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November 8, 2016 — California General Election
School

Lafayette School DistrictCandidate for Board Member

Photo of Charles "Robert" Sturm

Charles "Robert" Sturm

Labor/Employment Attorney
5,339 votes (24.34%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Educational Excellence: Further improve upon District's existing academic preeminence. Engage children at a pace that enriches and motivates; quality STEM instruction; character and integrity count.
  • Fiscal Stability: We must urgently address structural deficit spending by eliminating nonproductive spending. The 2016-17 District Budget Report notes that absent change, the District will not "remain fiscally viable and financially solvent."
  • Maturation of Special Education Program. The District has made progress, more is needed as we support and mature our Special Education Program. We must preserve and direct scarce resources to benefit our the children, not on costly legal expenses.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Seasoned labor/employment attorney; unblemished record of nearly a decade overseeing 8-figure balanced budgets.
V.P. & Assoc. General Counsel: Employment, Litigation and Legal Operations, CSAA Insurance Group (AAA) (2008–current)
Officer and Member of Board of Directors, Treasurer, Northern California Employment Round Table (NCERT) — Appointed position (2010–2016)
Assistant General Counsel, JELD-WEN Windows & Doors (2002–2008)
Board of Directors, CASA for Children of Klamath County: Court appointed special advocates for foster children in child-custody situations. — Appointed position (2003–2007)
Shareholder/Associate, Littler Mendelson (1992–2002)

Education

Boston University Law School Juris Doctor (J.D.), Employment Law/Labor Law/Negotiations/Litigation (1992)
Cornell University Industrial & Labor Relations (Bachelor of Arts - B.S.), Industrial & Labor Relations - Pre-Law (1989)

Community Activities

Volunteer, AAA Volunteers (2008–current)
Volunteer, Junior Achievement (2013–current)
Founder, Ride through Paradise aka Ride for the Child, CASA for Children of Klamath County (2005–2015)

Biography

I obtained my undergraduate degree in Industrial & Labor Relations from Cornell University and my law degree from Boston University, where I graduated in 1992 with multiple honors and was an editor of the Law Review.  

 

 

I promptly began my legal practice with Littler Mendelson, America’s largest labor and employment law firm, and became partner after six years of legal practice, the bare minimum tenure for consideration.  In 2002, I left to accept employment with JELD-WEN Windows and Doors (30,000+ employees).  I managed all labor and employment law functions as Associate General Counsel.  JELD-WEN had numerous union and non-union facilities and I was chief labor negotiator, specializing in identifying and implementing solutions to benefit both the employees and company.  I also broadly supported JELD-WEN's human resource functions.

 

 

In March 2008, I went to CSAA Insurance Group (AAA), headquartered in Walnut Creek.  Among my responsibilities as VP and Associate General Counsel, I oversee the Employment Law, Corporate Litigation and Legal Operations practice groups.  This last set of responsibilities includes direct personal responsibility for all short- and long-term operational planning and management of the division's 8-figure budget (like the Lafayette School District).  Although I inherited deficit spending, I have never had a budget deficit, not once.  Rather, throughout my tenure, funds have been returned every single year.  I have a strong reputation and proven track record for outside the box thinking and finding ways to deploy best practices and wring out cost-inefficiencies and redundancies - doing more with less and saving millions of dollars along the way. 

 

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • Jean Follmer (Incumbent Lafayette School District Governing Board, President)
  • Candace Anderson (District II Supervisor)
  • Mark Mitchell (Lafayette Mayor)

Elected Officials (9)

  • Mike Anderson (Lafayette City Council Member, Vice-Mayor)
  • Brandt Andersson (Lafayette City Council Member)
  • Don Tatzin (Lafayette City Council Member)
  • Cam Burks (Incoming Lafayette City Council Member)
  • Traci Reilly (Lafayette City Council Member)
  • Craig Cheslog (Incoming Acalanes Union High School District Board Member)
  • Nancy Wallace (Incumbent Lafayette School District Governing Board, Clerk)
  • Mark Mitchell (Lafayette City Council, Mayor)

Individuals (57)

