The Rancho Santa Fe School District board election is heating up as seven candidates will run for three available seats in November. Incumbents Tyler Seltzer and Scott Kahn will be joined on the ballot by Christopher Blatt, Elise Dufresne, Kyle Jones, Jee Manghani and Sarah Neal. Board member Todd Buchner will not seek re-election.
Here is an introduction to the candidates (in alphabetical order):
Blatt is a 26-year Navy veteran turned business owner who has lived in the Covenant for over five years. This fall, Blatt has a third grader as well as a first grade student “ready to embark on another wonderful journey at Roger Rowe.” Additionally, Blatt has a preschooler currently at Happy Time Nursery School getting the preparations she will require in order to succeed at Rowe.
“I am running for school board so that I can make a difference and ensure that all children have the education and exposure that is required in order to be properly prepared for that next step. I am a firm believer in open and honest communication so that the parent and school community are allowed to be fully educated on the many events that transpire within the school environment,” Blatt said. “In addition, I strongly believe that parent involvement with the school board and faculty is critical to ensure the right path is chosen. I am looking forward to moving this school toward great things!”
Dufresne is a mother with a young child attending R. Roger Rowe. Dufresne, her husband, Danel, and daughter, Evie, have lived in Rancho Santa Fe for nearly a decade. Dufresne said she cares passionately about education – both the role it plays in children’s lives and in our community. She has been a strong advocate for education her entire life; participating in the governance of her university and teaching, as well as working professionally with elected officials and communities on issues and initiatives important to schools, teachers, parents and students for many years.
“We are very fortunate to live in a unique school district with an outstanding reputation. However, it’s imperative that we continue to improve and provide cutting-edge curriculum, learning tools, technology, programs and facilities that will help our children compete academically and help build the foundation necessary for them to compete globally as adults,” Dufresne said. “Whether as taxpayers or as parents, we’re all in this together. I look forward to working with you to strengthen our district and enhance its contributions to our entire community.”
Jones has lived in Rancho Santa Fe for four years, although his wife has lived in the community for over 20 years – she was a R. Roger Rowe graduate. His three children are currently in the first, third and fifth grades at Rowe.
Jones currently sits on the Board of Directors for Community Bank, located in Pasadena. He said this position allowed him to gain experience in an advisory capacity and also gave him experience in helping to run a successful bank. He has served on many committees, including finance, loan and ethics. He also has experience as a teacher.
“I believe that my four years as a bank director has prepared me with the skills I need to make the Rancho Santa Fe School District the best district for our children,” Jones said. “I feel that I am uniquely qualified to serve on the school board as my vocational background has prepared me for the issues and complexities facing school boards today. I have a business management degree and my experience in the workplace has helped me to be a positive contribution to my employers. Whether it is the CEO or the janitor, I can be successful in all interactions across the scope of the organization. With my master’s degree in education and my California teaching certificate, I have gained insight into the issues, trials, problems, and successes facing teachers and schools in our area.”
Kahn was appointed to the board in May to complete former board member Richard Burdge’s term.
Kahn, a resident of Rancho Santa Fe for seven years, has twins in the fourth grade. Kahn recently retired from Illumina, a biotechnology company where he was the vice president of commercial enterprise informatics. In addition to his 20 years of experience in the corporate world, he also has “unique perspective” as a former assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“I am running for election to the school board to continue providing my expertise and insights to improve our school district, and to further enhance the educational experiences that the school provides to the children of our community. I have been an educator in my past, and feel that my executive background is a good contribution to a highly performing board,” Kahn said. “My wife and I are longtime supporters of the Education Foundation and the school in general, and my board participation is a logical extension of our community involvement.”
Manghani and his wife moved to Rancho Santa Fe in 2010, primarily for its excellent school district. He is a father of two children, with one currently attending R. Roger Rowe and the other child will attend in 2018.
Since graduating with a degree in computer science from UC San Diego, he has worked in the software engineering field across a breadth of industries, including e-commerce, defense and consumer products. His last three startups focused on mobile couponing, social-enabled IPTV, and a social-media company, called Graphiti. He is also a member of a value-investment partnership, based in San Diego.
“I am running for the RSF School board to ensure our children have the best technology in their classrooms. As a technology entrepreneur, I have the experience to bring the technology of tomorrow to our kids of today. Our kids deserve only the best education!” Manghani said. “With a strong background in business and management, I will ensure that our children have the best teachers and staff, while being fiscally responsible with our tax dollars.
“We’re invested in this together. Let’s focus on our children’s future. Let’s ensure that the RSF School District gives our children the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century!”
Neal and her husband moved to Rancho Santa Fe from La Jolla in 2009 as they were attracted to the small, sophisticated, yet rural community and the K-8 R. Roger Rowe school. Currently, two of their children attend Rowe and their third recently graduated from middle school and now attends The Bishop’s School.
Neal attended UC Berkeley, graduating with a degree in sociology and worked in marketing in the high tech industry in San Francisco. She returned to San Diego and spent the majority of her professional career as CEO of an aesthetic medical corporation, leading the company. Her family is a member of the Village Church and the Rancho Santa Fe Golf and Tennis Clubs, and is very active with the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center and Library Guild.
“Since moving to Rancho Santa Fe, I have dedicated myself to my family, our school and community. I have spent the last year attending school board meetings to understand the issues facing our school, served many roles on the RSF Education Foundation over the past eight years, initiated the Parent Forum, an effort to support collaboration around student success, and served the Rancho Santa Fe Association on the Village Vibrancy Committee supporting revitalization of our beautiful and special historic village,” Neal said. “As a school board member, I will be committed to supporting the qualities I feel are essential to all successful organizations: effective leadership, collaboration and innovation. This will ensure that we continue to attract and retain the families, teachers and other school leaders that are essential to supporting the success and reputation of our K-8 school and allow us to maximize the potential of all our children.”
Seltzer was appointed to the board in 2011 and elected in 2012 for a four year-term; he currently serves as board president. Both he and his wife, Liz, are graduates of R. Roger Rowe and now have three children attending the school.
Seltzer is a USC graduate and a former executive in the food and beverage industry — he currently serves as a partner in his family’s private investment business.
“I am running for re-election because I believe that I have provided steady, productive and positive leadership during my time on the board. That stability, continuity and proven experience is of heightened importance as we transition to a new district superintendent,” Seltzer said. “The RSF School District has a long and proud history of academic excellence, strong fiscal management, and deep community involvement. My perspective as board president, a graduate of R. Roger Rowe, and as a school parent of three current Rowe students affords me unique insight on how we can continue to deliver an exceptional educational experience for our students, parents, teachers and community.”