Pleasanton Weekly recommends Arkin, Hintzke, Ruegsegger for school board

Newspaper points to possible conflicts with 4th candidate Maher, whose 3 children work in district

The Pleasanton Weekly today endorsed incumbents Valerie Arkin and Jamie Hintzke for re-election to the school board in the Nov. 8 election and former school board member Kathleen Ruegsegger for election again.

In an editorial in its Oct. 21 edition, the Weekly states that although each of the four candidates in this year's election for the Pleasanton school board is well qualified to serve, it supports Arkin, Hintzke and Ruegsegger.

The newspaper's editorial states that while the fourth candidate for the three open seats on the school board -- former Hart Middle School principal Steve Maher -- "is without doubt most knowledgeable about Pleasanton schools, curriculum and the district's management team," its concern is that one of his daughters is an elementary school principal in the district and two others are teachers at local elementary schools and, therefore, also members of the teachers' union. .

"This could pose possible conflicts of interest during budget, school administrative and union negotiations," the Weekly's editorial states. "Even if he recused himself from participating in discussing any of these issues, that would leave the board with just four decision-making members, and possibly lacking a majority vote on controversial matters."

"Of those we support, Arkin and Hintzke have served on the board for the last eight years, generally voting together to make decisions that benefit our schools," the editorial adds. "Their guidance and decisions on the board have ensured that Pleasanton students have the programs that address their academic needs, as well as addressing their extracurricular needs."

The editorial further states: "During their tenure, an increasing number of students have graduated with the skills they need to succeed in a global economy, better prepared to be socially responsible citizens. Both board members have been accessible and approachable, making their personal telephone numbers and email addresses available to the public and willingly meeting with parents on any concerns they have with school and district policies."

The editorial continues:

Valerie Arkin has handled hundreds of school budget decisions during her two terms of office. Fiscal responsibility with taxpayer dollars, including open accountability, is something she feels strongly about. Communication and transparency are also very important.

Reading interventions also have been among her priorities, with data showing that kids who read proficiently at an early age are more likely to succeed academically in later years. "Future academic success depends on it," she said. "That is why I will continue to advocate for reading interventions, instructional coaches and other programs to address this need."

Arkin holds a bachelor's degree in health science from Cal State Northridge and a master's degree in business administration from California Lutheran University. She was chosen by fellow board members to serve as board president in 2011 and 2015. She serves on the Special Education Local Plan Area board and the city of Pleasanton Liaison Committee, and she is a delegate for the California School Board Association. She and her husband Brian have three children including Chris, who works in the tech industry; Angela, a college senior; and Nick, a junior at Amador Valley High School.

Jamie Hintzke also has made greater district transparency, tight financial control and a higher level of executive staff accountability as her priorities. As Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley said in endorsing her candidacy for re-election, "Jamie Hintzke walks the walk when it comes to improving education and accountability in Pleasanton." Hintzke's eight years on the board show a strong record of involvement, including insisting on a new district audit firm selection process and putting a public audit committee in place.

Hintzke brings experience to the board that others do not, including attending third grade through her senior year in high school in Pleasanton, herself, and having two children go through the system.

She currently is the school board president, serves on the Pleasanton Economic Vitality Committee and has just been elected for a second term as a delegate to the California School Board Association's delegate assembly. From 2009-12, she served on the Alameda County School Boards Association and has served as a trustee on the Tri-Valley Regional Occupation Program board for two years.

Hintzke is employed by Alameda County Health Care Services Agency as a community relations coordinator. She also works as the program manager for the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services CPR program for seventh-graders.

Kathleen Ruegsegger has 16 years of experience as an administrative assistant in both the Pleasanton and Palo Alto school districts and served from 1990-93 as a Pleasanton school board member. She worked with five superintendents and two dozen board members, all who shared a variety of perspectives.

She wants Pleasanton schools to increase their connection with the community's ambitions for its children. She supports transparency and more collaboration between the city and school district with shared projects that will maximize tax dollars while greatly benefiting both agencies.

