Repost from the Benicia Herald
[NOTE: The Progressive Democrats of Benicia have not yet endorsed any candidate for the November election. Posting of this article does not constitute endorsement.]
Retired librarian becomes first candidate in school board raceBy Nick Sestanovich, August 10, 2018
The Benicia school board election is well underway. This year, three seats are up for grabs but of those three, only President Diane Ferrucci has made an attempt to run for re-election. This will essentially guarantee new faces on the board, and according to the Solano County Registrar of Voters’ website, at least four challengers are going through the process of filing papers to establish candidacies. Of these, one is now an established candidate as of press time.
Sheri Zada, a retired elementary school librarian and local volunteer, is the first candidate in the race. She cites a lifelong love for education and children that she hopes to bring to the board.
“I’ve been heavily involved in volunteering for children and education, which is my passion,” she said.
Zada raised her two sons in Southern California where she served as everything from a room mother to a librarian to an assistant to special needs children to a director for a high school swim team. She also had an elected position with the local teachers union.
“I so appreciate everything the teachers do for our students,” she said. “I know how hard it is that they work.”
Zada has kept up the volunteer efforts since moving to Benicia four years ago. She has lent her time to the Benicia Fire Museum, Run for Education, Robert Semple Elementary School’s STEM program and Scholastic Book Fair and the garden at Mary Farmar Elementary School. Perhaps her biggest volunteer effort came in kickstarting the March for Our Lives event in Benicia, held in response to gun violence incidents worldwide particularly the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. back in February. Zada had been discussing the planned nationwide March for Our Lives events with her husband Alan and decided to see if she could gauge interest for a local event through social media. She made a post on the Facebook group “Benicia Happenings” to see if anyone would want to get involved.
“I started getting feedback from people in our community, and it snowballed from there,” she said.
Zada also posted to Nextdoor and Meetup, and this drew interest from high schoolers, retired individuals, educators, local elected officials and more. The March 24 event drew a crowd of approximately 1,500 people.
Following the event, Zada was approached by people who told her she should run for the school board. Initially, she said she was not interested.
“The school thing was brand new to me,” she said, “but I got very excited and encouraged by what people were telling me and what they were sharing with me and how I felt during the press for the march that I gave it some thought and I said, ‘You know what? I understand what they’re going through because I’ve been in their shoes working in the school district. Plus, as a parent, I know how parents have to deal with the district as well.’ It just made me realize I have time now that I can devote to helping our school district out.”
The other motivator for Zada to run was the stories she had heard from teachers and parents working with the Benicia Unified School District, especially during the impasse over contract negotiations.
“It’s not a good situation these teachers are in right now,” she said. “I’ve been on that side. I understand how hard it is.”
For example, Zada said her hours as a librarian would continually get deducted to the point where benefits were lost.
“I know what they’re going through,” she said.
Zada completed her paperwork to run on Aug. 3 and has been busy getting her message out through social media. Among her biggest goals are helping teachers and the district come up with an equitable contract and being able to hold on to BUSD’s best teachers.
“We’ve got good teachers, and they are looking elsewhere because we’re not offering a competitive package,” she said. “There’s a shortage of teachers in California, and there’s a small amount of really good teachers, and we don’t want to lose them. They’ve done a lot for our children.”
Zada believes that solid educators and parent involvement make BUSD a strong district, but she feels communication at the district level remains an issue.
“We need to encourage and listen and come up with solutions,” she said.
One thing Zada is proposing as a BUSD trustee is visiting each school once a month and having coffee chats with teachers and faculty to listen to their concerns as well as positive developments.
“I want to be the conduit to bring that information back to the board so that we can work on addressing things and not letting things slide,” she said.
Another top priority for Zada is for the district to further address safety issues like bullying and suicide prevention.
“I think there needs to be more understanding,” she said.
Zada said she is against arming teachers but is in favor of establishing a security system to make students safer and feel more secure. She is also opposed to charter schools that are not privately funded.
“I don’t want to see any money that should be funneled into the school district be taken away from us because of charter schools,” she said.
Zada has already received early endorsements from the Benicia Teachers Association, Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, Vice Mayor Steve Young and Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown, a retired educator.
Zada believes in taking a stand on certain issues while also considering the benefits and drawbacks.
“I take sides in what I believe in while making change, but I listen and I weigh everything out and then I make a decision,” she said.
Zada is aware the position requires a lot of time, but she said she is ready for it.
“I’m not doing it for fame,” she said. “I’m doing it because I believe in this district, I believe in these kids and I believe in our future. There’s no other reason I would do it.”
For more information on Zada’s campaign, visit her Facebook page “Sheri Zada for Benicia School Board.”
Other potential candidates in the race include real estate agent Adrean Hayashi, Pittsburg Unified School District employee Mark Maselli, and Gethsemane Moss, a senior director of community engagement with the Solano County Office of Education.