Three new school board members elected

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The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Board of Education will welcome three new members this winter as a result of Tuesday’s election.

While results are still unofficial, the school board members-elect are Aimee Eng for District 2, Nina Senn for District 4, and Shanthi Gonzales for District 6, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ results on November 7.

In District 6, Shanthi Gonzales received nearly a third more votes than her opponent Renato Almanzor.

After the results came in, Gonzales said in a phone interview that she was “excited to work.” She said she recognizes the steep learning curve of serving on the school board for the first time, but that she “loves to learn” and looked forward to becoming a responsible board member who makes schools stronger.

Gonzales is vice chair of the Oakland Library Advisory Commission, and the membership and program coordinator for the Women Donors Network. Until five years ago, she was involved in labor organizing, working for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), she said in a recent interview with Oakland North. Her website calls her a “product of great public schools,” an assertion that can be seen in her political science master’s degree from San Francisco State University and undergraduate degree from Cal State East Bay.

While Gonzales came away with the highest number of votes in her district, she was not the candidate endorsed by Great Oakland (GO) Public Schools, an education nonprofit aiming to inform residents about school board activities and elections.

“I knew [GO was] spending a lot more money than I was going to be able to raise,” Gonzales said, referring to the amount GO spent promoting her opponent, Almanzor, for school board.

Being outspent by your opponent can be intimidating, but she tried to keep her head down and stay focused on her campaign strategy, Gonzales said in a phone interview on Thursday.

In District 2, Aimee Eng received little competition from her opponent, William “Bo” Ghirardelli, and received 75 percent of the total votes. Ghirardelli, in a pre-election interview with Oakland North, said he was not running an active campaign because he needed to focus on work for his nonprofit, Greenside Development Foundation.

At a party in a Grand Avenue framing shop after the polls closed, Eng said she was feeling “enthusi-anxious.” She said she has already met with the Cleveland Elementary School PTA and is “excited to get to work.”

Eng, who holds a master’s degree in education from Stanford, said she has overseen education grants to OUSD with her work at the Thomas J. Long Foundation.

Nina Senn prevailed over Karl Debro in the District 4 race, the closest of the three races, by fewer than five percentage points. As the results came in on election night, Senn said she was “a combination of nervous, excited and extremely tired.”

She kept a steady but small margin for the lead on Election Day, and said she is looking forward to following up on priority areas she has for students.

Senn is an attorney with her own practice, and received a B.A. from UC Berkeley and a J.D. from Santa Clara University. In a recent interview with Oakland North, she said she helped bring restorative justice practices to Montera Middle School.

Available candidate financial records show that the three school board members-elect are those whose campaigns cost the most. This calculation does not take into account the money that outside organizations like GO spent campaigning for school board candidates they supported.

At the OUSD Board of Education meeting on Wednesday night, board vice president James Harris said he was “excited to welcome to the team Aimee Eng, Nina Senn and Shanthi Gonzales,” even though the results are still unofficial.

The newly-elected board members will be sworn in this January.

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