Public education is no longer just about providing academics. It is an institution that has the ability to support children and their families by connecting them with resources and creating equitable opportunities for our students. More than ever we need to make sure that our schools are places for learning & places of opportunities for all.
Taking into consideration the profound impact of COVID-19 and the expanded movement for racial justice and equity, what do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?
1. Distance Learning/Quality of academics: Sheltering in Place has impacted our communities, but especially our students. We have students who depend on their schools for meals, families who lack internet access and technology for online learning. We found that parents had to choose between working or staying home with their kids as they did not have child care or could not afford it. We also saw that there were families who were able to provide for their children not only the basics, but also provide for additional support, work from home, and adjusted better than other students. The pandemic has widened the divide between the haves & the have nots. We need to make sure that we address what the pandemic has highlighted - the lack of equity in our education system. We need to address this so that students all have access to quality education and do not fall behind. Not one student's education should suffer because they lacked the financial support.
2. Navigating & Recovering from the impacts of COVID-19: as we begin the process to return to some kind of "normal" we need to plan ahead for what returning will look like. We need to provide support for our staff. Professional and mental health support. We have asked and demanded that our educators teach our students and we have held them to a higher standard, but we have not addressed the toll that it has taken on them. Let's make sure that our educators are taken care of and provide them with the support they will need. Our students will need to adjust and transition to being back into a classroom. We will need to assess their needs: will they need extra emotional support, are they prepared to be back in a classroom, how has their learning been impacted?
3. The mental and physical health of our students and educators, along with concerns over socialization. I cannot stress this enough: the pandemic has had an impact on the emotional well being of our students and educators. We need to make sure to support their mental health and their physical health. As a mom of three students I understand the importance of making sure that my kids are feeling safe and that they get outside & move!
How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?
We need to collaborate and partner with our educators & community partners. I will look at what the needs of our students are and collaborate with our stakeholders to find ways to address the needs of our children and educators. We also need to take advantage of City, State, & Federal monies that become available. We look at school budgets and immediately think that we need to cut staff or pay to our educators. We need new ways of looking at budgets. What monies have been budgeted and not used in recent years? What monies can be moved and applied to more necessary and relevant uses? Who are our community partners? It's time to think outside the box.
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?
The City of San Jose currently has a child care & preschool program available and it is these types of resources that need to be shared with our schools and our parent groups. We need to partner with our local legislators and make use of existing programs in our area. I will make sure that we connect our families to the programs that are available to them.
What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?
I will connect with families who have children with special needs or who have disabilities. We need to make decisions after consulting with the families who will be impacted by our decisions. We cannot think that we alone can make decisions on issues we do not understand. We must engage our stakeholders in our decision making.
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?
Again, partnering with our Councilmember and other local officials will help us make use of resources that already exist and are usually under utilized because families are unaware of their existence. Connecting our families to the resources they need and engaging our stakeholders to find other means of closing the gap is important. As a bilingual first generation Mexican-American I am fortunate to be able to communicate with some of our neediest of families. I want to close the "opportunity gap" and make sure that all of our students are given opportunities in which they can rise up and succeed. As a board member of the PTA it is important that our parent groups are engaged in the decision making. We need to collaborate, partner, engage, listen, prepare, and think creatively in order to move ahead and ensure that our students succeed. We need to stop choosing between educators and students. We learned that parents cannot do this alone and we need to build relationships within the school district and outside of it. If we truly want to close the "opportunity gap" then we must conduct business differently. We need to step down from our soap box and engage with the families and be partners in their students success.