Former Santa Rosa school board president opts not to run for third term
When she was president of the Santa Rosa school board, Jenni Klose got invited to a lot of public events.
Many invitations came in the aftermath of the 2017 North Bay wildfires as the community tried to understand what losing over 3,000 homes in the city meant for students and teachers in the Santa Rosa City Schools district.
Klose, 50, said those discussions made clear to her housing mattered not just for maintaining strong education in a recovering community, but the overall quality of life, the local economy and the environment all rely on having a diverse, affordable supply of housing.
Those community discussions led to a new direction for Klose, a real estate attorney and the longest-serving member of the city school board.
She will not seek reelection this year for a third four-year term. Klose is shifting her attention to the nonprofit sector as executive director of Generation Housing, an advocacy group aiming to shift the community and political will on an issue with longstanding ramifications for the viability of Sonoma County.
“It’s going to be hard to leave the school board. It’s something I’m passionate about,” said Klose, who served as board president from 2016 to 2019.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress in the last eight years. We’ve made a lot of really big changes and really big decisions that were necessary, and challenging.
“The more I learned about (how we recover),” she added, “the more passionate I became about the issue of housing being the strongest lever we can pull to ensure a thriving community going forward.”
Klose, who graduated from Montgomery High School and earned degrees from UCLA and Indiana University, has been a vocal supporter for closing student achievement gaps during her time on the school board, especially among minorities or students from low-income families.
For example, she has been outspoken in favor of the district’s move nearly two years ago to offer only college preparatory classes at Santa Rosa high schools.
That decision has been met with resistance from numerous teachers who think the district failed to provide enough resources to successfully teach harder material to more diverse classrooms.
The school board is expected to vote on a waiver later this month that could potentially help the large number of underclassmen in danger of not graduating on time and are struggling with the new course requirements.
During her tenure, Klose helped the Santa Rosa school district move away from a zero tolerance approach to discipline and use more restorative justice practices, which helped curb suspensions and expulsions, she said.
The board also changed admission policies at district charter schools to a lottery system so students of color had an equal chance.
Before she vacates her board seat at the end of the year, Klose said she intends to help launch the first fundraising arm for the district to help enrich local schools, and lay the foundation for a housing down payment assistance program to better attract and retain educators.
Fellow trustee Ed Sheffield, who has served alongside Klose since 2016, said the board is losing expertise and valuable institutional memory with the remaining members either halfway through or wrapping up their first term.