Madhavi Sunder, a daughter of immigrants and a professor of law at UC Davis, announced Tuesday that she will seek a seat on the Davis school board.
Sunder said she will be a candidate for appointment to the vacancy created by trustee Nancy Peterson’s resignation and also will be a candidate in the November general election.
Sunder said she believes the school district needs to be forward-looking, meeting budget challenges but not letting them prevent the district from creating innovative new programs that are fiscally responsible.
“The last few years have seen enormous growth in class sizes,” she said. “Teachers have been asked to do more for less, and now teachers and students must adjust to the new, dramatically different Common Core” academic standards.
“The school board needs to offer strong leadership to face these challenges.”
Sunder attended public schools as a child, and then enrolled at Harvard College, from which she graduated magna cum laude. She earned her J.D. degree at Stanford Law School, after which she practiced law in New York City before returning to California to work for a federal appellate judge in Los Angeles.
When she joined the faculty at UCD’s King Hall, she was the youngest professor to be hired at the law school. She has been teaching at UCD for 15 years.
“I am proud to teach at a public university, where many of our students are the first in their families to go to college and graduate school,” she said.
In 2005, when her daughter was a toddler and she was pregnant with her son, Sunder proposed and led a campaign to name a new elementary school in East Davis after Fred Korematsu, a native Californian and civil rights activist who waged a long campaign for justice in response to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The naming honor earned Davis recognition in The New York Times.
Sunder’s two children attend Korematsu Elementary, which proudly describes itself as a “social justice school.” The school song includes the words “What can one little person do?”
Sunder also has been a classroom volunteer at César Chávez Elementary School and is a soccer mom, volunteering as an AYSO coach. She has served on the school district’s GATE Advisory Committee and most recently was a member of one of the action teams that was part of the school district’s strategic planning process.
“Drawing on my passion for public education and my experience as an educator, a lawyer, a mother and a social justice advocate, I will work tirelessly on behalf of all the children in this town,” Sunder said.
“We need to begin by making sure that teachers have the training and the support they need” to implement the state’s new academic standards. “What the top school districts in the world have in common is respect for teachers. Davis teachers need to know that they have our deepest respect.”
Sunder said she has been touring each of the Davis schools to learn more about the challenges and successes of each campus.
Sunder has been endorsed by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso; Yolo County Clerk/Recorder Freddie Oakley; Enrique Lavernia, dean of the UCD College of Engineering; and Deborah Nichols Poulos, a retired Davis school teacher and former Davis City Council member.
The Sunder campaign will hold a kickoff party on Friday, May 2, at 5:30 p.m. at the home of Shama Mesiwala, 3249 Conquistador Way in Davis, with Indian appetizers, drinks and family activities, including henna artists. The Sunder campaign is in the process of setting up a website, which will be www.SunderforSchools.org.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.