  • Jim & Anouschka Wardy
  • Kirstin Cortessis
  • Shayne Silva (Former Lafayette School District Governing Board Member)
  • Carol Federighi (Former Lafayette City Council Member and Mayor)
  • Cheryl Noll
  • Avon Wilson (Former Lafayette Mayor, Planning Commissioner and Traffic Commissioner) and her husband George
  • Ed and Kate Kunnes
  • Adrian Levy (Lafayette Circulation Commissioner)
  • Mary-Jane Wood (Lafayette Circulation Commissioner)
  • Laura & Randy Levandowski
  • TG Frazer (Former Happy Valley Parent Club President)
  • Forrest Arakawa
  • Susan Candell
  • Stacy and Cary Schirmer
  • Patricia E. Curtin
  • Elsa Troy-Slovik
  • Shelly Frost
  • Bill and Victoria Hall
  • Brian and Sadie Hannah
  • Jen Berten
  • Mark and Kim Drucker
  • Annette Wolff
  • Jenny Kallio (Lafayette Homeowners Council President)
  • Grace Dixon
  • Jami Kim-Rowley
  • Carolyn Kahler
  • Junna Ro
  • Bradley van Niekerk
  • Steve Richard (Co-Founder of Sustainable Lafayette)
  • Tom McNeil
  • Debbie Dizon Lauber
  • Rosemary Kirbach
  • Peter Kehrli
  • Carrie Jackson
  • Michael Hoffman
  • Dena Graff
  • Nick Geannacopulos
  • Luke Fretwell
  • Michelle and Rob Frankland
  • Chad Follmer
  • Sarah Fairhurst
  • Colin Elliott
  • Lois Daane
  • Annah Chapman
  • Bart Carr (Co-Founder of Sustainable Lafayette)
  • Ruth Bailey
  • Shannon Tague (Former Happy Valley Parent Club President)
  • Erling Horn (Former Lafayette City Council Member and Mayor) and his wife Patty
  • Ann Appert (Former Lafayette School District Governing Board Member)
  • Lynn Hiden (Longest Serving Lafayette Commissioner, Early Lafayette Citizen of the Year) and her husband Dave
  • Roger Falcone (Former Lafayette School District Governing Board Member) and Pat Falcone
  • Scott Sommer (Former Lafayette School District Governing Board President)
  • Lamont Gilbert (Emeritus Trustee, Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation; Founder, Nicholas Colby Fund)
  • Kristina Sturm (Lafayette Circulation Commission, Chair)
  • Carol Singer (Lafayette Parks, Trails and Recreation Commissioner)
  • Tom Mulvaney (former Acalanes Union High School District Board President)
  • Jack Weir (Taxpayer Advocate)

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

I am socially progressive and fiscally responsible.

 

I am honored to be the sole candidate endorsed by each current and incoming member of our Lafayette City Council. I am also honored to be endorsed by both non-returning Lafayette School Board members whose seats are open, including the Board President [Note: The remaining School Board members are not issuing endorsements]. These devoted individuals know better than anyone from direct personal experience the School Board’s current gaps and needed skills and experience. Furthermore, I am grateful to have uniquely bi-partisan support, including unanimous endorsements from the Lamorinda Democratic Club and the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County Nominating Committee and Candace Andersen, Contra Costa County Supervisor, District 2, noted Contra Costa taxpayers' advocate, Jack Weir, and all our Lafayette City Council members, Republicans and Democrats alike, as well as our newcomer to the City Council, Cam Burks.

 

 

 


Position Papers

Why Vote for Rob Sturm?

Summary

 

 

Voters naturally want to know what makes one candidate preferable to the others.  This year's Lafayette School Board election is particularly critical and, as explained below, my background and experience are uniquely well-suited to assist the School Board and District in retaining fiscal viability and solvency in the face of current large-scale structural deficit spending by identifying and eliminating nonproductive spending, and thereby preserve the Lafayette School District's preeminent academic offerings without new painful parcel taxes.

 

 

The Lafayette School District opens the year with structural deficit spending of almost one million dollars, imperiling our District's financial stability and, consequently, the long-term sustainability and breadth of currently preeminent academic offerings.  The District's 2016-17 Financial Report states:  "The [financial] projections highlight that deficit spending will erode significantly by 2018-19.  Absent increase in revenues, the District needs to reduce expenditures to remain fiscally viable and financially solvent."  I believe the best way to accomplish this - without diminishing academics at all or imposing additional financially painful parcel taxes - is to eliminate ongoing areas of wholly nonproductive spending.  I am uniquely capable of assisting to do this.  Allow me to summarize.

My wife and I moved to Lafayette in 2009 – like many, for the schools.  My mother and father are both retired public school teachers and education was highly prioritized in my family.  Growing up, I was taught to highly value hard work and education, lessons that have continuously stayed with me.

We have three children.  Our oldest is in Burton Valley Elementary School and his younger brother and sister will soon join him.  We will have Lafayette School District enrollment for decades and I intend to make a long-term commitment to the School Board.  

