The community decided the outcome of the school board elections on Nov. 6, with Jenny Fitzgerald, Cindy Goldberg and Bill Gorback winning the three open seats on the board.
There were eight candidates in the race — Patrissha Rose Booker, Dr. Amy Chen, incumbent Mike Dunn, Fitzgerald, Goldberg, Gorback, Angie Simpson and Marlon Delano Williams. Each eligible voter selected their top three candidates to vote for.
Goldberg came in first with 20.37 percent of the votes (19,232 votes), Fitzgerald came in second with 18.62 percent of the votes (17,623 votes), and Gorback came in third with 17.25 percent of the votes (16,270 votes).
Goldberg found out that she won the election when her son called her at 2:30 a.m.
“It was a little surreal,” said Goldberg. “I felt relief that the election was over, I felt joy in winning, and I was overcome with gratitude that the people of Conejo Valley are trusting me with this responsibility.”
Goldberg feels optimistic about her election win.
“With all the bad news we get bombarded with, it is easy to lose sight of the important things and wallow in negativity,” said Goldberg. “The positive passion and level of genuine engagement people showed during this election demonstrated how much we all care about our children and education. And at the end of the day, the message heard was that everyone recognizes that kids are the future and bring hope for a better world. I am grateful and excited to be able do my part.”
Gorback initially learned that he was in third place after he left the Nov. 6 school board meeting, but at that time there was only twenty-six percent of the votes reported. He continued checking throughout the night, and he said that his win finally felt real when he saw in the middle of the night he was still in third place with ninety percent of the votes counted.
“I was definitely excited [when I found out I won]! Also pleased and relieved,” said Gorback. “I felt relieved because so many people had worked so hard doing so much, including so many … students. I felt not holding my own at the polls would be letting so many people’s efforts down. It really took a little time to let it sink in that I will be a Conejo Valley Unified School District Trustee. I am enthusiastic about starting my duties, after I learn more about the responsibilities by attending new board member training.”
The new trustees are looking to focus on the needs of the students as well as on building confidence between the board and the community.
“Students are my first priority,” said Goldberg. “We have achievement gaps in certain subgroups that we need to take a hard look at and address. We need to ensure our students succeed while protecting their social and emotional health … I plan to rebuild trust among board members, between the board and CVUSD family and between the board and the larger Conejo community.”
Working directly with students is of great importance to the new board members.
“Students should know my door is always open to [them],” said Goldberg. “You are an important part of my constituency. I was serious about wanting to create a more formal student advisory body and would love to hear students’ thoughts on how best to create a meaningful and effective group.”
Additionally, the trustees hope to focus on the social and emotional health of students.
“I want to focus on programs that teach social and emotional learning to students of all ages,” said Gorback. “In elementary, I’m looking for basic lessons like kindness and understanding differences. At the middle school level, respecting others and building personal resilience are key lessons. At the high school level, learning respect for others and building positive relationships including respectful and positive dating relationships are important topics. I would also like to look into implementing a social and emotional education program where students know that if they are having personal stress that they are not alone and can reach out to others.”
Following the winners were Chen with 15.95 percent of the vote (16,539 votes), Simpson with 12.77 percent (13,248 votes) and Dunn with 12.30 percent (12,756 votes).
“It was a tough race but it was a great experience and I have no regrets,” said Chen about her loss. “In every election, there will be candidates that come up short. As parents, we will always be involved [with the school board].”
Simpson feels like she gave her best efforts in the election and “wish[es] the best for the people that won.”
“This 2018 election has been an eye opening experience,” said Simpson. “As a result, I can better empathize with what high school students are dealing with navigating cyber bullies and stereotyping … I will always be here for our community and [am] happy to encourage others who are interested in running for office.”
Booker finished with 1.39 percent of the vote (1,437 votes), and Williams finished with 1.17 percent of the vote (1,215 votes).
“It was my main goal to be the voice of the voiceless with focus on all students and their issues, which I feel I accomplished,” said Booker. “I received over [a thousand] votes, so that means that there were people who listened to what I had to say and were inspired to vote for me. Therefore, I do not see myself as a loser; I see myself as someone who has made an impact in the community by speaking on issues others are hesitant to address or perhaps ignore.”
The final board meeting with current trustees will be held on Tues., Dec. 4. The new school board trustees, who are taking the places of John Andersen, Dunn and Patricia Phelps, will begin their term on the first Friday of December, which is Dec. 7, according to Board Bylaw 9110. This means they will have their first board meeting on Tues., Dec. 18.
“I want [students] to know they will be the priority in all the decisions this board makes,” said Gorback. “Making sure our students are learning and being given every opportunity to reach their potential is my main focus. We’re here for you!”
Dunn, Fitzgerald and Williams did not respond to a request for comment.