Laura Fadave steps down from high school board
By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, August 16, 2021
The West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) Board of Trustees is down one member, but Laurie Fadave has no regrets, she said.
Less than a year since she was elected in late 2020, Fadave decided to resign upon realizing that the volume of time, preparation and research required of a trustee was more than she could give for another three years.
“I hadn’t really counted hours, but I would say when I wasn’t actively doing something, which would take usually a couple hours each day, it was always in my mind and I would be mulling things over. So, it was my main focus, actually since running for office,” she said of her district duties.
“I decided it was simply time to allow someone else to step into my shoes. I don’t have any regrets at all about what the board accomplished last year and I know the beginning of the school year has gone very well,” she said. Fadave commended students, staff and administrators seeking to put the youth first in their education.
The board can fill her vacancy by making a provisional appointment or ordering a special election within 60 days — September, in this case — according to the agenda for the upcoming Aug. 18 board meeting.
Fadave, who taught English at Analy for 17 years, sent her formal resignation to Steve Herrington, Sonoma County superintendent of schools, on July 27 after informing the board and Superintendent Toni Beal of her decision.
“There was no backroom politics if anyone wants to think of that, it was just my own personal decision that it was time for me to make a change,” Fadave said.
Fadave was one of three trustees singled out in a recall campaign to remove those who voted to go through with consolidating Analy High School and El Molino High School last March. Board President Kellie Noe and Vice Board President Jeanne Fernandes remain focuses of the campaign.
The recall campaign “played no role in my decision at all,” she said.
“But honestly, you know, I don’t look at social media, I never have. What saddens me is that it seems that many parents were misinformed and were willing to listen to secondary sources rather than using the same critical thinking schools the kids were learning in school,” she said.
As examples, Fadave named, “taking a look at what’s the source of your information, people would ask questions over and over again either at meetings or in writing that had already been answered, as if they were expecting a different answer just because they asked the question again.”
The former trustee said there was a lot the board would have wanted to do or say to ease the pain around consolidating, but “the consolidation was something that I feel should have been addressed years ago,” or rather, the district’s escalating financial issues “and also, much of it, like the declining enrollment, outside the board’s control.”
Fadave said, “We can’t make people move (here) with families when it’s so expensive to live in west county. Plus, the floods and the fires and everything else. And I think there were things that people didn’t take into consideration.”
On the other hand, she said, “I think that board knows emotions were and are high. I think that perhaps there should have been more proactive work ahead of time, you know, saying okay, these are the issues, laying them out there, laying out a possible gameplan.”
Fadave said the board could have better anticipated some of the ways the community would react and that the community had a hard time thinking past heading into the new school year, considering the future and “actually listen.”
It became difficult to keep up with how fast circumstances and changes developed, she said.
Fadave stated she did not want to downplay what families and teachers have endured so far.
“I know that change is so difficult and that when there’s something like your community’s school that’s involved, it may be the one thing in west county that people felt that they still had some iota of control over,” compared to fires, floods and COVID-19.
Fadave agreed in an Aug. 13 interview that community members did not seem to understand how the consolidation decision came to be and that some responded as though that determination caught them by surprise.
The March 3-2 vote to carry out the consolidation was a vote to follow through with a resolution passed in late 2020, intended as a placeholder plan to consolidate in the 2021-22 school year if two measures expected to bring money into the district fell through. They fell through.
“The information was there and the community was made aware of it, but there were many things that the community — how shall I put this — didn’t listen to,” Fadave said, however.
“But that information was there, it was published, on the website, all of that was accessible.”
One of Fadave’s major reflections after her time on the board working through so many issues facing the district was directing attention to “the future of education in west county,” providing students opportunities to “explore interests and talents they didn’t know they had” regardless of what they chose to do next, she said.
Fadave continued, “That was one of the goals for me at least with voting for consolidation was saving programs as well as jobs. But losing the programs would have meant students would not have had the same opportunities to learn things they may not have necessarily thought of learning about,” like viticulture, dance, band and choir.
No one moment informed Fadave it was time to step down, but she said the district’s transition from an at-large election system to a by-trustee area method in November 2022 had been on her mind.
Fadave said five of the board members live in the general Sebastopol area, and speaking for herself alone, she believed that whether she had years left still in her term, “it would be more fair to even open my seat to, you know, the general by-trustee election.”
She said she didn’t know how the boundaries would be drawn, but, adding she regretted none of her decisions on the board, she wanted to put her seat “on the block.” In the meantime, Fadave said she looks forward to spending more time with friends, family and personal projects since her retirement.
According to the former trustee, west county approaches a huge opportunity to make changes for the better in education.
“I think flexibility is really going to be the name of the game. And anytime you’ve got kind of a shake up in an educational system, you can do that but it means that there are going to be growing pains and people are just going to have to be patient and constructive because we’re all human and education is a human process,” Fadave said.
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