Sunol residents will be choosing candidates to fill all three positions in the Sunol Glen Unified School District Board of Trustees race this November -- two full-term seats and one short-term.
The short-term position is a two-year seat on the board, for which information technology manager Chris Bobertz and former teacher and nurse Linda Hurley have qualified for the ballot.
Current Trustee Ryan Jergensen is the only incumbent running for a seat on the board again -- competing against business owner James Lowder and corporate attorney Peter "Ted" Romo.
Jergensen was appointed by the district in 2021 to replace former trustee Denise Kent-Romo who resigned one year into her second full term because of health issues -- she was on the board during 2016 to 2021.
But according to the registrar of voters, because of timing and standards policies in place, Jergensen is not allowed to complete the remaining three years on the former trustee's term on short-term appointment, which is why the seat is on the ballot separately this November.
Jergensen is instead now running for one of the two four-year terms on the ballot.
The other two sitting trustees, Liz Monti-Hall and Mike Picard, are not seeking reelection.
Picard told the Weekly that is because he won't be spending much time in Sunol and believes the position should go to a full-time resident of the area. Monti-Hall, on the other hand, said she originally planned on serving only one term and is proud of the work she and the board have done over the past four years.
Trustee Jergensen said that as the only board member seeking reelection, he knows the needs of Sunol Glen School and, if elected, will ensure that it continues operating at its already high level of achievement.
"My board member role is the delegated representative voice and vote of the people on the myriad of issues facing a public school," he told the Weekly. "We have a responsibility to the constituents to represent the community values, ethics, goals, priorities and to be responsible stewards of the resources entrusted to us."
The father of five moved from Fremont to Sunol back in 2016 and said that because four of his children currently attend the TK-8 district's lone school, he has a vested interest in contributing to make any positive difference at the school.
"I would love to help make this exceptional school even more impressive by safeguarding it and building it up, alongside those dedicated parents in our community, and those that come together from neighboring areas," Jergensen said.
One of the ways he hopes to improve the school -- specifically the aging facilities -- is by pushing for residents to support the $10.9 million Measure J school bond that he and the two other current trustees voted to place on this year's November election ballot.
If the bond gets 55% of Sunol residents to vote Yes, then the bond dollars would go toward funding for roof replacement, accessibility improvements and overall general upgrades including the cafeteria.
He said that bond will help modernize and restore the historic, but rapidly aging, school.
"It is good for the value it brings to the kids, it is good for the value it brings to the neighbors, it is good for the value it brings homeowners," Jergensen said. "We would hate to have our community lose some of its value by seeing our school go the way of other cafe's, businesses and restaurants in our valleys that have closed."
As a dentist, he said he's been involved in several communities through business ownership and various professional organizations and has even been on previous professional and corporate boards.
He also said that because his wife is a teacher, he also understands the "daunting task of organizing and implementing the education of our youth."
Peter 'Ted' Romo
The last name Romo should be familiar with many Sunol residents because of Peter Romo's wife, Denise Kent-Romo, who was the school board trustee from 2016 to 2021.
Romo moved to Sunol a little over 10 years ago with his wife and is currently working as a corporate attorney at Apple. He is seeking to fill one of the two full-term positions on the board.
He told the Weekly that his wife being a previous board member and both of his kids having attended Sunol Glen School has given him the familiarity and experience needed for the job.
He said that his 25 years of legal experience also gives him a certain edge over the other candidates.
"I'm used to seeing and looking at things like financial statements and stuff like that, that's part of the type of legal work that I deal with," Romo said.
Romo said that if he is elected, he doesn't plan on making any big changes because he feels the school is already performing at such a high level. But at the same time he does support the Measure J bond because he feels the aging facilities at the school must be addressed.
He said that because the school is such an integral part of the community and is the only real government institution in the town, it's important that the community does its part in maintaining the nearly 100-year-old school.
"It's important to do maintenance and repair work, especially sooner rather than later," Romo said. "If you let it deteriorate, if you don't support it with the financial resources that it needs, it's a detriment to the school, to the students, and then also to the community because the community benefits from having a well financed and operating facility."
He said that overall, his main goals are to continue maintaining the level of excellence of the school and to provide reasonable oversight to the board.
"I think I have a background that is helpful for the operations of a school board," Romo said. "I think I bring reasonableness and thoughtfulness and that, coupled with a legal background, I think would be beneficial to the operation of the school board and the school."
Lowder is a business owner and four-year resident of Sunol where his two youngest children out of his five total are attending school.
