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Tuesday November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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Petaluma Joint Union High School DistrictCandidate for Board Member

Photo of Sheldon Gen

Sheldon Gen

Appointed Incumbent
18,000 votes (29.1%)Winning
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Address recent learning losses from wildfires, public safety power shutdowns, and the pandemic.
  • Close opportunity gaps, and address de facto segregation; open discussion on starting a dual-immersion school and/or a community school in the district.
  • Enhance school climate and safety so every student feels safe and valued.



Professor, San Francisco State University (2003–current)
Trustee, Board of Education, Petaluma City Schools — Appointed position (2019–current)
member, Climate Action Advisory Committee, Regional Climate Protection Authority of Sonoma County — Appointed position (2017–2019)
Senator, Academic Senate of San Francisco State University — Elected position (2015–2018)
member, Graduate Council of San Francisco State University — Elected position (2013–2016)
member, Transit Advisory Committee of City of Petaluma — Appointed position (2010–2014)
Environmental Engineer, Presidential Management Fellow, US Environmental Protection Agency (1995–1998)
Civil Engineer, Planning Specialist, Cal Tech Service Corporation, Los Angeles Air Force Base (1993–1995)
Civil Engineer, US Peace Corps, Kenya (1990–1992)


Georgia Tech PhD, Public Policy (2004)
University of Southern California MPA, Public Administration (1995)
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo BS, Civil Engineering (1990)


I have lived the promise of public education in California. As immigrants who spoke only Cantonese, my parents relied on public schools to open the doors of opportunity for their children in this country.  It worked. My siblings and I were prepared in public schools in the Central Valley and all became first-generation college graduates, all from California public universities.  We've established lives in this state that are built upon the hopes my parents brought here.

Now, I am father to two Petaluma City Schools (PCS) students, husband to a PCS teacher, and a professor of public policy, currently in my 18th year at San Francisco State University. I am pursuing this seat on the Petaluma City Schools' Board of Education because I want our public schools to be for our children even more than what they were for me: experiences that open doors.  This means rich and diverse content that help all kinds of students thrive: immigrants and children of immigrants seeking a better life, multigenerational farmers and craftspeople who seek solid career and technical training, aspiring leaders who plan to compete at the highest levels of their fields, and everyone in between.  Public education is the essential public service that is foundational to a well-functioning democracy and economy.

It has been a privilege to serve Petaluma as a member of the board since April 2019, and I ask for your support to continue this work.   Please visit my website to learn more and share your thoughts: 

Who supports this candidate?

Organizations (2)

  • Sonoma County Democratic Party
  • Wine Country Young Voters

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

Petaluma has built and maintained strong public schools thanks to dedicated, talented staff and engaged families, but we face daunting challenges that require both immediate action and long-term planning.  These are some of the top issues we face in local public education:

  • Addressing recent learning losses. We are now seeing regular losses in instructional time due to wildfires, public safety power shutdowns, and now the pandemic.  These losses accumulate over the years, putting our graduates at a disadvantage compared to other parts of the state and country that don’t experience these crises.  We need to think creatively about how to mitigate these losses
  • Student safety and school climate. The current political climate has enflamed incidents of bias and prejudice based on race, gender, class, and other social divisions.  Petaluma’s schools have not been immune from this toxic climate, so we must address it there.  We know that children’s success in school is contingent upon their feeling of belonging there.  It’s not enough to intervene with some individuals who carry these biases.  We must take positive action to create a campus climate that helps students of all backgrounds feel safe and valued
  • Closing opportunity gaps, and de facto segregation from school choice. English language learners and families with fewer resources are struggling in all our schools. I want to open a dialogue on how Spanish/English dual immersion schools and community schools (ones that partner with local government and nonprofits to provide resources to the local neighborhood) might better serve both underprivileged families and Petaluma as a whole.   
  • Whole child supports.  We know that students’ success at school is highly influenced by the opportunities and constraints they encounter in their lives outside of school.  We need to leverage relationships with local governments (city and county) and the nonprofit and business communities to enhance co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities to support their learning.  This takes a community effort.
  • Resources, funding, collaboration with city and community.  Public education in California has been underfunded for so long that we have come to expect it.  All these things I’ve mentioned require resources.  And scientific studies show that investments in children’s well-being and education consistently result in positive returns for the community.  Schools are disadvantaged in their ability to raise revenues, but can advocate and work with local government and community organizations to mobilize resources for our children's learning.


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