After spending several hours interviewing candidates and deliberating, the Ravenswood City School District Board of Trustees appointed longtime East Palo Alto resident Samuel Tavera to fill a vacant seat.
Tavera’s roots run deep in East Palo Alto, having lived in the community for more than three decades. Tavera works as the administrator of operations manager for One East Palo Alto, a nonprofit serving youth and families to bring about racial justice.
Board Chair Jenny Bloom told Tavera after he was sworn in as a board member that she appreciated the personal relationships he had with local youth and his understanding of the issues that they are dealing with. "To bring that here and to share that knowledge and that growth with us is something that I look forward to,” she said.
The board seat officially became vacant on Aug. 25 following former district teacher and Trustee Bronwyn Alexander’s resignation. Alexander, who was elected in 2020, announced in June that she would be stepping away from the position about a year and a half before her term ends because she is retiring from teaching and moving away from the district.
The district board held a special meeting on Aug. 29 to appoint someone to the remainder of the term after fielding applications for the last couple months. Three people applied. Besides Tavera, they were Larry Moody, a former board member and East Palo Alto City Council member, and Airel Tinajero, a Belle Haven resident and manager of the senior center at the Onetta Harris Community Center in Menlo Park.
As a father of two young children who will one day be students in the Ravenswood City School District, Tavera said he applied for the open seat because he wants to make the district a place that parents like him want to send their children.
Tavera said his top priority as a board member would be advocating for more resources around mental and behavioral health for students, which ties in with the work he does at One East Palo Alto. Tavera added that he also supports the district’s efforts to provide affordable housing for teachers and pay them competitive salaries.
“If we don’t pay our teachers, there are other districts that will pay them, because we have talented teachers in this district, and we want to make sure that we keep talent here and not let talent leave out the door,” Tavera said during his interview.
The board struggled at first to narrow down the three candidates, saying they each came with unique strengths. The trustees agreed that Tavera’s strength lies in his strong ties to the community’s youth, both through his work and his family. The board also appreciated that candidate Moody came with extensive governance experience. They also liked that candidate Tinajero would offer direct representation of the Belle Haven community, which was where former board member Alexander also lived.
“I think that each one brings something that we need to this board,” Board Chair Bloom said.
Tavera rose to the top of the pool of candidates for his experience working directly with youth in the community, as well as his own experience as a kid growing up in East Palo Alto.
“In the heart of making decisions, if I sit on this board, I’ll think of myself as a young kid who dealt with not having lunch at school, being tired and not performing,” Tavera told the board during his interview. “And I mention that because those are lived experiences that our students have today, that they’re dealing with.”
After the board voted unanimously to approve Tavera’s appointment, Superintendent Gina Sudaria officially swore him in and offered those attending the meeting a chance to make remarks. Moody, who also applied for the open seat, took the mic.
“I know that you’re going to support the district every way that you can, I know that you’re going to be a strong advocate for Superintendent Sudaria, and I know that every child that’s in the Ravenswood School District will get your heartfelt efforts and prayers each and every day,” said Moody, who Tavera identified as one of his mentors. “This is really a nice addition to a group that is committed to serve this district.”