Bay Area native Michael Utsumi is hopeful his long-term volunteer experience in Dublin schools will pay off by winning the Area 4 seat on the Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees in the Nov. 3 general election.
"I believe that residents in every election deserve options," Utsumi told the Weekly, saying several factors compelled him to run for trustee: his 15-year background serving in local schools -- including a decade of in-classroom volunteer tutoring and even longer serving on various DUSD committees and site councils -- and a desire for a more united district administration.
"We have the great responsibility of selecting a new superintendent," Utsumi said. The sudden resignation in June of former superintendent Dave Marken wasn't the reason Utsumi filed to run, but he said "when (Marken) resigned, I realized something's wrong. I haven't seen a lot of unity."
"I feel nobody does this for accolades; you do it because you think you can make a difference," he said. "One trustee alone cannot bring harmony, but I feel based on my experiences and personality, I would try to lead by example."
Utsumi is the lone challenger running against incumbent Area 4 Trustee Gabi Blackman in the Nov. 3 general election.
Utsumi's leadership in Dublin schools started when he first sold fireworks for a Frederiksen Elementary School fundraiser while his daughter -- a Dublin High graduate now in her fourth year at UC Davis -- was in first grade.
"It started out innocently as that," he said, then led to Utsumi introducing advanced learners in his daughter's class to new enrichment material, freeing the teacher to spend more time with students who needed help.
Addressing greater diversity and inclusion in the district, including additional staff training and closing academic gaps among students, are among Utsumi's priorities if elected.
"When I look at it with clear eyes, we're really fortunate in Dublin in that we're a high-performing district," he said. "Many of our students are admitted to some of the finest institutions in this country, but we also have to be committed to the success of all our students. There are achievement gaps that need to be bridged -- that's the true measurement of success for our district."
Utsumi continued, "There are also special education students, English language learners and those who are struggling. I'm very much into equity and inclusion, and that's really important."
Outside the classroom, Utsumi has been a part of decision-making, fundraising and coordinating on the school site councils of Frederiksen, Wells Middle, and Dublin High. He also served on both the Citizens Bond Oversight and DUSD Homework and Grading committees, and was also a stakeholder on behalf of Valley High School during their Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Accreditation.
Recognizing the enormous responsibility of making decisions on behalf of nearly 13,000 students that are remote learning during a pandemic, Utsumi said, "There is a roadmap leading back to in-person learning; it's vital we adhere to the data ... and to not be reckless" with reopening plans whenever Alameda County falls off the state's county monitoring list for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Utsumi later earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from California State University Hayward. He has worked in a variety of fields including pharmaceutical sales and residential real estate, and more recently as the funding and events coordinator for the Dublin Partners in Education Foundation (DPIE). Utsumi moved to Dublin in 1991, where he has lived ever since, and has one daughter with his wife of 27 years, Katherine.
For his volunteer efforts, Utsumi received the DUSD Outstanding Volunteer Recognition in 2009 and the Superintendent's Award in 2017. He is also an accomplished writer and won the Golden Quill from the California School Boards Association last year.
To learn more, visit www.MichaelUtsumi.com.