After receiving a public primary school education, I obtained my undergraduate degree in Industrial & Labor Relations from Cornell University and my law degree from Boston University, where I graduated with multiple honors and was an editor of the Law Review.  I moved to San Francisco to start my legal career with Littler Mendelson, America’s largest labor and employment law firm.  I left Littler as a Partner in 2002 for JELD-WEN Windows and Doors, the largest international door and window company, and managed all labor and employment law functions as the Associate General Counsel.  JELD-WEN has many union facilities and I led all collective bargaining negotiations.  The Company and the Unions heralded my ability to find solutions that worked for everyone.  In March 2008, I went to CSAA Insurance Group (AAA), headquartered in Walnut Creek.  In my capacity as VP and Associate General Counsel, I oversee the Employment Law, Corporate Litigation and Legal Operations Practice Groups.  I manage an 8-figure budget and have never had a deficit.  Indeed, our Division is twice as large today yet the budget remains largely unchanged - substantial sums have typically been returned at year-end.  I have a strong reputation and track record for outside the box thinking and finding ways to wring out cost-inefficiencies and redundancies. 

I have more than a decade of non-profit Board experience and have taught as a volunteer in elementary schools, high schools and colleges both domestically and overseas.  Civic responsibility is and has always been keenly important for me and my family.

We have a wonderful School Board and Superintendent.  They are smart and highly capable.  And we have a notable gap in two essential skills that align perfectly with my background – my experience in human resources, employment law and collective bargaining, on the one hand, and my experience in wringing out cost inefficiencies to balance 8-figure budgets on the other.  

I am an ardent believer that every district deserves preeminent schools and I have absolutely no interest in or willingness to water down Lafayette's School District - our children and community deserve nothing less.  Having said that, I also view additional parcel taxes as an option of last resort and believe the best way to maintain financial viability and solvency is to eliminate nonproductive spending. 

There's an obvious starting point in seeking to identify nonproductive spending and, as the District's 2016-17 Budget report warns, "reduce expenditures to remain fiscally viable and financially solvent." More than 85% of our school district’s budget goes toward compensation, benefits and legal expenses.  None of the ongoing Board Members or other School Board Candidates has specialized expertise in these areas and I cover them all, with the added specialty of cost-efficient budget oversight and operational planning. 

As a single illustration of the value I can provide, last year the District spent approximately $3 million in legal expenses and settlements (predominantly concerning Special Education).  I have decades of experience as a litigator, often addressing accommodation issues, managing legal expenses and reducing legal spend.  While at JELD-WEN, the implementation of improved practices and training that I oversaw directly contributed to a decrease in historical employment and equal opportunity legal expenses by more than 80%.  Reductions at AAA have been even more substantial.  In this area alone, I've literally saved tens of millions of dollars. This is merely one of many areas where I can add immediate and unique value by eliminating nonproductive expenditures and redeploy those monies to regain fiscal stability, invest in our students and augment our teachers' pay. 

I would welcome your vote and support alongside many early endorsers including Candace Anderson (District II Supervisor); Mark Mitchell (Lafayette Mayor); Mike Anderson (Lafayette Vice-Mayor); Brandt Andersson (Lafayette City Council); Don Tatzin (Lafayette City Council); Cam Burks (incoming Lafayette City Council); Carol Federighi (former Lafayette Mayor); Erling Horn (former Lafayette Mayor) and his wife Patty; Tom Mulvaney (former Acalanes Union High School District Board President); Craig Cheslog (incoming Acalanes Union High School District Board); Jean Follmer (Lafayette School District Governing Board, President); Nancy Wallace (Lafayette School District Governing Board, Board Clerk); Richard Falcone (former Lafayette School District Governing Board) and his wife Pat; Scott Sommer (former Lafayette School District Governing Board, President); Lynn Hiden (longest serving Lafayette Commissioner, early Lafayette Citizen of the Year) and her husband Dave; Carol Singer (Parks, Trails and Recreation Commissioner); Kristina Sturm (Circulation Commission, Chair) and numerous other leaders and engaged community members.  I am deeply grateful for their trust and confidence in me.

I am a pragmatic problem-solver and am particularly proud of broad non-partisan endorsements across the spectrum.  For example, noted Taxpayer Advocate Jack Weir has issued an unqualified endorsement and the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County’s Nominating Committee unanimously supported my campaign.  I believe this underscores my unifying and pragmatic approach to issues and problem-solving. 

I am not taking any financial donations.  I realize this puts me at a competitive disadvantage relative to the other candidates but, from the outset of the campaign, I have continuously adhered to an exclusively self-funded approach.  I believe that is the right thing to do.  I would, however, welcome your questions, non-financial support, votes and consideration of an endorsement at www.robsturm.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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