Nearly two dozen educators in the Dublin Unified School District have endorsed Austin Ogden in his bid for a seat on the school board. So has the vice president of Dublin High's Parent Faculty Student Organization. Each of school's last two student body presidents are in his corner, as is the 2012 valedictorian.
About the only thing working against him in a quest to dislodge one of three incumbents in a four-candidate race is his age. At 18, Ogden is barely old enough to vote for himself.
The Diablo Valley College freshman made the unlikely decision to jump into this race while completing his senior year at Dublin High. He chewed on the idea for nearly a month, but one thought kept recurring.
"I don't think it's right to have five people on the school board who never attended a Dublin school," said Ogden, who did so for eight years. "Everything the board does affects our students. It's important to have a student's perspective."
He's been working on his campaign for eight months -- at first, 20 to 30 hours a week; more recently, 70 to 80 -- planning, raising money, seeking endorsements and knocking on doors.
"The hardest part was asking for money," he said. "I got lists of all the businesses in Dublin and was successful with almost every one. Sometimes they'd donate service, sometimes food. I got a cash donation from Local 595 of the electrical brotherhood."
He's spent $4,500 on campaign signs, fliers and mailers, and he plans to spend more. Friends and family have helped raise money, post signs and pass out literature.
It stands to reason this has not endeared him to the incumbents -- Greg Tomlinson, Dan Cunningham and Amy Miller -- who otherwise would run unopposed. Still, Cunningham said he admired his young opponent's effort: "I remember my first campaign. It takes a lot of work."
Ogden said he was surprised at all the paperwork he had to fill out. He also needed to open a dedicated bank account to track campaign finances. He credits the discipline he learned as a high school wrestler for the perseverance to clear each obstacle.
"I never worked harder than in wrestling," he said. "Before the season started, I'd weigh 165, but I'd get down so I could wrestle in the 140s."
In a public forum last week, all three incumbents cited their experience -- on the board and professionally -- as reasons they should return to office. They proudly noted the district's above-average Academic Performance Index test scores.
"Don't get me wrong," said Ogden. "High test scores are good. But I think we teach too much to the test. I wasn't going to bring it up, but teachers agree with me. There's a bigger part of the pie we need to focus on."
He said teaching methods are too conventional. Different learning types respond to different approaches. And he points out that the district's SAT test scores have not kept pace with API scores. "If we were really learning more, shouldn't our SAT scores go up, too?" he said.
He's clearly given this a lot of thought. How will he handle it if he doesn't win?
"I'd be crushed," he said, "because I worked so hard. But I'd probably run again and work harder next time."
Ironically, he may be the strongest argument for sticking with the status quo. A school district that produces an Austin Ogden must be doing something right.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org