I am the product of Petaluma City Schools
I have lived in Petaluma for 21 of my 25 years on this earth. I spent toddlerhood learning to walk in downtown Petaluma, entertaining myself by running up the historical library steps. I attended Learning to Learn, Sonoma Mountain Elementary School, Kenilworth Junior High School, and Casa Grande High School before earning my Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley, where I studied Political Science and Public Policy. Because of my education, I am passionate about keeping quality public education accessible to all residents of Petaluma. I feel blessed to have received a top-notch education from passionate educators in the public sphere from kindergarten through college.
I know Petaluma City Schools
Because of my upbringing in Petaluma, I know what it is like to be a student at these schools. I know not all students had the same experience as I did. As a bisexual girl growing up and coming to terms with my identity at Casa Grande High School, I know that it was not always the safest place to be. Queer kids like me didn’t learn relevant sex education and weren’t able to Google almost anything about our identity on school computers.
Sexual assault and violence were barely ever talked about, even though a history teacher from Casa was arrested on charges of using the internet to seduce a teenage girl when I was a sophomore. In my work at Verity, Sonoma County’s Rape Crisis Center, I know that sexual violence and assault are talked about more with students, but I have no idea what trainings our teachers, staff, and administrators get. I am shocked and appalled that the last time I checked, the Title IX information on the PCS website was hard to access and severely out-of-date, still listing staff members who are no longer even employed by PCS. That is unacceptable.
Ever since I was a student at UC Berkeley, I wanted to run for political office. Ever since the 2016 general election, I knew I needed to run for office soon. I first considered running for School Board in late 2017 when so many of the amazing teachers I learned so much from were forced to strike just to be heard. I felt even more strongly about running when community members had to attend a School Board meeting where they pleaded the Board to take concrete action to keep ICE off of campuses here in Petaluma.
I loved growing up in Petaluma. I went away for four years to go to college and consciously chose to come back here. I can’t help that my parents have a great taste in towns! But growing up as a bisexual kid, navigating school was tricky. I was lucky to have a safe home where I could navigate my queerness after school, but a lot of kids don’t have a safe home or a home with the resources to enable them to explore their identity after class ends.
The library, the iPads, and the other resources that the schools provide could be a lifesaver for a confused kid — but not if district-wide filters continue to prevent us from being able to search for stories and articles about our identities, our issues, and our dreams. When I was a student, the filters wouldn’t let me google any word that I might use to describe my identity — not “gay,” not “lesbian,” not “bisexual.” I don’t remember if I googled “queer,” but I’ll go out on a limb and guess that was blocked too. That policy made me feel invisible and unimportant. Other queer and trans kids had it worse than me, and received little support, if any.
Petaluma’s kids deserve our respect and trust. They deserve days free from bullying and holistic responses to issues like tardiness, truancy, and declining grades. Students are far more than just students, and most teachers here understand that. Students love their teachers and don’t get to know staff and administration unless they’re in trouble. More open communication and accessible relationships are key to a healthier school environment.
Our teachers, staff, students, and parents deserve proactive support, not reactive crumbs. Students, staff, teachers, and parents who are wronged deserve apologies and justice, not cover-ups and pivots. Petaluma deserves new voices and new leadership, and I intend to be a new, young voice on the School Board as someone who grew up in these schools, largely thanks to the teachers and staff who still serve Petaluma today.
I want to be a voice for young people, queer people, sexual assault survivors, and East Petalumans on Petaluma’s school board. The time for change is now.