Thank you, Richard Bammer, for the great story about our endorsed Candidate for the upcoming Area 6 Election – Amy Tran Russell!
The Vacaville Teachers Association has endorsed a UC Davis dean and former school teacher as a candidate in the VUSD Trustee Area 6 special election on Dec. 19.
Amy Tran Russell — a senior assistant dean for student affairs, earned two master’s degrees — an MBA from UCD and one in education from UC Santa Cruz. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in history from UCD, according to a teachers union press statement sent to The Reporter on Wednesday and information in her candidate statement.
Russell, 43, started her career teaching social studies for the Benicia Unified School District and coaching track and field. She then worked with high school students as part of a youth leadership development program for five years.
In 2010, she began work at the Davis campus, where she is now responsible for six out seven programs at the business school. She and her husband have lived in Vacaville for the past 10 years and their child attends a district school.
In her candidate statement, Russell noted she was a first-generation American, adding, “I know that access for all to the best possible education is a powerful way to shape positive outcomes. This belief guides my career.”
“I bring knowledge to facilitate school success to support career success,” she added in the prepared statement. “I hope to empower collaboration between parents, teachers, staff and the community to transform student outcomes. From technical to college track, I’m dedicated to showing our students what they can do today to maximize careers tomorrow and galvanizing support for them.”
“Amy really wowed us,” Brenda Hensley, a Will C. Wood High math teacher and president of the 700-member VTA, said of the union’s endorsement. “In addition to real classroom experience, she’s able to bring a wealth of professional knowledge, deep connections to UC Davis, which will only benefit our students, and a real understanding of how data can drive collaborative reforms which will benefit every student in our community. She’s a perfect partner for this sort of important work.”
Russell has gained some significant other endorsements. They include Michael Kitszes, the VUSD school board president and resident of Trustee Area 7; Nancy Dunn, a trustee from Area 1; Michael “Mike” Silva, a Vacaville city councilman and former trustee; and Nolan Sullivan, a former Vacaville city councilman and former district trustee.
The trustee seat will be on the ballot in November 2024, because former VUSD governing board member Kelly Dwyer moved out of the district. The current board appointed Russell to the vacant seat, but 1.5% of Area 6 voters forced a special election, which will cost the district the equivalent of “two first-year teacher salaries,” noted Hensley.
On Thursday John Gardner, the assistant registrar of voters for Solano County, estimated the election will cost the district $122,000, based on the number of voters in the trustee area.
“Between this special election (for Area 6) and the special election for the Area 4 seat,” said Jaxie Murray, VTA vice president and kindergarten teacher at Orchard Elementary School, “that’s nearly five new teachers that we will not be able to hire to teach our kids — and that’s heartbreaking, our kids deserve better.”
Currently, there are three special elections for school board members in Solano and Yolo Counties which have been triggered by 1.5 percent petitions: two in Vacaville (besides Trustee Area 6, also one in Trustee Area 4) and one in Davis. There was also a special election forced by the 1.5 percent threshold in Benicia last year, Murray pointed out.
“We’re seeing this sort of thing all over the state,” said VanCedric Williams, a history teacher from San Francisco and California Teachers Association board member for District A, which reaches from Solano County to the Oregon border. “In community after community, a very small group of people has discovered that they can force districts to waste money on unnecessary elections in order to advance an anti-public education agenda. This needs to stop, our kids don’t deserve to have the money meant to educate them being wasted.”
In advance of the Sept. 12 Trustee Area 4 special election, the candidates are David McCallum, a local radio broadcaster and longtime former VUSD trustee; Michael W. Martin, a real estate broker; and Lindsay Kelly, an insurance claims adjuster.
The VTA represents classroom teachers, school psychologists, counselors, school nurses, librarians, speech language pathologists and educational specialists.