PD Editorial: For Santa Rosa school board, Jenni Klose is best pick

There’s only one Santa Rosa school board seat on the Nov. 3 ballot, and incumbent Jenni Klose is the best choice for the job.

Klose has proven over two terms that she’s open-minded, independent and committed to solving the fiscal, cultural and academic problems confronting Sonoma County’s largest school district.

Just as important, Klose is a forceful advocate for the 16,000  students attending Santa Rosa City Schools.

She successfully pressed to end a tracking policy that routed too many local high school students, especially poor and minority students, away from college-prep courses. Beginning with the Class of 2022, all high school graduates in the Santa Rosa district will be eligible to apply for admission to a UC or CSU campus.

Klose is presently focused on finding an alternative to “distance learning,” a coronavirus adaptation that isn’t working for too many students and families.

Her opponent, Ever Flores, is a counselor at Healdsburg High School and a teachers union leader. Flores has an inspirational story, arriving in Sonoma County from war-torn El Salvador as a child and growing up to be an educator.

Voters tired of scorched-earth campaigns may appreciate Flores’ unwillingness to talk about his opponent. But that means he is eschewing a challenger’s first hurdle: persuading voters that it’s time for a change.

Klose and Flores are running in Trustee Area 1, which includes central Santa Rosa and the College Avenue corridor, as the school district completes its transition from at-large to district elections.

Three other board members are running unopposed: Laurie Fong and Ed Sheffield, who were elected in 2016, and Alegria De La Cruz, who was appointed in 2019.

In this instance, the change would involve unseating the most experienced member of a school board that has seen six of its seven seats turn over in the past four years — a tumultuous period marked by declining enrollment, budget troubles and a substantial amount of classroom time lost to wildfires and, now, the coronavirus pandemic.

Klose, a lawyer whose day job is executive director of the nonprofit Generation Housing, understands the budget challenges facing the district, which must confront a loss of enrollment-based state funding that has grown more acute since the fires and may be accelerating with declining birth rates, high housing costs and the pandemic.

In the near term, she wants the district to consider options including resuming classes outside with masks and social distancing to assist students who aren’t thriving — and bring back those who aren’t even participating — with distance learning. Klose also says the district should consider offering students the option of repeating this year because so many youngsters have missed so much classroom time.

To help recruit teachers in a costly housing market, she supported the creation of a down payment assistance fund seeded with proceeds from the sale of district property.

With 20 years’ experience in public education, Flores is familiar with academic, enrollment and equity issues and says educators should have a voice on the school board. But his proposals are less detailed, and he can’t match the experience and expertise offered by Klose, whose colleagues have elected her president of the school board three times.

The Press Democrat recommends Jenni Klose for Trustee Area 1 on the Santa Rosa school board.

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