She calls this a "pivotal time" to serve as a school board member, with a new superintendent in place. Because of her experience, she's well-prepared to serve on the board again. With her three adult children, who attended Pleasanton schools, now on their own, Ruegsegger has even more time now to dedicate to the school board position.

Recognizing that the Pleasanton district has had some difficulties with communication and transparency over the past dozen years or so, her skills will help the board ensure better public communications that will reach out more broadly in the community and to do it more timely.

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44 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of California Somerset
on Oct 21, 2016 at 9:42 am

Steve Maher is a man of 100% integrity. Having family in the District would not affect his objective opinions/votes. This is a weak, weak critique. Remember, Hintzke had a brother as an employee.

34 people like this
Posted by Helen
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Oct 21, 2016 at 9:52 am

I completely agree with Concerned, (above post.)

Steve Maher is the correct person for this job.

I am VERY disappointed in PW.

28 people like this
Posted by paper
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:10 am

Maher will get in, no one really cares who the papers endorse anyway.

I like the PW opinion that Hintzke's experience of attending the schools is what qualifies her to serve. Her analysis on some of the more controversial situations is what scares me most on the board. I am hopeful that she is not reelected. I do think she means well, but is worried about pleasing everyone rather than making the "right" decisions, sadly common in most politicians these days.

55 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Birdland
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:27 am

I see a family that has dedicated their lives to education and helping ALL students as an asset and not a liability.

Shame on the PW... Go Steve and thank YOU and YOUR FAMILY for their years of service to our community.

38 people like this
Posted by Good Analysis Pleasanton Weekly
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Oct 21, 2016 at 11:20 am

Very good analysis, Pleasanton Weekly. I value your opinion - your reporters are at EVERY school board meeting and have had a bird's eye view of the district and the trustees. This is an election with 4 very nice and competent candidates. How refreshing.

I recently met Steve, and found him to be a caring and passionate advocate for education. I thanked him for his years of service in our schools. I do worry, however, that the associations have bullied the trustees and district in recent years. The board is already represented well with APT and CSEA supporters, adding a trustee with 3 union member children does not sit well with me. It's not about whether Steve's a good guy (sure seems to be), but about maintaining some balance on the board. The trustees need to stand up to the unions, and I can't see Steve doing that objectively. For that reason, I cannot vote for him.

I try to watch all of the board meetings via online replay, and I have consistently been impressed with Jamie Hintzke's level-headed approach to issues. She's not a yes-person, nor is she a troublemaker. She has stood up and asked difficult questions, and challenged the administration. She has been available and open to talking - She publishes her personal email and the two times I contacted her she immediately responded. She and Valerie Arkin are the only two out of 5 that responded. This is a thankless job, trustee, and Jamie has impressed me not only with her passion but her openness to discussion. We don't need someone with all of the answers, we need someone like Jamie who will listen and represent us. She has my vote.

Valerie Arkin is equally accessible, and listens well. I'd encourage you to go back to some of the TV30 board replays and watch Valerie in action. She's supportive, but has no problem raising her hand to ask for clarification. She and Jamie have together represented taxpayers well, forging new controls on our legal spending and separating the auditing function from the district administration. The trustees are the taxpayer firewall - between our money and the district. I appreciate the thoughtful and disciplined way that both Valerie and Jamie have protected our money.

As I started with, we're fortunate to have 4 very nice people running. Based on my time spent talking with I will be voting for Jamie, Valerie, and Kathleen. I do hope Steve Maher will find a great way to use his experience to continue helping children in the district.

40 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 11:26 am

Talk with any teacher in the district and they'll tell you that it's at its most dysfunctional level in years. Most teachers point to the election of Hintzke and Arkin as the start of the problems. Don't forget that it's the school board - Hintzke and Arkin and others - that hire and fire the superintendent.

We have a positive movement with the hiring of Rick Rubino. Let's dump Hintzke and Arkin and go with some new blood, Maher and Ruegsegger.