Like Romo, Lowder told the Weekly that if elected, he isn't planning on changing anything because of how well the district and the school have been run over the past few years.
But what Lowder said makes him stand apart from the rest of the candidates is his background in construction, specifically the fact that he is the owner of an air conditioning and plumbing contracting company in San Jose.
"It's no surprise that the Sunol Glen School is aging ... it's almost 100 years old in some parts," Lowder said. "I feel that my construction background (would help in) working with the administration and with the budget that they have, to be able to prioritize construction projects and those kinds of things that are going to be the most effective and spread those dollars over the best things."
He said that with the aging facilities in particular, his background can help provide insight on different ways that the school can address the issues without asking for a school bond. While he did not directly say whether he supported Measure J or not, he said he would prefer to see fundraising efforts instead of asking residents to pay taxes.
"I think the hardest thing for Sunol, from a financial side, is a majority of the kids that attend Sunol Glen don't actually come from Sunol," Lowder said. "So it makes it really tough to ask the residents of Sunol to support a tax measure when their taxes are going to educate kids of Union City, Fremont, Livermore and Pleasanton."
He said he wants to use his fundraising experience from his high school coaching days and come up with ideas to help raise funds for the aging facilities in Sunol, rather than asking residents to pay taxes.
Lowder said he also does not want to align himself with any specific goals for the district and if elected, he said he would like to hear what administrators and staff are saying could be improved at the district and school level.
A 39-year Sunol resident and former teacher and nurse, Hurley is no stranger to the realm of educational leadership positions.
According to a news release from Hurley, she started the Storyland Pre-School & After School Care program in Livermore in 1980 where she managed a staff of 12 for five years. The news release stated that she then went on to teach at charter schools and at Mission College for more than six years.
"If elected, I will ensure parents have a strong voice on the school board especially on fiscal issues and curriculum," Hurley said in the news release. "I will work to maintain Sunol's 'small school culture' but continue to build on the 'world class' education we are offering our students. And finally, as a school board member, I will hold the board financially accountable and require transparent reporting to our parents and community."
Born and raised in Oakland, the mother of five children who all attended Sunol Glen, also has experience as a nurse and was on the Alameda County Board of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health for three years and she was a trustee for the Santa Clara Registered Nurses Professional Association, which served over 3,000 nurses.
Many residents might also recognize her name because she also helped start the Sunol Community Club, which provides financial and volunteer support to many activities, programs and events at the school.
She said that if elected, she will work to address whatever issues the Sunol community faces and will make sure to have everyone's voice heard so that the district can work to better serve the students.
"We have a culturally diverse district, but I believe we all want the same things all parents and families want – commonsense leadership. I'm committed to providing that leadership for Sunol," Hurley said. "I am gaining support because I stand for the things our parents stand for -- strengthening and growing academic basics in our schools. I will work hard to make sure the Sunol school district engages with parents to provide the parental oversight and participation that is missing from more and more California school districts today."
Hurley told the Weekly as of Tuesday that she does not yet have a clear stance on the Measure J school bond.
Bobertz is a Sunol resident and information technology logistics manager who moved to the area four years ago from Fremont with his wife for the small town community and for the school.
"The school just wasn't a really good fit for us there at the time with our oldest and so we made the decision to try to get him into the Sunol school," he said. "Almost immediately he just changed … he loved school, he loved going into school, we love what they're teaching about, like just being kind and like, being inclusive."
Bobertz is an information technology logistics lead at Faire, which is an online wholesale marketplace. He previously held lead positions in other companies like Workday, Uber and Meta, the parent company of Facebook.
He currently lives less than a mile away from the school with his wife, two kids -- who are now attending Sunol -- and a 17-month-old child. Bobertz said that because his wife has been getting so involved with the school community through several committees, he wants to do his part.
"We're very active in the community," he said. "We love Sunol. We love the school, we love what the school does for the community and vice versa and I think that just being that conduit -- somebody who's in touch with the community and the school, who has kids at the school -- is important."
If elected, he said that while he admits that he doesn't have any experience in school board politics, he plans to put his management skills to work and will do everything he can to adapt into the position.
"I've really learned how to be inclusive, how to hear people out … and understand where people are coming from when they're trying to voice concerns and things like that," Bobertz said.
Bobertz also supports the Measure J bond and said that while he understands that nobody likes to pay taxes, he believes it's still important to put funding toward maintaining the school.
"I think that they've scaled back on the scope of this bond versus the last one, which didn't pass, so hopefully, that'll help kind of push it over the edge," he said.