Two Applicants Seek Appointment to Southern Humboldt School Board

South fork High school

South Fork High School

The Board of Trustees (School Board) of the Southern Humboldt Unified School District (SHUSD) has an open seat at this time. Board member Jeff Henderson resigned in March after announcing his wife had accepted a job in Lake County and his family would be moving there.

Additionally, in November of this year, two board members will need to run for re-election. Scotty McClure and Thomas Mulder’s terms expire this year. Interest in the School Board seats has been low in recent decades. The former nine member board has shrunk to five members and still hasn’t had a contested election since 2003.

Currently, two local women have stated their intention to run in November and have applied to be appointed to the recently vacated seat. Those community members are Michelle Bushnell and Collett Fenske.

Qualifications to be on the SHUSD Board are being a registered voter, living in the District, while not being an employee of the district.

The School Board is lucky to have two qualified candidates interested in serving the community. The rules for filling a vacant seat allow the District to escape the considerable cost of a special election. The empty seat will be filled by appointment until the November 2018 election.

Because this empty seat has more than one interested applicant, both candidates filed applications answering four questions:

  • Do you have prior experience serving on a governing board, specifically a school district board? Please list such previous experience.
  • Have you worked on any school committees or participated in any school activities recently? Please list them.
  • Describe any other community or business activities in which you have participated. Describe your role, and whether your work was as a volunteer or employment related.
  • And, Why do you want to be a school board member?

Both will be interviewed at the May Board meeting and one will be appointed to serve “until the first regularly scheduled Board meeting after the November election.”

Both women are longtime locals whose children attended SHUSD schools from kindergarten through high school graduation. Bushnell has a grandchild who will begin kindergarten in the next school year as well.

Both women have volunteered in the schools actively in varying capacities. Bushnell mentions her work with the Booster Club which runs the athletic department. And Fenske mentions her longtime basketball score-keeping and her involvement on a committee that explored options before the Miranda Junior High was closed. Fenske said that work familiarized her with the basic governance and operations of the School Board.

And both are local business owners. Bushnell owns the Bootleg in Garberville and rentals in the area. Bushnell is also the current President of the Chamber of Commerce. And on the Rodeo Board.

Fenske has her Collett Fenske tax preparation and financial planning business as well as Humboldt Honey, a honey distributor.

Both women said they want to increase the responsiveness of the Board to community concerns and to be sure that all who volunteer in the schools and attend Board meetings feel heard and welcome.

Bushnell said strong schools are important for the future of the community both because of the students’ education and because of the caliber of newcomers that will be drawn to Southern Humboldt by better schools.

Fenske said that she never likes to hear people say they don’t want their kids in local schools. Fenske said she feels strongly “it is the community’s responsibility to make the school what they want it to be.”

Bushnell stated a commitment to stand behind the needs of the outlying schools such as Casterlin and Whitethorn elementary.

Fenske stated a commitment to understand the District’s finances and to “pressure Sacramento” about inadequate funding for California’s schools. And Fenske also mentioned her concern about the high level of turnover among administrators and other staff.

Both women stated a respect for the other and support for whatever decision the School Board makes regarding the appointment to the vacant seat. Each intends to run in November regardless.

However, Fenske points out there still might not be an election in November if one of the incumbents were to decline to run again and no other interested candidates were to apply. Fenske points out the registration period for candidates runs from July 16th through August 11th.







  • Well how could it get any worse then it has been, it’s interesting though that right after the board member and his wife who was in charge of finances left. A financial crisis was discovered.

    • Hobo-joe, sounds like they had their hands in the piggy bank to me. Someone needs to find out what went on! I lived in Miranda for years and went to South Fork High. At that time everything seemed to run OK. Hope the school will remain, but who really knows.

  • Veteran's friend

    Finances are very significant for official concern..I would support Fenske for this reason. She has experrtise. Bushnell is an excellent person also, no doubt, but her concerns can be addressed in other ways.
    Many thanks to both of them for stepping forward for local schools.

  • Yea. Michelle Bushnell and Colette Fenske are awesome candidates and very qualified to be on the board. They truly care about the kids and the community.

  • I would vote for either or both of those women. I appreciate they will run for those positions.

  • It is great to see people stepping forward to serve on a difficult and important board. Without an election in a decade and a half, the observation from this distance is the board has been acting as a rather closed club and showing the strain from a lack of community involvement. People tend to appoint others that may be comfortable with rather than the most qualified. Thanks to Fenske and Bushnell, and let’s hope that more people step forward so that there can be a real election.

