Three companies currently engaged with the Ravenswood City School District -- a construction management company, architecture firm and utility construction company -- have made large donations to campaign committee formed to support three school board incumbents running for re-election.
Santa Ana-based SVA Architects and Los Angeles-based Telacu Construction Management each donated $15,000 in September to Parents for a Better Ravenswood City School District in Support of Pulido, Lopez, and Knight for School District Board 2018, campaign finance reports show. San Jose-based Lewis and Tibbitts, Inc. gave $5,000 on Oct. 8.
The committee's name refers to school board President Ana Pulido and members Marcelino Lopez and Charlie Mae Knight, whose terms expire in November.
The three companies are currently working with or have been recently engaged by Ravenswood. Telacu staff serve as the district's construction managers. The companies did not return requests for comment.
The district has paid SVA Architects about $706,000 through September and Telacu Construction Management, about $151,000, according to monthly vendor payments.
Recent work with SVA Architects includes a $271,500 contract, approved by the board in January, for new kindergarten classrooms, a playground and other improvements at Ronald McNair Academy; and a $9,500 contract, approved by the board in July, to replace kitchen hoods at Cesar Chavez/Ravenswood Middle School and Brentwood and Willow Oaks elementary schools.
The school board unanimously approved a $2.1 million bid from Lewis and Tibbitts in June for the McNair project, as well as about $604,500 in change orders last month. The district funded the work from the Measure H bond measure.
Adam Faville, territory manager for The Garland Company, a roofing and building company based in Ohio, contributed $1,000 to the campaign committee on Oct. 8, the campaign report shows.
Pulido said she is not involved with the campaign committee and has "never asked for contributions, nor will I, from any of the district's vendors, as I feel it is inappropriate."
"My campaign is self-financed and fueled by the community relationships that I have earned through my life as a resident of East Palo Alto and my service on multiple nonprofits in the community," she wrote in an email to the Weekly.
Political-contribution records available through the California secretary of state show that Telacu Construction Management frequently donates to candidates, political action committees and propositions throughout California, including Assembly and Senate candidates, the state superintendent race and the statewide Coalition for Adequate School Housing, which advocates for school facilities funding. Telacu Construction Management has contributed about $114,000 to candidates, ballot measures and committees since 2002.
Campaign contributions appear to be more unusual for SVA Architects, which has given about $12,000, the majority of it to the Coalition for Adequate School Housing Issues Committee in 2015, according to the Secretary of State database.
The Parents for a Better Ravenswood City School District committee was started by a group of parents and community members who "have witnessed firsthand the positive changes that have occurred at Ravenswood under the current leadership," parents Marco Duarte and Diego Barragan wrote in an email to the Weekly. Duarte has led two parent groups, the District Advisory Council and District English Learner Advisory Committee.
They believed opposition to Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff, voiced last year in protests and calls against renewing her contract, was solely to "embarrass the superintendent."
Duarte and Barragan expressed particular concern over Belle Haven Elementary School parents' decision last spring to keep students home from school in protest of the sudden transfer of their principal, Todd Gaviglio.
"To us, that was the tipping point because educational needs of students in our community were placed secondary over the needs of one person," Duarte and Barragan said. "That is not right."
The campaign committee's treasurer is Lucy Barron, who works in curriculum and instruction at the district office, campaign filings show. Barron did not grant an interview for this story.
In the most recent reporting period, the committee has spent more than $8,000 on mailers, banners, yard signs, door hangers and campaign consulting.
The three incumbents are competing against six challengers for three open seats on the school board: special-education administrator Brooke Crosby, nonprofit curriculum manager Stephanie Fitch, paraeducator Julian Garcia, teacher Laura Nunez, paraeducator and parent Nicole Sbragia and Tamara Sobomehin, who oversees development and strategy for youth technology nonprofit Streetcode Academy.
The majority of the candidates -- Crosby, Fitch, Garcia, Lopez, Knight, Sbragia and Pulido -- have signed forms stating they anticipated receiving and spending less than $2,000 for their campaigns.
A campaign committee formed by Sobomehin and Nunez, who are running on a slate together, has received just under $10,000 in contributions, including $2,000 from Sobomehin and $5,000 from Stephen Dow, general partner at Dow Venture Capital in Menlo Park.
Other donors include Larry Moody, an East Palo Alto city council member and former mayor ($100); Lara Sellers, director of major gifts and campaigns for Menlo School in Menlo Park ($100); and Karen Pace, a Redwood City School District teacher ($100).
Sobomehin and Nunez have spent about $2,000 on their campaign website, buttons, flyers and other elections paraphernalia, according to their finance report. They have accrued $2,470 in unpaid bills.
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