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

Palo Alto Unified School District

Jesse Fletcher Ladomirak

Children are smart, funny, strong, kind, and wise. They deserve schools that make them believe all this about themselves. Public schools must provide all children with the education they deserve: one that is academically enriching, equitably delivered, and fosters the mental wellness and resiliency they need in order to thrive.

  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?

    I believe physical wellness, mental wellness, and educational equity are the top three issues currently affecting children and families. None of us are immune from the significant threats COVID-19 presents to health and safety. Data tells us that minority and low-income communities are at increased risk. These same communities are disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout of the pandemic, including food insecurity. All of these factors, as well as the isolation and anxiety caused by school closures, undermine mental wellness. School closures also exacerbate pre-existing racial and socio-economic educational inequities. As a board member, I will hold PAUSD accountable for implementing rigorous safety protocols to protect students and staff when schools reopen. I will advocate for regular, proactive mental wellness “check-ins” with all our students. I will fight for robust academic and family supports for our students most vulnerable to learning loss.

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

    As CFO of a small business, I have been making real-world decisions about limited funds for decades. Budgets are policy documents, a quantification of priorities. As a board member charged with oversight and governance, I will approach the budget process through the lens of accountability: PAUSD’s expenditures must reflect its stated priorities. During school closures and beyond, money must be spent to identify and support needs that impact learning, such as nutrition and child care. Once campuses reopens, PAUSD must adequately fund COVID-19 safety measures. Mental wellness supports must be robust, proactive, and address the shared trauma our school community has experienced.

  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?

    In addition to nonprofit community child care programs already in operation, PAUSD has contracted with another provider to offer low-cost child care at multiple school sites during school closures and has negotiated substantial discounts for teachers and low-income families. Even so, many families still cannot afford these programs. As a board member, I will push for PAUSD to provide funding to offset the costs for families where finances are a barrier to access. Distance learning will likely continue in some form throughout the current academic year. Children without a safe, quiet, reliable space to work are at a greater risk for learning loss.

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

    PAUSD must begin by improving early detection and intervention to prevent children from ending up in Special Education in the first place, specifically in the area of literacy. Research shows that rigorous screening and structured-literacy instruction can improve educational outcomes for all children. As a board member, I will hold the district accountable for implementing the existing plans for dyslexia screening, professional development, and multi-sensory instruction and interventions. Beyond literacy, I will demand regular metrics necessary to measure the implementation and effectiveness of district policies and programs relevant to special education and FAFE in our classrooms.

  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?

    Historical inequity in PAUSD is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a board member, I will push PAUSD to prioritize partnerships, including funding, to solve childcare for students who cannot effectively access distance learning due to poverty. I will do the same for family support services, like delivery of meals and school supplies and proactive, personal outreach by district staff to identify and respond to basic needs that impact student learning. I will also advocate for PAUSD to provide additional financial support to external organizations--during COVID and beyond--that have proven success in helping socio-economically disadvantaged students thrive emotionally and academically.