    • I think both interested and qualified candidates should be on the board and one more to take care of ties.

  • Yes & Yes! Thank you both….you are the real thing!

  • Strange that one of the questions is not concerned about commitment to preparing our graduates for the future in this competitive world whether in applying for higher education or employment. Only one candidate has the that kind of commitment in seeing her own children procure the best educational experience possible and graduate. Another question should address who will prioritize their schedule to ensure they have the time available to do the job required of being a trustee for the school district.

  • I can’t wait till Eureka City School Board election. It’s going be to something different. There needs to be accountability.

  • Concerned Citizen

    I hope these women are elected. Furthurmore, I hope they bring balance to the board and end the reign of terror and nepotism lead by Dennis O’Sullivan and the illegal hiring of Colleen O’Sullivan. Nepotism has turned Cyndi Aguiar and Don Boyd into puppets of the O’Sullivan family. Instead of doing what is right for students and families, these two do what they are told for job security and money. Enrollment specifically at Miranda Junior High dropped 15% this year directly because of Cyndi Aguiar’s unprofessionalism and lack of care for struggling students. Not to mention the heartbreaking loss of our beloved athletic director of 14 years. Inspite of the devestating losses, these two puppets will keep their jobs because they are both a yes mam to Colleen. School culture and expectations are in the toilet, good kids and families are leaving, and this school is in more danger of closing than any common citizen realizes. I urge citizens to bring a balance of power, get rid of the O’Sullivan family, and hire leaders who care about students-not just a 90,000$-120,000$ yearly salary!

    • Redway resident

      This comment is fascinating. For those of us not directly involved with the school could you explain who these people are?

      • Concerned citizen

        Cyndi Aguiar is the terribly unpopular Principal who seems to be the catalyst to losing our beloved Athletic Director. Don Boyd is the new Superintendent hired after the illegal firing of Ms. Scott whom the board had to agree to pay a full year of salary and benefits to after she refused to fire a good Principal who was well liked by everyone except Colleen O’Sullivan. Guess who loses out? The kids…And guess who Don Boyd and Cyndi Aguiar knows to please in order to keep their very large salaries..

  • Enough is Enough

    @Concerned Citizen – Your comments are a testament to how profoundly out of touch with reality you are. The O’Sullivan Crime Family must have the most powerful witches and wizards in all the land to turn people into mindless puppets. They must draw their great power from the mystical Redwood Trees and that is what keeps them from moving out of the area to achieve TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION.

    Being a Board Member is a stressful VOLUNTEER position. They don’t get paid. But they sure get blamed and drug through the mud at every opportunity. No wonder we can’t get anyone to run for the Board. Instead of tearing people down, you should maybe spend five minutes talking to any member of the Board. Or step up yourself and run for the open positions.

    • Concerned citizen

      You obviously don’t know anything, everyone on the school board gets free premium health insurance, even rich marijuana dispensary owners. I have a full time tax paying job not growing and pedaling marijuana so I am busy being a productive citizen. Did you know that Ms. O’Sullivan was hired to be a counselor without a California state approved credential? Bet not. Hmmm wonder how that happened. Probably had nothing to do with daddy but yet her qualifications. You probably don’t even know what nepotism means[edit]

      • Enough is Enough

        You obviously don’t know what you are talking about. This is all public information. No one, not employees and certainly not VOLUNTEERS, get free health insurance. Your statements on Ms. O’Sullivan are not accurate at all.

        Luckily for you, I not only know what nepotism means, I am providing you with the Merriam-Webster definition of the word fact: something that has actual existence. Now you have that, too!

  • Redway resident

    I support both of these women and hope we can help get them elected. In my experience with the district’s politics I didn’t see either of the incumbents’ effectiveness. Scotty in particular always seemed poorly prepared for board meetings. Muldaur was in a documentary recently touting his cannabis business and I think that’s probably where most of his energy is going. Plus, he too always seemed poorly prepared and not of great intellectual stamina. Thus the board leans heavily on the superintendent who makes a lot of money to run the show. I always wondered if it was illegal for Bambi to be in charge of finances and her husband to be on the board. I agree that the O’Sullivan family has too many of its members employed by the district. However, it is a difficult job to be a board member of any institution, particularly one like the school district that has a such a large budget to manage. There are so many ed codes to understand and act upon, for example. The board packets were often an inch thick. Who has the time to volunteer on a board that has so much at stake? I applaud the two women who are running. I think they are excellent candidates and I would certainly not want Scotty and Muldaur back.

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