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Sonoma County, CA November 6, 2012 Election
Smart Voter Full Biography for Cheryl (Ziff) Scholar

Candidate for
Member; Sonoma County Board of Education; Trustee Area 4

This information is provided by the candidate

I was born and raised in California. We moved a lot as I was growing up, but always stayed within the general bay area - San Jose, Lafayette, and Saratoga. In 1970 I graduated from Saratoga High School and was accepted into Sonoma State College (before it became known as Sonoma State University). My uncle had a house in Petaluma that I moved in to, and ever since then I've been a Sonoma County resident.

I graduated from college in 1975 with a BA in Psychology. My first job was in a production area at Hewlett Packard in Santa Rosa (before it became Agilent). The company's core philosophy--the HP Way--was unique at the time because it emphasized the value of each individual employee. My background in psychology at Sonoma State complimented their philosophy, and so I was quickly given the opportunity to advance in my career. I became the Production Supervisor for a highly specialized product, responsible for scheduling work flow, maintaining proper inventories, solving production problems quickly, and hiring for my area.

I left my job when my husband and I decided to have our first child. We made a commitment to try to live off of his income so I could stay at home with our baby. Fortunately I was able to do this because Alan did very well as a real estate agent, broker, developer and investor. In 1981, when I was pregnant with our second child, we moved from Rincon Valley in Santa Rosa to Windsor. I still live in the home we designed and built in the Oak Creek subdivision.

Our neighborhood was full of young families. I helped start a babysitting coop, which was a social group for new mothers in addition to being a way to arrange childcare without money being exchanged. I also initiated the Halloween Parade in our neighborhood, which was always the children's favorite event. Every year our children posed in front of a banner I had made with the current year displayed. The parade continued until the majority of children in our neighborhood became too old to want to dress up for their parents.

When my first daughter was kindergarten age, I became involved in the schools. In a curious turn of fate, there were teachers in Windsor who wanted to start a two-way Spanish Immersion program within the school and I just happened to know all about that type of program because of my father-in-law. He had started the first Spanish Immersion school in Culver City, California, and I watched his daughter grow up completely bilingual.

It wasn't an easy sell, however, because anything to do with bilingual education had become a political issues instead of an educational concern. I met with parents - English and Spanish-speaking - to explain to them about the benefits of this unique educational program (which was common in other parts of the world, just not the U.S.) We were able to start the first class in 1986, but every year we had to go to the school board to convince them to allow it to continue another year. In 1987 I received an award from the California Human Development Corporation for my efforts and success in establishing this program in Windsor schools (the program grew to become a K-8 school on its own site; Cali Calmecac Language Academy.

At the same time, there were other new parents in the schools who wanted to have a stronger say in their child's education. Things were changing in Windsor as more and more new families moved in. People didn't just want more change in the schools, they also wanted more control over the rate of growth in Windsor. Another new parent and myself ran for the school board in 1988 and were elected. As we tackled the issues of rapid growth as it affected the schools, other citizens were organizing to see if Windsor could support itself as an incorporated city.

I stayed on the school board for 18 years, as voters continued to support me because they liked what they saw happening in the Windsor School District. One of my biggest accomplishments (besides establishing Cali Calmecac) was the unification of Windsor Schools in 1992. That allowed us to build our own high school in Windsor so that our students weren't bussed to Healdsburg after they completed 8th grade. That entire process took years to accomplish, but with careful planning and good money management, we built an extraordinary high school with a model academic program. We also added an alternative high school, Windsor Oaks Academy, to better meet the needs of all our students.

In 2006, I decided not to run for the school board again because both my daughters were teaching in Windsor at the Cali Calmecac Language Academy. Two years later, when there was an open seat on the Town Council, I decided to run for that open position.

Other job experience and education: My extensive political experience as an advocate for our Two-Way Spanish Immersion program and my knowledge of second language acquisition opened the door for me to work at Sonoma State University in 1992. I was invited to serve as the Project Coordinator for a large federal training grant for bilingual teachers in several Sonoma County school districts. I helped organize local training conferences and provided other support that teachers needed.

I went back to get a Master's Degree in Psychology so that I could continue to learn how to be more effective working with people in jobs that had value to our community-at-large. After getting my MA, I realized that I wanted to work with groups of people, not just individuals. I attended graduate level classes in the Organization Development program at Sonoma State and that was when I knew I had found my niche. I wanted to combine the knowledge of this specialized field with general psychology, and then add it to my 20 years of experience working within the community. My goal was--and still is--to make communities healthier places for individuals to contribute their unique skills and gifts.

I was able to bring some of these new skills to my position as a school board member in the fall of 2003 when Windsor held a conference on the future of youth in our Town. It was the first jointly-sponsored conference between the Town and the School District and because of that, there was a lot for us to learn about listening to everyone in our community on issues that brought us together. I was not able to do as much follow-up after the conference as I would have liked, but I now have another tool for bringing the community together to listen and learn from each other, and to have important conversations about our future.

I have done some consulting as an individual practitioner of Organization Development, including working with the Sonoma County Mayor's and Councilmembers' Association to plan a large conference that brought together all locally elected officials in Sonoma County. In particular, I wanted to promote greater collaboration across jurisdictional lines. Part of the event involved printing a booklet of ideas and local contact people to share with participants. We followed this initial meeting with another event later on, but it was challenging to find a way to keep working together particularly because the Sonoma County Schools Trustees' Association had effectively disbanded.

Due to the challenges associated with being self-employed, I went into the field of Human Resources because that was where I knew I could bring my Organization Development skills and community values to a business. After working in several different human resource departments as a temporary employee, I went to work at St. Joseph Health Care System in Sonoma County until just recently.

I am currently looking for work in either the human resources, education, or management sector of private business, or non-profit organizations, in addition to running for the Town Council of Windsor.

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