Two Applicants Seek Appointment to Southern Humboldt School Board
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.