Three Vie For North County Board Of Education Seat

North Sonoma County voters have a choice to make for the Sonoma County School Board.


Three candidates are running for the chance to fill one open seat as area trustee for the Sonoma County Board of Education.

The seat represents the North Sonoma County school districts in northwest Santa Rosa, Windsor, Geyserville, Cloverdale and Healdsburg.

The candidates for what is called the new "Area 4" are Ronald McEwan, 72 and Lisa Wittke Schaffner, 43, both of Healdsburg, and Cheryl Ziff Scholar, 60, of Windsor.

McEwan is a 44-year resident of Healdsburg. He's married with three grown sons. He retired from both the Healdsburg Unified School District and Santa Rosa Junior College. He is a Democrat, though he states he votes independently.

"Many people feel that they are disconnected from our schools," said McEwan in an e-interview with Healdsburg Patch.

"State regulations and mandates from Sacramento appear to be main driving force," he continued. "I believe that in order to change the performance and structure of our schools, the funding and development of standards must be a local responsibility."

"It is not in the job description of a county board member to deal with the method of funding but I would be a strong advocate to change that funding scheme," McEwan stated.

"We also need to look very seriously at ways in which we may consolidate school districts to cut down on administrative costs," said McEwan. "Great care must be taken so as not to cut local elementary schools but we need to look at possibly sharing administrative or special education tasks."

Lisa Wittke Schaffner is a Healdsburg resident and a "product of Sonoma County schools." She is a single mother with two children, McKenzie, 16, and Malloy, 13. Currently she is the president of the John Jordan Foundation. She "declined to state" a political affiliation.

"The Sonoma County Board of Education should have one member with children in the school system," Schaffner wrote. "I will be an active member of the board who works with the SCOE team and individual schools to create communication with the community and businesses and work to provide more resources to our schools.

"We need more vocational and career technical programs and exposure to various career choices in the younger grades," Schaffner continued.

"Creating a system where kids are exposed and supported in their choices and are prepared for life and the workforce is my main goal," she said.

Cheryl (Ziff) Scholar has lived in Windsor since 1981. She is the mother of two adult daughters. She is the community engagement director at KRCB North Bay Public Media. In addition she oversees programs that strengthen the literary, visual and performing arts.

"My goal as a county school board member will be to continually look for opportunities that will support the educational attainment of every Sonoma County student so they can lead productive, satisfying lives and feel connected to their community," Scholar wrote.

"Everyone has a stake in the education of our youth but too often the responsibility is seen as belonging mainly to the schools," she continued. "I would like to build upon current efforts taking place countywide to raise the level of awareness, engagement and collaboration across all sectors--from private business to public organizations.

"Strengthen[ing] our public education system leads to a stronger local economy while raising the quality of life for everyone in the county," Scholar stated.

"I would also like to remedy the situation in which very few people know that a county board of education exists," she ended.

The Sonoma County School Board of Education is in the process of downsizing from a seven-member board to five members. The multi-year process began this year and will realign the board areas with the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors districts.

"The seats will move from seven to six in December 2012," said Denise Calvert with the Sonoma County Office of Education. "Then from six to five in December 2014.

"The changes reflect, first the supervisorial districts, then population is taken into account," Calvert stated.

"The Sonoma County Committee on School District Organization has approved a resolution calling for the Sonoma County Board of Education to be reduced in size from seven to five members," read the Nov. 8, 2011 press release.

"This action, taken at the County Committee’s Nov. 7 meeting, initiates the process for changing the required composition of the Sonoma County Board of Education and realigning trustee areas."

The reduction in members is expect to save the county $40,000 annually.

The change was originally suggested by the Sonoma County Grand Jury in 2011.

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