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

Franklin-McKinley School District, Short-term

Maimona Afzal Berta

Education changed the trajectory of my life and the lives of my family. We must provide equitable opportunities that allow children to reach their greatest potential. As a public school special education teacher, I advocate to make this a reality in my classroom and for all students every single day.

  1. What do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?

    Achievement Gap-Addressing systemic inequities that exist for students with disabilities, students of color, and underserved families. As a public school teacher, I bring experience closing the achievement gap by providing students with adaptive and differentiated instruction. Community Supports- Utilizing and expanding opportunities to support families and the community with social-emotional/ mental health access and housing. As a school board, we have successfully implemented the safe car park program for unhoused families and increased social workers at school sites. Safe Environments- Providing safe and welcoming learning environments by addressing bullying, implementing inclusive curriculum, and training educators to create safer schools.

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

    We need to invest in children by prioritizing funding for programs and resources that directly address the challenges they face. Our youngest learners need access to early childhood education and literacy opportunities that stop achievement gaps before they develop. We need to provide our students with an excellent education by hiring, training and retaining highly qualified educators who understand how to meet diverse learning needs. I will continue to advocate for multi-tiered systems of support to systemically cultivate a holistic environment that addresses each student’s social, emotional, and academic needs.

  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?

    As a current board member, I’m proud of our district’s Early Learning Strategic Plan that works to specifically support underserved families with resources for prenatal to early childhood development. Advocating to expand the program with a continuum of supports from early childhood through 8th grade is vital. As an English language learner myself, I will continue to champion programs that are responsive to students’ linguistic needs whether they are learning English or need support acquiring academic language. Having worked in early childhood education, my priorities continue to include increasing affordable childcare and accessible early childhood education programs.

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

    I’m closing the achievement gap for students with disabilities for my sixth consecutive year as a middle school special education teacher. My students have outperformed their general education peers by making more than 2 years of academic growth in a school year because of the inclusion and curriculum I continue to pilot. Students need to be active leaders in their learning through adaptive, differentiated lessons that foster self-advocacy. Using my expertise, I’m working to re-evaluate the special education program to ensure educators and parents receive ongoing training to improve inclusion in schools and meet the unique needs of ALL students.

  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?

    Teaching underserved children in San Jose has given me direct experience closing the achievement gap. Students need culturally relevant and responsive lessons that allow them to be invested in their learning. Increasing access to technology creates opportunities for students to learn and develop the skills they will need for 21st century careers. Families need access to resources that help them support and empower their children in school and at home. Our students also need access to enrichment programs and free, safe spaces after school where they can get the extra support and attention they need to be successful.