Get to know your nine candidates campaigning for your vote this November 

By The Atascadero News Editorial Board 

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero Unified School District Board (AUSD) has four seats open, all four-year terms. This year nine candidates are vying for the seats. The seats up for re-election are currently held by George Shoemaker, Tami Gunther, Ray Buban, and Donn Clickard.

Candidates officially running for the open AUSD seats are Tami Gunther, Rebekah Koznek, Tracy Ellis-Weit, Vy Pierce, George Shoemaker, Dan L. Hathaway, Denise McGrew Kane, Chris Collins, and Scott Staton.


Each candidate had the opportunity to answer the same list of questions in 100 words or less in addition to their introduction at 200 words. The candidate’s statement in its entirety is provided below, with the exception of Chris Collins and Scott Staton, who did not participate. 

The candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name. 

Candidate Statements 

Tracy Ellis-Weit 

Retired Teacher

I have been a resident of Atascadero for the past 30 years and raised our family of three children who are all graduates of Atascadero Unified School District. 

As parents, my husband and I were coaches, volunteers, and organizers for each of our children’s extra-curricular activities in both sports and academics. 

As a retired school teacher of Atascadero Unified School District with over 30 years of classroom experience, I will bring my elementary, middle, and high school teaching background to the decision-making process so that I can be an advocate for all students, families, and schools. 

My decision to run to be a trustee for the AUSD School Board because I want to use my classroom experience to enhance the health, welfare, and academic success of all the students in our community. As a trustee, I will seek the knowledge and expertise of our dedicated teachers and support staff whose services are essential in providing the best educational opportunities AUSD can offer. I will respect, value and encourage the involvement of parents, students, and the community to ensure academic success, career readiness, and good citizens.

Tami Gunther


Bookkeeper / Person Assistant

I am a lifelong SLO County resident and 28-year resident in Atascadero School District. Both of my children attended AUSD schools from kindergarten through high school. I spent many years actively involved with PTA, School Site Councils, and many district-level committees before being elected to the School Board in 2006. 

In addition to my local board, I also serve as one of 30 directors on the California School Boards Association and on the board of the Tri-County Education Coalition. 

I am an ardent advocate for the arts and career tech education (CTE), and the use of advisory committees whenever possible to gather input from our stakeholders.  

School boards should be focused on educating students, not on political agendas. Our schools should be safe places, both physically and emotionally, for all students and staff, and civility and respect should be modeled at all times.

Dan L Hathaway

Retired Nuclear Security Officer

I am a SLO County native and have lived in this county for all of my life except for my high school years and one year at Santa Barbara City College. I have lived in Atascadero for more than eleven years and do have several strong familial connections to Atascadero. I did graduate from Cuesta College, and I received a BA in English from Cal Poly. This county is my home, and I will not be leaving. My work experience includes sales, management, delivery and I retired from Diablo Canyon after almost thirty years in Nuclear Security.

In my spare time I am on the boards of several civic organizations, including the Faces of Freedom (Atascadero Veterans Memorial Foundation.) Besides being a Good News Club volunteer at Monterey Road Elementary School, I also teach a Sunday school class in Atascadero. As a lifelong sports fan, I have spent many hours both coaching and assisting in youth sports programs. All this shows is that I have a strong desire for our youth to succeed in whatever they do.

Rebekah Koznek


As a parent of a child with special needs, I feel we need stronger representation on the school board. Surprisingly, 14 percent of the AUSD student population has an IEP (Individualized Educational Program). An IEP is a program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability receives specialized instruction and related services.

I served for four years as the AUSD parent representative on San Luis Obispo County’s SELPA CAC (Community Advisory Committee); one year as the Vice President, and President for the past two years.

While my special needs daughter attended Santa Rosa Elementary, we noticed that the school was in need of a playground appropriate for these children. I approached the school board with my concerns, and was able to secure a crawl tube and free-standing activity boards. More have been added to other schools across the district. The same year, AUSD presented me with the “Parent Advocate of the Year” award.

As your elected school board member, I will be dedicated to my oath of office in upholding the Constitution of our country and our state. I will represent the forgotten voices of all parents. I promise to be your voice and your child’s advocate.

Denise McGrew Kane

Parent / Small Business Owner

I am a mother of three kids who attend AUSD schools. I was born and raised here in North San Luis Obispo County. I have been an entrepreneur and small business owner for over 20 years. 

Many aspects of running a business relate to being a board member. I have a deep understanding of financial matters, as I have always handled all of my business’ accounting/bookkeeping, budgeting, payroll, etc. Being on the board requires someone who has experience leading people and one who is able to be a team player. 

I have managed between 10-50 plus employees/independent contractors, with a focus on creating a positive workplace, team collaboration, goal setting, increasing production, time management, etc. 

I developed several training programs. I am a successful negotiator, always looking at both sides, and have been able to provide win/win outcomes in addition to being able to think outside of the box for solutions. I believe that my acquired skills from the past 20 plus years in business will be an asset to our district, in addition to having the perspective of a parent with children in the district. 

Vy Pierce

Stay-at-home mom and Community Volunteer

My husband and I have three children enrolled in the Atascadero Unified School District in 12th, seventh, and fourth grades. 

As a stay-at-home mom, I have spent the last 12 years volunteering in their schools and nonprofit organizations such as Committee for Atascadero Public Schools (CAPS) and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for our students and schools. I am currently the PTO President at the Atascadero Middle School, Treasurer for the Atascadero High School Band Boosters, and Treasurer for San Gabriel PTA. 

Additionally, I serve on several district committees and volunteer once a week in my son’s classroom so I am very familiar with what is happening in the schools and district. My experience, skills, and demonstrated ability to lead and work with many different people toward a common goal would help our school district address the challenges we currently face.

George Shoemaker


Retired Teacher and Farmer

I have 15 years of teaching experience and over 22 years of coaching experience in five different sports, working with youth sports and up through the community college level. 

Before serving the past five years on the school board, I served three years on the AUSD Bond Oversite Committee. Prior to that, I was a classroom parent assistant for six years at Monterey Road School. Both of my two youngest children went through the AUSD system. 

My wife is a seventh-grade teacher at Atascadero Middle School. I have a Master’s degree in public policy from Cal Poly. During my time on the board, I have been an advocate for regular assessment of students and targeted interventions to help them in the areas that they need support. I have also been an advocate for a strong district financially, and for AUSD to be a district that supports and respects all of our staff.

Candidates Chris Collins and Scott Staton did not participate. 

Updated Nov. 2 to correct the statement of Tami Gunther.