The 2020 national election season was and continues to be a rollercoaster.
Over the past few months, Innovate Public Schools parent leaders and staff did our part to elevate important education issues and races in this year’s election cycle. We reached thousands of voters through phone calls, texts, a bilingual Education Voter Guide, virtual candidate forums, and more. Keep reading for more about our work this fall, and a round-up of results in local elections!
In particular, we are so proud of Innovate’s powerful parent leaders for hosting three candidates forums this season. More than 300 people attended our events, making them among the largest candidate forums in the Peninsula this year! Thank you to our event partners Youth United for Community Action and WeVote Redwood City. Parent and youth leaders shared their stories, and led the conversation around education equity, distance learning during COVID, and strengthening education in this unprecedented time. You can watch the forums here:
- Sequoia School Board and San Mateo County Board of Education
- Redwood City Council
- Ravenswood School Board
Voter Guide and Outreach
Our nonpartisan bilingual Education Voter Guide profiled candidates for the important local races in East Palo Alto, Redwood City, and San Mateo County. Voters had the opportunity to read and listen to candidates in their own words via videos [Note: Innovate does not endorse individual candidates].
Innovate staff and parents also made hundreds of calls to local voters to encourage voting, promote statewide Propositions 15 and 16, and help people make voting plans. After hearing from the candidates and doing our research, the community voted and waited for the results.
Some of the races were very close and came down to just a few votes! Here, we share the results of the races we followed in our voter guide.
The Statewide Ballot Propositions
Unfortunately, both Propositions 15 and 16 failed statewide.
Proposition 15 had a very strong campaign, losing by only 1.9% and building an impressive coalition of education organizations, faith leaders, and many others. The groups opposing put a huge amount of money into that, which is of course difficult to go up against. Prop. 15 failing means that we still have a long way to go in closing the tax loophole that large corporations benefit from, and our public education system still faces huge financial need.
For Prop. 16, this means that California’s universities still don’t have a clear path to opening opportunities to increase teacher diversity, create programs focused on supporting students of color and ensure equitable access.
Sequoia High School District Board of Education
In Area E: Shawneece Stevenson, a mom of Sequoia District, will be the next board member representing Area E, which covers East Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. The other candidate on the ballot, Jacqui Cebrian, dropped out of the race to support Shawneece.
In Area B: Carrie DuBois was reelected to represent Area B, which includes Redwood City, Belmont and San Carlos. She has served on the Sequoia board since 2011.
In Area C: The most competitive race was in Area C, which covers Woodside, West Menlo Park and Portola Valley. Three candidates competed for one spot: Georgia Jack (running for re-election), and newcomers Rich Ginn and Shamar Edwards. Rich Ginn, a father of a Menlo Atherton student and local business leader, ended up winning with 37.8% of the vote, which means Georgia Jack will be leaving her board seat.
*It’s important to note that the new Sequoia school board has the very important task of hiring a new district leader this year, because the prior Superintendent Mary Streshly resigned in September.
Ravenswood Board of Education
Ravenswood had a competitive race this year, with seven different candidates running for only two open seats. The winners were former Ravenswood teacher Bronwyn Alexander and current Ravenswood parent Jenny Varghese Bloom. This means that current board member Marielena Gaona-Mendoza will be leaving her board seat. In addition, because Ravenswood Trustee Stephanie Fitch resigned last month after moving out of the district, her seat will be filled via board selection in December.
East Palo Alto City Council
There were 7 city council candidates competing for three open seats on the council. This was one of the closest local races, with very small numbers of votes separating the outcomes. Incumbent Lisa Gauthier won in first place, followed by incumbent Carlos Romero. Doctoral student and former Ravenswood student Antonio Lopez won for the third seat. Councilmember Larry Moody was not re-elected.
East Palo Alto Measure V
Measure V, the Transient Occupancy Tax, did not get enough votes to pass. A two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote was required for the approval of Measure V. Measure V received less than 66.7% so, therefore, did not pass. This measure would have increased the hotel tax which visitors who stay at East Palo Alto hotels and short term rentals pay from the current 12% to 13% on Jan. 1, 2022 and to 14% on Jan. 1, 2023. This was projected to generate $195,000 in 2022 and $390,000 annually starting in 2023 that would have been devoted to buying and building affordable housing.
Redwood City School Board
The Redwood City School Board has one member changing, due to Trustee Dennis McBride ending his term this year. Candidate Mike Wells ran unopposed, so was automatically elected to the board.
Redwood City Council
Redwood City recently transitioned to having district elections, meaning that residents vote for a representative for their specific geographic area. Council Members are required to live in the district they represent and are elected by the voters of that District.
This year, districts 1, 3, 4, and 7 were up for election. Voters who live in districts 2, 5, and 6 will vote for City Council Members in 2022. It is important to note that while City Council Members are elected by district, they are responsible for representing the interests of all Redwood City residents.
District 1 (Redwood Shores area) position was vacant, and former Mayor Jeff Gee won the election, so he will be rejoining the council.
In District 3 (Friendly Acres neighborhood), newcomer Lissette Espinoza-Garnica won, which means Janet Borgens will be transitioning off the board.
In District 4 (Redwood Junction area), Michael Smith was running unopposed, so he will be joining the council.
In District 7 (Farmhill area), Alicia Aguirre was re-elected.
San Mateo County Board of Education
There are seven members of the SMCOE board who are elected by district to four-year terms. Four seats were up this year. Three candidates ran unopposed so they will continue to serve on the board: Area 5’s Jim Cannon, Area 6’s Ted Lempert, and Area 7’s Joe Ross.
In Area 4, which includes San Mateo Foster City and San Mateo Union, board member Rod Hsiao and newcomer Chelsea Bonini competed for one seat. Chelsea Bonini got 52% of the vote, so will be entering the board.
San Mateo County Community College District
Trustee Area 5 includes parts of Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Redwood City. Menlo Park resident John Pimentel won with 50.6% of the vote.
What happens now?
Now post-election, Innovate continues to engage and support parents as leaders and co-educators, so we can be at the table and influence how schools in Ravenswood, Redwood City and Sequoia respond to these challenging times. We are also working closely with school leaders across the Bay to help them adapt instruction to distance and hybrid learning models. We look forward to meeting with the incoming candidates, as well as people who attended our community forums, to build alliances that will allow us to improve education together.
If you would like to meet with an organizer to get more involved, you can reach out to:
For all other inquires, please contact Eva Orbuch at firstname.lastname@example.org