Every Santa Clara USD Student should graduate college and career ready, and I absolutely know that every child can succeed educationally regardless of ethnicity or social economic status. So we must invest in our schools to close opportunity and achievement gaps, enabling our students to reach their full potential.
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?
Learning loss, food and housing insecurity, and mental health are the greatest challenges facing our children and their families. We need to open our schools up as quickly as possible, but we must ensure that students and staff are safe. This will help to address learning loss, especially for our elementary students, our Special Education students, English Learners and our most at-risk/socially economically disadvantaged students. Being back in school will also ensure that students have at least 2 healthy meals, five days of the week. We have already implemented free food pickup to anyone 18 years and under, at eleven different locations. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, but racial and ethnic minority groups have an increased risk of getting sick and dying. Santa Clara USD has a robust Health and Wellness Team which is being utilized to engage our students to make sure that they are healthy physically and mentally.
How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?
A budget reflects the values and priorities of the board, so I would approach the budget process with an eye toward equity. Making sure that we provide funding to those students and schools that are the most under served and have the least resources. This includes providing the funding to help ensure that we address learning loss by funding technology, and additional personnel and tools to facilitate the resumption of in-person teaching. We also need to ensure that we hire more wellness counselors to be able to help the students and staff that need it.
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?
I have already asked our superintendent to look into providing high quality pre-school, such as looking to provide services like the ones at the Educare site in the Franklin-McKinley School District. Having our own pre-school program, we should be able to utilize it to expand and provide more pre-school slots for our most under-served communities.
What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?
We conducted an audit of our Special Ed department six years ago and are looking at doing another to understand how we can improve. Also, I have asked that we conduct a survey of our Special Ed parents and staff to see how we can improve the department and better address the outcomes for our Special Ed students.
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?
In my current term on the board, we have implemented a Family Resource Center that provides boxes of food, school backpacks and accessories, and other supplies, as well as facilitating partner services. We also removed the busing fees, pay for the PSAT/SAT and AP tests, and covered the cost of science camp for all of our 5th graders. We are looking to expand our Family Resource Center, by adding another location and expanding some current programs, like our STEM/STEAM options, as well as our Summer enrichment opportunities. I would help to ensure that these opportunities are available to our socio economically disadvantaged students.