30 people like this
Posted by Bay Area Native
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Oct 21, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Bay Area Native is a registered user.

Maher has a strong bias to the teachers' union (APT) based on his background and family (children who are district employees). That did not serve us well when Bowser, Larson and Grant were the majority and they blindly followed the agenda of Ahmadi/APT. Lots of divisiveness, heated board meetings and lawsuits. Comments from the community were ignored. Only Arkin and Hintke responded to emails. Over 100% turnover of site administrators during Ahmadi's reign.

Opinions that differed from Ahmadi's narrative were squelched and sometimes met with unsubstantiated claims of racism. The Hayward NAACP "mysteriously" showed up at board meetings spewing awful comments about our community.

The current majority of Arkin, Hintzke and Miller has gone a long way to getting us back on track by focusing on education instead of politics. We would still be stuck with Ahamdi (and Cazares) if Bowser had been re-elected instead of unseated.

Board members with close union ties will always put the unions' interest first. Maher will not get my vote. He's Jeff Bowser 2.0.

20 people like this
Posted by Commenter
a resident of Birdland
on Oct 21, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Cazares lied to the board and refinanced the cops (loans) telling the public there would be net present value savings of $850,000 when in fact it would be putting the district $ 5 million more in debt. Then they would try to borrow the money from Pleasanton .... a city bailout.

Apparently DO personnel and contractors posed as some sort of faux citizens group and contacted various folks in the community including someone who emailed the city manager and city attorney about this. This showed the dishonest refinancing was in the works well in advance (2009).

I won't be voting for Union appeaser Maher. All Ahmadi era hires need to be fired.

Get the email from the city a pra to roush and fiahlo concerning pusd, $ 5 million and a 'citizen group.'

49 people like this
Posted by Can't vote for Maher
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Oct 21, 2016 at 3:27 pm

I have to agree with Bay Area Native and Commenter. Ahmadi was the root cause of the district's slide, not Arkin or Hintzke. During the Ahmadi / Cazares era things got upside down. The correct structure is that taxpayers give the Trustees direction, the Trustees steer the Superintendent, then the Administration works with the Unions to serve kids. Under Ahmadi's reign of bullying, she was the queen bee. The Trustees (led by union insiders Bowser and Laursen) were lap dogs for Ahmadi and Cazares, who intimidated them.

We need trustees who understand that they work FOR US (the taxpayers) and the Superintendent words FOR THEM. The unions are at the bottom of that hierarchy, not at the top. At least Hintzke and Arkin questioned the associations and out of control district spending. Steve Maher is not just the father of 3 district employees, he's a union insider.

If you are in support of growing overhead spending and increasing union power then vote for Steve Maher.

18 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Oct 21, 2016 at 3:38 pm

I have kids at Lydiksen and PMS. My child at Lydiksen is on the autism spectrum. I have had to reach out to the trustees on a couple of occasions because of concerns about bullying on the Lydiksen campus. When I didn't get any response from the principal, who can be a bit of a bully himself, I contacted the trustees. Never heard back from Grant or Miller. Got a "not my problem" response from Laursen and got action from ARKIN and HINKZKE. Ms. Arkin took my concerns to heart as did Ms. Hintzke. I will be voting for them and appreciate the PW's endorsement. As for the other two candidates, I agree with some of the comments above that there seems to be a HUGE conflict of interest with Mr. Maher. For that reason, I think the PW is on point with their endorsement. VOTE HINTZKE, ARKIN and RUEGSEGGER for Pleasanton School Board.

40 people like this
Posted by Zoe Francis
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 4:33 pm

I find it interesting that people assume Steve Maher is a union lackey with absolutely zero evidence to back up that accusation. As an administrator, Mr. Maher was not union member. His experience of working with teachers and the union -- often times when his hands were tied by union regulations -- makes him distinctly qualified to know how the union operates. I see that as a positive instead of a negative. I know he will be a strong advocate for kids and the budget. He will put kids and the budget first.

