Santa Clara County Voter's Guide On Children's Issues

Mountain View-Whisman School District

Manny Velasco

I will promote fair and equitable learning environments for all students by ensuring safe, clean schools, equal access to resources and technology, and accountability to the standards set forth by the Board. Our district should be the heart of our community and our schools should be the standard of education.

  1. 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?

    It is imperative that the district continues to meticulously update their plans for bringing students back to school. These plans should assure that any student with special needs and students receiving mental health counseling be given in person services as soon as possible. All students should be fazed back in in accordance with medical recommendations. When it comes to racial justice we must accept the fact that we are an institution and we must do internal reviews to assure we are not perpetuating racial biases, including in our curriculum. Regardless of where a student starts their journey, the district must assure that every student leaves MVWSD with the knowledge and training to succeed in high school and beyond. To achieve this, barriers like access to technology or access to food and necessities must continue to be taken down. The district must also continue to focus on early learning opportunities like expanded preschool and early childhood development workshops for families.

  2. How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?

    Working together with other board members we will set the expectations and goals for the district. These goals should be reasonable but set high expectations for growth. With these standards in place, it is important to trust the district in their approach. Their proposals should clearly reflect these strategies. In regards to the pandemic, the district must ensure that every safety measure that is reasonable, be implemented. Lack of funding should not be a barrier to keeping our community safe. That safety should also extend to safety from prejudice and the district should explore more training in cultural awareness and racial justice and create a community task force on the matter.

  3. 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?

    Preschool already seems to be a priority for the district. I will continue to support the district’s endeavor to expand the preschool program. As the district went through negotiations with the charter school a couple of years ago, they were forced to restructure the expansion of preschool. I would be interested to hear if any of those ideas can proceed or have been already been implemented. The district’s afterschool Beyond the Bell program is tied to funding that continues to decrease yearly, I would be interested in seeing if there are ways for the district to expand that structure or provide other afterschool programming and sports that benefits students of all income levels.

  4. What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?

    Having spent 10 years in Special Ed, working at every school and with every grade level, I have a unique perspective on inclusion and outcomes. I helped start the district’s Autism Program where I created structures and data collection still in use today. As union president I helped create the Behavior Technician position that is now available for every school site. I expect the district to work closely and transparently with the same spirit of community that was there when I was. The district should continue to foster the working relationship with SELPA. There is strong leadership in our Special Education Department and I look forward to supporting the strategies of that department.

  5. 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?

    As a district employee I was an integral part of creating the first food pantry in partnership with CSA. I created tutoring programs for students and parent programs including computer literacy classes for students and parents who were hampered by their unfamiliarity with technology. I connected families to myriads of enrichment activities including after school and summer programs. What I learned was that the infrastructure to address these problems exists, and it is up to the district to get creative building programs that work for the needs of each school. I would hope for solutions like well structured after school sports and an expansion of Beyond the Bell or similar alternatives.