There is nothing more fundamental to our society than children and families, and there is no greater tool for improving their quality of life than education. We owe it to future generations to hold ourselves to a higher standard in providing students with the opportunity to succeed. Standards matter.
What do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?
Equity -- San José Unified adopted a landmark Equity Policy in 2010. I believe it’s time for a robust conversation about how this policy can better reflect the diversity of our students and families. Affordability -- As the largest property owner in San José, the district is in a unique position to help solve the housing crisis impacting all of our families. I would explore opportunities to provide affordable housing on underutilized district lands.Access -- It is vital that students and families feel safe and welcome in our schools. I would leverage partnerships to expand programs like Family University.
How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?
I would use equity to guide every decision I make as a board member, including the budget. With more local control comes more responsibility to watch every dollar and ensure that each student is receiving the tools and resources they need to discover their own greatness. As a former nonprofit director, I would look to ensure that every program is yielding the best possible return on the public’s investment. I would also work to develop a budgeting process that is fully transparent and accessible to all, with more grassroots outreach and less bureaucratic jargon.
What steps will you take to address the high cost and lack of availability of quality child care and preschool programs in our communities, especially for low-income children and English language learners?
I believe that early education is the key to preparing today’s students to be the thinkers, leaders, and creators of tomorrow. That’s why I’m excited to note that San José Unified is one of ten public districts in California participating in a pilot program to expand access to preschool for low-income families. Rather than relying on state income thresholds, this program allows counties to determine their own eligibility criteria to account for regional factors like cost of living. I would look to develop partnerships with local private industry to expand on this opportunity, with marketing specific to multilingual communities.
What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?
San José Unified recently set out to transform its special education program with a focus on inclusion, engagement, and innovative approaches. With more than 10% of district students in special education programs, it is imperative that the Board of Education consistently monitor the district’s progress toward these goals. I believe there should be a standing place on the board agenda for reports on special education. The district should also provide opportunities for all parents, students, and educators to come together for conversations about how we can make our schools safer and more welcoming spaces.
Much of the student achievement gap has been linked to the "opportunity gap" that low-income children and children of color experience, including lack of access to healthy food, preschool, tutors and enrichment activities. If elected, what steps will you take to address this issue?
If a student doesn’t know where they’re sleeping tonight, or where they’ll get their next hot meal, or whether or not they’ll be separated from their families, the day-to-day trauma of that reality makes it virtually impossible for them to learn. If their parents are working multiple jobs just to get by, if they have no place to go between school and home, an already slippery slope gets steeper. School districts have a moral and civic responsibility to forge new partnerships and take the bold steps necessary to make this region more affordable, healthy, and enriching for our children.