Our district has been a mess for several years. I choose to get new views and strong candidates on the board and that includes Steve Maher. I have known him for 28 years. He is a man of his word and a man of conviction. He is nobody's lap dog, not even our powerful teachers union.

41 people like this
Posted by Educated
a resident of Foothill High School
on Oct 21, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Steve Maher is by far the best administrator I worked with as my 2 children went through all 13 years of their educations in Pleasanton. As opposed to the comment above, I found him to be one of the few people who was willing to go up against the union when it was in the best interest of the children.

How anyone can vote for an incumbent with all the chaos the district has been in the last few years is beyond me.

I will be voting for Steve Maher, and ONLY Steve Maher, as to not dilute my vote.

37 people like this
Posted by Come on
a resident of Birdland
on Oct 21, 2016 at 5:34 pm

Please get to know Mr. Maher before making assumptions. EDUCATED is right, Maher will be supporting the best interest of the children. He's probably the best thing to happen to PUSD!

33 people like this
Posted by Another parent!
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:06 pm

My children attended a school where Steve Maher was principal. He was so caring, present, and 100% for the best interest of kids!! He has my vote!! Our district would be so lucky to have him serve our community!

21 people like this
Posted by Bay Area Native
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Oct 22, 2016 at 8:59 am

Bay Area Native is a registered user.

It is alarming that Maher raised $11,500 as of 10/02. Money is negatively affecting government at all levels, including offices that are supposed to be non-partisan. This is an unrepresented amount for a PUSD race and it does not bode well for future elections. If this is the new bar for a PUSD Trustee candidate then it will prevent qualified, independent people from running.

$3,000 from a single donor and $500 each from Joan Laursen and a PUSD teacher. Is Maher going to recuse himself for every discussion that affects the compensation, or employment status of his children and teachers who donated to him?

Web Link


46 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Hart-Hinek
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Oct 22, 2016 at 11:18 am

I respect what the PW brings to Pleasanton but you got this one wrong. Steve Maher has proven himself as a leader at every level while at PUSD. Anyone who knows Steve-teachers, parents and students have experience with his only motivation-to do what's right for kids and make their learning environment the best it can be. He has first hand knowledge of the strengths and the weaknesses of PUSD and will bring leadership to further strengthen our District.

As for the reason why his campaign is so well funded it's because many residents of this town who are passionate about education realize the urgency needed for a leader like Steve Maher to be on our School Board.

26 people like this
Posted by Maritess
a resident of Pheasant Ridge
on Oct 26, 2016 at 10:50 am

Maritess is a registered user.

Those who claim Maher is a union yes-man are making worst case assumptions about a man they obviously do not know. Besides, he has grandchildren in our district, so he's personally vested in the success of students, not just teachers.

His experience is a huge PLUS - he has seen firsthand PUSD's strengths and challenges and is uniquely qualified to understand the complexity of what it takes to get things done - that's a superpower that I am confident Maher will use towards GOOD, not "evil" as the conspiracy theorists like to assume.

His presence on the board, along with the balance of the other board members can only lead to better, more thoughtful decision-making because he is willing and extremely able to sit at the table with anyone to do what's right - no drama, no bs, just laser focus on working with all stakeholders to do what's best for our students. His reputation and popularity among so many parents in PUSD was well-earned over many, many years of doing what's right.

4 people like this
Posted by Momma Bear
a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Momma Bear is a registered user.


I'm sorry to hear your negative impression of Lydiksen and of the administration. I, too, have a child who is autistic, attends Lydiksen, and have had the exact opposite experience. The students have been nothing but supportive of my child (who is definitely idiosyncratic!), the staff is nurturing, and the administration is incredibly responsive.

I would suggest you collaborate with your child's teacher or call an IEP meeting to express your concerns formally. Lydiksen takes these issues very seriously and you will find Mr. Berg to be receptive, compassionate, and devoted to the Lydiksen community.

Best of luck.

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