and encourage parents/leaders to join and contribute to our school board, as meeting the needs of all children is essential to our community."
Grant added that the school district is currently performing well, pointing out achievements like increased academic test scores and efforts to preserve art, music and athletic programs.
"These accomplishments give me good faith that those who follow will continue to achieve high excellence," he said.
He closed out his letter by expressing his thanks for the opportunity to serve, calling it "an amazing privilege."
Grant was board president twice during his tenure and served on multiple committees, including the Excellence in Education Committee, of which he was a founding member. He was first elected to the board in November 2008, as were Hintzke and Arkin.