Big changes are coming to the Sunol Glen Unified School District after Sunolians not only voted in a mostly new Board of Trustees, but also passed a $10.9 million general obligation bond that will help restore the small town's only school.
Sunol residents had to choose three candidates this election cycle to fill all three positions in the school board -- two full-term seats and one short-term.
Current Trustee Ryan Jergensen, the only incumbent running, will be returning as one of the full-term trustees after receiving 40.08% (287 votes), according to the Nov. 21 election results report from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office -- the final major tally update expected from the county.
The other two sitting trustees, Liz Monti-Hall and Mike Picard, did not seek reelection.
Jergensen will be joined on the dais by Linda Hurley, a 39-year Sunol resident and former teacher and nurse, and corporate attorney Peter "Ted" Romo, husband of former Trustee Denise Kent-Romo, who resigned one year into her second full term because of health issues.
"I am pleased with the results of the election this year," Jergensen told the Weekly. "We will have three board members who are going to work together to support the students at Sunol Glen -- all of the students! Every child deserves to be encouraged and taught in a safe and supportive environment."
Jergensen, a father of five, moved from Fremont to Sunol back in 2016 and said that because four of his children currently attend the TK-8 district's lone school, he has a vested interest in contributing to make any positive difference at the school.
"The students are my primary focus," he said. "I will continue to strive to support the good work of the great team that we have working and volunteering in the school. They carry a great weight, and do invaluable work. I will endeavor to support and represent all those living, working, and who are generally a part of this unique community regardless of who they voted for."
Jergensen was appointed by the district in 2021 to replace Kent-Romo, who served from 2016 to 2021.
According to the registrar of voters, because of timing and standards policies in place, he was not allowed to complete the remaining three years on the former trustee's term on short-term appointment, which is why the seat was on the ballot separately this November.
Peter "Ted" Romo, who moved to Sunol a little over 10 years ago with his wife and is currently working as a corporate attorney at Apple, received 31.98% (229 votes).
With 25 years of legal experience, his wife being a previous board member and two children who attended Sunol Glen School, Romo said he has the familiarity and experience needed for the job.
He said that similar to Jergensen, he was pleased with the outcome of the election, but was also excited about Measure J passing as well.
Measure J is the $10.9 million general obligation bond that the district has placed on the Nov. 8 ballot. The bond passed with 59.62% (316 votes) of Sunol residents voting in favor and 40.38% (214 votes) of residents voting against it.
With Sunol being a small town, the number of "No" votes that were needed to keep the bond passing was 24.
The bond will utilize a tax rate of $52.10 per $100,000 of assessed value for property owners to fund a priority list of projects. The district will start with replacing the roofs of some of the older buildings like the main one and then will focus on making accessible ramps and entrances to the buildings and bathrooms.
"I am pleased that a majority of the community has voted to pledge support to repairing and updating the aging facilities to keep a safe, modernized historical school in good repair," Jergensen said. "With Measure J we can preserve this gem of our community. Having safe, comfortable facilities does affect the learning environment and confidence of our students."
The school was built in 1925 and since then things have been added and patched up along the way, but that has only acted as a bandage to the bigger problems like wood rot, necessary seismic updates and outdated electrical and plumbing systems.
"It is great to see that the community has rallied behind the Sunol Glen school and is taking an active role in supporting its continued excellence into the future," Romo told the Weekly. "Mike Picard, Ryan Jergensen and Molly Barnes all deserve tremendous credit and thanks for all their hard work in getting the word out on the need for the bond and for getting it across the finish line. I look forward to working with each of them, and engaging with the Sunol community, in making a great school even better."
Business owner James Lowder was the third candidate for the full-term seat but fell short by a slim margin of 30 votes as he finished with 27.93% (200 votes).
Lowder did not want to provide any comments.
The other seat on the board this election season was for the two-year position that former teacher and nurse Hurley managed to secure after a tight race against challenger and information technology manager Chris Bobertz.
At the end of Election Night, the race was being decided by just two votes with Hurley getting 72 votes and Bobertz getting 70 in the small district. Since then, the numbers didn't change much until the Nov. 21 update which had Hurley at 52.74% (250 votes) to Bobertz's 47.26% (224).
Bobertz said that even with only 474 votes between him and Hurley, it was still a decent turnout of voters given the size of Sunol.
"Not specifically the outcome I was hoping for, but I'm not too terribly worried about it," Bobertz said. "I know the community within the School will be sure to make their voices and opinions heard regardless of who is sitting on the board. I only hope for the experience of the kids that attend Sunol Glen to be the best that it can be."
Hurley said she is also grateful for the support and will do her best to represent the community, but she also had a more analytical view on Measure J passing.
"With the passing of Measure J, it will be important to implement a Bond Oversight Committee and to carefully use those monies to best restore our buildings to a safe and beautiful condition that will be enjoyed for years to come," Hurley said. "Because I understand the bond money is not available to us for one year, we will not be able to address the new roof this upcoming summer when the children will be out of school."
She said that because of this, she has connected with a number of Sunolians who hope to raise enough money to redo the roof this summer by fundraising -- that way the district wouldn't have to use that portion of the bond money.
"The bond salesman has stated that we would only pay for what we use so if we are able to come up with the funds to take care of at least some of the expenses required to address the school's needs, then the community will not have to pay two plus times the amount of money used to restore our school," Hurley said.
She said that she also plans on being, "transparent in the decisions and expenditures concerning the school so that our community can be informed and would welcome their input in how their money is being spent."