As a Governing Board member my mission would be to engage administration and the community to collaboratively improve outcomes for all students through an inclusive and equitable approach by supporting needs-based learning, promoting equal opportunities, mental health accessibility, and individualized education in the most appropriate environment.
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?
The issues affecting our children and families are their safety, mental wellbeing, and need for connectivity.
The district Administrators and Board members should engage with the community to understand why school environments feel unsafe by listening to their students. They should create a task force to tease out the underlying issues, and collaborate on a plan that is student centered.
Mental wellbeing of a generation already known for high anxiety is now needing twice as much support. I would work in Sacramento on gaining mental health funding, ensuring social emotional learning continues past elementary school into secondary school, and make Mental Health accessible with Wellness Centers on secondary campuses.
Covid-19 demanded shelter in place, with the pathway to connect with schools, local resources, and health providers online - connectivity became a necessity and arguably a modern human right. Community needs to continue with efforts for Technology Inclusion.
How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?
There is an expectation of cuts during this coming term. In that budget process, I will note which funds in the budget are necessary to maintain my priorities and set those out of consideration. Then I will look at the remainder of the funds and consider what impacts the students opportunities of learning and success the least. I will ask around to see how other school districts may have made reductions in the remaining budget work so that I have a persuasive argument to touch what is left for cuts. The priority should always be weighted by the needs of the students first, then teachers, then administration.
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?
To start, we need to change the discussion from “high cost” into “investment” for quality child care and preschool programs. This investment pays off in gains of cognitive ability, school readiness and social behavior. It reduces the added expense of grade retention and Special Education supports in public schools.
Already, SJUSD has opened two inclusive preschools, one in the Trustee Area 3 at Gardner Elementary, a two way bilingual school. Supporting the district with finding ways to open more public preschools will increase availability and fill classrooms that are emptying with the youth population downturn.
What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?
Outcomes would improve if the system of identifying students with disabilities changed from Child Find to Child Found. As students enter Kindergarten, staff observe them in all areas covered by the CDC Developmental Milestone checklists to flag potential needs.
I would request a task force on Autism. Better practices such as embedding social cognition skills into general education would benefit all students. Autism is the fastest growing disability, and most General Ed. teachers feel unprepared.
Board members have a responsibility to oversee policy. I would work on policies that address the siloed situation general education and Special Education have currently toward one system.
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?
When I speak with parents in the community, it is a lack of access to information that has them unaware of resources. It is important that all school site staff be familiar with what is available in the community and connect those in need with local resources. Districts need to assist in improving access to enrichment to school sites by maintaining a list of providers. They should also engage with community resources to coordinate year round support for students and families to cover the Summer gap in school provided services. If one does not exist, District should create a comprehensive list of resources on an internal network for all staff to readily access as needed.