Coronado Unified File photo of School District Board President Renee Cavanaugh (Portrait provided by Renee Cavanaugh).

Renee Cavanaugh has exchanged the classroom for the Coronado School Board.

The 55-year-old former teacher was newly elected to the Coronado Unified School District Board (CUSD) last fall, and her colleagues selected her as president on Dec. 15, as she began a two-year term.

After announcing her candidacy in early August 2022, Cavanaugh won in November with 56% of the vote for a Short Term (two year) position on election day.

In an interview with The Coronado News, she said “education is the best, it’s always changing, it’s always evolving, it’s never the same,” when asked about what motivated her to run for the school board.

“My only vision is to support the students,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s really exciting to see kids who want to come to school and want to learn. That to me is the best.”

Cavanaugh was born and raised in Tennessee but moved to Coronado in 2002.

“It immediately felt like home,” Cavanaugh said.

Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Science in English, a Master of Science in Human Resources Management, and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from San Diego State University.

“I would always see the kids walking to Village (Elementary School) and riding their bikes. Even just driving by the building felt so homey and welcoming,” she said.

Changing careers

Establishing herself in Coronado was followed by a change in her career, as she shifted from human resources to education.

“That’s when I got my credential. My goal was: I want to be a teacher at Village Elementary and my first job was there,” Cavanaugh said.

New CUSD Board President Renee Cavanaugh looks on with Superintendent Karl Mueller during a December board meeting. Staff photo by Craig Harris.

Cavanaugh has been previously involved as chair of the Coronado Schools Foundation, and as a board member for the Coronado Junior Women’s Club and Coronado Promenade Concerts. She is also a Coronado business owner and grandparent to three CUSD students.

“I’ve had a chance to work with students and their parents. I have always been focused on when parents come in for parent teacher conferences, what are we going to do together, how do we support your students,” she said. “That’s the same kind of feeling I have as a board member just in a little bit bigger situation, not just 30 kids in a classroom, now it’s my 2,800 students and all of their parents.”

After 15 years of teaching at Village and Silver Strand elementary schools, Cavanaugh retired in June 2022.

As board president, Cavanaugh will work alongside Trustees Alexia Palacios-Peters, Malachy Sandie, Scot Youngblood, Whitney Antrim, and Superintendent Karl Mueller.

Palacios-Peters, Sandie and Youngblood also were sworn in Dec. 15, and each of them will serve four-year terms. Antrim is the lone holdover from the prior board, which dealt with controversies the past few years over COVID-19, critical race theory and “Tortilla Gate” involving the high school boys basketball team as well as raucous board meetings. Further, the races for the seats were contentious.

“I’m really excited to see this new governance team. I think they are going to set a tone of civility and collaboration,” said Coronado USD Public Information Officer Maria Simon.

Cavanaugh said she looks forward to the strengths of her fellow board members.

“Each person on our board has a really unique background…”

CUSD Board President Renee Cavanaugh.

“The meetings that we’ve had have been open with questions and ideas and thoughts. … I definitely respect all of their experiences and perspectives,” she said. “Each person on our board has a really unique background and set of skills to bring to the team, which is going to make working together really good.”

Other board members

Here’s a look at the other members:

Palacios-Peters is a mom of three kids in Coronado USD, a military spouse, an attorney, former educator, and was elected by her colleagues to serve as board clerk. Palacios-Peters seeks to implement “compassion, empathy, and a drive to find solutions,” she wrote on her online candidacy forum.

Sandie is a retired Navy Captain and defense contractor, and is a Coronado USD parent. As a board Member, Sandie said in his application for candidacy that he prioritizes giving back to the community and cultivating an environment of teamwork and transparency.

Youngblood has served as the Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Naval Medical Center San Diego and is a Coronado USD parent. He was elected board vice president.

Cavanaugh, as president, said she seeks to support the governing board by implementing new areas of knowledge.

“I want to be the best leader that I can be to support my team. I am looking to take the Masters in governance classes that are offered through the California School Board Association,” she said. “As president, I see my role as more of a facilitator. I’m not any more powerful than anyone else on that board.”

Cavanaugh also said the board will work together to ensure that students at every grade level receive the same priority.

“One town, one team,” she said. “We are a team and if we can do our job as the board to support our administrators and our principals then they can in turn support the students.”

More News

Julieta is a reporter for The Coronado News, covering education, small business and investigating the Tijuana/Coronado sewage issue. She graduated from UC Berkeley where she studied English, Spanish, and Journalism. Apart from reporting, Julieta enjoys reading, traveling, and spending quality time with family and friends.

The Coronado News is a 24-hour news website and direct-mail free newspaper to all residents and businesses of Coronado as we cover city government, schools, businesses, entertainment and the Navy.