As Susan Ellenberg Pursues Higher Office, Candidates Line Up to Replace Her on SJUSD Board

Susan Ellenberg advances to the runoff in Santa Clara County’s District 4 supervisor race with a commanding lead over her six primary opponents, including her yet-undetermined general election challenger. But while ex-San Jose council-mates Don Rocha and Pieruigi Oliverio jockey for the coveted No. 2 spot in the county race, candidates have already lined up to fill Ellenberg’s Area 2 San Jose Unified board seat.

One is a relative newcomer to local politics: Jose Magaña, a K-8 instructional coach, San Jose Library and Early Education commissioner and the only Latino in the running so far. Born to a teen mom and a jailed dad, his compelling personal history inspired his career path and drive to create a more equitable school system.

The other contenders—Helen Chapman and Peter Allen—have a lot in common, not least an ambition that’s pitted them against one other in past elections. Allen ran against Chapman in the 2016 primary for Oliverio’s council seat and endorsed her in the runoff, which she lost in the general to Councilwoman Dev Davis.

Both aspiring trustees have worked for SJUSD. Chapman spent 16 years researching test scores for the district before becoming D2 Councilman Sergio Jimenez’s policy aide, while Allen—until the end of this month, at least—handles SJUSD’s communications.

Both have deep roots in Area 2, which stretches from Willow Glen through Japantown and up to the 13th Street corridor. Allen grew up in SJUSD schools, and Chapman raised her kids in the same district.

Both espouse admiration for the woman they want to replace. Chapman knocked on doors for Ellenberg’s 2014 campaign. And though Allen endorsed her opponent that year, he says he’s since come around after seeing how effective she’s been on the board. That respect, he says, has only deepened after spending so much time with Ellenberg as his wife, Angelica Ramos-Allen, manages her supervisor campaign.

Finally, Chapman and Allen are neighbors with each other and with Ellenberg.

“I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of each other,” Chapman says with a laugh.

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  1. Oh no! Warmed over loser candidates from past election to run for school board. “Please, I need to feed from the public trough.”, I imagine them pleading. Ellenberg was a fresh face with smarts. These folks are not. Can’t we get some non-labor friendly, fresh idea people to run for office? I sure hope so.

    • How is this “feeding from the public trough”??? these are Barely paid positions – per diems by meeting far less than the minimum wage for the hours they need to put in

      if people and comments like YOURS that are a huge disencentive for Good people for serving in Govt :(

  2. With respect to Pete and Helen, I think it’s time for some new blood in this area, I am eager to hear what Jose wants to bring to the area.

  3. While all the fawning over Ellenberg? She failed in significantly improving academic achievement for the students in San Jose, especially students of color, ELs, special ed, or economically disadvantaged! You can see the mediocre to poor academic performance of SJUSD students on the Data Visualization page at! Good riddance to Susan! Too bad we are only getting more vision less political hacks to take her place!

  4. Effeminization is definitely in especially in education! We are so into social-emotional learning, personal learning, blended learning, hot chocolate and bean bag chairs for students, and yada yada yada!

    God forbid that we would focus on academic achievement with an expectations that professional practices are aligned to help students achieve academic success. And this is the real anti effeminization heresy – we will monitor and hold educators accountable for the implementation of high quality practices! Some people might even lose their jobs if they fail to perform.

    But wait there’s more. Even with all of this feel good effeminization in education we cannot keep our children safe from sexual harassers, racists, bullie, and intimidators.

    Time for some testosterone! No?

  5. How true Mr. SJ Kulak! The effeminization of American Education is definitely reaching its apogee with the arrival of whole child learning, personalized learning, blended learning, social-emotional learning yada yada yada! We have strayed so far from the fruitful island of academic achievement for our children that we can no longer even see the tops the palm trees anymore! More hot chocolate and bean bags chairs for our children so that do not experience even a tiny bit of stress as they comfortably glide into becoming greeters at our Walmart stores under the guidance of our effeminzed schools!

  6. I think the way the district has created an appearance of parents are to be seen and not heard, it would be nice to see someone that listens. More importantly with the board members claiming Latino Males a priority then canceling a lot of ELL programs that continued to show promise, I think we need someone who has not had a priveleged start to help open the board members eyes!

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